Startup of the week / Bringing Grandpa to the smartphone revolution
The technologically-challenged don't want condescending dumb devices, they want help, UIU reasoned, and made a simple interface.
The smartphone revolution is global, with one billion (!) smart devices sold in 2013 alone. But certain groups remain outside with their noses pressed to the digital window: the technology-challenged, such as senior citizens.
UIU Mobile offers an elegant – and free – solution, called "Wiser": Don't dumb down the phone. Make it easier to use.
"We come from a place of making technology accessible to people who are not tech-savvy," says CEO Amir Kupervas. Many people have advanced phones but don't exploit their capabilities: "We found such a segment, for example, in women aged 45-55."
UIU's idea, the "Wiser Simpler Launcher," effectively places a new interface oevr the smartphone's inherent interface (Android only), making it much easier to use.
"We don't change the external appearance of the device, the plastic, because today's senior citizen is still looking for appeal," says Kupervas. "We add an interface that simplifies access to every application and organizes things."
The Wiser simple launcher can be downloaded free. Once it's installed, instead of a large number of icons on the home screen, the user sees just six, the basics: contacts, dialing, texting (messages), camera, photo album, and applications. such as photography, texting and dialing.
Tapping on any icon will lead to six more icons. Under contacts for instance the user can easily define six preferred people for speed dialing. Under applications you can define quick access to six apps.
The underlying concept is large, clear menus.
Ushering in beginners
Wiser has a number of rivals competing over beginners. One of the best known is Doro, but it makes "stupid" phones and smartphones for older people that have a different external look, and are stigmatized as being for the "elderly." There is also a competing launcher called BIG, but it costs $10 to download.
UIU intends for its product (accessible through the Google Play app shop) to remain free, says Kupervas. "In general, there are fewer and fewer apps for pay in the stores. We'll make money from collaboration with mobile operators."
It already has its first collaboration in hand: Israeli mobile operator Partner Communications launched an interface for the tech-challenged called Friendly, based on UIU technology. Another such collaboration is about to be launched in Europe, says Kupervas.
Meanwhile UIU has another product nearing launch, called Companion. It enables another person, such as a family member, to "take over" the smartphone of his technologically-challenged relative and help him. This product will also be free, but some of its functions will cost money.
Established in late 2011, the company has five employees and has raised one million dollars, mostly from Jerusalem Venture Partners.
One of UIU's investors is its chairman – none other than Andre Dahan, who headed Comverse for some years after that Israeli technology company's CEO, Kobi Alexander, was indicted in the United States for massive security fraud and fled to Namibia, where he remains to this day.