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Cellphones: We’re Not Just About Big Buttons

The telecom world is buzzing about the latest promotional video from T-Mobile and its iconoclastic CEO John Legere—a new product pitch with an extra helping of snark and humor. It’s a strong takedown of the usual stereotypes that marketers appeal to when they’re targeting older tech consumers.

Legere describes T-Mobile’s new 55-plus plan and in the process mocks the way the telecom giants see olders.

No data? Big buttons?

Using language that’s usually considered inappropriate for or objectionable to people over 30, Legere, who’s 59, points out that the 55-plus age cohort invented wireless and calls other senior plans “insulting” and “degrading at the highest level” for assuming that seniors need dumbed-down devices. Older consumers spend an average of 149 minutes a day on their smartphones, he claims—about as many minutes as smartphone-obsessed Millennials, who spend 171 minutes per day.

Sure, some people need phones with big buttons due to arthritis or other physical issues—but older people are not a monolithic group, he says.

In a press release that accompanies his vlog, Legere says that older consumers tend to be extraordinarily loyal customers who first signed up for mobile plans when the Big Two were the only options in town. “For years the carriers have been patronizing the generation that invented wireless,” he says. “They thank these mobile pioneers by selling dumbed down ‘senior’ plans…. That’s not just idiotic—it’s insulting!” He makes it clear that T-Mobile sees a business opportunity in inviting millions of older smartphone users to switch.

A quick spin through T-Mobile’s YouTube archives shows that Legere’s salty language is no mere marketing gimmick—and yes, the company will check IDs to make sure that you’re 55+ and older.

No BS.

What do you think of Legere’s in-your-face promotion? Refreshing? Off-putting? Share your views in the comments below!

11 comments
  • Lynne Spreen
    REPLY

    I love this! I’m paying twice that for one line with Verizon, and my 90-year-old mother or my husband could be on my plan. I’m not only going to visit the Tmobile store in my town this weekend, but I’m also posting on FB. Yes, it’s an ad, but the best kind of ad: advising me of a service that could save me over $1500 a year. Also, I appreciate the humor and am tired of being condescended to. Thanks for posting this. Sharing everywhere.

    • William W Owens Jr
      REPLY

      You could buy two lines from Metro PCS (which uses T-mobile’s network) for $30 each. (or any number of lines–I’m sure they are $30 a month.) And there is no contract so you can cancel at any time. I have no affiliation with them–just pointing out a better deal to my fellow seniors. Does your 90 year-old mother really use a smartphone? She’s rare indeed!
      Was this reply posted by T-Mobile?

  • Bill F
    REPLY

    I agree that marketing dumbed down phones to seniors is a crock of crap. Too bad Mr. Legere’s company offers a coverage footprint that’s, well, lacking. I mean it’s great if you’re staying in the cities, but I prefer to roam off the beaten path while I’m still able to do so.

    • Barbara, Senior Planet editor
      REPLY

      Hi Marinell, this not an ad. Senior Planet has no interest in promoting any particular telecommunications company and does not profit from this or any other article. In fact, we are an ad-free website. We often cover representations and inclusion of older people in media and advertising as part of our editorial and as a way to spark conversation. In this case—one that’sespecially pertinent for readers of seniorplanet.org since it addresses tech usage—we show the video and add a little commentary in order to ask the question: Is this unusual reading of what an older consumer base wants and needs refreshing or off putting? Effective or not effective? If it reads like an ad, we failed to do our job well, and for that we apologize.

  • William W Owens Jr
    REPLY

    Who needs two lines? Emphasizing this is really misleading. So many seniors are single, widowed, etc. Also, everyone should be aware that Metro PCS, which has many stores throughout the area, offers one line with unlimited voice, data, and even a decent free smart phone for $30 a month. I believe Metro PCS uses the T-mobile network so the coverage and speed is exactly the same.

    This plan is T-mobile plan not good for most of us. However, we might learn something at the presentation.

  • Sherrie Glendening
    REPLY

    I have a smart phone but use Tracfone, which is prepaid. Most of my communication is online, not by phone. I buy 450 minutes for about $80, but the minutes double, plus you get bonus minutes, they never run out and they roll over, including data, and I get service everywhere. As long as you buy more minutes before you run out, the minutes are yours. As a matter of fact, I didn’t buy minutes in time once, but they let me roll over anyway. On average, I spend about $160 a year on minutes and data. When I upgrade my phone, my minutes, data and phone number go with me. It works well for me. This might not work for those who are constantly on their phone, but I’ve never run out of data, minutes, or time. Plus, my smart phone has all the bells and whistles, and all the capabilities of other smart phones. I got my phone on sale on one of the shopping networks for about $90, and it came with free minutes (1000, or 1500, I forget). It’s easy to buy new minutes at the grocery store, or online. I would never go back to being lassoed to a phone company.

  • Barbara
    REPLY

    A large number of older people are single.
    Most cellphone plans are geared for couples…you can get one line for $50, but 2 lines for $60. That means that each person gets a plan for $30. Unfortunately if you are single, you pay close to double what a married couple will pay.
    I wish businesses would consider the single person’s issues. AARP does the same thing, charging 2 people who are part of a couple much less than a single person.

    • Constance Bevitt
      REPLY

      Absolutely Right! Last Pew Research article on single households indicated about 25% of households are single people households. Yet marketeers continue to push the “family” concept for sales, discounts and pricing (as this ad shows and your comments). Buy 10 gallons of milk and get one free, but you cannot buy 20 half-gallons of milk for free bonuses. (and buy one get one free? Useless…unless the item is not perishable).

      And, when you consider age groups, the under-30 and the over-55 groups have even higher numbers of single households.

      The only solution I know is to find someone you trust and represent yourselves as a couple, then split the costs. I do this with friends on a few programs that give significantly deeper discounts to the “family” or “coupled” people.

      Amazing…… such a lost marketing opportunity.

  • Erica Manfred
    REPLY

    Love the commercial. T-Mobile not so much. They used to have great customer service. Now good luck getting someone who speaks English. There is no way to communicate with them other than by phone–you can’t make changes to plans at stores and you can’t email them. There is no live chat.except on social media. This doesn’t work for seniors with hearing issues.. When you look online only the $60 for two line plan is listed, not one line for $50. When you click on details, there aren’t any. They specialize in confusion–they have prepaid and postpaid plans which are the same basically but have different features, such as voicemail to text only on postpaid. Makes no sense whatsoever. I’ve had them for years but am planning to switch to Verizon. I’m fed up.

    • Adela
      REPLY

      Erica, companies like T-Mobile should be boycotted! I think those smartphones or cell phones for seniors are good for those who, as I, use it very occasionally, such as when my desktop is not functioning, or to find where streets are, take a picture on some urgent happening on the street, send an occasional “message” while walking, etc. They don’t have to be large numbers for everyone but if they are it’s ok, the thing is they have just enough of everything I need and no more and the prices are about $10 to $25 and up per month plus only pennies per call or something like that. I haven’t yet looked into them seriously as I’ve been unusually busy but will soon. AND….no, I don’t feel offended. We are seniors and it is what it is… :)

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