Fujitsu smartphones venture outside Japan, with elderly Europeans in mind

Fujitsu is known for many things outside its native Japan, but not for its smartphones. To a small degree, this is now about to change – in June, the company will launch an Android device for senior citizens, the Stylistic S01, on the Orange network in France. The device fits into a longstanding range that, in Japan, is named Raku-Raku.

The S01 runs Android(s goog) “Ice Cream Sandwich” 4.0 in a near-unrecognizable form, featuring a simplified layout with very large onscreen buttons. But it also has other features tailored to its target audience, such as what Orange describes as “a unique screen technology” that essentially forces users to press icons harder in order to make them work – the idea here is to help those who aren’t used to touchscreens to avoid accidentally launching things they don’t intend to launch.

The handset also adjusts the frequency range of its audio depending on the user’s age, and even slows down the speech of fast-talking callers. A personal security alarm is also included.

“As Fujitsu’s first extensive entry into the smartphone market outside Japan, we are delighted that Orange — a company that holds a strong position in the European market — will be offering our phone, which features Fujitsu-exclusive human-centric technologies,” Fujitsu corporate SVP Nobuo Otani said in a statement. “We are committed to the success of this partnership as we strive to expand our smartphone business overseas, while advancing the promotion of Japanese technology worldwide.”

This shouldn’t be so unusual

It’s worth noting that Fujitsu is not the only mobile phone maker to target senior citizens: Sweden’s Doro has built an entire business around that market, although its handsets are much simpler. Doro also has an application pack for making Android tablets more senior-friendly, and a similar approach has been taken in the smartphone realm by carriers such as Sprint(s s).

In some ways, the application pack idea could serve as a transitional solution for senior citizens who find the standard smartphone interface a bit difficult to handle. If Microsoft(s msft)’s Windows Phone styling becomes an influencer and UI designs become more generally big-button, there will be less of a need for such things in the future.

But more fundamental technological solutions, such as those Fujitsu is displaying in the Raku-Raku/Stylistic range, will always find an audience. And let’s face it, with an ageing population in much of the developed world, there’s a growing market to address here. Looking at things that way, it’s actually quite surprising how few players are focusing on the accessibility angle today.