Jitterbug: A system product

Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path has written a nice article over at Business Week about the new Jitterbug phone and service created for older people who may have difficulties with conventional mobile phones.

For mobile-industry veteran Arlene Harris, the opportunity was too good to pass up. Harris is the mastermind behind Jitterbug, a company launched last October that combines a unique mobile phone (designed by Jitterbug and manufactured by Samsung) with a suite of services designed to meet the needs of older users. Because Jitterbug controlled both the product and service design, it’s able to deliver a seamless, innovative cross-channel experience, a rarity in the mobile-phone industry.

It’s a great example of “the system is the product”:

Harris recognized that a product alone couldn’t meet the needs of her audience—it had to be combined with services to create an overall system. As a result, the product was designed in tandem with services that would be delivered to subscribers….

This system approach took Jitterbug’s partners at Samsung by surprise. “They knew that we would have to be a service provider, but they had no idea the extent to which we wanted to integrate [the product with the service],” Harris says. “For them it was a handset, for us it was a system. The handset was just one element.”

Exactly.

I love how they have dial tones, too.

Vodafone has done very well with its Simply phone, though from what I can tell Jitterbug is going quite a bit further with the system integration. And Simply started out as a no-frills phone aimed at budget-conscious customers but turned out to be attractive to older users once it got on the market, whereas Jitterbug is specifically geared for that demographic. This area of designing for aging baby boomers is going to be huge, and right now it’s a market littered with crap that they won’t want to buy. Hello, opportunity.