In a market that says more features are always better, a cellphone devoid of data features and a printer that only receives e-mail should be guaranteed losers.
But Samsung's Jitterbug phone and Hewlett-Packard's Printing Mailbox aren't aimed at the more-is-better crowd. They're marketed at an often overlooked segment of the population that's not so keen on learning how to use yet another gadget.
Those people tend to be older -- a fact that leads many tech firms to write off this entire demographic. That's a mistake. They have valid complaints about confusing devices and programs designed to out-feature the competition.
The Jitterbug and the Printing Mailbox represent a 180-degree turn from that mind-set. They dispense with most of the usual ingredients to make wireless calling and e-mail as accessible as possible to baby boomers and their parents (a market that Jitterbug estimates at 100 million people).
The $147 Jitterbug is the easier of the two to understand, as the white, elliptical device could be the cellphone of 1996. It only makes calls; it doesn't do text or picture messaging, browse the Web or take photos.
Its numeric buttons are big enough to mash while wearing gloves. You can also fill its 10-entry address book when ordering the phone ( http:/
(A second, even simpler Jitterbug swaps out the keypad for three buttons: one for the operator, one for 911 and the third for the number of your choice.)
Phone service comes from GreatCall, a reseller of other carrier's signals. Plans start at $10 a month (including no minutes) and go no higher than $80 (for 800 minutes and free operator-assisted calls).
Where Jitterbug provides on-the-go calling to people who hate cellphones, the Presto service and HP's $100 A10 Printing Mailbox combine to get e-mail to people who have no interest in computers.
The HP Mailbox looks much like a conventional inkjet printer, except it plugs into a phone jack instead of a computer. Its setup is meant to be done by somebody else -- whoever e-mails the recipient most often.
Outsourcing the hard work of technology can be pure laziness, but it makes sense here. A person who has never used e-mail before is not about to buy a strange printing gizmo. The friend or family member who performs that intervention might as well set up the device, too.
There's not much to do, in any case. You choose a name for the user's Presto account, then add people to his or her address book -- including phone numbers, which print out on top of each e-mail. The Printing Mailbox is a one-way street, only receiving mail; the user can reply only with such last-century communications options as picking up the phone or writing a letter.