ZTE's first Japanese handset designed for elderly users

SOS button will automatically make calls, send messages in event of emergency

Chinese handset and telecommunication equipment maker ZTE showed off its first handset designed for Japan, a model that's intended for elderly cell-phone users.

The Softbank 840Z is a clam-shell handset with many of the usual features found in such phones, such as dual cameras for taking pictures and videocalls, as well as the ability to make calls or surf the Web using Softbank's HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access) 3G network. But the phone also has several features designed for senior citizens.

Among the elderly-friendly features are an SOS button that can be activated in the event of an emergency. When the button is pressed, the phone will call and send text messages to a predefined list of users. The phone's Assisted GPS (A-GPS) can also be used to locate the user, ZTE said.

The phone also has a button that blinks to notify users of a missed call or unread text message.

Devices and services designed for older users are big business in Japan. The country's population is aging faster than the U.S. or Western Europe.

In 2005, there were 28.2 million Japanese over the age of 65, representing 22.1 percent of the country's population. That number is expected to reach 31.8 percent by 2030, according to government estimates. By comparison, 19.8 percent of the U.S. population is expected to be over the age of 65 in 2030.

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Sumner Lemon

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