Technology is great for levelling the playing field, but what happens when it doesn’t? If you’ve grown up using smartphones, tablets and other devices, it can be difficult to remember that not everyone has the same experience and affinity with technology.
But there are ways around that. A number of tech companies have been targeting this market successfully; Doro, for example, has a number of smartphones aimed at the older consumer, with larger buttons, louder ring tones and simpler menus.
It's into this market that Irish company Cliffrun Media has launched Acorn, a tablet that aims to connect the older generation.
The concept is a simple one: take a tablet, put a custom operating system on top and make it easy for users to access most common tasks, such as taking photos or contacting their family.
The Acorn is an Android tablet underneath, with 32GB of storage and a 10.1 inch screen. It comes with version 8.1 of the software preloaded.
In the box with the review unit we got a stand for the tablet – very useful – and a pen that also doubles as a stylus. You can pick up extra accessories from the Acorn store online.
But the main strength of the tablet isn’t its accessories or hardware. It’s in the software, with a simple layout and plenty of guidance for those less familiar with technology. There are four main menu options: talk, photos, calendar and explore, with an Acorn button in the centre. Tap that and you get an overview of your day – what time it is, what the weather forecast is, notifications to deal with.
You can also access local content – news or public events, for example, and add them to your calendar for the future – from that main screen.
Talk brings you to shortcuts for your contacts, messages, emails and calls, with the latter only possible between the tablet and other Acorn users – family, friends with the companion app who you have added to your list of contact. It covers voice and video calls, and you can call or message Acorn’s support team for help from this section too. The chat interface allows users to add photographs too.
The Photos section has two tabs: Camera and My Album. The instructions on the camera are clear; two buttons urge you to tap to record video, or tap to capture photo. The zoom is clearly marked too, so there’s no need to try to interpret symbols. The camera itself is 5 megapixels, with a front-facing camera of 2 megapixels.
As the description suggests, calendar is where all your appointments are located, along with local events you have added, and explore covers everything else, from the internet to apps.
The tablet, as you’d expect, can be connected via wifi. But Acorn also offers its own mobile data service, via an integrated SIM card, which may be useful for those who haven’t quite made the jump to always-on internet in their home, either by choice or because the services aren’t available. It means there will always be a data connection, and there will be very little troubleshooting.
If you get stuck, there’s a guide button that instantly offers you help in context; you don’t have to dig through multiple menus to find the answer.
While the tablet may be fairly standard, the software is what makes it stand out. Regular users of technology may find it too simplified, but for those who need a bit more guidance, the clear interface is a good move. The inclusion of guides for each section is also easily accessible,
The not so good
It’s not the highest-spec tablet out there, but it doesn’t need to be. There was occasionally a bit of lag between pressing the screen and the system responding but unless you are working at a fast pace, it’s unlikely to affect your use of the Acorn tablet. The phone support and 4G internet come at a cost €15 per month for a year. After that you can cancel it.
Getting family set up on the Acorn Companion app is key. Once you do that, you can message between their devices and the tablet. Also, the package includes extras – a stylus and a stand – that while not essential, do make the use of the tablet a little easier.
Easy to use but not over-the-top. It won’t suit everyone but the tablet is a good introduction for those not quite as confident with technology.