December 2, 2014

The RealPad: Is It The Real Deal?

A few weeks ago AARP sent me a new product to test: The Real Pad. It has been designed for 50+ adults who want to use a tablet-type computer device but have been afraid of the technology. With a full compliment of applications, the owner can browse the Internet, send and receive e-mails, read e-books, take pictures and make movies, visit Facebook, make video calls to friends and relatives, play games - in short everything a tablet is designed to do. It has built in WiFi, bluetooth and touch screen capabilities. It comes with one free year of AARP membership (or an extra year if already a member).

With a screen just under 8", it is slightly bigger than a standard size Kindle Fire and on par with an Ipad. It comes with a charger and USB cable. The battery life of approximately 8 hours is quite adequate. My biggest complaint is the cost. At $189 it is quite a bit cheaper than an Ipad and about $10 less expensive than a Kindle HDX. But, to entice someone who is not comfortable with the whole concept of a tablet, a device that is almost $200 seems too high. Fewer capabilities and a price somewhere in the $125-$150 range would probably make it more attractive to the target.

OK, so how about the RealPad itself? It feels sturdy and reacts quickly to touch. The processor and browsing software are not as good as those found in better known brands, but for the target user that isn't important. Things work quickly enough to be very satisfactory. There is a 16GB memory to hold lots of pictures if someone decides to use this as a camera.

The icons are a bit larger than on other tablets, making it a easier for older eyes to find what one is looking for. The best features are the 24/7 customer support and what is known as Real Help: 10 preloaded videos that explain how to set up e-mail, use WiFi, search the Internet, how to use the touchscreen, what apps are, and tablet basics.

One of the settings that many will want to access wasn't readily apparent, especially to a newbie to the tablet world: how to increase font size. If you know to go to Settings, then find Display, then find font, you can change the size from small to what AARP calls, huge. I suggest that font size adjustments should be much easier to find for those unfamiliar with navigating several menu options.

As a test, I asked my wife, Betty, to play with the RealPad. While she is comfortable with a computer, she has never tried using a tablet. I gave her the manual (very good with clear explanations and pictures) and asked her to give it a spin. She did read the first few pages of the start guide, but most of what she tried she did without consulting the booklet.

Not surprisingly, the first thing she found was the camera. With both front and rear facing cameras she immediately started snapping photos and made a few short videos. It took her a little while to find out where the photos are stored, but she managed to review them and then delete them with no real problem. 

She also had fun with the "speak" feature. While connected to the Internet, if you touch the microphone icon and ask a question, the Google search engine will find your answer in less than a second. She tried, "What's the temperature in Scottsdale, Arizona,"  "show me pictures of cocker spaniels," and said the two words we all love, Satisfying Retirement. In each case she was instantly given what she asked for. Yes, smartphones and other tablets do this, but I was interested that Betty figured out how to use this feature intuitively.

She quickly learned to sweep screens either up or down and how to "pinch" or "expand" to make something on the screen larger or smaller. She liked the video tutorials but didn't have the time to set up her e-mail in the tablet. So, for a tablet neophyte Betty had no serious problems.

The RealPad looks and acts like any tablet on the market, and that may turn out to be a long-term problem. This AARP entry will succeed or fail on its ability to convince the tablet-wary crowd that it is easier and more user-friendly than better known versions. It does have excellent tutorials and one of the better user guides I have seen. But, it is not cheap and has enough features and menus to confuse someone who is brand new to this world. 

I commend AARP for trying to get seniors connected. Whether it works will be for the marketplace to decide.


Satisfying Retirement was given a free RealPad for its use and review. There was no additional compensation involved.



21 comments:

  1. RealPad review:
    http://www.modern-senior.com/dont-waste-money-aarps-realpad/
    "This sneaking suspicion has been further validated by the recent launch of AARP’s RealPad, an Android tablet that is being marketed to the over 50 crowd. As soon as I caught wind of this new product, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What is the point?” What additional features could they possibly include that would make this product better for seniors than any other tablet? After reading through various reviews and learning more about the product specifications, it turns out that the only purpose of this tablet is to make AARP more money."

    Your best bet is to buy a professional tablet, such as Apple's iPad which is more incorporated into every day life. Functions such as shopping, reading, communication, medical technology and other health related issues are more important to most seniors, rather than lining the pockets of AARP.

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    1. I am leaving your comment, although I must say you seem to have a fair amount of anger towards AARP.

      In my estimation they do a solid job in the areas you mention, but also in all sorts of areas that many of us are interested in, including technology.

      Folks should judge any product, including this one, on its ability to meet their needs. A broad brush condemnation of the organization's ulterior motives is not particularly helpful.

      Apple makes a fine product but you are paying quite a premium for the name.

      Delete
    2. I use a Verizon erlipsis tablet. From your description above I'm really not seeing it do anything that my current tablet cannot do.

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  2. Bob, good review. In my estimation this product will have a very, very limited audience. I have neighbors in their 70s and none seem to have an issue using "normal" PCs, tablets, or smartphones. Using them as a test case, and Deb and I who are in our early 60s, I see a grouping of older citizens who have no need of a modified electronic device. Will be interesting to hear what others think.

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    1. I tend to agree, especially at the price point of $189. The video tutorials are very helpful and the bottom tool bar makes navigation to key areas simple. But, there isn't enough different about the RealPad to cause anyone who is comfortable with tablets to select it. So, its market is rather specialized.

      It is a decent product that does what it say it will, but is that enough?

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  3. Full disclosure...I've never been a fan of AARP. They started bugging me about 15 years ago, when I was highly insulted to be considered old enough to be on their radar. The price for this tablet seems way out of line, to me. There are so many on the market, it seems they simply found another way to make a buck off of insecure older folks. They could better serve the market by partnering with groups who teach tech to this demographic. Maybe contribute to groups who provide tech services to the elderly, and offer discounts to their members. I'm glad you had the chance to review it, Bob.
    b

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    1. Teaching seniors to feel comfortable with newer technology, like tablets and smartphones, is a good idea. A lot of community colleges and senior centers in this area do just that, usually for free or a nominal charge.

      As kind of an aside, I have learned there are a fair number of people who aren't big fans of AARP. I always have thought of them as an organization with a good magazine and some decent discounts and services for seniors, but I gather their political stance on some issues riles some folks. Plus, they have attached their "brand: to a lot of products that bothers some folks. I don't find what they do to be offensive, but that is just me.

      I always learn something from the readers of this blog!

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    2. My objection to them is actually the mail. I receive more mail from them per month than I did the first month after I bought my house when I was getting those five things a day about mortgage insurance.

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  4. Great article and good solid review! There is so much technology out there these days it's hard to know which one is right for us retired folks!

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    1. Thanks, Pierce. I think the best answer is to gather as much information from as many sources as you can to help you make an informed decision. Some folks are not big fans of AARP but there is now another choice for a tablet and it is important to know what it can and cannot do.

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  5. I canceled my AARP years ago when they took a political stance I didn't agree with. But my husband still belongs so we get their benefits.

    Seems to me there are two three kinds of seniors: those who are already somewhat computer/tablet literate, those who are not interested, and those who are afraid but would be willing to learn. And for them there are lots of opportunities. For myself, I'm not crazy about the idea of buying a tech tool designed for "seniors". Aside from my inability to read small print these days, I'm good with most of what's around technologically. I'd just as soon buy something good on the market and figure it out.

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    1. In my view this tablet is a good one except for two issues: it's price compared to its competition, and that it uses a less robust operating system than others. Frankly, this latter point is kind of a "techie" issue and not one that the majority would notice or care about, but it should be mentioned.

      I certainly encourage anyone to try new things and not be afraid to experiment or ask someone for some help. It is really hard to do something that causes real damage to a tablet (or any computer, for that matter). You may end up down a path you don't want to be on, but there is always a way home!

      Are you in Tucson yet? Just in time for some stormy weather courtesy of our friends in California!

      Delete
  6. I like the idea of seniors adopting any technology they feel comfortable with or curious about. Tablets like the one you describe, stocked with games and brain teasers might just help some people keep their brains fit. Who knows? My introduction of tech into the life of my 88 year old father allows him to remain independent and living at home by himself. It has its advantages.

    Rick in Oregon

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    1. It is proven that learning new skills does help develop new pathways in the brain, regardless of our age. I wish my 90 year old dad were more like your father and open to trying something new, but it is not going to happen for him.

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  7. Count hubby and me as two more people who long ago dropped AARP when they got too political. All their mail goes straight to recycle bin. Many seniors I know are very intimidated by computers/tablets so a simple and inexpensive version might be just the ticket for them. Often they need help in staying connected to the world. The good manual is a plus. If this were cheaper it might be a good deal, but I agree that the price is not right.

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    1. You know, I have never paid much attention to AARP's political side of things. I just like their various services, discounts, and an excellent magazine and web site. I guess I have missed a rather large current of unhappiness.

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  8. Not sure--am I missing out on discounts with my AARP card? I get senior discounts in general everywhere we go.. not sure AARP is necessary? Up for renewal and just not sure. Tablets for Seniors? Not necessary in my opinion.Regular tablets and devices are pretty easy to learn.In fact, I love our Apple products partially because I can take a ton of FREE CLASSES form really smart young people at the Apple stores!! (I have to travel now to do that, but if you live in a larger town, it is quite the benefit.) Yes,I know,Apple stuff is more costly, but we've been happy with ours for years. I know the Android devices are popular too and from what I see there are many affordable tablets out there that are powerful and reliable..why something "special" for "seniors.." Sometimes I resent how companies use that "senior" tag for marketing..

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    1. All valid points, Madeline. Interestingly, I just visited their web site and see they are selling a Kindle..kind of weakens the RealPad story doesn't it?

      Yes, there are discounts on clothing, home furnishings, car rentals, etc. Their web site has the full list.

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  9. AARP has always been political. They are, among other things a lobbying organization and are one of the reasons congress fears crossing seniors on many issues. Advocating for seniors is inherently a political endeavor in our current times. I am not a member, but only because I find that when I join an organization I often soon find my snail mail and email flooded with messages and information from dozens of other organizations (after my name and address are shared or sold). I have found their information and publications to contain useful information. Like everything else in life (and me) there are positives and negatives.

    Rick in Oregon

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    1. I don't mind having a strong advocate in Washington. Politicians are quick to follow the money and votes. I may not agree with every position they may take, but overall our voice needs to be heard.

      Like you, I like the magazine, some of the discounts, and their solid web site with plenty of information for seniors. I don't subscribe to any of the e-mails so that isn't a problem for me.

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  10. Eh. My 70-year-old husband got a Fire HD tablet (couldn't wait until Christmas to open it) for about $100, and he seems to be having no trouble using it. He can do all the things on his Kindle that AARP's tablet will do, for quite a bit less money. Of course, more advanced versions of the Fire are more expensive, but the RealPad is still no bargain at $189. I don't see what would make it more appealing than tablets already on the market. But we may not be the best testers--we've had computers since the Apple II came out.

    That Other Jean

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