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.