If there's one demographic consistently overlooked by tech companies, and CNET Australia as a result, it's the generation of our grandparents. White-haired, high-panted and bewildered by these toys that we insist constitute a hard day's work. We love them, but we often forget that they need phones, too.
Doro is a Swedish company, and self-proclaimed leader of the "telecom care market", and we can't imagine that Samsung or Apple will argue with this too much. Its current flagship mobile product is the PhoneEasy 615, a 3G flip phone with a 3.2-megapixel rear-facing camera.
The design of the 615 will be immediately recognisable to anyone who owned a flip phone five years ago or so. At 23mm deep, it is no Motorola Razr, but it is comfortable to hold nonetheless. The hinge feels solid, and snaps into place, open and closed, with a pleasant thud.
Importantly, every button on this phone is enormous. The keypad is made up of digits that are each over a centimetre long and nearly as tall. The volume rocker on the side of the phone is about an inch in length, and very easy to find and use without looking. Besides the standard numeric keys and call functions, the keypad also has a dedicated camera button, messaging key and three programmable shortcut options.
Look at these buttons! Enormous!
The main phone display is reasonably large, and its QVGA resolution is sufficient for most basic phone functions. The menus are clear, with large, colourful icons, and all notification reminders are easily identifiable to us. But then, we've been staring at phone screens for years, and missed-call icons are like a second language that we speak. Still, we think grandma should be fine at understanding what is shown on-screen.
The 615 has a second monochrome display on the front face of the phone, and, to make the most of this, Doro has included a charging dock in the box with the handset. The phone sits vertically in the dock, so that this second screen faces out, making it easy to read the names of contacts when the phone rings. This dock should also help bridge the mental gap for first-time phone owners, between a mobile and a fixed-line home phone.
In case of emergency
One of the key differences between a Doro phone and just about every other phone available is the built-in "In Case of Emergency" (ICE) feature. In the phone's menu, you will find the ICE section, where you can enter personal medical information, like medications taken and allergies, and emergency contact details. There is also a large, square button on the back of the phone, which can be used in an emergency. Pressing and holding this button for three seconds will put the phone in hands-free speaker mode and dial your chosen emergency contact.
This square button is your get-out-of-jail-free card.
For the target demographic, this could be a life-saving feature, though we wonder how effective the emergency contact information would be to medical attendants in an emergency. Unless a paramedic knew about Doro phones, the information is pretty well hidden. Still, it is better than not having the information available at all.
The PhoneEasy 615 connects to the phone networks using the 900/1800/1900 GSM radio frequencies, and includes 3G network support, too. There isn't much to do with the 3G outside of sending photos over MMS, though.
There is Bluetooth built in, too, for connecting to hands-free devices, but no Wi-Fi — in case you were wondering.
Another feature that is not often spoken about in modern phones is hearing-aid support. For those who require this, the Doro 615 supports the ANSI Microphone M3 standard and the Telecoil T4 standard, which we believe makes the handset suitable for use with the vast majority of hearing aids.
Proud grandparents will be pleased as punch to find a camera built in to their mobile phones, though compared with the mobile phones we usually see in the CNET Australia labs, this camera isn't much to write home about.
Focus is the main issue. The camera's shutter takes about two seconds to process a shot from the time the button is pressed, and most of our shots suffered from some blurring in this process. Colours are warm, leaning toward being over-saturated, though we think that most users will prefer this to the photos looking washed out.
This may sound like a small detail to take note of, but the user manual included with the phone is an impressively sized tome. Most of the phones we see these days come with puny pamphlets showing you the bare minimum of features and functions. Doro has the advantage of not having that many features to describe, but it does this well, in a large booklet with clear images and large-printed text.
The PhoneEasy 615 is available through Optus and Vodafone, plus their various resellers, and can be picked up for about AU$130. This is a good price for the phone, and although you can buy phones with numerous extra features for the same or less, this is the best fit for users who want a phone that bridges the gap between the home phone they are used to and the iPhones that everyone else is using. This is a well thought-out package, with its legible manual and stylish charging dock, and we imagine that the target market will enjoy using it.