Shortly we intend to praise the practical design of the EasyTouch Discovery but it's hard to overlook how ugly this phone is as well. Its boxy shape, the mirror-finished surface smeared with our fingerprints and the way the external buttons and camera protrude awkwardly from the handset create an unappealing aesthetic. Then again, previous collaborations between Telstra and Chinese OEM ZTE have failed to deliver any attractive design, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.
Swallowing our shameful superficiality, we tip our hats to Telstra for putting a phone into stores that meets the demands of people other than iPhone scenesters and BlackBerry-toting business people. Opening the Discovery reveals the largest keypad we can remember seeing on a mobile phone. The size of these keys rivals the size and definition of the buttons on the telephone sitting on the desk in our office. This is fantastic news for people with impaired vision.
In addition to a large, clear keypad, the Discovery features a sharp, colourful display and audible feedback when entering phone numbers, as in the phone speaks the numbers back to you as you type them. The layout of the main menu is simple and easy to decipher, and includes a help option. This help menu features guides to mobile phone basics with text descriptions of how to make calls, send messages and an introduction to using Bluetooth to pair with external devices, like a Bluetooth-enabled hearing aid neckloop.
With its focus on accessibility you might be surprised to discover that the EasyTouch Discovery also features a few high-tech gizmos. As a phone purpose-built for Telstra's Next G network, the Discovery includes 3G connectivity with HSDPA data transmission. Next G services feature prominently of the Home Screen and main menu, giving customers access to Bigpond and mobile Foxtel.
The Discovery also sports a top-mounted 3-megapixel camera and a front-facing camera below the screen for video calling. Headphone connections are made via the micro USB charging port on the side of the handset. The Discovery comes bundled with a 3.5mm headphone attachment which is surprisingly small — only about 5 centimetres in length. An FM radio tuner is included alongside a standard MP3 music player.
In a first in recent memory, the Discovery sales package includes a tutorial DVD with step-by-step instructions on how to use the major features of the phone, with visual aids to make the lessons clearer. Chapters of the DVD include "How to make phone calls", "How to send messages" and an introductory lesson on how to install the SIM card and battery. No lesson is too elementary for this DVD and it will come as a godsend for those buying their first mobile phone.
While we're not interested in critiquing the quality of the disc, it is worth noting that the lessons are produced well, with slow, clear instruction given by its host, Diane Smith of The Great Outdoors. Our only criticism is of the section entitled "Bluetooth Hearing Aid Guide". This is the most complex lesson on the DVD and yet it is the only one without visual aids. If you plan on giving this phone to a loved one who is new to mobile technology we recommend you watch this lesson with them and work out how to follow the guide together.
At the launch of the EasyTouch Discovery a spokesperson from Telstra explained the attention given to achieving excellent earpiece volume. The evidence of this concern is in the superb volume and clarity of audio during calls. The built-in microphone is also tweaked for increased sensitivity, though this experiment isn't as successful. During calls our friends complained that we sounded like we were in a wind tunnel, with the mic picking up every outward breath from our nose and mouth.
Text messaging couldn't be simpler with the large keypad and predictive text software similar to that found on Sony Ericsson phones. Email is also simple to use but requires you to know your incoming and outgoing server details, rather than the phone searching online to enter these settings automatically, as with phones running Windows Mobile 6.1.
Online services are reasonably good, though the screen size certainly doesn't lend itself to long sessions of browsing or viewing streaming video. ZTE rates the battery life for the Discovery at 3 hours for talk-time and between eight and nine days standby. These figures are pretty standard for an HSDPA capable phone, but not outstanding.
We've dubbed the EasyTouch Discovery the "Nanna phone" and gladly recommend it for first-time mobile phone owners. The ease-of-use and wealth of instruction are second to none. While the handset design lacks allure, Telstra's pricing is attractive — the EasyTouch Discovery is available for AU$439 or $20-per-month on a 24 month contract.