Disclaimer: Jack Ratcliffe may have written this article, but the opinions are his parents. Mainly.
Doro mobile phones aren’t like ordinary mobile phones. They’re more like Fisher Price phones – they boast simple lines, simple materials and simple colours, making the phones almost child-like in appearance. This is odd, because Doro mobiles are aimed at the other end of the spectrum: the older user.
A company started by one of many older mobile phone users, Doro has been producing simple mobile phones for simple folk for a while in Europe. Now they’ve finally hit the UK with the Doro PhoneEasy 610 and 615 fliphones.
On the outside, the phones seem perfect: they’re easy to hold thanks to their soft touch coating, while the screen uses big fonts (they can go really big) and the keys are huge, widely spaced and concave keys
There are also a bunch of short-cut keys for speed-dial, and on the 610 there’s even a button dedicated to the SMS app. The 615 uses this button to access the camera function, which comes with a flash. The picture quality isn’t terribly good, but what did you expect? (It could be the screen resolution that makes the images look bad, however, as the camera is 3.2MP).
In terms of accessibility, the speakers are loud and clear, which means hard-of-hearing users are catered for. Its hearing aid compatible (rated at M3/T4) and a maximum ringer volume of a huge 85dB at one meter – the noise-level of city traffic.
And the screen can output really, really large fonts – so you might even be able to escape putting on glasses to read a message.
There’s no doubt that the Doro phones are great devices for making calls, simply and without hassle. The lack of features is actually a key feature, as there’s no confusion with what you’re trying to do. Even the most technically-illiterate should get to grips with the basics of the operating system pretty simply.
There’s a major drawback to their simplicity, however: text messaging. Or as Doro calls it, SMS.
Uh-oh. Doro may be simple on the outside, but the interface has a host of SMS problems. For a start, most people call a written message a “text message” in the UK – labeling it SMS confused my dear mother.
Then there’s MMS – which was never really used by UK users, and especially not by older ones. “Picture Messaging” would have been a more useful label.
Because the Doro phone replaced the D-pad of a typical mobile phone a simple up-down navigation button, it means that users have to realise that down also means “move left along the message” and up means “move right”. Eep.
This was an awkward moment – there seems to be no easy way to switch to predictive text within the text messaging app. You have to go all the way out to the Settings menu to make the change. Not really a deal breaker, but an annoyance nonetheless.
The typical “hold down a key to turn it into the number” trick doesn’t work on the Doro, which is annoying for older mobile users who have grown accustomed to traditional ways of doing things. My parents play a game of “find how to do a zero”, which they still haven’t conquered, one month on.
While the Doro’s may be simple, they’re by no means fool-proof. Accessibility-wise, they’re great for the hard of hearing, mobility impaired and those with fading eye-sight. They’ll also be perfect for first time mobile users.
If you’re already a mobile user, but getting older and want to swap to an easier model, you may be a bit frustrated by the handsets – especially if you’re a big texter.