Finding the right phone for an elderly or vulnerable relative is tricky. They have to be easy to use, have large keys, and not require a weekend reading a manual as thick as War and Peace before you can make a call.
If they also come with some useful emergency features this is a bonus, and it’s why the Doro PhoneEasy 715 is such a treat.
I’ve tested a few handsets aimed at the elderly, and they are mostly pretty big, in order to fit in the larger keys, and often quite plasticky in feel – not good if you know that arthritic hands are more likely to drop the handset.
Out of the box, Doro’s latest release feels pleasantly solid – it is neat in size, thanks to the fact that it has a slider feature, with the keypad hidden underneath the screen, which smoothly slides up to reveal the keys. The screen itself is plain and simple, with the words appearing in a clear, easy-to-read font. The back has a textured finish, which ensures it is easier to hold than some of the fancier smartphones (Apple, I’m looking at you) on the market.
Surprisingly for this kind of phone, it has a 2-megapixel camera, which takes reasonable images, offering the option to send by Bluetooth or use as wallpaper or in your phonebook – handy if the user finds it hard to remember names. Take a snap, choose to share it via Bluetooth, and it asks if you want to activate Bluetooth – just what you need, rather than having to have the know-how to recognise which menu to delve in to switch on Bluetooth.
The keyboard has shortcuts keys for the camera and texts, and all the keys light up so they’re easy to see in low light. Other features include a torch, organiser, calculator and radio (which can only be listened to if you plug in some earphones).
The standout feature though, for anyone who is looking for a phone for someone who is vulnerable, is the emergency alarm. Should they be in difficulty, they can press the large square button on the back of the handset and it can either set off a loud alarm, call a chosen contact, or both.
There’s also a neat ICE (in case of emergency) section, which can be filled out with full name, address, medical notes, allergies, doctor’s details and emergency contacts should the user be taken into hospital in an emergency or be too confused to give proper details themselves.
Doro has even included a couple of games should you want them – good old Teris is one of them.
Charging is done via a charging dock – again far simpler than trying to fiddle around with charger ports if your hands aren’t as agile as they used to be.
This is a neat, well-made phone with some real thought in the special features for elderly or vulnerable users. The price on our press release was £130, which seemed high for what is essentially a basic phone, but a quick peek on Amazon shows you can now buy it for a shade under £90 – not a bad price to pay for peace of mind.
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.
¬ Mum: “SMS, does that mean an ordinary message? Does that mean to send a message?” What does MMS mean?”
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.
¬ Mum: “How do I change it from there to there? How do I go across?”
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.
¬ Mum: “It’s not on predictive. How do you get it on with predictive?”
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.
¬ Mum: “This won’t change into a two when you hold it.”
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.
I’m starting to turn into my mother – only the other day I moaned at my sister for not hanging on the phone long enough for me to first hear it, and then dig it out from the bottom of my bag. Since I got my iPhone, I’m constantly missing calls because I don’t hear it ringing – and I thought my hearing was actually okay – but if I’m walking along the Euston Road to a client’s offices, or even at the nearest soft play area with my five-year-old (FYI for non-parents these are places of torture, where children run around a circuit of ramps, ladders, swings, slides and other paraphernalia, all covered in soft foam to make them ‘safe’, while parents try to have a civilised cup of coffee while talking over the sound of 250 kids shouting, screaming, crying and generally creating pandemonium) – I can’t hear the phone ring.
So I can only imagine how awkward it is for people who have genuine issues with their hearing. Stepping up to the rescue are the folk at Powertel, a German company that focuses on developing easy-to-use telecoms and accessories, who have come up with the Amplicom Powertel M4000. It has been specially designed for people with hearing problems, and features a booster button to increase the ring volume by up to 20 times (they reckon it’s about as loud as a road drill!). In case that isn’t enough, it also has an extra powerful vibrate setting
As well as its obvious advantages for those who are hard of hearing, it also has large, easy-to-read buttons, and the functions have been kept simple – it’s no smartphone for sure, it simply offers the option to call and make calls and send and receive text messages.
It also has a hands-free speaker (which is also loud, of course), automatic key lock, desktop charger and can be used on any network on a contract or pay-as-you-go. It also boasts some functions that other phones of its ilk don’t – such as colour screen with extra large text, and a phone book with space for 200 entries.
The M4000 is claimd to be the cheapest loud and hearing-add compatible mobile phone on the market – and at £69.99 we’re pretty sure this is the case. For more, log on to www.hearingdirect.com
Despite the huge success of iPhones, mostly due to the multitude of multi-media capabilities they provide, there are some who dislike the ‘fiddliness’ of modern mobiles, such as iPhones, and have a disinclination towards all the ‘unnecessary’ features many modern mobiles possess. In-light of this surprisingly rampant abhorrence to the seemingly endless technical capabilities of modern multi-faceted mobiles, Binatone, a leading consumer electronics company, has expanded its range of Big Button Mobile Phones – a refreshingly simple, stylish alternative mobile.
Following on from the huge success of the Big Button range which was launched in 2010, Binatone has introduced the Speakeasy 300 GSM phone, which costs £59.99 and its ‘top of the range’ Speakeasy 600, priced at £79.99.
As the name suggests, the mobiles are designed to make calling and texting easier than ever. Large, sturdy keys means accidentally pressing the wrong number when you make a call is virtually impossible, whilst large, easy to read displays make reading texts a whole lot simpler. And for those a little hard of hearing, an amplified sound and speakerphone creates a clearer sound and improves call quality. Accidental calling may burden us no more, as the Speakeasy 600 has a built-in slider screen, resourcefully concealing the keyboard, ensuring misfortunes like ‘accidentally calling the ex’ are avoided – Yes we’ve all been there!
Although for those yearning simplified phone usage whilst maintaining some sophisticated features, the Speakeasy 600 is Bluetooth enabled, meaning users can safely use their phone handsfree when driving a Bluetooth enabled car. Binatone’s ‘top of the range’ model also features an in-built camera, meaning there’s never an excuse for not capturing those precious moments on camera.
The LG verdict? Whilst the Speakeasy 600 may be mildly in-keeping with the present decade, the Speakeasy 300 GMS may make a good present for our grandparents, notorious for their inability to send text messages and even answer their phones!
Technology is a great tool when it comes to overcoming disabilities. Here’s a few of the latest ideas aimed at giving a bit of a helping hand…
For the deaf and hard of hearing, concerns about their personal safety widen as they go out of their own environment and into public places, such as the supermarket. How would they know if there was an emergency – such as a fire alarm – if they can’t hear alarms or loudspeaker announcements?
That’s why FireCo, which makes and installs wireless fire safety products, came up with its Deaf Message Service (DMS) fire notification system. The SMS system has been develop by ProcessFlows.
Using DMS, deaf people who are out and about in a public place where DMS has been installed, can sign up to receive ‘fire alarm sounding’ notification on their mobile phone. So, if they visit the supermarket or leisure centre, they send a text with their location code – the DMS server adds them to that location and, should a fire alarm sound, they will receive text notification.
Technology can be a great benefit to the deaf and hard of hearing, but sometimes it needs a little help. That’s where the Tek from Siemens Hearing Instruments comes in. It uses Bluetooth® technology to wirelessly communicate sound between a hearing instrument and MP3 players, mobile phones, TVs, home stereo systems and other audio sources. For instance, when a mobile phone rings, the user speaks into the Tek device and then listens through the hearing instruments, rather than using their handset.
Siemens has launched a new smaller version of the device, ‘miniTek’, which weighs in at just 55g, is about the size of a matchbox and will be available in early 2011.
Mobile phones are a boon for the elderly or disabled, offering a constant lifeline to the outside world. But as phones get ever smarter, they are also becoming more complicated.
Enter the Emporia ELEGANCE, a phone that has been designed to be incredibly easy to use. It offers easy access to talk, text, an alarm clock, reminders, keyboard lock and there’s a torch built into the phone.
The Emporia Elegance phone is a black and silver device of curved loveliness that serves a serious purpose.
To help me try it out, I enlisted the help of possibly Latest Gadgets’ oldest reviewer (but please don’t tell her that!).
We have been searching for a decent mobile for my mum, who has had her bus pass for a good 20 years, for a long time. Something simple, which doesn’t require me to go and explain it 10 times over, was what we were after. In the past, she’s had to make do with my cast-offs, but as phones have got smaller and smaller, they have got harder for her to use.
The Emporia Elegance has BIG keys. Yes, big keys – with big numbers on, so that she can actually read them (and in fact great for anyone who’s starting to have to peer at the small print – you know who you are).
“Ooh, I can actually see the numbers,” she said. Amazing how easy it is to please some people! But would it be simple to use? Dialling is easy, and Emporia has decided to pop keys on the side of the phone, rather than having a complicated menu system – an absolute godsend. In the past, my poor mum has had to wait two days for one of us to pop round and find her messages so that she can read them – lucky there wasn’t anything urgent. The screen itself is not that big, but the text can be set to huge – the only thing is that you can’t see much of anything because of the size of the screen.
Oh and wonder of wonders, the keyboard lock is a button on the side – I’d given up trying to explain how to lock the keyboard on the past mobile, in case my mum couldn’t unlock it when she needed to – hence several long messages where I listened to her getting on the bus, having a conversation with the man at the newsagents, or rifling in her bag for her purse (this will be familiar to anyone with an elderly parents!).
And one other thing – there’s also a button on the side that lights up a bright torch – fantastic for seeing the keyhole at night, or looking for your keys in your bag.
My only gripe would be that the side buttons are actually a little small and fiddly, and being on the side, they can be easy to press by accident. But overall, for anyone who has sight issues, limited mobility in their fingers – or in fact, just can’t be bothered fiddling about with complicated menus when all they want to do is make and receive calls, the Elegance is a godsend. But it does come at a price – 100 pounds to be precise.
Monitoring the home when we’re not there will be of interest to many of us, whether we want to make sure our house is secure, check that the kids have got home from school okay, and so on. But for anyone who cares for a disabled or elderly relative, it takes on another level of importance.
That’s when a system such as Halo, which allows users to remotely control and monitor their homes from wherever they are, can be invaluable. Halo has an added extra – the web-enabled Telecare service operates continuously, and is able to inform carers of any abnormal events, such as medical and panic alerts, by SMS, Twitter or email.
It can also be set up to register movement around the home – so, for instance if the system is in an elderly relative’s home, and it detects no movement between 8 and 9am when they would normally be up and about, it will alert you, so that you can take the appropriate action.
Halo uses a cloud-based platform that can be accessed over the web or a smartphone, and allows carers to enable services from their own homes, call centres or via mobile phone.
Video content can also be expanded into social networking applications so that carers can keep in touch with their friends and family on a regular basis.