Day in, day out, you are able to read reviews of phones that run stunning software and can handle amazing applications. They have the kind of computing power that just a few years ago would have been inconceivable. Heck, we've even seen recent news that Nasa is planning to use Android in a satellite. And it's not the first. A British company is developing a similar project.
This is all exciting stuff, but not everyone wants – or can handle – this kind of computing power. For some people, a phone is simply a tool for keeping in touch, and if they have reduced vision, poor mobility or other impairments which make it difficult for them to handle the whizz-bang, they need to look elsewhere.
Doro has been making handsets for seniors for a long time, and its range is highly regarded. The watchwords are ease of use, solid design and a sense of style too. The company makes candybar, slider and clamshell models, and produces both landline and mobile handsets. O2 has had a relationship with Doro for some time and has just added the PhoneEasy 612 to its range. This is a clamshell handset and O2 is selling it for £69.99 on Pay and Go, or free on contract.
The black and white shell looks solid and makes for quite a chunky phone for the pocket and bag. At 20mm thick it's really something of a brick by modern standards, but remember this is a phone for people who might not have great grip, and that thickness could be a boon rather than an irritation. And the phone is light enough at 103g. The build material is plastic but feels quite tough, and there's a rubbery finish to the back and most of the front that makes the phone grippy.
You can configure up to five phone numbers on your emergency list. These all get an emergency SMS (the text of which you need to provide) when you press the button. Then the first number in the list is dialled for a voice call. If they don't answer within 25 seconds, the next one in the list is called and so on. There are three rounds of repeats before the handset gives up.
There's always a chance that the answering handset will be on answerphone of course, which is no good to the person having the emergency. So you can configure this function so that the recipient needs to press a zero on their phone to confirm they're real and not automated.
You can set the emergency button up to require either one long press or two short presses, and for an alarm to sound on the phone itself too – through that loudspeaker. The alarm stops when a call is answered, something Doro includes as an information item in the Emergency setup area. This could be an issue because it'll stop even if your call is answered by an automated answer service. The alarm is pretty loud and could be vital in calling people to help you.
A second potentially helpful setting is for ICE (In Case of Emergency) information. The handset can store your name, date of birth, height, weight, language, insurance and GP data, medical conditions info, data on any allergies you may have, blood type, vaccination details, information about any medication you are on, key contacts and there is even a free text field for any other information. This is accessible via the phone's menu. It's a great idea, as having this kind of information in an emergency can literally save lives, but of course the emergency services will need to know it is on the phone to be able to get at it!
Inside the clam you are greeted by a huge key pad with a large area for the number keys and enormous Call and End keys. There are three keys marked 'A', 'B' and 'C' too, and another with an envelope symbol on it. That last one is a shortcut to SMS. The other three are speed dial buttons and you can also set up speed dials on the 0 and 2-9 keys. You can also force the handset to list up to 10 contacts at the head of its complete A to Z listing.
Of course this handset has a colour screen. It is minute by modern standards at just 49 x 36mm (2.5 diagonal inches) and it has just a 320 x 240 resolution. You can switch between two text sizes and the smaller of the two is quite large. There are themes and you can set the wallpaper to show photos taken with the 2-megapixel camera, the lens of which sits on the back of the handset.
The PhoneEasy 612 charges via micro-USB and when you connect it to a PC its internal storage and any microSD you have installed to the slot under the battery become accessible for dragging and dropping files to. There's no internal storage to speak of though – just 10MB, and you are limited to 300 contacts. That's fine for a handset like this, though anyone wanting to use the camera will need to add a microSD card for photo storage.
As for the rest of the specs, well, things are basic with no 3G, no Wi-Fi, no GPS, no mobile email, no music playback, no mobile data support (no web browsing), and nothing by way of downloadables as the OS is a proprietary one. There is an FM radio, Bluetooth, a headset slot, image viewing for photos you've taken, alarm, calendar with a useful and simple reminder/alarm feature, calculator and a couple of built-in games. The 12-hour talk-time and 533 hours standby time don't seem wide of the mark after my time with it.
Doro says the PhoneEasy 612 has extra-loud and clear sounds. I disagree. Call quality is fine, and the alarm tone I mentioned earlier is loud, but the ringer volume doesn't go a whole lot louder than some other phones.
The PhoneEasy 612 comes with a rather neat little stand with a pass-through for the charger, a long lanyard and a printed manual – you don't see these kinds of extras too often these days, and the manual walks you through the features and functions fairly nicely.
Under normal circumstances, a handset with as few features as the PhoneEasy offers would get a trouncing, and then I'd trounce it some more for its inflated price. I'm not going to do that, though. Or at least I'm going to do half of it. I do think this handset is overpriced. In the market as it stands today this phone could easily shave £20 and still be a bit on the expensive side. But Doro knows its niche as far as designing hardware and software go, and the solid build and neat software design are both commendable.
Manufacturer and model
Doro PhoneEasy 612
GSM 900/1800/1900 GPRS
2.5in, 320 x 240 pixels
101 x 52 x 20 mm