Not everyone needs a smartphone. Indeed not everyone wants a smartphone. Some people just want a handset for those old-fashioned things: making calls and sending texts. Anything else is a plus, but not really a requirement.
Then there are people who find modern handsets physically too difficult to manage. They might have poor eyesight, or find it hard to hold and use a phone. There are handsets for all these needs, and specialist makers such as Doro concentrate on meeting those needs. However, Doro isn't the only option. Vodafone's new 155 is made by Alcatel, a company which does well at the less expensive end of the market.
At just £25, on Vodafone pay as you go tariffs, the 155 certainly meets a price point. But, does it do enough to be a good handset for its chosen market?
There are two things that immediately struck us when we took the Vodafone 155 out of its box. First, it comes with a stand. This is exceptionally rare these days, but if you are someone who has difficulty grasping a phone, then picking it up from a table might be a problem too, and a stand could be a real help. So well done, Vodafone or Alcatel (whichever of you it was), for thinking of including that.
Big numbers, small screen
The second striking thing is that this is a phone that's all number pad and barely any screen at all. The number keys are simply vast, where the central column keys are slightly wider than the outer ones, and even the narrower keys measure 15mm wide and 10mm tall. They press down well and their rubber-finish makes them very tactile.
Above the number keys are Call and End buttons, which are even larger. The one slight failure in the ‘easy-touch' system is a key, which combines OK, up and down functions. If you find keys a little fiddly, this one is likely to be the most tricky one to use.
The screen, by comparison, is small. It measures a mere 1.7in across and the pixel count is dire at 128 x 160. But, this phone isn't about bells and whistles, nor about web browsing or video viewing, and it isn't about social media or looking at maps. Text on the screen is huge and that's just how it is meant to be, so those who might squint unsuccessfully at a standard smartphone now stand a chance of reading what's here. We couldn't find any way of reducing, or increasing text size, from its standard out of the box largeness. This is annoying and some people might like to see a bit more detail, at a smaller text size.
Still, with the text size as it is, you can just about view a month's daily dates in the built in calendar app. Unfortunately, you can't enter appointments or synchronise with Google calendar or anything like that.
Other apps are minimal. There's a contacts app, but with just 0.3MB of available memory don't expect to store hundreds of family and friends - just the important people. There's a messaging app too, only for SMS.
And, perhaps quite surprisingly for such a minimalist handset, there is a FM radio. This is activated by using a side button. It will auto-scan channels into its library and, joy of joys, you don't need to plug in a headset to use it as an antenna, as this is built into the device.
Obviously, sound quality isn't great through the handset speaker, but it is good enough, and fine for the spoken word radio, in particular. The radio has RDS too, which is a nice touch.
SOS and other extras
Lots of handsets aimed at similar markets have a built in torch, and the Vodafone 155 is no exception. There's an LED on the top of the phone, which you can turn on and off using a button on the right side of the casing. It's very simple to use and potentially, extremely handy.
We also like the voice reminder system. You can set up a reminder for a particular date and time, not by typing out a fiddly text message to yourself on screen, but by making a voice recording. At the appointed time, an audible alert is sounded and you can listen back to the message.
On the back of the Vodafone 155 is a large button, with a heart embossed upon it. This is, in fact, the SOS key. You can configure it to access up to four contacts, to automatically send them all a message that says ‘please help me'. As long as they've got you in their phone, they'll know who is sending the message. Once you've configured the contacts, a long press (it's just a couple of seconds) causes the phone to emit a loud siren and send its SMS messages. The SOS key is slightly concave, so hopefully it won't get pressed by accident.
This is a neat idea, and on testing, it worked well. Not every user will want it, but it's a nice security touch for those that do.
The Vodafone 155 isn't a fancy handset, and many smartphone owners might sniff it at. Some reviews might sniff too - saying it is underpowered, under featured, and something of a waste of time.
At ITProPortal we have a different approach. The Vodafone 155 is aimed at a particular market, and we think it has a range of features that might appeal well. We aren't bothered about the absence of a camera, Wi-Fi or 3G on a phone such as this, or by the absence of social media or web browsing.
In general, we're in favour of the Vodafone 155, and its high score reflects the fact that it does, what it aims to do pretty well. The screen though, could have been larger and for anyone with poor eyesight - this could be a major annoyance.
Pros: Very easy to use keyboard and some nice features, including a torch and an SOS mode.
Cons: The screen really could have been bigger
Manufacturer: Vodafone 155