The Doro 410 is a no-frills clamshell phone from the Swedish phone manufacturer you might not have heard of. It’s available now at around £150 SIM free. We are all getting older, our eyesight starts to fail noticeable from around the age of 40 and lots of people find that the trend to smaller more complicated phones makes them harder, or even impossible to use.
This is a phone designed for people who find most phones complicated, fiddly and difficult to see. For some people this will be the only phone they can use, for others who struggle with a phone, but cope, this will be simple and easy and for many people who just want a basic phone (how often have you heard someone say that) it’s extra clarity is nice to have.
At 98x50x19mm and 110g, this is a small and light phone, although it opens up to reveal a large, clear screen and big, well separated buttons. It includes a vibrate alert. The battery gives over 11 days standby or four hours talktime. When you type in a number the text is huge and remains so even if you type a number two or three lines long. That’s up to 21 digits, most phones shrink the text when you roll over the first line.
The controls consist of two soft keys, up and down scroll and the standard green dial and red hang up key.
The phone is a little confused as to what to call the phone book. From the menu – which looks a lot like a basic Nokia – it has an icon and is called phonebook, but on the soft key it’s called ‘name’. Use the name option and you can’t add any contacts. Using menu/phonebook the first option is ‘new contact’ and the phone asks for the name, mobile, home and work numbers. The phone will store up to 300 numbers. It’s uncomplicated. No photo-id, no custom ring tones, no birthdays, websites, horoscope signs or blood types.
The phone has 20 ring tones including a selection of traditional phone ring sounds and some that are a bit carnival or ice-cream van. But what is important is that they are loud, very loud.
Bright and beautiful
The thing that strikes you first is the clarity of the keypad and screen. The best thing you can do is show this to someone with failing eyesight. You’ll see their face break into a grin as they realize that here is a phone they won’t have to squint at.
The other special features are more subtle. There are good ergonomic principals about where the weight should be, the centre of gravity needs to be biased to the bottom of the phone so that when the clam is open it doesn’t fall out of your hand. Watch someone open a Motorola PEBL for the first time and you’ll see it tumble out of their grip. The Doro 410 gets the centre of gravity right.
The button spacing is excellent. Actually what matters is the distance between button centres but people don’t see it that way and want big buttons. The more subtle thing about the buttons is that they are ever so slightly dished, like a PC keyboard, this helps locate your finger on the button. It’s hard to make the keys stand proud and be significantly concave on a clamshell phone as this would mark the screen when the handset was closed, but Doro has found an effective compromise.
If you miss a call you can press ‘read’ on the left soft key to have the number displayed. This is shown in small single height characters. If the number or name is too long it scrolls slowly. It would have been nice if the phone had used the same big characters it uses for dialing and wrapped the text on multiple lines.
The Doro 410 has predictive text, but it’s defaulted to off. While the kind of people who read phone reviews might find this hard to grasp it accurately reflects the target market. Surveys show that only around half of phone owners of all ages use predictive text while older and less techie users don’t get it at all. The phone doesn’t have a camera so you can only send text MMSes.
The real value is in receiving pictures, typically of their grandchildren. The mobile has become a special bond between grandparents – who are made to feel young by using this new technology to correspond with their grandchildren and with the grandchildren who like texting their grandparents because they can do it on their terms.
There are standard features like a couple of unexciting games, FM radio – which requires the headset as an antenna, calculator, calendar and alarms.
The charger is a Nokia-like barrel connector, but there is an optional desk charger which most of the typical customers will find a lot easier.
If you really want to see a delighted user, find someone with a hearing aid. Ideally someone with a hearing aid in one ear and a ‘good’ ear. Go into another room and call them. Ask them to try the phone with both ears. Their reaction is fantastic. The Doro 410 has the excellent hearing aid support M3/T4 in the jargon. M being microphone type and T being telecoil. A hearing aid user will find the phone louder and clearer than any phone they’ve experienced before.
The most important accessory though is a sympathetic dealer, friend or relative. The Doro 410 has a block function which hides the messages, alarm, calendar, FM radio, calculator, games and silent mode. The friend should sit with the person who is going to use the phone and ask which features are going to be used, and block those which are not.
They can also set up the screen background colour and the other of the phone’s special functions – the emergency call button. Pressing and holding the recessed button on the outside of the phone triggers the emergency mode. The phone beeps loudly to let you know that it has been pressed and sends a text message to five friends or relatives set up in a special list. It then works through the number list calling the numbers until it receives an answer. There is a lanyard connector at the bottom of the phone which makes it ideal for an elderly or infirm relative to wear around their neck, just in case.
If you work in a phone shop this is an easy sell: it’s the right phone for all those people who come in and say “I just want something easy”, or “I only want to make phone calls”. You need to be sure they are not saying ‘cheap’, at £150 SIM free you are paying for the simplicity, but older people aren’t from the internet generation that expects everything to be free. It’s also the answer for the customer with grey hair who comes in and says “I want a phone for my mother”.
Talk to anyone about this kind of phone they immediately think of someone it would suit. Usually a parent, grandparent or in-law. Personal experience, the focus group of one is often a terrible way to decide what the world wants from a product, but the reaction is universal. That’s a real market.
To someone who has struggled to see and hear a phone it’s an amazing device. Phone manufacturers often sit in meetings discussing ‘basics’ by which they mean having the best signal quality and battery life. They forget that there are some things even more basic than that.
The first thing that struck us was the clarity of the screen, and the addition of a radio and Bluetooth actually makes this a pretty well-featured phone for a phone that tries to be as simple and usable as possible. A clever feature of the phone is the block function that can lock out certain functions, like messages, the alarm or FM radio. Just in case these features actually cause too much confusion. There’s also an emergency button that might prove a life saver. It might seem patronising, but the reality is that all of this makes the phone ideal for its intended market.