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Friday, May 11, 2012

Hands On With the World's Simplest Android Phone

Simple-phone company Doro wants to get seniors on board with the smartphone revolution with a new, super-easy smartphone and tablet interface. I got some time with Doro's PhoneEasy 740 phone and Doro Experience tablet software, which may be coming to U.S. carriers soon.
Doro isn't unknown here; it has been selling simple phones through Consumer Cellular for two years now. But the PhoneEasy and Doro Experience take them to a new level. The PhoneEasy 740 is a sliding phone with an extremely simple interface that doesn't look like Android at all, even though it's really just a skinned version of Android 2.3.
The phone has a 320-by-480 touch screen, 3G, Wi-Fi, a MicroSD memory card slot, Bluetooth 4.0 and a 5-megapixel camera, so the hardware is pretty decent. Unique Doro features include wideband audio (also known as "HD voice"), an app that uses the camera as a magnifying glass, an unusually powerful speaker, and a configurable panic button on the back.

The phone starts up with four huge bars on the screen representing Contacts, Calls, Messages and Email. You can scroll down to get to other options like a Web browser, podcast client, camera magnifying glass app, and Doro's own app store. You can operate the entire phone via the touch screen or the cursor keys.
Wait a minute: a podcast client? On a phone for old people? Doro's CEO Jerome Arnaud said it's all been thought through. In studies, some older clients have said they often stay home to catch specific radio programs. A podcast client preloaded with the most popular programs frees them from having to sit by the radio, he said.
Doro's app store, called Doro Selection, will initially have about 15 well-selected apps including news, banking, and transportation-related apps, Arnaud said. It'll grow with time, and there will be a way to get arbitrary Google Play apps onto the PhoneEasy 740, too.
Before you grumble: if you're reading PCMag, remember, this phone isn't for you. Instead, you're probably going to be the one operating the "Doro Experience" from afar, one of the most innovative parts of the PhoneEasy equation.

CTIA 2011
Arnaud showed me a PC-based interface that lets relatives set up and monitor PhoneEasy devices and Android tablets from afar, adding and removing apps and setting up accounts.
I clicked through the PhoneEasy 740 for a while, and it's all very well thought out. It's not a slim phone. The keys are depressed slightly and well separated. Any action taken on the touch screen involves very large targets.
The one flaw comes in the texting and email apps. There's no on-screen keyboard or predictive text, at least that I saw. That means any text entry on the phone is extremely tedious triple-tapping.
Doro hopes to bring the phone to the U.S. sometime soon, Arnaud said. And while he's "very satisfied" with his company's relationship with Consumer Cellular, "we have a greater ambition" to break into larger, national carriers. With the PhoneEasy 740 potentially coming in CDMA and GSM versions, it could appear on any carrier, he said.
Doro Simplifies Android Tablets
I was actually even more excited by Doro's Android tablet software than by the company's new phone. Android tablets are not known for ease of use, but Doro has entirely replaced the standard Android interface with big, bold, simple icons. The Doro Experience on tablets can be set up remotely by friends and family with PCs, and even includes a simplified Facebook application so the tablet user can see photos and comments.
This isn't hardware, at least not yet. Rather, it's a skin that can run on existing Android tablets. I saw it running on a Samsung Galaxy Tab, for instance. It's really easy to use. Text is big and clear. Icons are simple. The apps do exactly what they say they do. It's positively refreshing.
I think the Doro Experience could sell Android tablets to seniors; I think you'll agree after seeing how it works. Take a look at some sample screens in our slideshow above.


Unknown said...

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