What Mobile put specialist manufacturers Doro and Amplicom’s latest phones for senior citizens to the true test by putting them in the hands of grandparents Ted and Sheila Pittman.
Big buttons, big screens, clear text and super-loud alerts are the name of the game, but what do those in their target market make of them? What Mobile asked two grandparents, both in their sixties and long-time Nokia users, to give us their view on the phones and their features.
Amplicom PowerTel M6000
Sheila Pittman (SP): The ring volume is loud and clear, but the phone is let down by a weak vibration function that I couldn’t adjust.
Call clarity is good but there is a written warning that prolonged use on the loudest setting could cause damage to your ears. It is pretty loud and during one call I had to hold the phone away from my ear as it was a little too loud.
Ted Pittman (TP): I struggled with this as the volume adjust button is on the wrong side of the handset for me when making and taking calls, which meant I was constantly turning the call volume up and down without meaning to.
SP: I even got a warning on the phone at one point telling me the call volume was excessively loud, and even though I turned it down this stayed on the phone for a while.
The Amplicom has a nice screen that makes text clear and easy to read. This makes text messaging a pleasure. I did have problems adjusting the text input from lower to upper case and there was no obvious way to make the phone recognise when a word needed to start with a capital.
I like to punctuate my text messages properly, so this was a bit annoying and I found I was either WRITING IN CAPITALS ALL THE TIME LIKE I AM SHOUTING or all in lower case.
The clear screen also benefits the menu so it is easy to find what you want quickly. However, there is too much depth to the menus, and customising the user profile or setting the emergency call functions was more difficult than I’d have liked.
TP: This is made worse by the instruction manual not being particularly easy to follow. The layout of the instructions is over-complicated and a bit boring. I suffered from ‘third-click boredom’ with it, the same as I do with a lot of websites.
SP: It’s a pretty big phone as well making it cumbersome. It’s also very slippery to hold. I found the keys are not laid out particularly well as the buttons are too flat and too smooth, which can make some functions hard to do. Key-lock for instance, which is done in a similar way as older Nokia handsets, can be hard as the slippery keys are not particularly easy to locate.
And there are no obvious shortcut keys to take you straight to functions like texting. There are three shortcut keys and the navigation keys available to be programmed but these are multi-purpose keys that act as both the menu keys and dialling keys so can be a little complicated if you’re not used to that.
TP: I don’t like the look of the phone. It looks more like a walkabout landline phone, which aren’t designed to be truly mobile.
SP: There are a couple of neat little extras on the phone that are definitely beneficial to senior users. SOS and man down functions are useful.
A slide key on the reverse allows you to manually trigger an SOS call to a list of numbers which is pretty simple to use. Man down is activated if the phone recognises it has been dropped, potentially during a fall, and will ring predetermined numbers with a pre-recorded message. The fact it will repeat this until it is deactivated or gets a response from one of the numbers is reassuring.
However, the man down sensor didn’t work very well and even in sensitive mode it proved to be unpredictable. It takes a decent bump to trigger it and that might break the phone before it’s able to ring for assistance. And I struggled to get this feature to work when falling backwards so if you trip and fall on your back, or suffer an arrest of some kind, this could be potentially useless.
The instructions tell you this feature should only be activated when the phone is worn on a lanyard around the neck to stop nuisance calls being made, and then describes it as ‘innovative and sophisticated’ but, to be honest, I found it to be anything but.
The Amplicom is also marketed as having Bluetooth, which is not something I want and certainly wouldn’t make me buy the phone. Plus I couldn’t get it to pair with another Bluetooth device anyway, so it was pretty useless.
TP: I found the Doro phone was very easy to use. It is extremely tactile and is much easier to use than the previous Nokia phone I had.
The screen is big and clear, and the text sizing is particularly impressive which makes using the phone nice and easy.
SP: It is a very nice phone to hold and fits into your hand well, making it easy for me to use. The buttons are individually raised and nicely spaced so they’re easy to locate for using the functions. And while the screen is smaller than the Amplicom, it’s clearer.
This works well for texting which is supported by a dedicated SMS shortcut key that takes you to the text functions. Although I don’t use predictive text, the text input can be set to place capital letters in the right place, and it has a very clear multi-tap menu so you can easily choose the right letter or character.
A dedicated key-lock button makes securing the phone easier and the vibration setting is fairly strong ensuring I know when my phone is going off. Couple this with a good ring function and it’s good for helping me know when people are trying to get hold of me.
TP: For me the clarity of calls is excellent. I’m still working and taking international phone calls, and all I can say is that it is excellent.
The phone slips into my top pocket neatly as well, which is important as I need to keep my phone on me at all times to stay in contact but not have it be intrusive.
The fact it holds its charge well is an added bonus. While I don’t use things like texting, I do make a lot of calls and there was almost two weeks in between charges. Unfortunately, as I travel a lot with work I’ve had to carry the charging cradle around Europe with me as the instruction manual doesn’t make clear that the phone can be charged without the cradle.
Other than that, the instruction manual is straightforward enough and easy to follow with clear and precise directions on how to get the phone working properly.
SP: As for extras, the emergency call function is simple to use, with one push-button activation. There’s no man down system as on the Amplicom, but the SOS alert is very loud and clear, and I found the push button easier to work in case of an emergency than a slide button.
And while there’s nothing in the way of additional functions like Bluetooth included, there is a built-in torch which is probably more useful to someone like me.
Another added bonus is the wide range of ringtones available. Although this is not essential to the overall working of the handset, it’s nice to have more choice when customising the phone to my liking.
SP: Both phones have clear and easy to view screens with loud alerts and added SOS functions, but the Doro 332gsm is probably a little better. The compact design makes it feel more like a proper mobile phone, and it offers an easier to use, more tactile experience than the Amplicom, which is the most important aspect for me.
TP: When it comes to the everyday features that you need, the Doro is just so simple to use and more like a mobile phone than the Amplicom PowerTel M6000, which has the look and feel of a walkabout phone. To me, that makes all the difference and is important as an end user.
Sheila and Ted were talking to David Pittman
Ratings (out of 5) – Amplicom M6000
Ratings (out of 5) – Doro 332gsm
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