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Doro PhoneEasy 740

The Doro PhoneEasy 740 looks simple but it's clever because it makes complex and powerful technologies easy for almost anyone to use.

The Doro PhoneEasy 740 looks much like Doro's other devices -- with big buttons and simple menus, it's reassuringly easy to use. This is a phone for elderly people who might otherwise find mobiles frustratingly fiddly or complex.

It might look like the most basic feature mobile you could imagine, but the 740 is actually Doro's first 3G smart phone, running atop Google's Android platform.

The PhoneEasy 740 is due to launch this summer. There's no word yet on pricing. I got hands-on with the device at Mobile World Congress. Read on for early impressions.

Software

You'd never guess there's a tiny Gingerbread-flavoured Android lurking inside the PhoneEasy 740 -- and that's a good thing. Pure Android is nothing if not infinitely customisable, which for a less tech savvy user, has the potential to be infinitely confusing. The 740 cunningly conceals all this complexity with Doro's simple software wrap, called the Doro Experience.

If you've used a Doro phone before, you'll be familiar with the look and feel of the software, although this interface is new for the PhoneEasy 740.

There are big, clearly-labelled icons emblazoned with functions such as 'Messages', 'Call' and 'Photo', along with arrows signposting when more functions are just off screen. So far, so feature phone. But Doro has added an 'app store lite' to the 740 called the Doro Selection.

This includes some apps made by Doro, such as DoroFriends, which draws in a simplified feed of information from Facebook friends, and a magnifier app that helps people read small-print documents.

Third party apps are also being allowed but will be vetted by Doro. The company says it's not trying to build a store with thousands of apps in it, a la Android Market, but rather will only be rubber-stamping apps that are definitely relevant to its audience and are easy to use.

Hardware

The PhoneEasy 740 has both a touchscreen and a slide-out keypad. The company says its users are keen on the tactile feedback of buttons, which is why it has opted for a slider form factor, rather than a wholly touchscreen device. The handset is quite chunky so it feels pleasingly substantial in the hand.

Doro PhoneEasy 740 keypad
Doro users appreciate a tactile keypad, hence the inclusion of a slide-out pad.

The screen is 3.2 inches so it's not massive, but it's still big enough for the icons to be clearly legible. The keypad has large keys, with white lettering on a dark background. The slider action seemed smooth and easy to operate.

On the back is a 5-megapixel camera and an emergency button for summoning help. The phone includes GPS connectivity, which can provide location info in an emergency. GPS can also be used by apps, such as 'Point the way', which helps someone find their way home.

Also on board are 3G and Wi-Fi, meaning this really is a fully-loaded smart phone.

Tablet and PC version

Doro has made a tablet version of its Doro Experience software, which it was also demoing at its MWC booth. This includes a simplified email client.

It said it hasn't decided whether it will make a tablet itself, but it's making the software available for other companies or for people to install on an existing tablet.

Also being demoed was a PC version of the software that can be linked up to a webcam to make it easy to send video messages.

PC version of the Doro Experience software
Here's the PC version of the Doro Experience software, which includes simple email.

Also coming out of Doro's software shop is a web-based manager client that can connect to any device running the Doro Experience interface. It can be used to remotely install apps or upload photos. The basic idea is that if your elderly grandparent can't figure out how to get a particular app installed, you can do it for them from home. The client also means you could load the family holiday snaps onto their device remotely and they'll be waiting to be viewed in the Gallery menu.

Outlook

The Doro PhoneEasy 740 looks simple but it's actually very clever because it makes complex and powerful mobile technologies straightforward enough for almost anyone to use.

Doro's feature phones aren't cheap, so the PhoneEasy 740 is probably going to be fairly pricey. But it could be a great investment for an elderly relative who is interested in the digital world but frustrated by how difficult it can be to get to grips with.

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