BARCELONA, Spain--The Emporia Connect, a new flip phone designed for seniors, takes a novel approach to keeping loved ones connected. The handset works in conjunction with an app, EmporiaMe, that can be downloaded on a relative's smartphone so they can manage the Connect's calendar and add contacts. Its maker, the Austrian company Emporia, will launch the phone in Europe this spring, with plans to launch in the U.S. afterward. It showed off the Connect at Mobile World Congress this week.
Compared with Emporia's Click and Solid handsets, which made an appearance at last year's CES, the Connect looks much more modern. About a third of it is made out of black plastic, while two brushed-metal stripes run along the left and right sides (even on the back). This lends a more luxurious look to the phone that I like, and it proves that just because it's tailored for seniors doesn't mean it has to look like a toy.
Altogether, it measures 4.25 inches tall, 2.09 inches wide, and 0.79 inch thick, and weighs in at 3.88 ounces. On the front is a display window for the time and on the right edge are two shortcut keys: one to open up the camera, and the other to turn on the camera's flash and use it as a flashlight.
Open up the device and you'll see a 2.8-inch TFT display with a 240x320-pixel resolution, and a huge number pad with generously sized keys. Above those are the call and end buttons, up and down navigational buttons (with the down key doubling as a shortcut to the address book), and buttons for favorite contacts, the menu, and camera. Below the number pad is a power button.
While I do like how big and easy to see the buttons are, I didn't like how they're flush with the surface of the handset. Yes, during my brief time with it, they were easy to press, but I'd prefer to have them more tactile. Furthermore, I don't see the point of having two shortcut camera keys. There's already one on the right edge, and it would've been better to feature another shortcut instead, perhaps a key for accessing texts.
On the back is a large round button with a heart on it that you press in the event of an emergency. Once pushed, it will begin dialing five preprogrammed numbers consecutively until it gets an answer.
The dual-band (900/1800) flip phone has a 2-megapixel camera with a flash. It's powered by a 1,150mAh battery, which will reportedly give you 6 hours of straight talking or 170 hours on standby.
It also has a microSD card slot that's capable of holding up to 2GB of expandable storage. Speaking of capacity, you can store up to 1,500 contacts in the handset and keep up to 1,000 text messages.
The EmporiaMe app, which I mentioned earlier, will allow another person (typically a carer or relative) to manage the Connect's contacts, photos, calendar, and reminders through their own smartphone.
Another interesting feature is called Picture Sharing. It lets you share your gallery, and you can navigate through the same photos at the same time on both the Connect and another handset. Think of it as a a very, very watered down version of Samsung's Share Shot.
Other features include Bluetooth 2.1, a calculator, and weather information.
No pricing is available for the Emporia Connect yet, and as previously mentioned, it will come to Europe this spring with plans to reach the U.S. sometime afterward. While I do think the EmporiaMe app is useful, there are more comprehensive ecosystems that help keep seniors and their loved ones stay in touch.
Another MWC 2013 product, for example, the Doro PhoneEasy 622, is also a slim senior phone and it works with Doro Experience. This service gives you even more management tools, and includes an app portal and a separate desktop interface.