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Vodafone Emporia RL1 review: Vodafone Emporia RL1

Striking a blow for simplicity over complexity, the Vodafone Emporia RL1 is sure to be a hit with those who want nothing more than to talk and text, but the price is a little steep.

Damien McFerran
Damien McFerran has more than a decade of experience in the interactive entertainment and technology sectors. He is also the Editorial Director of Nintendo Life and co-director of Nlife Ltd. Damien is a freelance writer and is not an employee of CNET.
Damien McFerran
4 min read

The Emporia RL1 has been developed with simple usability in mind and has only the most basic calling and texting features. There's little to get pure-blooded techno-fiends excited, but the phone's refreshingly straight-forward nature will endear it to less experienced mobile users.


Vodafone Emporia RL1

The Good

Easy to use; Eye-catching design; Amazing battery life.

The Bad

Basic features; Feels cheap; Overpriced for what it offers.

The Bottom Line

Striking a blow for simplicity over complexity, the RL1 is sure to be a hit with those who seek to do nothing more than talk and text with their phones, but the price is a little steep for such a modest mobile.

The Emporia RL1 is available exclusively from Vodafone for £60 on a pay as you go tariff. It's also available on pay monthly contracts, with prices starting at the lower end of the spectrum.

Keeping it simple

With phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S 2 and HTC Sensation bringing technological revelations such as HD video recording and Super AMOLED Plus displays, it's all too easy to forget that many mobile users just want a phone for talking and texting.

The toy-like buttons may appear amusing, but for those with failing eyesight, they drastically improve usability.

The Emporia RL1 has been produced exclusively with these humble activities in mind and could be the solution for those of you addled by over-complicated smart phones.

When you first scoop up the RL1, you'll be forgiven for assuming it's some kind of child's toy. At a waif-like 92g it's astonishingly lightweight, and its plastic case unfortunately exudes an air of cheapness. The big, chunky buttons look similarly childish, but they are there for a reason: to improve overall usability.

The RL1 isn't aimed at your average gadget-obsessed geek -- this device has been built with less confident individuals in mind. Those large keys may look comical if you're used to a touch-screen device such as the iPhone 4, but for elderly users or those with eyesight problems, they'll prove a blessing.

Strike a light

The same can be said of the RL1's bright and bold display. Granted, the primitive OLED technology is hardly likely to challenge modern smart phone displays for clarity and colour depth, but it features large text and an easy to navigate menu structure.

The RL1's LED torch is activated by a button on the side of the phone, making it easy to access at all times.

Elsewhere on the phone you'll find a torch button on the side -- this activates the bright LED flashlight on the top. Not only is this handy for locating your keys after a particularly hard night on the real ale, it also doubles as a swanky call indicator. It flashes when the RL1 is ringing, and could prove especially useful if you're hard of hearing.

Another useful feature is the bundled dock, which allows you to charge the RL1 when it's not in use. This can be secured to a wall using the screws provided, allowing the device to effectively replace your home phone.

Despite its toy-like appearance, there's no denying the RL1 boasts a relatively appealing design. The sharp edges and sleek lines are certainly distinctive, although we're not entirely sure everyone will dig the near-future aesthetic.

Pure and simple, every time

What will be appreciated is the pure simplicity of the RL1. Aside from a calculator and birthday reminder, the phone literally does nothing else but make calls and send text messages. There's no camera, no Internet, no email and most certainly none of that app-related tomfoolery. Such technological poverty is likely to send avid mobile users running for the hills, but as Vodafone is desperate to point out, the RL1 isn't intended for such people.

From the large buttons to the impressive battery life (a single charge gets you around a week of use), the RL1 has been crafted to be the ideal phone for the older generation -- or simply those of you that are sick to death of having to read a gigantic instruction manual in order to get your latest mobile working.

The included charging cradle allows you to juice-up the RL1 when it's not in your pocket.

It's a noble venture, but the one thing we can't quite understand is why the RL1 is being sold at a price that puts it in direct competition with budget smart phones, such as its stable-mate the Vodafone Smart. Bargain basement blowers such as the LG A140 and Nokia 1616 offer more functionality for a fraction of the price, so it seems strange that the RL1 should cost you more.


No camera, no Internet, no touchscreen -- the Emporia RL1's specifications read like something from the depths of mobile history. Don't expect a pay as you go handset to challenge the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Mini and Orange San Francisco -– the RL1 has been designed to please elderly consumers rather than young gadget fiends. We can't help feeling the relatively high price tag is slightly exploitative, making too much of the phone's simplicity.

Still, if you favour usability over functionality, this could be your dream handset. But if you feel you're able to master something a little more demanding, explore some of the other budget options out there, such as the Motorola Gleam or Sony Ericsson Cedar.

Edited by Nick Hide