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Vodafone Simply

Back to basics! Vodafone Simply leaves behind the camera, browser and MP3s to offer an easy to use handset for those who only want to make voice calls and send text messages.

According to Vodafone Australia's Marketing Manager Graham Christie, Vodafone spent two years conducting extensive worldwide customer research to develop a mobile phone expressly for people over 35 years old.

"There are over four million people over 35 in Australia who have mobile phones, but 72 percent of those users believe there are too many functions on their phone and do not use the device for anything other than making and receiving voice calls," Christie said.

To which the launch MC Kerri-Anne Kennerley (and no phone launch these days is complete without a token celebrity) quipped, "You could have saved yourself all the research time and money -- I could have told you that from just talking to my audience and a few friends."

There are two models of Vodafone's new Simply phones which have been developed exclusively for Vodafone by Sagem, the French conglomerate that just this week launched a range of 37 new consumer products into the Australian market. Both phones have exactly the same screen and interface, only the casings are different.

The silver model was styled to resemble a typical home cordless phone with rounded edges and raised number buttons. The slick black handset is more squarish in shape, and the number buttons are larger, but in more of a block formation.

So what makes it simple?
For starters, the large LCD screen sports 65,000 colours, making it easy to read. The main page menu displays the time, volume setting (normal, loud, vibrating or silent), battery and signal strength, and yes, for those of you who forget, your own phone number.

Navigation is simplified through three shortcut buttons on the top of the phone above the screen that direct you to its most commonly used features: the main home screen, your phone book, and the message log. The messages shortcut button lights up when a new voice or text message is received.

Within each menu, you can access relevant on-screen tips such as what each button does, how to use predictive text, etc.    

Another sure to please feature is the sliding lock switch on the right side of the phone, which will be particularly straightforward for those who cannot remember the keypad combos that are required to unlock most other mobile handsets.

Downside
The Simply handsets are a bit bigger and bulkier than most other phones on the market, so slipping one into a shirt pocket may be more of a nuisance than what you've become used to.

Set up options are basic as you'd expect, so if you've become in any way dependent on a wide selection of games or ring tones (or of course the deliberately omitted abilities to listen to music, take pictures or access the Internet), then look elsewhere.

Outlook
If Vodafone research is right -- and we suspect it is -- Simply should be a winner in a pretty much ignored market niche. Graham Christie claims that after the phone's introduction in New Zealand, there were far fewer queries to the Vodafone call centre than with most other new handset launches. We'll put the phone through a full review shortly to confirm whether it is really as simple to use as it looks, but regardless if you're over 35 or not and you just want the basics, Simply is worth a look.

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