No one can deny that we live in the age of the smartphone, but there’s still a healthy demand for no-frills cell phones. I’ve seen plenty of simple phones hit the market over the past year or so, from bare bones feature phones on the major carriers, to the minimal, calculator-like Snapfon ez ONE-c. There’s even a simple smartphone, the Jitterbug Touch. We’re expecting Consumer Cellular to release an easy-to-use smartphone at some point next year, but right now, we’re seeing an update to its line of phones specifically for seniors, in the form of the $60 Doro PhoneEasy 618. It’s one of the simplest phones you can buy, with a nice display and impressive call quality. It lacks the additional features you can get with the Samsung Jitterbug Plus on GreatCall, but it’s a solid, more affordable choice if you don’t need them.
Design, Call Quality, and Pricing
The PhoneEasy 618 is your standard flip phone, though it feels solid and very well-made, which is especially impressive given its reasonable price. It’s available with a black, gray, or red exterior, with white interior accents across the board. The front of the 4.0-by-2.1-by-0.9-inch, 4.05-ounce phone has a striped pattern covered in a translucent, shiny plastic, while the back is made from plastic of the rubberized, grippy variety. It’s very comfortable to hold, whether open or closed.
There are two distinct Volume buttons on the right side of the PhoneEasy, along with a charging port and nonstandard 2.5mm headphone jack on the left. Thankfully, you get a decent pair of earphones with a built-in mic for hands-free phone calls. I was also able to connect my Jawbone Era Bluetooth headsetand make calls without a problem, but there is no voice dialing. There’s a programmable Emergency button on the back of the phone, which lets you quickly and easily call for help in the event of an emergency. It’s located in the upper right corner, which makes it hard to trigger accidentally.
When closed, there’s a small external display that shows only the time. Flip the phone open, and you’re greeted by a 2.4-inch, 320-by-240-pixel display. While that resolution is nothing to write home about, the display is a little bigger than you’ll find on other simple phones, like the Samsung Jitterbug Plus, which means that text is even larger. Most people won’t have trouble reading the default text size, but you can also set it to large, which makes it positively huge.
The keypad is quite nice as well. Buttons are big and clicky, with a very faint backlight. There are just a few function keys above the number buttons, which are all clearly labeled and easy to understand. My only complaint is that the keys themselves are a little flat.
A tri-band (850/1800/1900 MHz) handset that runs on AT&T’s network, reception on the PhoneEasy 618 is excellent, as is call quality. In my tests, voices sounded clear, full, and natural in the phone’s earpiece, which is M3 and T4 hearing-aid compatible. Calls made with the phone have a somewhat muted quality, but noise cancellation is excellent. The speakerphone sounds a little grainy, and unfortunately, it doesn’t get loud enough to hear outdoors. Battery life is a little short, at 5 hours and 16 minutes of talk time.
Plans on Consumer Cellular start at $10 per month, but that doesn’t actually get you any talk time or text messages; on that plan, you pay individually for those. Otherwise, $15 per month gets you 150 minutes of talk time, with a number of additional plans that go up to $60 per month for 4,000 minutes. Text messages are available in add-on plans that start at $2.50 per month for 100 messages. Generally speaking, pricing is a little less expensive here than you’ll find on GreatCall, (which offers the Samsung Jitterbug Plus), though Consumer Cellular lacks a monthly unlimited option.
(Next page: Performance and Conclusions)
Performance and Conclusions
Using the PhoneEasy 618 is just as easy as you’d expect. When you open the phone, the home screen tells you the time and date, along with battery, reception, and volume indicators up top. From here, you can access the main menu or your phonebook, and that’s it. The main menu is a series of icons you can scroll through one at a time, that cycle through all the functions the phone can perform. In the order they’re organized, you get access to the Phonebook, Settings, Emergency Information, Flashlight, FM Radio, Calculator, Organizer, Alarm, Image Viewer, Camera, Call Log, and Messages.
Under the In Case of Emergency menu, you can list your name, age, height, weight, language, insurance, emergency contacts, doctor, medical condition, allergies, blood type, and other pertinent medical information, which is a nice touch. The “flashlight” is really just the LED light on the front of the phone for the camera flash, though it’s good to have in case of emergencies. And the FM radio sounds surprisingly good through the bundled earphones.
Text messaging is a relatively straightforward affair, though you’re at the mercy of typing with the number pad. And in an effort to make things simple, Doro has added so many steps that it actually becomes a little cumbersome. First you need to select that you want to send a text, then you have to write the message, then you have to decide where it’s going, and then you have to confirm you want to send it. There’s no way to just look up the recipient in your phonebook and send the message to them directly.
The 3.2-megapixel camera comes with auto-focus, LED flash, and digital zoom. It sounds impressive, but the results don’t quite match up. Generally speaking, photos look fine, with average color but slightly smudgy details. There’s no way to record video, and I lost a bunch of test shots to motion blur, so you need to remain very still while snapping a photo. Unlike the Jitterbug Plus, there’s no way to share these photos online. You can send them as a picture message or set them as your wallpaper, but that’s it.
Also unlike the Jitterbug Plus, the PhoneEasy 618 lacks access to all of GreatCall’s additional apps and services, like 5Star Urgent Response, automated check-in calls and medication reminders, or free daily health tips. Granted, most of these services add an additional fee to your plan, but for some users, they are essential. Additionally, the Jitterbug’s ‘Yes and No’ user interface is even a little simpler to use.
So while the Samsung Jitterbug Plus remains our Editors’ Choice for simple phones, the Doro PhoneEasy 618 presents a very solid option. If you don’t need access to GreatCall’s additional services, you’ll probably save some money by using the PhoneEasy 618. Get this instead of the older model, the PhoneEasy 410. That phone only costs $10 less, and it lacks a camera and has a smaller, lower-resolution display. There’s also the unlocked Snapfon ez ONE-c, which is as minimal as phones get, but you really can’t do anything with it other than call or text.
More Cell Phone Reviews:
|Service Provider||Consumer Cellular|
|Screen Details||320-by-240-pixel TFT LCD|
|Bands||900, 1800, 1900|
|Form Factor||Flip Phone|
|Battery Life (As Tested)||5 hours 16 minutes|
|Screen Size||2.375 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||78 MB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc