- Simple UI
- Large, comfy buttons
- No camera
- Review Price: £59.99
- Clamshell design
- Ultra-simple interface
- 2in 176x220 pixel colour display
- Emergency button
- Large rubberised buttons
We tend to rate phones by features and performance over almost anything else, but not every phone plays that way. The Doro Phone Easy 409s takes the opposite approach. It’s designed to be easy to use above all else, making it a sound choice for technophobes, the elderly or those who just don’t like today’s new-fangled fiddly gadgets.
The Doro 409s is a clamshell phone. They used to be almost as popular as touchscreen phones are now, but for the most part their day has passed. Doro isn’t ready to let this old form factor ride off into the sunset yet though. The inside of the handset is white, with black trimmings in the shape of buttons and the screen surround. The outside reverses this scheme, with white ornamentation on plain black.
Although not exactly a stylish device, it’s one of Doro’s best-looking phones yet. Previous handsets have used a very similar design, but in dumping superfluous bits of colour used before the 409s manages to look respectably tasteful.
The keypad uses a traditional T9-style layout, with large rubberised buttons that positively dwarf the tiny keys used in most small phones available around the same price – £60 on a pre-pay deal. The other key accessibility feature of this phone is the emergency call button on its back. Like the numerical keys, it’s large and rubberised, and is also contoured slightly so your thumb can find it without getting your peepers involved.
The Doro 409s’s conservative design may not scream high-quality craftsmanship, but it’s a well-made phone. A soft-touch finish covers the entire outside of the phone, giving it that comfy – almost cuddly – feel in-hand. The white insides are made of more conventional plastics, but your thumb will almost always be hovering over the high-friction rubber keys of the keypad anyway.
There is one oddity in the build though. Two little rubber buffers sit just above the screen, to soften the impact of the clamshell snapping shut, but they simply pop out if you dig a nail underneath them even slightly. We managed to do this accidentally, leaving the screw underneath completely visible. Function-wise it’s not a tragedy if these rubber blips are lost, but like removing a model’s makeup, it does rather spoil the intended look.
Two little lights sit on the front of the phone, acting as indicators for SMS messages and low battery. They’re much less subtle than you’d find on a similarly-priced phone like the Sony Ericsson Zylo, but then the Doro 409s is all about simple ease of use and intuitiveness – concessions to fashion don’t rank highly here. The keypad lights-up too. The spread of light isn’t even across the keys, but it does the job of making all the internal keys easily visible at night-time.
Features, aside from the basics of texting and call-making, are laid-on thinly. There’s no web browser, no email functionality and no app store. Connectivity is also very limited with no Bluetooth, no GPS and no SD card slots. Volume controls and a 3.5mm headphone jack feature on the phone’s sides but internally everything’s kept conspicuously, deliberately bare-bones.
The Doro 409s uses the same basic interface as previous Doro mobiles. It’s very simple – like the phone itself it’s designed for those who have never owned a smartphone, or even used a touchscreen phone for that matter.
A home screen displays the time and date, along with icons for the signal strength and remaining battery at the top. The two top-most keys on the keypad change function depending on what’s on screen (soft keys, as they’re called) with them defaulting to the phone book (called “Name” for the sake of the technologically uninitiated) and the main menu on the home screen.
The menu offers the remaining smattering of features, scrolled through one-by-one – each filling the screen. You do this with the two-button navigational rocker that naturally falls under your thumb when holding the phone. While those looking for an extremely basic option may not use this much, the placement of this rocker is wonderfully convenient and comfortable.
At default, the main menu houses the Calendar, Alarm, Games, Phonebook, Messages, Call Log, Calculator and Settings. However, these can be cut down further within the settings menu. Don’t want Games? Just remove that option, to make the 409s’s menu system even simpler. The only features you have to keep in the menu are Phonebook, Call Log and Settings. If you have an elderly relative who still doesn’t get texting (or thinks it’s the work of the devil), this could be a useful feature.
For all its simplicity, there is a quick setup process to go through to get the Doro 409s set up perfectly. This won’t matter if the prospective owner is simply someone who says “bah humbug” to touchscreen phones, but if it’s intended for an elderly person with arthritis, for example, it’s worth considering getting someone else to fine-tune the phone beforehand.
The emergency button is a far more important part of this initial setup than the menu customisation. This button on the back makes the phone call and text up-to five pre-selected numbers, when it is held down for several seconds. The body of the text, and the numbers, are stored in the Settings menu.
It is of course easy to accidentally depress the large emergency button when it’s in a pocket, but there are several settings to avoid such embarrassing – and worrying for the friends and relatives – incidents. It can be turned off, or require three presses of the button rather than one. It’s hardly fool-proof, but you are able to cancel the feature before it kicks-in fully.
Once the emergency button has been pressed in the requisite way, an ear-piercing alarm sounds. It can then be cancelled with a press of a soft key. Let this emergency function do its thing though and it’ll sequentially call the pre-defined numbers until it connects to one, although the phone will still believe it has connected if it reaches an answer phone. It will also send each of the numbers an SMS message. The Doro 409s may be a niche device, but its features make a lot of sense within that niche.
The Doro 409s has a small, low resolution screen. It’s a 2in model with a 176 x 220 pixel display. However, it’s a much higher-quality panel than we’ve seen in many ultra-budget phones. There are none of the viewing angle and clarity issues we’ve experienced in the past. Whatever angle you view the screen from, the display remains clear. The colours do invert if you look at it from right above or below, but viewing from these positions is such a rarity as to be a non-issue.
The low resolution doesn’t matter much here either, as there are virtually no advanced features to make use of the additional pixels. Two games are included – a space blaster called UFO and casual platformer Robot – but these are tacked-on extras not core features.
We’re glad these arguably superfluous additions are sparing, because they would otherwise threaten to dilute what the Doro 409s is out to achieve – a phone that’s simple, accessible and cheap without being low-quality. The accessibility point, in the social sense, is one that shows up in the call experience itself.
Within the Settings menu is a high volume setting, pumping-up the speaker output far beyond what you’d normally get from a budget phone. There aren’t any of the noise cancellation baubles of a more expensive phone, but the sheer volume is a boon for those without perfect hearing. A speakerphone option is also included, but here the volume is more in-line with what we’d expect from a standard phone.
The Doro 409s has pressed many of the right buttons in creating a “basic” phone, but there are some tech tweaks that we miss. When texting, for example, capitalisation doesn’t switch automatically after the beginning of a sentence, so real technophobes may end up forever typing IN FULL CAPS. Switching to lower case requires just a tap on the hash key, but putting ourselves in the minds of the intended users, this seems one cut too far. Predictive texting is included – but is controlled from within the Settings menu to avoid accidentally switching over to this feature.
When judged without due consideration, the Doro 409s is easy to dismiss as low-tech, low-fi and out-of-date. However, closer inspection reveals it to be a thoughtful, well-designed device that has, and deserves, a place on the market. The £59.99 price point marks a new price low for Doro’s mobile series too. Previous phones like this from Doro used to cost almost double the price.
Other capable rivals are available for less money, such as the Nokia C1-01and Sony Ericsson Spiro, but these bigger-name mobiles use more complicated operating systems and smaller buttons. Not all kinds of buyers should consider the Doro 409s, but its low price and wide availability – stocked by Tesco Mobile in the UK – marks a new level of accessibility for this kind of “super-accessible” phone.
If you’re instantly turned off by the Doro Phone Easy 409s, carry on walking. But if its unusual approach appeals, there’s a lot to like in this handset. It’s affordable, blissfully easy to use following a two-minute setup and is worthy of special interest to those with minor hearing or sight problems. It’s not for everyone, but it’s refreshing to see a phone that doesn’t simply try and cram in as many features for as little money as possible to pop up on the shelves of mainstream outlets.
Score in detail
|Screen Size (inches) (Inch)||2in|
|Camera (Megapixel)||None Megapixel|
|Front Facing Camera (Megapixel)||No Megapixel|
|3.5mm Headphone Jack||Yes|
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