Unlike the majority of phones we review, the Emporia RL1 is actually about making calls, not playing about with apps, taking photos or surfing the web. So call quality is of paramount importance.
Mercifully, the Emporia RL1 is a skilled call-maker. Using the standard earpiece, calls are loud and clear – more so than budget smartphones at the same price. A hands-free speaker is built-in too. It’s not as loud as that of a decent home phone set, but it will do the trick for use at home. And, as far as we know, the older Emporia clientèle don’t tend to list Formula One car driving among their hobbies so this should suffice.
Battery life also smashes smartphone stamina to bits in real-world use. The 180-minute talk time isn’t going to impress anyone, but the RL1 will last around a week between charges. Use the charger as intended – as the phone’s home – and you’ll never have to watch its display blink out to black, ever.
The OLED display works in its favour too, as the black parts of the screen don’t draw any power. Most of the display is black, all the time. The battery is easily user-replaceable, hidden as it is under the back cover.
The Emporia RL1 isn’t all that clever or cutting-edge, but it’s loaded with design choices that are sensible considering the device’s niche audience. Mainstream networks are cottoning onto the idea that these kinds of devices do have a place in the market too. Tesco stocks the Doro Phone Easy 409s and now Vodafone offers the Emporia RL1. Which is better? They’re both available for £60 on a pre-pay deal (no coincidence there, folks) and both are well-made, well-tailored handsets.
The question is whether you want a simple mobile phone or a mobile phone that apes a home phone. For real mobile phone deniers, the Emporia is likely to appeal more.
The Emporia RL1 doesn’t have masses of features, but it does what it sets out to do remarkably well. It’ll let you or an elderly relative replace a DECT (house) phone with a mobile, without dramatically altering the user experience.
This is all down to the simplicity of the interface, the home phone-style charging dock and the pragmatic handset design. Ultra-budget handsets are available for less, but for elderly or technophobic users, this phone offers some serious usability advantages.
Score in detail