To go with its ultra-square buttons, the Emporia RL1 has a thoroughly square-jawed design. However, the bottom edges of the phone are slightly rounded, to make the phone comfortable to hold. There’s also some contouring on the back to further increase comfort. These measures work too. It may not look like the friendliest, most curvaceous device on the block but it’s perfectly comfortable to hold.
A key home phone-like feature of the RL1 is its dock. This plugs into the charger, recharging the phone when it’s perched on-top. On the dock there’s just a single button that lights-up the display – useful if you want to use the phone as an on-desk clock.
The dock operates in two ways. You can hang it up on the wall, using the fittings on its back, or slot in the bottom “foot”, which lets it stand up by itself. It’s not a high-end affair, made of light plastic and equipped with a few friction-increasing rubber feet but no extra stabilising weight to stop it sliding all over the place. As part of a £60 pre-pay bundle though, it’s a welcome accessory.
The Emporia RL1’s interface is self-consciously lo-fi. Like the handset design, it reminds of a digital home phone rather than a mobile. To simply make calls you need never enter the main menu, but it remains a core part of the phone. Each headline feature, such as the phone book and SMS function takes up a whole page to ensure there’s not too much info on-screen at once.
Delve into Settings and the ease of use starts to fall down a bit. It’s displayed as a great long list of 30 options. We understand what Emporia is doing here – collapsing the standard sub-menu structure so that you can’t really get lost, just fed up of scrolling up and down – but it offers a different kind of frustration rather than eliminating it. However, for its target audience it’s a better idea than using a standard labyrinth-like menu structure (as intuitive as us techheads may find such things).
What does the Settings menu contain, when the phone is so basic? There are volume controls, display settings, text size and other such basic bits. However, there are a few gems that might be overlooked, such as the Auto Withhold Number option and the Birthday Reminder. These are the Emporia RL1’s take on advanced features, and as far as we’re concerned, they’re pretty well-judged.
As you must have guessed by now, you won’t be web surfing, watching videos or listening to your lossless FLAC music collection (or MP3s for that matter) with this phone. Memory limits here are measured in number of phone book contacts it can hold rather than megabytes. A hundred, if you’re curious.