The Samsung Jitterbug J may be the most well-known senior-friendly cell phone, but it is far from the only handset designed with the elderly in mind. The hallmark of a senior-friendly phone is one that is easy to use, with a bright legible display, an uncomplicated menu and feature set, and large keys. Several non-Jitterbug phones have met these criteria, like the Pantech Breeze, the Verizon Wireless Coupe, and the Clarity ClarityLife C900.
Now Consumer Cellular, an MVNO that also happens to be the exclusive wireless carrier for the AARP, has joined in the handset game. It has introduced two new senior-friendly handsets, both of which are made by Doro, a Swedish company specializing in user-friendly consumer electronics for seniors. One of them is the Doro PhoneEasy 345, a candy bar phone that is as basic as most cell phones get these days. There's no camera, no music player, and you can't surf the Web on it. However, even though it's billed as a phone made for seniors, you still get a few basic features like text messaging, Bluetooth, an FM radio, a calculator, and even rudimentary games.
Perhaps the best thing about the Doro PhoneEasy 345 is its price. It is only $45, and that's without any contract. Consumer Cellular rates start at $10 a month for no minutes to $60 a month for 2,000 minutes (additional minutes are 25 cents each). There's also an activation fee of $35. Compare this to the Jitterbug J, which costs you $147 upfront along with slightly pricier monthly rates. Sure the Doro PhoneEasy 345 might not have Jitterbug's telltale dial tone or its operator services, but the monetary savings make up for it.
The Doro PhoneEasy 345 doesn't have much in the way of design. It's a boring black slab of a rectangular phone, and looks like a cross between a cordless handset and a TV remote control. Measuring 4.92 inches long by 2.04 inches wide by 0.59 inch thick, the PhoneEasy 345 is actually quite lightweight at 3.5 ounces. It has curved corners and it is covered in a soft touch plastic that gives it a nice comfortable grip in the hand.
On the front of it is a 1.8-inch color display with 128x96 pixel resolution. It's not the most colorful or sharpest display we've seen, but it is still very bright, and the text is legible. You can adjust the backlight time, the clock and date format, but not the font size. The font is already so big that there's little need to change it, however. The menu style is very simple--you just scroll up and down to go through the various functions and applications.
Underneath the display are two soft keys, a Talk button, two up-and-down arrow keys, the End button, and of course the number keypad. The keypad is very roomy and each key is quite large and hard to miss. All the keys are raised above the surface and arranged like individual tiles. The keys are also covered in a soft touch rubbery material and yield easily to pressure.
On the top of the phone is the power button plus an LED flashbulb. The left spine is home to the volume rocker and flashlight key while the headset and charger jacks are on the right. On the back of the phone are the external speaker and a large one-touch emergency call button.