Yesterday I met up with Doro to see what was new from the company that has specialised in building mobile phones for senior citizens for almost ten years, and has a heritage that goes back thirty more.
Doro specialises in feature phones for people aged 65 and above, but in recent years has also entered the smartphone arena with devices aimed at those wanting a bit more functionality, but still retaining an emphasis on simplicity and usability.
Indeed, Doro has been bucking the trend on the decline in feature phone sales, with the company increasing its sales faster than the decline being experienced by others.
However, with less and less room on mobile phone retailer shop floors for non-smartphones, Doro is now seeking out new markets for its most simple devices, targeting ordinary retailers that can now sell a SIM-free box without worrying about SIM cards or contracts, and make some profit in the process.
Chris Millington, Managing Director of Doro UK & Ireland explained that this would open up the market far wider than the normal phone retailers. Chris also revealed that an increasing number of under 65s are now buying Doro phones too, primarily because of their simplicity, call quality and battery life.
Primo by Doro
The new Primo range comprises three handsets, all in new retail-friendly packaging (usually phone boxes aren't even seen until you buy a phone in a shop). These are the Primo 215, Primo 305, and Primo 401.
The Primo 215 is the entry-level model, but comes complete with a docking cradle that's absent from the others. It has a 1.7-inch 160x128 pixel colour display, Bluetooth, 1,000mAh battery, and the obligatory large buttons and an assistant/SOS calling button. The phone itself measures 110x51x13mm, and weighs 83g.
The Primo 305 offers a more traditional candy bar look, with a larger 2-inch colour display (176x220 pixels), VGA (0.3MP) camera, 800mAh battery, and a memory card slot for saving photos. The 305 measures 109x46x18mm, and weighs 78g.
Finally, there's the 'flagship' clamshell, the Primo 401. With a 2-inch colour display matching the 305, the phone also has an 800mAh battery, but no camera or card slot, but is lighter at 74g and measuring 91x46x19mm.
Prices are to be confirmed, but all three phones should be very affordable even if they won't be at the absolute bottom end of the market, which is an area of the market that Doro has no interest in competing with because it reduces quality and reduces the scope for investment in future devices.
The Primo 215 is also tri-band GSM (900/1800/1900MHz), while the other two are dual-band (900/1800MHz).
It's perhaps easy to dismiss these phones as uninteresting and unexciting, compared to the more common news on new smartphones with QHD displays, 4K video recording and octo-core processors, but Doro has repeatedly demonstrated that there's still a market for simple phones, with good battery life and call quality combined with an clear menu layouts and buttons.
Doro 820 Mini Claria
The next announcement from Doro was rather more significant, and is a smartphone aimed at the blind.
The Doro 820 Mini Claria is an enhanced version of the Doro 820 mini smartphone (see below), which comes with a unique software build to give blind and visually-impaired users voice guidance for every function of the phone, combined with a special cover that makes it easy to find reference points for navigating menus and entering numbers or text.
The software developed in partnership with Claria, a company specialising in solutions for the blind and partially sighted, sits above an otherwise ordinary Android phone, with everything on the display being read out, including things like the time, navigation, or reading out web pages, emails and text messages.
In addition, the phone can be controlled by voice, and the camera used to tell the owner what colour something is, or to read text aloud that is captured by the camera and converted to text using the OCR function.
I recorded a short video demonstrating some of the features, which gives a good idea of what can be done.
My initial thoughts of the cover was that it was too thick and hindered my ability to press on the display, but this is intentional and done under the advice of the RNIB. This is to make sure there's no chance of sweeping a finger over the touch-sensitive display and selecting things accidentally.
Sighted users would obviously seek to bypass the cover (and the cover can in fact be removed) but the phone isn't designed for people with good vision - and it was pointed out that as I'm obviously used to a certain way of using a smartphone, it's only natural that I would find things different, confusing and difficult - unlike a blind user.
The phone is more expensive than the standard model, but is VAT exempt for those who are registered blind, and it also has a high level of customer support that Doro pointed out will last far more than just a few weeks or months after purchase.