Doro Makes a Smartphone for Seniors

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Jared Newman /

Tech specs and fancy features take a backseat to oversized buttons and a dead-simple interface in the Doro PhoneEasy 740, a phone built with older folks in mind.

To even describe the Doro 740 as a smartphone seems like a stretch. Though it’s based on Android, it bears no resemblance to the operating system seen on many high-end handsets. Instead, the Doro 740’s 3.2-inch touchscreen presents users with a simple list of options, such as calls, text messages, e-mail and a handful of basic apps. The bottom panel of the phone includes number keys instead of a full keyboard, trading fast typing for easy button presses. The back of the device holds a 5-megapixel camera.

For pre-loaded apps, I spotted a version of Tetris and a web browser, and Doro will also include a re-skinned version of Facebook designed for ease of use. Doro will offer more apps through its own store, such as wellness apps, news readers and games, but I’m told that it’ll allow access to the Google Play Store as well. (I’m not sure about this, since Google tends not to allow Market access on heavily modified Android devices, and the Doro can’t even play music or video.)

That’s not to say the Doro 740 is just a feature-limited phone with big buttons. It also has some unique features that seniors might find helpful, such as the emergency button on the back of the device. When pressed three times, the phone can sound an alarm, and will also send text messages and calls to a sequence of five preset contacts. Doro will also offer a web-based desktop app for remote configuration of the phone, which, for instance, would allow a tech-savvy teen to set up the phone for grandma.

Unfortunately, seniors interested in the Doro 740 will need patience. The company doesn’t plan to launch the phone in the United States until the second quarter of 2013, though it’ll be available in Europe this August. Adventurous seniors might be able to figure out a full-fledged smartphone by then.

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