CTIA Fall 2007
The UTStarcom Coupe is an entry-level phone that is designed for older users who may have trouble operating the hardware on regular mobile phones.
It is a very simple clamshell with a pared down feature set, leaving only the most basic functionality intact. None of the units we saw were activated, so not all the features were available to check out.
It uses tough plastics that are smooth to grip. The volume key on the left is a very large key that is easy to find. It sticks out quite a bit from the side of the phone. It is also colored white and stands out visually from the black casing of the phone itself. These two characteristics made it very easy to find and use. It also had good feedback.
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The voice-activated dialing button on the right side of the phone was less easy to use, as even the UT Starcom staff would often press the large volume keys on the left while trying to press the small, awkwardly placed voice dialing key.
It does have dual display so calling and status information is visible with the phone closed. The exterior display is monochrome and uses larger fonts so that they are easier to read.
Opening the phone up, you are greeted with a large and easy-to-use numeric keypad. It has nice, soft keys that are well contoured and feel good under your fingers.
Just under the display are three buttons, labeled “I”, “C”, and “E”, or In Case of Emergency. Each of these is essentially a speed dial key to someone who should be notified in the event of an emergency. This is a good idea, and at a high level makes sense, but the execution here is a bit shy of good. First, the buttons don't really have any labels letting you know what contact they are linked to. If this phone's user were to be injured, a strange who might pick up the phone and dial one of those three keys would really have no idea who it is that they are calling. Not only that, but the buttons are located directly under the left and right menu shortcuts. This leads to confusion, as your thumb naturally wants to push the button closest to the shortcut. The actual buttons that control the shortcuts are located below, in the navigation cluster.
There is also a dedicated speakerphone button and a 911 button on the keypad. The 911 button is a decent idea, but we fear accidental calls may be placed to emergency services because it is not that far from the end key or other keys. One mis-press, and you might have a cop coming over to your house for dinner.
The menus are also very basic and can be customized very little. It is designed in such a way that older users will be able to use it right out of the box and not have to make too many adjustments or modifications to get it to act the way they want.
Despite UT Starcom's best efforts, the Coupe is loaded with confusing buttons and probably not nearly as easy for the aging population to use as they had hoped. You can see the features and the pitfalls in this short video tour of the Coupe. You can watch it here:
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