Hands-On: EmporiaCLICK and EmporiaSOLID
Austria-based Emporia Telecom is hoping to break into the U.S. market with its Click and Solid phones. These simple-to-use handsets target the senior set. Here a first look.
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Emporia Telecom has high hopes for the emporiaCLICK and emporiaSOLID. Both offer simple designs, easy-to-use features, and focus strongly on the senior cell phone market.
Emporia is a family-owned business based in Linz, Austria. It makes a range of phones that are sold unlocked and unsubsidized by Vodafone, Telefonica, and T-Mobile International across Europe. The emporiaCLICK and emporiaSOLID are its first efforts to attract attention in the U.S. In order to help keep costs down, both are dual-band GSM/EDGE devices supporting 850/1900MHz so they can be used on either AT&T or T-Mobile USA's networks. They will be distributed later this Spring direct to consumers at big box electronics retailers. They'll be without contracts.
The CLICK is a flip phone that is thin, light, and feels pretty good in the hand. It has soft-touch paint on the back surface and a glossy finish on the front. The flip form factor makes it highly pocketable.
The isn't an external display, but the main display is fairly large for this class of device and offers a bright, high-contrast screen. It's certainly no HD display, but the bright white text on the deep black background makes it easy to see and read what's on the screen.
The keypad offers insanely huge buttons. There are two function keys at the top that have a soft-touch finish on them, making them easy to handle. They have great travel and feedback. There are Up and Down menus keys nestled between the two function keys. They operate the selection on the screen and also have great travel and feedback.
Below them are three dedicated contact buttons that can quick-dial three specific contacts. The actual number pad is enormous. The keys are large, square in shape, and have the same soft-touch finish that the control keys do. They feel really good and have perfect travel and feedback.
The volume toggle is on the left side. It has a rubbery feel to it, and the toggle is easy to find on the side of the CLICK. Both buttons have great travel and feedback. On the right side of the CLICK, there is a dedicated camera button and a flashlight button (I thought the flashlight was a bit weak). Both have similar travel and feedback to the volume toggle on the other side.
In all, the hardware does a good job of addressing the usability needs of the senior set.
On the software side of things, the CLICK and the SOLID offer the simplest of menus. The main home screen has two options, Call and Menu. The Menu is organized in list form and cannot be modified. There are six options visible on the screen at any given time. The menu controls allow the user to cycle through the options, either up or down. When you stop on one of the selection, the CLICK and SOLID can be set to offer voice prompts to let you know which option you've reached. The menus are straight forward and very shallow. These phones don't offer to make options, but that's fine, as they don't really need to.
Making calls and sorting through contacts is no problem. One neat trick the CLICK and SOLID offer is easy photo capture. Press the camera button quickly once and it will open the camera. Press and hold it, and the camera will open and fire off a shot really quick. Not the most elaborate feature, but useful just the same.
The other key feature shared by both phones is the emergency function. On the back of both phones, you'll notice the presence of a Heart symbol. This is a button that sets off a series of calls. Users designate five emergency contacts. Press and hold the heart button and it will call the first number on the list. If there's no answer or the first call goes to voice mail, the CLICK and SOLID will automatically called the second number on the list and so on down the chain through five numbers. It stops calling once it reaches an actual person who can take action and respond (assuming you set the last call to be 911).
If you're not interested in the CLICK flip phone, Emporia also offers the mono-block style SOLID.
The SOLID is as the name implies. It is a highly rugged device that withstand lots of abuse up to and including 30 minutes under three meters of water. It is thick and bulky, but that goes part and parcel with the type of handset that it is. The good news is that the SOLID is fairly light and, thanks to rubberized edges, is easy to grip and hang on to.
It has a similar set up with respect to the controls and keypad. There are two function buttons and two menus buttons arranged below the small display. The main menu is mostly the same as that of the CLICK, though with less real estate there aren't as mant options visible on it at a given moment.
The keys on the dialpad are recessed a bit, making them slightly harder to find in a pinch. They are placed within a tic-tac-toe grid that is raised just a wee bit higher than the keys themselves. You have to depress the keys deep into the phone to get them to react. I didn't care for the travel and feedback as much as I did on the CLICK, but it's not like the keys are hard to use or anything.
The buttons on the side are an interesting lot. They are all round nubs that are surrounded by a ridge. They are easy to find and use, but look somewhat odd and utilitarian. The volume buttons are on the left side, and the camera button and flashlight buttons are on the right, same as the CLICK.
In all, both phones are interesting entries into the market for senior citizens. Without distribution plans from any of the major carriers, Emporia may face obstacles to gaining sales traction, but the phones are certainly worth a look from anyone who needs to buy a phone for their aging parents.
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