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Doro 8035: Hands on review

Friday, July 13th 2018 by Oprah Flash

Smartphones are everywhere. Anywhere you go whether it’s on the train, in restaurants or even around your own dining table you are bound to see someone replying to a message on WhatsApp or uploading a picture of their lunch to instagram.

Last year, Deloitte found the number of people aged 55-75 years old who own a smartphone in the UK had increased by 42% since 2012, and predict this figure is set to rise. If you’re not yet one of the 93% of UK adults that own smartphone, Doro has a range of easy-to-use mobiles for first-time smartphone owners.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on the Doro 8035 so I channelled my inner senior citizen and put it to the test.

First Impressions - back to basics

The Doro 8035 is completely different to any other phone that I’ve laid my hands on. As a bonafide technophobe I thought this handset would be right up my street. It takes things right back to basics, just how I like it.

To kick off the proceedings, was it love at first sight? In all honesty no, the Doro 835 is not the most attractive phone on the market and you won’t be bragging to your mates any time soon but there is a functional reason behind that.

The outer back casing is made of plastic and is a charcoal blue colour. Initially it looks quite cheap but it makes the phone light to handle and is much more durable than the glass alternatives that many premium phones tend to go for.

On the rear of the phone the camera housing is slightly raised, allowing space for the emergency button. This is a useful tool for seniors and vulnerable adults as by either holding the button down or pressing it three times, it will automatically ring a number of your choice which will come in handy in case of emergency.

With a 5-inch screen the Doro 8035 is the typical size and shape you’d expect from a 2018 smartphone. It’s slightly tailored to more mature users by having rounded edges. Unlike most smartphones today the battery is removable so when you you open the box you will have to open the back panel (it took three of us) to insert the battery then allow it to charge before using it.

What’s under the hood

This is where it starts to get interesting. Unlike other phones I’ve tested, from the moment you turn the phone on, each process is broken down into understandable chunks.

During set-up the Doro 8035 offers a tutorial on basic actions associated with smartphone use such as swiping and browsing the net.

The Doro 8035 during set-up gives a tutorial on popular smartphone gestures.

The easy step-by-step set-up guide will work well for first time smartphone users. You can set the font size, call volume and it gives you an option to tailor the colour blind parameters. You can choose from monochromacy, deuteranomaly, Protanomaly or tritanomaly - I don't know what any of these words mean without the help of uncle Google but I'm impressed nonetheless.

I do like how it explains every step of the set-up process as with an ordinary phone you may just tick accept without actually understanding what you are agreeing to.

Memory-wise, you get 16GB internal storage, 5GB of which is taken up by pre-installed software. For basic use this should be enough to store your apps and photos, but if not it can be expanded with up to an extra 32GB with the help of a memory card.

The operating system is Android 7.1.2, this is not the latest version of Android but is simplistic enough that it works well with Doro’s interface. As an Android phone you have access to the Google Play Store where you can download apps, games, music, books and films.

Screen, battery, camera

Doro introduced the 8035 a few months ago (March 2018) so it’s relatively new to the market. The 2500mAh battery isn’t the most powerful you’ll find in a smartphone released this year, but it is still good with moderate use.

It stayed on all weekend and still had 53% charge on Monday morning. In this instance, I only picked up the phone and played around with it intermittently. With more frequent use, it does run down more quickly but doesn’t take long to recharge.

The display is split between a 5-inch screen and space for three buttons at the bottom of the phone. The screen does the job, it’s clear but not very bright so not great for using outside in sunny conditions.

The Doro has an in-call boost feature tailored to those who are hard of hearing. I wasn’t able to test this feature but Doro says, you can increase the volume by up to 7dB.

In terms of the camera, there is a 5MP lens on the rear and a 2MP at the front for selfies. They work well enough, I wouldn’t recommend using it as your main camera for events or holidays but for everyday use, it’s not too bad.

Picture taken with the Doro 8035’s 5MP camera

Easy vs enhanced

The Doro 8035 is an Android phone but the Doro interface has a strong presence on the handset. You can even choose which operating system to use to suit your preference. Easy Mode takes it right back to basics with three simple options on the home screen: Call, View and Send.

Once you’re used to how the phone works you can switch to Enhanced Mode. This gives you more of the Android interface that you’ll see on other phones. It has been altered with a bit Doro’s flavour to include larger icons and readable font.

In a world where phones no longer have buttons, it was a bit weird for me to have to physically press down to go back or go home. Not a criticism of the phone at all, just an observation. The press-down buttons are positioned underneath the 5-inch touchscreen and give you options to view recent changes, return home and go back.

My Doro Manager allows you to connect your phone to a computer so you can transfer media as well as have a relative control your phone remotely if you get stuck.

It’s now commonplace with Android phones to be able to draft a text using the mobile’s inbuilt voice input feature instead of the keyboard. This is something that is easier to get your head around in the Doro 8035, which works well for those who struggle with dexterity.

Emergency assistance

The assistance button is a useful feature. You can pre-programme this button to automatically contact an assigned friend or family member. To activate this you either hold the button down continuously for five seconds or press it with three quick bursts.

It will then either make a call or send a text with your location and a pre-set message. This requires constantly leaving your GPS on, which can drain the battery but in this case it is worth it.

The rear view of the Doro 8035. The Assistance button is next to the camera.

After you press the button, it will either make a call or send a text.

Where can you buy it

The Doro 8035 retails at £220 SIM-free, the same price as the Moto G6 we reviewed last week, putting it within the price range of a budget to mid-range phone.

You can buy it SIM-free from Argos and John Lewis. Alternatively, O2 offers some pay-monthly deals for the phone starting at £17 a month.

Lasting impressions

You have to remember this phone is specifically designed for users aged 65 and over or for smartphone beginners. So take some of the tech under the hood with a pinch of salt.

Overall it’s a nifty phone that I think meets its purpose of making smartphones more accessible for senior users. I asked an older family member to test out the phone for me and they loved it.

My main criticism is, while it does make it easier for you to get used to general smartphone use, some aspects are unnecessarily hidden.

For example, on a typical Android phone, to send a text you simply press the envelope or speech bubble and it launches the messaging app. In this case on the Doro it’s a much longer process that I feel is unnecessary.

I also think certain things are broken down to a near patronising level. The camera is called ‘Snap’ and the torch is called ‘In the dark’. I personally found both of these terms a bit condescending, but each to their own.

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