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First Look: Doro Liberto 820 Mini

The Doro Liberto 820 Mini is marketed as a “very easy to use smartphone” for seniors. It costs $199, locked to the Vodafone network. I gave it to my in-laws, both SuperGold cardholders, to trial.

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The Liberto 820 Mini is nicely chunky with a non-slip finish – it feels good to hold and use. It has three large buttons on the front to access menu options, return to the home screen and to undo a command – useful when on-screen buttons disappear or users get stuck in an app. Power, camera and volume buttons are on the sides. The buttons have a positive but light feel when pressed.

While the 800 x 480 WVGA screen is low resolution by modern smartphone standards, it’s still bright and readable outdoors. Small text is challenging to read, but true to the Liberto 820 Mini's target market, Doro provides easy-access options for enlarging text. Voice calls are clear and the phone has sound profiles for hearing-impaired users. It’s also hearing-aid compatible. The built-in mono speaker doesn’t emit great audio though.

The 5MP rear camera takes OK photos in good light, but images are otherwise noisy and lack detail. The poor-quality VGA front camera isn’t much use for anything more than video calling. A dedicated physical camera button is a bonus. However, the button doesn’t activate the camera app, it only operates the shutter.

On the rear is an “assistance button”. When pressed for three seconds or double-clicked, the phone sends an emergency text to up to five numbers on an emergency contact list, then dials each number in turn until the call is answered. It can also be configured to sound an alarm or transmit the phone’s location – a neat feature that could offer real peace-of-mind for an elderly or vulnerable user.

Doro has heavily customised the Android interface and core apps. The phone has large icons and simple, clear menus. The home screen has quick links for calling, texting and using the camera, plus three user-configurable links for contacts or apps. The attention to detail is noticeable and it feels “easy to use”, if a little limiting for more tech-savvy users.

The setup menus have also been simplified, and Doro provides step-by-step on-screen help for tasks like “accessing the internet”. The help is well designed and easy to follow. There are also help video links. While our triallists appreciated the idea of the videos, they thought they were “aimed at the elderly but felt like they’d been created by a young techie”. A remote “helper”, a friend or family member, with an Android phone can remotely access the Liberto 820 Mini. We found this needed to be set up by someone with technical nous, as it wasn’t straightforward.

Doro supplies a physical charging dock, which we liked. Docking the phone (in landscape orientation) triggers a screen with apps such as a clock, easy access to speakerphone calling and a radio/music player.

The Doro Liberto 820 Mini has the specifications of a budget-priced Android smartphone. However, we think its customised software and well thought-out physical features make it worth considering for the elderly user looking for a simple-to-use phone.

Essential specs

Price: $199 (Vodafone network only)
Storage: 4GB (with support for a MicroSD card up to 32GB)
Screen-size: 4-inch
Weight: 132g
Display resolution: 800 x 480
Processor: 1.2GHz dual-core
Memory: 512MB RAM
Camera: 5MP (rear), 0.3MP (front)
Operating system: Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat

First Looks are trials of new or interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.

By Paul Smith.

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