A little while ago, I got my Nan to review something here on MobileTechTalk. Then, it was the Doro 8030, a smartphone that was specifically designed to meet the needs of someone with accessibility issues. Now, Doro graciously sent us out the replacement to the 8030, called the 8040. Is it everything the 8030 was and more? Or have Doro stayed stagnant and somehow lost some of the simplicity that made this a great product for its intended market? To answer this, I got my Nan to review this again and compare it to the 8030 she’s been using since the last review.
- -Almost perfect in hand feel
- -Great software
- -Amazing Battery
- -Great Charger
- -Subpar camera
- -Older version of Android
Disclosure: Doro sent this device out for Review. No money has exchanged hands and Doro has no bearing on the outcome of this review. My Nan used the Doro 8040 exclusively for a little over 2 weeks. She has not seen any OTA updates in that time.
The structure of this review is different than our usual ones. Although I got my Nan to review the device, I will be writing the review based on her experiences and opinions via a short interview with her about it. We are collating these experiences to make this review complete.
- 5.0” LCD
- 1280x720p resolution
- 2920mAh Battery
- Android 7.0 Nougat
- LTE Cat4
- MediaTek MT6738
- 4x Cortex A53 @1.5Ghz
- Mali T860 MP2 @350Mhz
- Bluetooth 4.0
- MicroUSB Charger
- MicroSD Card expansion
- 3.5mm Headphone jack
- Hearing Aid Compatible (T3/M3)
For a more complete look at the specifications of the 8040, head on over to the product page at Doro here
The Hardware of the 8040 is a work of art. The curves, the way the panels meet and the soft touch plastic all work in conjunction together to make a device that is the right size, right weight, easy to hold and not feel like a brick.
When asked what her favourite part of the build was, my Nan said that the soft touch paint on the plastic was lovely, meaning that in her hand it didn’t feel cheap or chintzy, but that it also enabled enough grip so that even with her arthritic thumbs, she was able to grip it comfortably and not feel as if she was holding on for dear life. Also, the paint finish means that it slips into and out of a pocket or bag easily, meaning no extra effort is needed to get the phone out of her pocket. The curved chassis also played a big part in this. She told me that had the phone had blockier corners or a more boxy shape, it wouldn’t have been as easy to hold and pick up, or a comfortable to use, which is something that I’m sure that Doro spent a lot of effort designing.
Something not really thought of in mainstream devices is buttons, and whilst we can tell mushy buttons from nice tactile ones, for an accessibility-focused device like the 8040 there is so much more to think about. You have to consider the size of the button, the placement, the actuation force, the bracing etc. From her experience, Doro nailed the execution here. The navigation buttons on the front are large enough and the concavity is subtle enough as to not look weird but noticeable enough that she can see and feel the difference. The actuation force is also something she mentioned. Even compared to the 8030 that preceded it, the 8040 has more stable navigation buttons (less wobble) that require just the perfect amount of force to depress, even the power button up top, which is slightly smaller than she’d like, she said she definitely knew when she had actuated it.
When asked about the screen, she said that for the most part, it was perfect, when I asked her to expand on what she’d like to see changed, she stated that whilst the screen is bigger and brighter than the old one, she’d like it to be a little bit bigger and a bit brighter. She even asked me why there was so much black stuff above the screen and why it wasn’t bigger. I had no answer, honestly. She also said the colours could pop a bit more, but thinks that with a brighter screen, that would do that for her. When I asked her about the size of the screen in proportion to the size of the body, she said that for the most part, it is great, she doesn’t want a huge slab of electronics in her hand, but she feels that she could deal with a slightly larger device if it would give her a bigger screen. So there you go Doro, maybe you could shove a 5.5” 18:9 screen in the next one.
I asked her about the weight of the phone, as I thought that at 165g it might be on the heavier side for her, but my fears were unfounded, as she had no issues. She never really felt it in her pockets and didn’t notice the extra weight when it was in her bag, so that’s a plus. But something I didn’t think to ask her about, that she brought up to me, was the weight distribution of the phone, how, in her words, when she holds it at the bottom, it doesn’t feel as if it will tumble into her lap. The weight distribution I no doubt helped by the soft touch plastic coating for grip, they really have thought of everything.
One of the main questions I asked my Nan here is whether or not she felt the software was good enough for her to want to use without asking for help, to which she responded that she, without asking, had gone into the Play Store and downloaded all the apps she uses on her Tablets (Amazon Fire Tablets with Play Store on them) and was getting ready to set up her banking.
This blew me away because although she’s used a Doro phone before, I still had to set it up for her, for the most part, this was hands off. All I did this time for the main setup (Google account, WiFi etc) and then set up the assistance button, the rest? All her.
Speaking of the Assistance Button, this is something that is present on All Doro phones, even her previous 8030, and whilst it was set up, she didn’t really want to know about it. Since then, she’s had a few falls that could have been worse, so knowing that she has a single button on her phone that sends out a message to me, my mother and my sister, with her location and a preset message. She hopes she never has to use it, but she is far more enthusiastic about the presence of it this time around, which is great.
If I were to step in here, I would moan about the old version of Android (Android 7.0) and the old Security Patch (September 5th). Would I love for it to have the December security patch on Android 9 pie? Of course, but I don’t think that is realistic. If Doro could keep up with the security patches at least, it would go a long way. Because even if the base Android version is older, a lot has been split out into Play Services, so keeping that up to date with security patches would be great.
Doro has put considerable effort into their customisations of Android in the name of simplicity and ease of use, and I can happily say they’ve knocked it out of the park. It’s not just the launcher, it’s not just everything being large, They’ve gone through the effort to customise the settings menu (you can still get to the normal one if you need to) and they’ve created simple to use IFTTT-type scripts. For example, hit the call button, instead of just popping you into a contact list, it’ll say do you want to call a new number or a contact, or a contact you’ve spoken to recently? Things like this, a step by step but not overly dumbed down experience, makes it so that smartphones can be used by a wider range of audiences.
Usually, this is the area where I nerd out a bit, but I’m going to try and stay back and just give the specifications and let my Nan give her experience of the performance.
The MediaTek MT6738 is not a powerful chip, with its 4 ARM Cortex A53 CPU cores clocked at 1.5Ghz and 320Mhz Mali T860-MP2 GPU, this was never going to be a powerhouse, but Doro seems to have been able to eke out whatever performance this chip has in it. It helps that this is only having to push a 720p screen for sure, but little to no lag was felt in my time with it, and my Nan’s findings corroborated that.
She stated that in her time with it, she never felt the need to wait for it. It was always able to keep up with what she wanted it to do, which wasn’t always the case with her old one, and one of her Amazon Tablets. Whether she was messaging someone, or more likely researching an actor on a TV show, it was always ready and waiting for her, and in some cases (Google auto-complete on searches) ready before she was.
One thing that I noticed that she hadn’t, mainly because she doesn’t use the camera all that much, was the speed of focusing and saving the picture, this can be directly pinned on the inexpensive ISP (Image signal processor) in the chip, but it is one of the only areas where the performance lacks.
In one word? Great. In a few more? Never have to worry about it.
When asked what she thought about the battery, my Nan exclaimed that she doesn’t really think about the battery. She charges it once every few days like her tablets whether the phone needs it or not but it rarely does she said. The one time she had to charge it on the go it was plugged into my mum’s car, so whilst the charger there can put out 5v at 2.4a, the phone is limited to 5v at 1a, so I expected it to take an age to charge, but to my surprise, it didn’t.
Her favourite feature though, without a shadow of a doubt, is the new charging dock. She loved her 8030 charging dock as she didn’t need to look for the cable and then try to fiddle it into place, she just needed to slide it into the dock and line up the sides. This year, it’s even easier, the MicroUSB charger inside of the dock is gone, replaced with 3 pogo pins. These little silver contacts match up to the 3 contacts on the phone and when they touch, the phone charges, even easier than before. She also stated that the new dock is heavier, and whilst I thought that might be an issue, she loves it as she doesn’t have to worry about the cat or the weight of the cable knock it over, So once again, Doro nailed this.
This is likely to be the sole “bad” area of the 8040, and even that is used loosely here. The camera on the 8040 is passable, but there are so many exceptions to that that It sometimes feels like it might as well not be there.
The 8mp camera on the back doesn’t have a lot of dynamic range, nor does it have a wide aperture or wide-angle mode it’s just… a camera. I feel like more effort needs to be put into this area for the next model as this is barely passable in 2018 and will definitely not be passable in 2019 or forward.
My Nan had very little to say about this part of the phone, as she hasn’t used the back camera, and she only uses the front camera when someone video calls her (not the other way around). I’ll post the few photos that were taken on the 8040, but I wouldn’t buy this phone for the camera, and my Nan said she’ll probably forget about it again.
Whilst it would be easy for me to write this conclusion, I’ll instead ask my Nan to write a paragraph and just insert it here.
“I’ve enjoyed using this so much that I’ll be sad to see it go. Whilst I didn’t want to take it out of the house at first because I didn’t want to break it, I knew I needed to use it when I went out, and when I did, that’s when I found myself enjoying it more and more. I don’t usually get on with phones, and I didn’t think they could improve on my last one, but I was wrong, and I don’t mind admitting that.”
Well, Doro, I think that testimony speaks for itself.