Most phone reviews have a certain pattern when we do them – it may not be all about the specs, but hell yeah, they are important. Despite the efforts of Amazon (let us not talk about the Fire Phone), Siri and the “she who has no name” Google assistant, the screen is the primary way we interact with the phone.
Usually, this means that as reviewers, we focus on more of the tech that powers the device and what you can do with that tech. You know – the processor that powers that screen, the amount of RAM it has to hold the number of things you want to do when you multitask. Some of us often check out the gaming capabilities of these devices.
With the Doro, a lot these things could be argued as irrelevant. We’ve reviewed Doro phones before, and specifically the Doro 8030, the predecessor of the 8035. So if you need a thorough refresher of the premise of Doro phones, feel free to read the article. Here’s what Leigh wrote, which sums it up:
Age will happen to all of us, but put a modern smartphone in front of the vast majority of older people and they’ll find it a confusing and perhaps scary experience.
Because, like it or not, a certain proportion of the population doesn’t need the smartest most-wizzbang fondleslab on the planet. They need something reliable, that works. They want a phone that’s easy to use and largely gets out of the way when you need it to…and possibly make things easy at the times when you also need a little assistance.
The Doro 8035? It’s not for me.
But it isn’t meant for me. The 8035 is actually meant for someone like my mother, who understands technology the same way she understands rattlesnakes. She knows they’re pretty tame for most of the time, but at some point, they’ll bite with no real reason why from her perspective.
So half of this review will be from my mother’s perspective, and half of it will be a slightly more standard review.
Let’s start with the obvious – the phone itself.
- Weight: 171g
- Screen size: 5”
- Screen resolution: 720×1280
- Pixel density: 296 pixels
- Phone size (width x depth x height in mm): 70.1 x 9.5 x 148.6
- Processor: Snapdragon 210
- Rear Camera: 5MP
- Front Camera: 2MP
- RAM: 2GB
- Storage: 16GB
- Battery: 2500mAh
- MicroSD: 32GB max
- Talk time: 900 minutes
- Standby time: 22 days
- Android: 7.1.2 Nougat
- WiFi: b/g/n
- Bluetooth: 4.2
- Extras: Soundboost, Hearing aid compatibility, removable battery
What’s in the box
- Doro 8035 handset
- Charging plug
- Micro USB Cable
This may be a review, but it’s first and foremost a story.
- Feels nice in the hand
- There are 2 UI’s – Easy and Enhanced. We’ll get to that soon
- UI is supersized, so doesn’t try to cram in information
- Micro-USB socket
- No fast charging as standard
- Android 7.1
- Short charging cable
Day “1” – Just setting up
I set the phone up and charged it, because: common sense. Then I gave it to my mother.
No, the power button is not on the right-hand side like your old phone. No, it hasn’t broken into two on the left-hand side. That’s the volume rocker. The power button hasn’t disappeared. It’s on the top now, and you can’t miss it: it is big, and chunky and easy to press.
That hole on the right, near the top? That’s where you plug in your Micro-USB charger. Yes, it is exactly like the one you had on your old phone. That’s because…
At this point, I had to stop because I don’t really know why Doro still uses a Micro-USB socket. I can only guess that as they don’t sell a high volume of phones (niche market, remember), it was a prudent decision to keep costs down. Still, one of the main reasons why my mother would even look at trying out another phone was that her current beloved 95-year-old* smartphone was no longer charging properly.
*obvs smartphone years, not human ones.
The first thing a person sees when they boot up the Doro is the easy walk-through menu. It’s called easy walk-through, but at this phase of setting up, my mother hasn’t even gotten to what I would call the normal home screen.
Hurdle number 1: “Is this your first smartphone?” This is not a complicated question. There is literally a yes and a no answer, as it is for most of the following screens, and yet when I stop this phase, we were 45 minutes in. This is not Doro’s fault, but it does help with talking my mother – or any mother through this.
Yes mother, you can choose yes or no, I really don’t mind. No, it doesn’t already know that you have a smartphone already. Nope, smart just means that you can install apps on it for most people. I don’t know why it wants to know if this is your first phone. Maybe it has been spying on you and wants to catch you out. No, you can’t skip the screen. You literally have a yes or no choice.
As stated, my mother has had an Android smartphone before. She grudgingly decides to ignore the red button with a cross and use the very tip of her finger to press on the writing which says “no, I have already used one”. She isn’t happy about giving out so much information.
Question 2 is where my mother starts to feel unhappy about the sheer level of choice. Doro provides you with two options for a phone UI. which amount to: simple, aka Easy mode, and Enhanced mode, aka you have been using this every day on your other phones for years, mom.
I can’t be 100% certain, but I’m pretty sure that you can go back and use the simple interface if you wish. I’m almost absolutely certain that there’s a menu somewhere. You still have to actually make that choice mom. There was a sense of betrayal in the air as she decided to reluctantly choose the normal ‘enhanced’ UI option. I suspect it was that she didn’t take full advantage of the Easy mode capability.
A quick word on that Easy UI, which again, we’ve probably gone into before. The example menu options are simplified and very ‘verby’ (which to be fair it does say that’s what it is doing), which massively appealed to my mother. “I’ll know what to use the icons for”, she told me seriously. My mom uses WhatsApp like Game of Thrones kills people: a lot. And as for YouTube, forgeddaboutit. I suspect that there are some people who write conspiracy theories just for her. If I watched any of said conspiracy videos, there would be zero surprises if they mentioned her by name or something. My mother watches all of them. And everything else. And other things. 30GB of data doesn’t seem to last the time it takes to switch on the phone. And yes, dear reader, she is now on a higher tariff. For peace of mind and that I didn’t want any more conversations with her about how the phone is telling her that she can’t use any more data because one of the settings might be broken again.
You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned screen brightness, or how the pixels are floating on the top of the screen. What I noticed is that my mother didn’t squint, and the writing was large enough that she could read everything very clearly. Multiple times, even, just in case new writing or options appeared if she just waited long enough. After convincing her that the phone wasn’t going to move until she Ok’d that choice, we got to accessibility parameters. This was a little trickier. My mother gets that internet accessibility is the lifeblood of any smartphone, so she accepted that. It also helped that Doro has this ticked by default. The thing about accessibility parameters was a little trickier.
Nope, I have no idea what it could mean, but you could click on it and then find out?
Eventually, my mom agreed that she wasn’t colourblind, and the comprehensive list of options for colour blindness was not required. This is a fantastic thing to offer, and I think that Google should seriously consider putting that into their accessibility offerings.
The next step is to get my mother connected. Normally we’d just connect to the wifi connection, but my mother does not like Wi-Fi on her phone. We did not connect to our Wi-Fi, which was at the top of the screen, and I suspect ordered by signal strength, which makes it more likely for people to find their own connections.
My mother did not recognise the list of other Wi-Fi connections and was quite irritated that there were so many, and she didn’t know which one to choose. I made the mistake of showing her that there were more if she scrolled down, and the scroll bar came into play, which she’s used to seeing (sometimes). It would have been nice for the scrollbar to always be available, and it may be something that’s in Easy mode. We may never know.
It took a minute and some gentle cajoling for mother to realise that the big red button at the bottom of the screen existed, and she did not have to use Wi-Fi if she didn’t want to. I can’t fault Doro for the UI. It takes up a full quarter at the bottom of the screen, and eventually mother discovered it to press on the word ‘skip’.
Onto the straight mobile connectivity, and this option my mother fairly sailed through with barely eight sentences about how they should have offered that earlier. This got us to what I’m going to call the explicit GDPR opt-in screen. Personally, I think that it is great that this option is presented clearly, and is front and centre once you have basic connectivity. My mother was thrown a little bit, because the only option that she could see was the green tick, and the only words she should see were ‘I accept’. After some discussion around the existence of an unticked checkbox that she did not have to fill in if she didn’t want to, it was fine. WE WERE NOW AT THE SETTING UP OF ACCOUNTS STAGE.
The first screen advised that Google had a couple of questions for my mother. My mother had a few questions on why Google wanted more information from her, as she’d heard all about them on the news. She pressed the clearly accessible ‘more information button’ and read from the floating menu that it provides.
This led to a discussion on why Google needs to keep taking our personal information, and more specifically her personal information and why isn’t there any choice. This brought us to my mother once again reiterating that Apple was too expensive, and my counter-argument that although there are other options available, then she’d be responsible for looking after her own calendar, contacts, chats, web links, etc. We have been here before, back in the days when the SIM card would hold your information, or you could possibly back some of it up onto your SD card. Things didn’t work out well. They kept getting lost, or the wrong thing would be backed up in the wrong place. After swapping her phone out a couple of times, my mother now recognises that it can be useful for someone else to look after your data.
My mother agreed that Google shouldn’t do it and Apple shouldn’t do it and she wasn’t yet ready to look after all of that herself and that Google should do it although she doesn’t trust it and it isn’t right. The floating window was OK’d with the bitter and grudging knowledge that Google would be accessing her personal data if she wanted to have contacts, calendar, texts, and other smartphone things happen on her smartphone.
The same conversation happened on the Google sign-in page. The. Same. One. But at least the reasons were understood now. This is the part where my mother is taking a break with all this phone malarky because it is quite exhausting, and we’ll continue tomorrow.
So far, the layout and the walkthrough setting up of the Doro 8035 has been straightforward and logical. This 45-minute sojourn to get to the Google sign-in page has gone relatively quickly, and it has been my mother doing all the pressing and clicking and swiping with little to hold her back. I do not anticipate other people having the same level of challenge to get this phone running – even for those parents or grandparents who have to set up a new smartphone on their own (barring the knowing of Wi-Fi connection names and passwords, and I’m pretty sure most people have it logged somewhere).
I am not going to go into the rest to the setup process that took approximately 4 days, (or 3.5 hours in normal time) as that has little to do with the way Doro has implemented its starting process, and more to do with my mother’s distrust of all things involving tools that have electrons running through them. Suffice to say, that when a screen came up stating that Google was going to ask for some personal information, she was complaining about that company always wanting her information. It took a while for her to agree that if she were going to get her email on the phone, then the phone needs to know her email details. If said email was a Google account, then yes, she needs to tell Google which account was hers. There was eventually a grudging acceptance that giving ‘the Google’ some of that personal information was a thing she needed to do.
Again, my mother has an Android phone that she’s been using for years. She even had a replacement phone given to her less than a month ago, but the instinctive distrust of these smartphones run deep. This is not Doro’s fault, and the setup screens give a simple and functional way to walk through to completion.
Once this was done, the Doro 8035 had its own welcome screens. As this was the second time around for my mum, she decided that what was actually in her own best interest was to use the Easy mode. Sure.
As I said earlier, Easy mode gives you a different skin, which makes things easier, as you’re pretty much given a double row of ‘things’ to do. The first row is your ‘Call, View, Send’ options. Want to call someone from your contacts, or listen to a voicemail, or just to dial? That would be option one: Call.
The same thing goes for View (see your messages, or a picture, or even something in an application) and Send (a text message, an instant message, or an email). It seems simple – and intuitive on the face of it. Less ambiguity is always going to help people, especially when it comes to something as potentially complicated-feeling as a smartphone.
The second row of icons cascades above the first one – and again, the icons are big and bold. No need for the person involved in setting up the phone to nervously fiddle around with the tip of a finger on a super high resolution screen when everything is so clearly laid out. As a default, the second row has a set of four options: the first is the requisite folder full of Google-Mandated apps – the GMail app, Google Photos, Chrome for browsing, etc. You will have seen it often enough when setting up a new phone to know that there aren’t any new surprises there. The second icon is the camera. The third option is a free space for you to customise as you see fit (of course, all the second tier can be customised – this is an Android phone), and the last icon is for the Google Play Store.
At the top of the phone is the power button. Pressing it gives you the power off, reboot, and aeroplane mode options. I was surprised that there’s no option included for taking a screenshot, but on doing some investigation, I realised that this only became available on Android Pie (the current version of the OS, which was out last year). So the Doro phone is built on an OS that is currently two versions out of date, and is soon to be three years. Again, for the sort of person who the Doro phone would be suited for, the latest and greatest version of the OS wouldn’t bring an appreciable benefit. At least you’re getting security updates via the Play Store… Except in this case, you aren’t. After checking for updates, the last available security patch is 1 December 2018. Now, my mother isn’t likely to download any apps outside of the Play Store, but the fact is that there are an awful lot of malware attacks that someone like my mom could easily be social-engineered to fall for. This is possibly the only element of the software experience that I have a challenge with. The only reason I can think of that Doro would not have updated the phone is that the Operating System is so heavily skinned it may be difficult to upgrade even security patches easily. Android 8 and Project Treble would have taken that challenge off the table.
At the back of the phone, and about two-thirds along, is a horizontal row of camera, light and furthest to the right is a loudspeaker option. It also has a removable cover, so underneath is where you locate the Micro SD and the SIM card. Interesting side note – you also have a removable battery for those who are real talkers and end up needing to replace the battery. It’s one of the few points of this phone that perplexes me. It isn’t clear that the type of person who needs this type of phone will be talking so much that they’ll need to replace their battery. I can’t imagine that the screen resolution will necessarily eat up so much battery that this phone can’t last well into a second day as standard. If the person occasionally forgets to put it on charge for one night.
All in all, I was both pleasantly surprised and mildly annoyed with the Doro 8035. Most of all, this phone wasn’t for me. The skin feels a bit too heavy, and the big icons felt like an awful waste of space. Why would a company make them so much bigger and put things so widely spaced? The answer of course, is obvious. The UI wasn’t created for me. In addition, there’s the feeling that part of the reason this phone feels slower isn’t just because of the older hardware. We have the suspicion that the skin of the UI also has a part to play with why things are so slow. There is a tension between that complete overlay to make things easier and the fact that Android just isn’t as efficient as it could be, which means that overlay has an overhead.
Another nice feature of the phone is that the Home, Multitask and Back buttons are physical: there’s no wondering whether you have pressed the button as all three depress to a satisfying depth. The multitask button is on the left, and the back button is on the right, similar to Samsung’s implementation, but at the end of the day most people either currently have, or have used a Samsung phone, so you can’t blame Doro for that choice.
This is the odd thing. I liked the Doro 8035 for what it was, and not what it wasn’t. It won’t win any speed awards, The battery probably wouldn’t last long if I were trying to use it for YouTubes, Netflixing, Instagrams, Twitter, and all the usual multimedias that most people use as part of the modern-day experience of using a smartphone. But the Doro 8035 wasn’t created for that use-case. It was for the people who end up having conversations like this:
I went to send an email on the phone, but the email address is being rejected. I double checked and this is the correct address.
Ok mom, what is the application you’re using? Are you sure that it is your email app, or are you using your text app or your instant messaging app by any chance?
No, I’m sure it is the email app. It is the google one. I think? How would I know which one it is?
If that is the case, for you and members of your family, then I would thoroughly recommend the Doro range, and possibly the 8035. The tradeoff with the phone just being slow in this day and age for an alternative conversation is probably a godsend. That other conversation would go something like this:
Press the Home button, and in the middle of the screen, you’ll see the send button. It has a paper aeroplane type of thing, which is like the iconography for send.
Inside that menu, it’ll ask you what you want to send. You want the email option, ma.
If you haven’t sent an email before, you’ll pretty much need to allow the app to do email stuff.
You’ll probably need to put in the name you want to display when you send an email, and a name for the account. Since it’s your gmail account, I’d suggest actually calling it your gmail account.
At this point, you can either put in an email address if you don’t have them in your contacts, or choose a contact if you already have them in your contacts. What’s contacts? It’s the electronic address book on your phone, ma. It’s how you find my name when you call me and then text me, and then call me again after.
Since you needed to type in the email address earlier, they aren’t in your contacts, so choose the ‘email address’ option. Then type in the email address. It’ll walk you from then on.
The prospect is similar for sending other types of messages.
It is a different proposition, and there are no exercises in futility here. If the 8035 had an up-to-date OS and a current processor, then the phone would be so much snappier, and it would be a total no-brainer. As it is, it works, and works well, but just be aware that it is not going to win any speed races ever.
If your own mother/aunt/friend/uncle/grandad has their own particular relationship with technology and just needs a little helping hand, then maybe the Doro would be the phone for them. At the very least it would be worth checking out.
As such, I’m not going to score this phone. It doesn’t make sense, except to those people it makes sense for, and then it makes a lot of sense.*
*Did I not warn you about the sense part?