Despite the growing popularity of such useful products as the Apple iPhone and Samsung Instinct, I hear from readers with a simple question: "Where can I get a phone that just makes calls?"
Despite the growing popularity of such useful products as the Apple iPhone and Samsung Instinct, I hear from readers with a simple question: “Where can I get a phone that just makes calls?”
Mobile devices have gotten awfully intricate, outpacing many consumers who are either not interested in all those features or who simply don’t want to pay for e-mail and Web surfing.
Here are two easy-to-operate phones that offer something different, depending on your needs.
Pantech Breeze: The Breeze, sold by AT&T for $50, was designed for consumers who may not hear or see well. It is easy to dial, thanks to the big and responsive keypad.
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Pantech markets this as an “uncomplicated” phone, a term I reject even if accurate. Shouldn’t all gadgets strive to be uncomplicated?
Yet, even this phone offers more complexity than needed, but not so much that it’s a detriment.
The Breeze is a flip phone. When closed, a small screen on the front provides the time and date. When open, there are three keys that sit below the display screen. These are quick-call keys that can be programmed for a user’s three most important contacts — such as your children.
Press a quick-call key and that person’s photo and number appear. Then hit the send key to make the call. The send key is prominently displayed on the main keypad.
Above the main numeric keypad is a bigger-than-normal navigational keypad to move through the phone’s menu options. A great feature is that the type on the menu choices is larger than normal (though you can make it smaller), and the type can be enlarged when an option is highlighted, making it very easy to see.
Next to the navigation pad sits a volume button to increase the sound easily, a smart touch. Across from that is a button for the camera. For this market, a better choice might have been an alarm button to help seniors remember when to take their medication, for example.
There are a few items this phone doesn’t need. It can shoot videos, send instant messages and access mobile e-mail — all worthy features, but not necessary here.
That is a quibble, however, because this is a phone many consumers will appreciate.
Motorola Rokr E8: As a media phone, you might think Motorola’s Rokr E8 shouldn’t be dubbed “uncomplicated.” But it is easy to use and will appeal to teens and young adults who want music but not a monthly data plan.
With the Rokr E8, available from T-Mobile for $99, loading music from a Windows-based laptop was simple. I plugged the phone in via USB and up popped the Windows Media Player software. (It does not work with iTunes.) The Windows software recognized the phone, allowing me to then drag and drop the music I wanted into the phone.
I had the Rokr loaded with nearly 300 songs in less than a half-hour. The sound is fine for a phone, on par with most of the music-playing gadgets I’ve tested. It uses a standard headphone jack (thank you, Motorola), so you can improve the sound with a pair of decent headphones.
Perhaps the best thing about this phone is the style. When playing music, the phone keys disappear and keys to control the music appear. Motorola calls this “mode shift” technology.
For music, there are keys to skip to the next song or back to the previous one, one for pause/play and one to shuffle songs or repeat the last song. It looks like a music player. When you turn the music off, the numeric keypad reappears. The same technique is used for the camera/video mode.
“Mode shift” is a neat trick, making it a fun phone for media-savvy kids.
But there is a downside with the Rokr E8: The touch-controlled scroll wheel is difficult to use. Every phonemaker wants touch controls that rival the iPhone’s, but no one is doing it as well.
Fortunately, Motorola also included a navigation pad with buttons.