Smartphones have become an integral part of our lives, but they’re not for everyone. Sometimes you just want a simple phone that will let you call, text and maybe access some of the more modern messaging services.
While some of us welcome multiple features, for others they are unnecessary; the same goes for the latest apps, and that touch interface that has become second nature to us can prove too tricky for some users.
Then there are features such as simpler, clearer menus, physical buttons and compatibility with hearing aids – things you don’t consider until you need them.
There are a few brands that have targeted this market, typically aiming their devices at older users who want the benefits of a smartphone but with a simpler, more accessible design.
They aren’t just for older users, though, and simple doesn’t have to mean basic.
Emporia is the latest brand to target the Irish market, with its Smart 4 device that offers Android 10 in a device that manages to balance simplicity with enough functions to make it worth the price tag.
The first hint that the Emporia Smart 4 is not your standard smartphone is when you open the box. The phone is probably one of the only ones that still includes a physical manual in the box, and also offers users a hard-copy training manual that walks you through the important functions step by step, rather than directing users online. Given the age group the phone is aimed at, it’s a good choice.
The second is in the design of the phone itself. The Emporia Smart 4 is similar to a smartphone you might have had – and loved – a few years ago. The back comes off, and the battery is removable, unlike most phones these days that require special tools, a bit of tech know-how and extreme patience to replace the battery.
The Smart 4 is also easier to keep hold of than your standard smartphone; there are no slippery surfaces to deal with, and the phone itself feels solid. If you drop it, there’s a good chance that the phone will survive the trip.
You have an emergency button on the back which, when pressed three times, will call your listed emergency contacts until someone answers the phone, automatically switching to loudspeaker mode. If you don’t want or need that option, a second rear casing in the box will cover the emergency button to avoid accidental touches.
The five-inch display is easy to read, responsive to touches and bright enough to read without causing too much eye strain. It’s not the fanciest of displays, but it doesn’t need to be.
The default menu style is for big icons and text, making the phone easy to read and the apps easy to select. Instead of a grid of small icons that you have to guess what they are for, you get a list with icons that you can scroll through.
Favourite apps are pinned to the screen in large boxes, with the camera, alarms, calendar, weather and internet among the default apps selected for users the first time the phone is fired up. You can customise that list of favourites with your own essential apps, but the default selections cover all the basics.
There is also a touch trainer that will guide you through the basic gestures for the phone: swiping, selecting and so on. If you are new to smartphones, this little addition makes a huge difference.
Performance-wise, the Smart 4 works well. The 1.5GHz Quadcore processor may not be the fastest on the market at the moment, but it works well with Emporia’s system. There were few frustrations with getting this smartphone running.
Good Easy to handle and use, the Emporia Smart 4 balances simplicity with function. While the focus may be on ease of use, the device also comes with a decent camera – 13 megapixels on the rear camera, and five megapixels for the front camera. That makes it good for video calls as well as capturing family memories. It also has NFC, which means Google Pay will work if it is supported by your bank. The battery is replaceable too, which gives it a bit of longevity.
Not so good Storage space is limited, though given the target market it probably won't be a deal-breaker. The phone itself has 32GB of storage, and you can expand that with a memory card of up to 64GB in size.
The rest In the box, not only do you get a USB C charger – something that is increasingly disappearing from modern smartphones, ostensibly to reduce electronic waste – but you also get wired headphones. The Smart 4 has a headphone jack, so there is no messing about with wireless headphones. The phone itself is rated IP54, which means it will take a splash if water and will resist some exposure to dust. To top it off, the phone has a magnifier app to help you with small text.
Verdict Simple but not basic, the Emporia Smart 4 is a good option for those who prefer something a little simpler in their pocket.