Windows phone - a leap forward for older phone users

Posted on: 29 May 2012 by Gareth Hargreaves

After testing many handsets aimed at older people, we found the Nokia Lumia 800 a real step in the right direction as an age-neutral phone.

Nokia Lumia 800

Why are phones that target an older audience so basic in their features? Is the perception that once someone passes their 50th birthday they become an unreachable Luddite? 

We have a regular stream of test handsets coming through the office of 50connect and many of them are very good phones - the operative word being only, phone.

These handsets with stripped back functionality are pretty easy to use. The problem is, they're in danger of being left behind by the online appetite of their target audience.

This so called 'senior market' is made up of some of the most active online users in the UK. Despite its diversity and massive age spread, it is a section of society that has picked up on the benefits of Facebook, Flickr and Skype and now use them as part of their everyday communications with family and friends.

With this in mind, here is our take on the Nokia Lumia 800 - or the Windows Phone.

Interface and tiling

If ever functionality was created with a non technically minded user in mind it is the touch screen interface of smart phones such as the iPhone and Samsung and HTC android handsets. While early success has been fuelled by younger users, this functionality is ideal for an older audience. The interface of the Lumia 800 take the best bits of this user interface and improves on it. The resulting UI is intuitive, clear and easy to pick up, in fact it does what it says on the tin - which is more than can be said for the old key pad handsets. 

Address book/ contact management

This was a major plus in my book. Having struggled to find applications to suit my previous handsets and bring all my contacts together – the Lumia 800 helps you merge lists from Outlook, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc as well as your social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. It is a very welcome feature, which also allows the user to merge duplicate entries into one contact. For example, if your last handset's contacts only had name and phone number but your Outlook account contains name and email address, the software will make the connection and allow you to merge the two to complete the contact's profile.  

You can also Group contacts, so you can keep work separate from family for example.

Screen size

The screen is compact and bijou (800 x 480 pixels), but with rich colours, contrast and crisp resolution. It is an extremely responsive interface and probably unlike any Windows OS you've ever used. It is that good! 

The slide and swipe tiling is crystal clear and is a taster of the soon to be released Windows 8 desktop operating system. 

The display quality continues whatever media you choose to use. The device supports WMV 9, H.264/AVC, MPEG-4, 3GPP formats (H.263), AVI, VC-1 and ASF. One small gripe the handset does not yet support BBC iPlayer so if you're looking to steal 5 minutes of Andrew Marr or The Voice, hard luck.

Productivity

Another big selling point for me was the Microsoft powered productivity suite, which features standard Office applications (Excel, Word, Powerpoint, One Note) and an online document and notes storage repository, Skydrive. 

All documents, photos and contacts created or sent to the phone can be synchronised with your PC, via the built in Zune suite (Nokia's replacement for the much maligned Ovi). I found this to be a reassuring extra, as if you are lacking confidence to alter the settings and contact groups on your phone, you can do it offline via Zune.  

Handset 

The physical appearance of the Lumia 800 is very, very chic. Remove the protective cover that it comes with, and you have a handset that is beautifully styled with light curves and while you benefit from a generous screen size it is not a device that feels weighty or too big to fit snugly in the palm of your hand.

It really is a good looking phone and the polycarbonate shell just adds to the high-end feel.

Battery

The one-piece shell means the battery is inaccessible, which with a charge lasting approximately one day is not a good feature. In the past I have been happy to swap batteries in and out of my handset as needed - just keep a spare charged for when I'm out and about with no access to a power point. No chance of that with teh Lumia 800. 

Nokia Lumia 800 Camera

Camera

I know the primary use of the device is that of a phone rather than camera. However, you now see so few modern handsets without this feature that its inclusion should be seen as a given. 

Many of the phones features perform above and beyond what is expected - the camera, however, is sadly neglected.

The Carl Zeiss Tessar technology does not cope well with focusing or zoom and the resolution is nowhere near as strong as comparable handsets such as the Galaxy S2. While the software does come with a range of settings from 8Megapixels down to two at the time of writing this review I have yet to find one which produces a good crisp image.

Conclusion

While the Lumia 800 certainly has faults, it has claimed a new convert to the cult of the smartphone.  My last two phones (due to work) were the Nokia  E61 and E72 and while functional in what they did, they were no pleasure to use. Indeed, they were inefficient in the time it took to complete a simple task such as sending email or creating notes. I swore I would never get another Nokia and yet here I am singing the praises of the Lumia 800.

The touchscreen UI is here to stay and if producers can bring in small usabilty tweeks to meet the needs of people with sight and hearing issues, the like of Doro and Emporia will have to up their game in order to have a sniff of a chance of re-engaging with this rapidly evolving audience.  

Read more information on Windows phone handsets and features 

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