More and more people are increasingly switching from smartphones to much simpler phones that have been christened the unflattering title of “dumbphones”.
This title is of course a misnomer since these types of phones exist in a variety of configurations — from the type that predate smartphones and that have hitherto been referred to as feature phones, to the growing number of “dumbed down” smartphones that cater to specific groups.
Of these, you’ll encounter three main niche markets: manufacturer’s targeting minimalists who essentially want phones that don’t take too much of their time (or lives for that matter), rugged phone makers targeting those working in smartphone “unfriendly” environments and lastly those making elderly-friendly phones.
Doro is a Swedish phone maker that specializes in the latter. Their catalog features everything from simple bar and flip phones to full-blown smartphones, all of which have been customized to be easy to use.
Nevertheless, their phones are also ideal for the aforementioned minimalists, whose market currently offers a few options that are comparatively more expensive and often have limited stocks. Examples include the Light Phone, Punkt and Unihetrz models.
Rugged and senior-friendly phones thus offer a good compromise for those that want similar minimalistic phones that integrate some smartphone features but are constrained by their budgets.
Enter Doro 7010
A limited budget is partly why I opted for the Doro 7010 but it wasn’t the only reason. The other factors which limited my options were 4G bands compatibility and dual-sim support.
After months of research, most notably through the helpful dumbphones subreddit, I narrowed down to 3 options: the AGM M7, the Tianhoo EOS 4G and the Doro 7010. These three phones passed my two criteria, i.e. they are dual-sim and support the bands 3(1800MHz) and 20(800MHz) which are the 4G bands the three major carriers in Kenya use.
The AGM M7 was my first choice but it’s huge form factor and price tag ultimately put me off. The Tianhoo was my next choice, but it was only available via Amazon which I couldn’t use.
A negative review by Jose Briones, the go-to guy for all thing’s dumbphones, also somewhat dissuaded me and steered me to the Doro which he had more positive things to say about (his review is for the 7030, but I’m made to understand it’s the same phone only in a flip-phone form factor).
Long story short, I eventually ordered the Doro 7010 from Digitec and shipped it from Geneva to Nairobi via Aramex’s Ship & Shop service. The phone itself cost me CHF 61 (approx. $65), a reasonable price compared to what Doro (£90) and other vendors were asking for.
The total cost including the delivery however came to about $113 thanks to Aramex surcharging me an exorbitant hidden fee (dangerous good) on account of the lithium battery.
That mishap aside, the phone did eventually arrive in time and in good condition. However, two days in and I’m not sure whether the phone itself was worth all the trouble. But let’s give it a fair chance with a proper review.
[I drafted this over several days while testing the phone, so this turned out to be longer than I had expected. In any case, you can use my detailed review to give you a general idea of what other Doro offerings that run the same OS may be like.]
Doro 7010 Specifications
The phone runs an OS called DorOS which is not propriety but a modded version of Android 8.1.0 (Oreo). Interestingly, all mentions of Android in the phone have been replaced with DorOS.
Android being resource hungry means that the 7010 has above average hardware compared to your typical bar phone from where it draws its inspiration design-wise.
The Doro 7010 comes in multiple variants. The one I have with me is the grey dual-sim variant with the model number DFB-0280. The package included a charger, manuals aplenty and earphones.
Curiously, the earphone is single ear but thankfully it includes a mic and button. I don’t know why this is the case but it’s a first for me and most certainly only ideal for answering calls. I’m not going to make a habit of listening to music with them.
On the other hand, the phone’s technical specs are as follows:
|CPU||MediaTek MT6731, 4 Cores|
|2G GSM||900, 1800, 1900|
|3G UMTS||1 (2100), 2 (1900), 8 (900)|
|4G LTE FDD||1 (2100), 3 (1800), 7 (2600), 8 (900), 20 (800)|
|Camera||Front, Back (3MP) + Flash|
|SIM card size||micro-SIM (3FF)|
|Battery||3.7 V / 1600 mAh Li-ion battery|
|Display||2.8″, 320×240 QVGA Resolution|
|Dimensions||135 mm x 58 mm x 13 mm|
|Weight||112 g (including battery)|
As you can see, the phone is really a budget Android phone at heart — something potential buyers will not discern going by its looks and how it’s marketed to the masses. And while the specs seem rather modest, I intend to show by the end of this review that they’re in actual fact underutilized with respect to how the phone operates.
First Impressions – The Exterior
The phone has a good solid build even though it entirely made of plastic. It’s light and easy to use with one hand.
On the top of the phone you have the micro-USB port for charging and the 3.5mm jack. On the front is a relatively large 2.8 inch display, atop which there’s a front camera and an earpiece.
Below the display is a large keypad whose buttons are labelled in a large white font and are well separated from each other. This makes them very legible especially for seniors that may have impaired vision. The keypad is also backlit when in operation, making it easy to see the buttons when in dark areas.
The keypad’s buttons are made of a soft rubbery material, but unfortunately are quite noisy and have some considerable resistance behind them. As such, one has to really press hard to register a response from some of them. On my phone the upper-side keys are especially notorious. This as you can imagine is not very senior friendly and erodes the keypad’s considerable legibility strengths.
On the right side you have two volume buttons and no lock button. On the back’s top there’s a camera, flash and a huge SOS button and towards the bottom is the loudspeaker.
The back cover is removable, behind which sits the battery bay and the SIM and microSD card slots. The SIM slot(s) are of the micro-SIM size and I have to say personally I had a very hard time inserting my SIMs.
This is not the first time I’m using this size since my other proper dumbphone (a cheap triple SIM itel i5081) uses the same size. For some reason it’s a very tight fit on the 7010 which increases the probability of damaging the SIM or worse the pin contacts. Not very senior-friendly either; the classic type with the open and lock tray would have been a much better choice.
First Impressions – The OS
The phone boots up like your typical Android phone with a boot animation and its obligatory loud start-up sound. I don’t know why phone makers still insist on such terrorism.
It’s in this very boot screen that I noticed the first sign of trouble. The boot animation’s green background looked off to me — the color appearing washed out and the viewing angle severely limited.
I didn’t make much of it until I saw the phone’s wallpaper. Same low quality look as if the resolution was set to a much lower value than what the panel was capable of. Indeed this turned out to be the case after testing different resolutions later on via ADB. At the time however I couldn’t tell and assumed the phone just had a very cheap display.
The reason for using such a low default resolution makes apparent sense now. You see, for the phone to be senior friendly, it needs to have very large icons and text. I suspect Doro decided to go for the easiest route to achieve this by using a low resolution with the consequence that one, the icons and pictures don’t look as sharp as they should, and secondly, the font is insanely large.
It’s even more apparent with the drawer and headphone icons which have jagged edges around them. Did somebody forget to smooth them? Anyway, they look less jagged once you increase the resolution but the higher resolution reduces the font size which may be undesired.
In Doro’s defense, the Android OS is perhaps not suitable for achieving their accessibility requirements (large icons and text) on such a small display. On a typical 6″ smartphone display with a high resolution that would have worked out well, but here the results are both unintuitive and unaesthetic.
An example of such unintuitiveness is evident with the large text which inevitably takes too much real estate on the screen. Consequently, one has to scroll more with those hard navigation buttons to see content that would otherwise fit perfectly at a higher resolution. SMS are a chore to read for this reason.
Switching to the home screen, you’ll find three shortcuts placed there (call, view and send) and the drawer button. The shortcuts open a menu with a list of quick actions akin to a wizard (call who?, view what?, send what?).
This action-based interface as Doro describes is called EVA and is intended to simplify navigating the phone. The mode can however be disabled in the settings if you prefer to launch the apps from the drawer.
Navigating the phone manually can however be rather cumbersome, especially if you’re coming from a smartphone. For instance, you cannot switch between apps even though the feature is present in the OS. As such, you have to go back and forth to the drawer or home screen to switch between them.
This is how things typically work on feature phones, and I’m used to this work flow on my other dumbphone where I swiftly breeze through its interface at lightning speeds. On the Doro however, this is simply not possible since the phone is somewhat sluggish in operation (this is especially noticeable after restarting).
It’s a minor issue many can live with but one that is unfortunately exaggerated by those hard buttons. Indeed, the phone will seem less sluggish once you get used to pressing the buttons harder. Nevertheless, the speed of navigation will never compare to that of a typical feature phone.
For this reason, the quick shortcuts on the home screen may come in handy even if you’re savvy enough to navigate to the underlying apps.
In the previous section I mentioned that the phone has no lock button despite having volume rockers. This is usually the case with typical feature phones, however the similarities end there; that’s because on the Doro any button including the volume buttons wakes up the screen.
Typically, only a few buttons do that — the end call, ok or back buttons — and for good reason since you don’t want the phone waking up on every unintended press. The likelihood of that happening may be low owing to the hard buttons but its a different case altogether for the volume buttons.
You’ll probably use those generously when listening to music without looking at the screen or taking the phone out of your pocket. This is of course a minor issue until you realize you cannot actually raise or lower the volume if the screen is off and locked i.e. if the screen lock is enabled. Instead, you have to unlock the phone first.
As for the screen lock, it comes in two flavors — a keypad lock similar to that on most feature phones and a PIN lock similar to that on Android smartphones. The former is unlocked by long-pressing the star button (*) as opposed to the typical combination of two buttons (End call plus Ok / Ok plus *).
I’d have preferred the combo route over the long press which seems to take an inordinate time. Unfortunately, this cannot be customized. The PIN while being the more secure option takes even more time for obvious reasons.
Calls can be made through the Phone or Contact apps or via EVA. You cannot dial a number directly while on the home screen as is the case with typical feature phones.
The call quality is certainly above average and reception is likewise superior as it supports both 3G & 4G unlike my 2G only feature phone. The calls are clear and loud though you may not notice this until you switch the audio mode in the settings from the default normal mode to high.
The loudspeaker on the back is likewise loud enough, but certainly not loud enough to be used in a very noisy environment. Oddly enough, it gets very loud when listening to music or the FM Radio
The phone also supports Wi-Fi calling but I have not tested it since it’s not supported locally.
SMS and WhatsApp
Texting is handled by the messaging app. The font is nice and large with good contrast but the screen being small means that you’ll have to scroll more to read even a short SMS. As for typing, the Doro comes with a competent 12-key keyboard called Kika.
The keyboard supports all the major European languages and predictive text (T9). Prediction can be toggled off by pressing the # key which switches between the upper case, lower case, number only and the T9 modes. You can also easily switch between languages by long pressing the # key.
The app supports MMS so it’s possible to attach media to your messages. You can do this by pressing the menu button (…) and selecting the Attach option. I don’t use MMS so I can’t comment beyond this.
A big selling point of the Doro 7010 is that it also supports WhatsApp. However, be forewarned that the WhatsApp experience here is nothing like that on your smartphone. This is because you have to use a mouse cursor when using the app. The cursor is controlled by the four-way navigation keys.
Seems kind of absurd why Doro would imagine anyone, let alone seniors, would want to use WhatsApp this way. It’s doable but too clumsy and time-consuming to be practical. Although I don’t use WhatsApp anymore, I can only imagine on the Doro it will only be ideal for viewing messages or linking the device to use WhatsApp web on a computer.
The Doro come with the usual basic apps including Clock / Alarms, Organizer (Calendar, Calculator, Notes, File Manager), and Torch. The file manager is actually the stock file manager on Android 8.1.0. All these apps work as they should and are fully operable using the keypad (no mouse).
You also have a Browser and an Email app. Both are however navigated by a cursor so they’re not ideal for serious usage. A feature phone with Opera mini offers a better experience, albeit limited.
On the email app you should be able to set up accounts from different email providers. IMAP and POP3 accounts can be set up manually and should work with no issues provided you have the correct configuration settings.
Setting up a Gmail account however warns you to deactivate 2-step authentication and enable less secure apps. Google has long since retired less secure apps so you might as well ignore that warning.
Nevertheless, it’s possible to set up a Gmail account on the app. Just enable 2-step verification then create an app password to use with the app as I explained here. I can confirm that this worked with my Gmail account. A comment from someone on Reddit also confirms that it works with their Exchange mail.
There’s also a Doro app called Response for emergencies which works with the Assistance (SOS) button on the back. Once the app has been set up, the app works by sending an alarm to family and friends when the button is pressed.
The service requires signing up to use which asks for your phone number. I didn’t test it beyond this point because of this requirement. Nevertheless, the assistance button is no doubt a lifesaver for those that intend to use it. Doro, however, should have considered making its function customizable.
As is stands, the button is rendered completely useless if you don’t use the Response service. It just sits there when it could have easily been repurposed for another useful function like activating the torch, snapping a pic or even as a lock button. Wasted opportunity!
Next in line is the Facebook app. This is simply bloatware as it comes preloaded on most phones nowadays. I didn’t even bother testing before I uninstalled it via ADB, but I assume it also needs a cursor to operate.
You can uninstall and install apps (APKs) via ADB but this is beyond the scope of this review. I’ll do another article on how to do this including some other technical bits on how to tweak the 7010.
The Doro 7010 has a front and back camera. The main camera on the back is 3MP and has a flash. I can’t find the specs for the front camera but the image quality is almost similar to the main camera but at a much lower resolution.
The picture quality of both is below average, and both cameras are unsuitable for use in low light. The back camera however benefits from the flash which significantly improves picture quality indoors.
It’s curious why Doro would put two lackluster cameras on the phone instead of just opting for one average quality camera. One serviceable front camera for video calling would have been more useful for its target market.
The phone has a gallery app to view the snaps from the camera as well as any images on your storage. It’s fully operable with the navigation key though the thumbnail quality is abysmal.
There’s also a video app, but I don’t think you’ll want to watch a video on this small display; that is in spite of the fact that the phone can handle playing high resolution videos quite comfortably.
I tested a 720p video and noticed no lag whatsoever. Seeking with the navigation keys was also smooth. Unfortunately, the app does not support landscape view and neither does the OS. It’s at this point it occurred to me that the phone has no accelerometer sensor.
Next is the music app. On this one I’ve a major bone to pick with Doro since one of the main reasons I bought the phone was to listen to music and audiobooks — something I could only achieve rather clumsily on my feature phone. But alas! The Doro 7010 offers no significant improvement in this regard.
The music app is very bare bones. It lists all the songs in your storage in a single category called Songs. This is unlike the stock and other basic android music apps which allow browsing music by Album, Artist, Genre, Folder or Playlists. Likewise, there’s no search option.
As such, the app is unsuitable for use with large music collections. It’s a real shame because you can tell this is just “laziness” on the part of Doro since the Android media scanner will regardless sort all the music it finds according to the aforementioned categories. Doro simply disabled the options in the app.
You’ll clearly notice this the moment you try to pick a custom ringtone in the settings. The music there is already sorted by Artist! For this reason I have had to install a different music app. Sadly, as it’s to be expected, most of them don’t play well with the keypad navigation. Still, the quirks are far bearable compared to the limited functionality of the music app.
Lastly, there’s the recorder app for recording audio files and an FM radio. The radio app needs the headset to be plugged in for it to work, and it does not support recording like most feature phones phones do.
Wi-Fi and Tethering
The phone supports Wi-Fi (2.4Ghz) and it works as expected. You can also share your mobile data by creating a Wi-Fi hotspot or via USB tethering. All these work flawlessly, my only complaint is that one has to navigate to the corresponding settings every time you need to turn them on or off.
Some quick shortcuts to a few common settings would have been good since the Doro doesn’t supports Android’s quick toggles. A workaround is to install a custom launcher and add the settings as app shortcuts. At least that’s what I have had to resort to.
In the Sound settings you can control volume levels, pick ringtones including custom ringtones and included is an option to disable keypad tones. There’s also the aforementioned audio setup setting which allows you to select from three modes: Normal, High and HAC.
According to the info in the menu, the normal mode is for normal hearing in normal conditions, high is for moderate hearing impairment or use in a very noisy environment and the HAC mode is for use with a hearing aid in the T position.
In the Display settings there are options to set the wallpaper, font size, the screen timeout and the Navigation guides (EVA) mode on the home screen.
The font size setting only offers two sizes: Normal and Large. Normal is quite large as it is. Large takes things a notch higher and seems rather impractical since far less content fits on the display. A third small size would have been a good compromise to cater for those with good eyesight.
The sleep (screen timeout) setting has only three options: 30 seconds, 1 minute and 5 minutes. Unfortunately, there’s no option for never which you may be accustomed to from other phones.
A setting called Block function is also oddly included here, which allows you to hide some apps that you have no use for. You can disable Facebook and a few other apps you don’t need from here. This, however, just hides the apps from the default launcher; you’ll need to use ADB if you need to uninstall an app completely.
There’s also a color inversion setting similar to the one on Android smartphones which swaps the display into a high-contrast mode i.e. white text on a solid black background instead of the default black text on white. This is a good compromise for a dark mode which the phone lacks.
Storage & Connected Devices
In the Storage settings you can view a summary of what’s taking up your space just like on Android. The internal storage is only 4GB, of which only about 1.8GB is available for use; the rest is taken up by the OS. As such, you may want to expand your storage with a SD card if you intend to store a lot of files like music or videos. Maximum supported SD card size is 32GB.
In the connected devices settings there are options Bluetooth and USB connections. For the latter you can have it default to one of the following modes when you connect the device via USB: charging, transfer files (MTP), transfer photos (PTP) or use device as MIDI.
Security & Location
The phone has three security mechanisms: a screen lock, password (phone code) and SIM lock. The latter is the usual SIM PIN lock which the phone prompts you to enter on start up.
The screen lock has two options: keypad lock which requires you to long press the * key to unlock the device and a PIN lock which unlocks the phone with a preset 4-digit PIN.
Either of the locking mechanisms can be set to automatically activate after a time-out of 30 sec or 1 minute; that is, once the screen goes to sleep (off). Strangely, the lock mechanism gets disabled if the time-out is set to Off.
On the other hand, the phone code is as far as I can tell is only required when resetting the phone. The default code is 1234 which you can change to something less obvious.
The Doro 7010 has a GPS sensor which you can activate from here. The phone comes with no maps or any navigational apps. This means that the GPS can only be utilized by the Browser and the Response app. It seems rather wasteful to include a piece of hardware that can only be utilized by only two apps; apps which may otherwise go unused.
With phones, GPS is synonymous with maps. Doro should have at least bundled a rudimentary map or at the very least an app that can lock your co-ordinates and share them over SMS or WhatsApp.
Nevertheless, you can do this by sideloading an app like My Location or Location Share via F-Droid or ADB. For maps, you should be able to access Google maps and other map providers via the browser i.e if you can bear to use the cursor.
The battery setting has options for checking the battery level and the battery saver. It looks similar to the stock Android version only that it lacks an option to view power consumption by app.
One has to navigate here to check the actual battery status since the battery indicator in the status bar doesn’t show the percentage.
Battery life on the Doro is reasonable for its capacity. The 1600mAh is indeed modest but my estimates indicate it can last a good 2–3 days with light usage. It can certainly last even longer if you use it minimally and don’t enable mobile data, Wi-Fi, hotspot and location especially.
In the System settings there are options for language, date & time, software updates and resetting the phone.
The Doro supports all the major European languages, in total 19. Quite impressive, as all of these presumably support predictive text.
In the Reset options there are settings to:
- Do a DRM reset which clears all licences on the device. This is the first time I’ve encountered this on a phone.
- Reset app preferences similar to Android smartphones i.e. it will restore app defaults, disabled apps, disabled notifications and restricted permissions.
- Erase all data (factory reset) on the device.
You can also access the factory reset options by rebooting into recovery mode via ADB. The mode looks exactly the same as the stock recovery on Android phones. There’s no key combination that boots into recovery mode as per my test.
Pressing the end call button plus the volume down however boots you into Factory Mode where you can test the phone’s hardware.
The software update option seems to work, as I’ve so far received one update. I did not notice any visible difference after applying the update, and no changelog was provided. Perhaps it was a security update.
Hopefully Doro will keep pushing updates as the phone has a lot of room for improvement. (Update: received another update in March 2023 but likewise haven’t noticed any difference.)
The Doro 7010 is a phone of compromise. For its price, its well-built, looks handsome and has decent hardware to boot. All these merits however count for little in light of how the phone ultimately operates.
The suitability of this phone for its target market — the elderly — leaves a lot to be desired. In this regard, while the design works, the execution betrays it.
For one, I maintain that Android is not a suitable OS for improved accessibility options in this form factor. It just doesn’t work as efficiently as it should since the small screen increases the navigational workload. Combine this aspect with its unnecessary stiff keypad, and what at first seemed reconcilable becomes unforgivable.
Indeed, the keypad is the Achilles’ heel of the Doro 7010 since it makes the phone slower and more difficult to use than it ought to be. Visually and tactilely, it is a perfect design for its target user base. However, the effort it takes to press some of the buttons is a major oversight by the Doro.
And that’s the curious thing here; not all the buttons are hard to press. For that reason, I suspect the pressure may ease with regular use. Still, that’s no excuse since first impressions count for most, especially nowadays where returns are commonplace.
The OS handles reasonably well but it also takes time to get used to its quirks. If you only concern is calls and texting, then perhaps you’ve little to worry about beside the keypad and the slight sluggishness.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for “smart-ish” dumbphone, the 7010 is perhaps not a good fit. It’s still serviceable in this regard, but it may take a lot of work. It’s just better to get something like an AGM M7 or the Xiaomi Qin line of phones than spend an inordinate time trying to get the DorOS to do a few “smart” things (which it’s capable of).
Fortunately, my experiments have paid off as I have managed to get the phone to accomplish the tasks I bought it for. I’ll detail these in another article, but the gist of it is to get rid of the default launcher, customize it, then install apps that suit your needs better.
In my case it was the music app that I had to find a workable replacement for. The rest of the apps I could live with. The default launcher is actually more than enough, its only undoing is that it doesn’t show sideloaded apps.
On the other hand, WhatsApp’s compatibility is a huge selling point of the Doro on which it falls flat on expectations. As I see it, this is just a marketing gimmick by Doro since they’re fully aware that it’s impractical to use the app using a cursor.
Therefore, if you must use WhatsApp, please, save yourself (and especially your elderly loved one) the hassle and get a dumbphone that’s properly optimized to use WhatsApp on a keypad e.g. the KaiOS ones. Likewise, consider looking for a better option if you know you cannot do without a map service or a navigational assistant.
With all that said, I must admit that the 7010’s flaws makes it an ideal candidate for those who want to cut on their smartphone usage without compromising far too much. Maybe my expectations for it were a bit too high, knowing it was coming from the Swedes (of course, via China).
Either way, if you must get it, I’d advise trying it at a shop first and making an informed decision. In my opinion, however, it shouldn’t cost anything above $70 (historical data from Amazon indicates it has been sold for as low as 49.99 GBP).