On a recent trip to Chennai, I went to Ritchie Street looking for a senior phone. I was not successful in this but saw a lot of cheap Chinese phones. All the phone shops have “Rokea” brand phones. These are popularly known as “Korea” phones. Rokea phones look like popular models from Samsung or Sony. Prices are around for Rs. 2000. Even the model names are subtle misspellings of the originals. They are all dual-SIM touchscreen phones. Another Chinese brand that has stormed the shops is the Yxtel brand. The tiny 650-rupees Yxtel models seem to be moving fast. There is also an “Ice Cream” brand of phones. Some phones have batteries so big that they have ports to charge other devices!
However, I could not find a phone suitable for an elderly person with visual/hearing disabilities. The keys of all the phones are very small. In case of touchscreen phones, keys are non-existent.
Later I found a few shop selling Yxtel phones near Chennai Central. One of them was a flip phone with an external display – almost like the iconic Motorolal V3 RAZR. I got it for Rs. 1500. The instructions in the manual are unreadable. The specifications section offers no details.
The YXTEL W188 is a dual-SIM phone. Both SIMs have an IMEI number. It has a VGA camera, although on the outside it says “HD Camera”. You can take 480×640 pictures. Photos will not look good in low-light conditions. (The photos shown above were taken from the phone.) There is also an integrated LED flash. Videos are marginally faster than paint peeling on walls. You also get Bluetooth and Micro SD card support. An 8GB card worked. A 16GB card did not. Apart from the audio and video players, FM radio is also available.
The YXTEL W1388 has a heavy metal covering and is built like a tank. Its USP is its loud speaker and big battery. The keys are also very big. Another winning feature is the key “readout” feature. Any number you press will be read out by a built-in female voice. This can be a great help for people with visual disabilities. All the menu options, including file listings, are numbered.
There is an option for specifying a data account but I could not make it work. The menu options for MSN, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter look like decorations. This looks like a WAP phone at best.
Now, can you give this phone to a senior? I couldn’t because the phone has more features than I expected it to have. Also, there is no indication of a SAR value. As with all cheap phones, the risk of a battery explosion is always there. So, I have decided to use the phone myself. (I don’t carry phones in my pocket. I always keep it in a bag.)
The phone’s external display show status messages. There are three metal buttons next to the external LCD for controlling the playback of audio player. On the keypad, there are two dedicated call keys for each SIM. There are dedicated keys for the camera, music player, Bluetooth, and messages. The display quality is passable, given the price. The phone’s user interface is pretty fast. I like the fast that the phone allows me to enter alphabets very fast, unlike other phones that wait a whole second. The speakers are unbelievably loud. You can also charge the battery via USB port, in addition to the regular power port. The battery supposedly uses the same form factor as another 1500mAh Nokia BL 5F battery.
CONS: Phonebook name search does not work well.
DEFAULT PASSWORD: 1122
BOTTOMLINE: This Chinese phone has many useful features but there are big question marks over the quality and longevity of the phone. (The metal covers of the SIM slots are pretty loose and will come off easily.) I don’t know how long the phone will last. There is no bill. There is no guarantee. I wish I could buy a similar phone from an Indian company.