It's plastic build, dour display and over-sized keys mean the Emporia RL1 is not going to win any style awards
Though the lack of features means there's not much to master, we found a slight delay in key recognition led to the odd typo when texting
An SMS Blacklist facility, calculator, birthday reminder and torch are all kitted out on this feature-bare handset
For a back to basics handset to work, it must do the basics well (i.e. calling and texting). Sadly, the Emporia RL1 doesn't even manage this
A mediocre battery life, though the lack of features means you won't have to charge it too often
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 4:01:15 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
The ability to blacklist designated numbers from texting you may warn off some unwanted attention
The call quality was poor and for a phone that supposedly caters for the hard of hearing is near unforgiveable
When Emporia (and its rival Doro) first appeared on our radar they very much prided themselves on being handsets for the "silver generation" (aka OAP's). Perhaps recognising that people don't like to be reminded or referred to as 'old' both companies have moved away from this position, billing their phones as being simple, easy to use handsets that might well appeal to said older folk, but also those after a no frills device, which is exactly what the Emporia RL1 is.
The Emporia RL1 is not going to win any awards for its looks. Lacking the retro look and feel of its predecessor the Emporia Elegance, it resembles something akin to an old fashioned calculator with large buttons adorning the front of the device. Its plastic build also gives the phone a very lightweight feel that would make us nervous about it surviving a fall on the floor. The idea behind these oversized keys is that it makes it near impossible to not hit the right buttons when typing in a name or number, which is great in theory. However, we found the phone had a slight delay in recognising a key press, particularly when using the text facility, which ultimately led to us making the occasional typo.
Being a back to basics handset, the ability to send text messages is one of the very few features found on the Emporia RL1, the others being a calculator, birthday reminder and a torch. The torch lies at the top of the handset while the button to switch it on sits on the right side of the phone. It needs to be held down for it to work and to be honest it's not bright enough to be useful for anything other than finding the keyhole of your front door at night. That said it will also flash when you receive a call, but unless the torch is directly facing you you're unlikely to notice it.
To access the SMS facility, calculator, birthday reminder and settings menu, you'll need to press the middle key of Emporia's staple silver strip that separates the display from the numeric keys, in an upwardly direction - pressing it down accesses the phonebook. Let's focus on the SMS facility, as well the calculator is self-explanatory and to be honest we think the birthday reminder will remain pretty redundant, unless you can be bothered to systematically type in the DOB of friends and loved ones - there's no Facebook sync here.
As mentioned, we found a slight delay hindered our texting prowess, but Emporia has implemented some additional touches that are worth noting. For example, there is an SMS Blacklist facility that enables you prevent specific numbers texting you. This was easy to set up, but as any blocked number can still call you, it's not going to rid you of any unwanted attention. The size of the text characters can also be adjusted to a very large scale, useful if you do happen to be visually impaired, though of course the bigger you make it, the less will be visible on the two-tone display.
The Emporia RL1 is also kitted out with an exceptionally loud ringtone, geared towards the hard of hearing. It can be set to either an increasing crescendo or a blockbusting sound from the off. While this bodes well for the partially deaf, we were hugely disappointed to find the call quality was exceptionally bad. The person on the other end of the line said they could hear us fine, but for us the conversation was muffled and crackly.
On paper, £60 for a prepay back to basics handset makes for an attractive proposition. There's certainly a demographic that wants a no frills handset, old or otherwise. However, the Emporia RL1 just doesn't cut the mustard failing at the most quintessential elements of being a phone; calling and texting.