John Doe Amsterdam John's Phone in-depth review -

Look and feel

The retro style lightweight plastic body is all keypad - large number keys and even larger 'hello' and 'bye' buttons. It's reminiscent of toy telephones aimed at toddlers, while the easy-to-dial buttons could endear it to the 70+ set

Ease of use

As the self-proclaimed 'world's simplest phone', John's Phone can only make phone calls, and that is indeed easy. But being only able to add 10 numbers to speed dial makes life tougher, not easier, and having to input anything else in the bundled paper address book is quite cumbersome

Features

None - that's the point. You can literally only make phone calls - no texts, music or email - which could be a breath of fresh air for some

Performance

Call quality is fine, but the bundled earpiece is far too large for most ears, and the fact that a couple features require reference back to the manual detracts from the phone's simplicity

Battery life

Excellent, as you'd expect from the total lack of battery-sucking features.

 John Doe Amsterdam John's Phone Review -
3

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 4:00:05 PM

8

out of 10

Performance

8

out of 5

Look and feel

6

out of 5

Ease of use

2

out of 5

Features

8

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Cute design, with big buttons that are easy to press and a three-week battery life

Cons:

Paper address book makes life harder, not simpler, and you'll need to refer to manual for setting up speed dial. The bundled earphone is also far too large to use

Ever moaned about the ferocious pace of technology while yearning for simpler times and simpler phones? Well, somebody must have been listening, as we bring you John's Phone, an incredibly basic handset that is only capable of making phone calls - and that's no exaggeration. It even comes with a pen and paper slotted in its back. Too basic? You decide. 

Design

If retro is your thing, you just might dig John's Phone. About the size of a deck of cards, the lightweight plastic body comes in a choice of low-key matt colours - brown, green, black, white and pink - and its front is decorated with large round keys. Below the number pad are two even larger buttons for 'hello' and 'bye'. It has more than a passing resemblance to the toy telephones aimed at ages 2+, while the 70+ market could appreciate the easy-to-see factor. A traditional display screen has been eschewed for a pager-esque slim jobbie at the top of the phone, where you can see network and battery status, as well as the phone numbers that are dialling in or out. Hey, at least we have caller ID. At the side is a volume wheel and two slider switches for ringer volume and on/off. There's a bundled handsfree whose earpiece is apparently designed for a giant's lughole. Finally, the piece de resistance, a small address book (yes, the paper kind) slotted in the back cover, where you're meant to store all your numbers the old fashioned way. No pen? Don't worry, there's one included in the phone, where you'd usually a find a stylus in more technologically inclined devices.

The basics

And such basics they are: you can only make phone calls. No texts, no music, not even any real in-phone digital phonebook. You can however assign 10 favourite numbers to speed dial, though to find out how to do so, you'll have to refer to the manual, which isn't what we'd call easy-peasy.

In fact, the USP of this phone is that you can fire it up in any GSM-using country (that's the world minus the US, South Korea and Japan) with zero hassle - and if you run out of battery, your numbers aren't lost, because you've actually written them down somewhere.

Though the phone's marketing tagline is 'the world's simplest phone', we'd beg to differ. We had trouble getting the SIM card to be detected - this turned out to be because you have to turn the phone off to insert the SIM, then turn it on again. Slowly. That's because the on/off slider must be switched slowly, as the phone "doesn't know what to do when you go too fast". 

Not being able to store numbers by dialling them in is pretty inconvenient too, as is having to pull out a tiny pen, then flick through a tinier address book till you get to an empty page to write down a new number. Also, alphabetise much? Not on John's Phone you won't.

Value for money

At €70-100 (depending on the model) from various online retailers (see www.johnsphone.com for the full list), it's not exactly phenomenal value for money - not when Android smartphones like the Orange San Francisco are going for £99 on pay-as-you-go. Plus your bog-standard Nokia or Sony Ericsson candybar is equally free of frills and fancies, and equally ready to boot anywhere the GSM plays. But then again, you're paying for the design, darling.

The verdict

To be fair, this phone is definitely not meant to compete against, you know, real phones. But even anti-techies can't deny the usefulness of a digital phonebook or the humble text message. Even if you really 'just want to make phone calls', you'll find that simple objective thwarted by the fact you have to look up numbers in a wee book (which you'll probably lose, too). Still, John's Phone could be a cute novelty gift for the Luddite or so-trendy-they-hate-the-iPhone person in your life.

Natasha Stokes