Feature phones have fallen out of fashion as most people reach for smartphones, but they remain a solid choice if you're looking for a simple, no-frills device. The $50 Doro PhoneEasy 626 on Consumer Cellular is an inexpensive, easy-to-use flip phone with great call quality. If all you need is a phone to call and text, the 626 fits the bill perfectly. But if you also want to keep in touch via email and video calls, you're better off with a smartphone like our Editors' Choice, the Doro 824 SmartEasy.
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Design and Features
The PhoneEasy 626 is a clamshell phone that comes in black, burgundy, or silver; we tested the burgundy model. Coming in at 4.02 by 2.05 by 0.75 inches (HWD) and 3.67 ounces, it's about the same size as the older Doro PhoneEasy 618 (4.0 by 2.1 by 0.9 inches; 4.05 ounces) but half an ounce lighter. It's easy to use one-handed.
The front is made of smooth red plastic. There's a rectangular black-and-white screen that displays the time and informs you of incoming calls. Below that is Doro's logo, and above you'll find a pair of notification LEDs. A green light indicates a new message or a missed call, while a red light indicates low battery or that the phone is charging.
The sides are made of white plastic with clicky volume buttons on the right, and micro USB and headphone (3.5mm) ports on the left. There are mounts on the bottom for a charging stand (not included), as well as a hook for a lanyard attachment (included). The back is matte red, with a grippy, rubberized finish. You can remove the back panel by sliding it down, giving you access to the removable battery, SIM card slot, and microSD card slot that worked fine with a 64GB Leef Pro card.
Flipping the 626 open gives you access to the 2.4-inch, 320-by-240 color display on the top section and the keypad on the bottom. The display is bright, with big text and good visibility outdoors, though viewing angles aren't so great. The keypad has large buttons that are easy to press. They are backlit so you can still see them in the dark. Aside from the standard Call and Navigation buttons, there's also a Camera button to launch the camera and a Message button to open your texts.
Above the removable back panel, there's a shiny plastic section with a programmable Emergency Alert button that will call an emergency contact. The button needs to be pressed three times in a row in order to make the call, which makes it difficult to toggle accidentally. The call begins after a five-second delay, so if it's been triggered by accident, you can cancel it by pressing the Call End button on the keypad. When the emergency call is connected, the handset automatically switched to hands-free mode and boosts speaker volume.
On the phone itself, there's also an In Case of Emergency (ICE) section with optional information that can be useful to first responders. You can input your name, birthday, height, weight, address, language, insurance info, medical conditions, allergies, blood type, vaccinations, medications, and any other like if you are an organ donor, consent to treatment, or have a living will.
Network, Audio, and Battery
Consumer Cellular is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that uses AT&T's and T-Mobile's networks. It has topped PCMag's Readers' Choice Awards several years in a row and is popular for its inexpensive plans and strong network. The 626 supports GSM (900/1800/1900MHz), UMTS (900/2100MHz), and HSPA (900/2100MHz) bands for solid 3G connectivity. I was able to make calls without issue from multiple locations in midtown Manhattan.
Call quality is excellent. Transmissions are clear, voices sound natural, and earpiece volume is loud, as are the rear speakers. Noise cancellation is also strong; I couldn't detect any background sound, even when placing calls from loud areas. The phone supports wired audio with its 3.5mm audio jack or wireless with the aging Bluetooth 2.0 standard, and is compatible with M3/T4 hearing aids.
Battery life is average, at least when it comes to talk time. The 626 clocked 4 hours and 32 minutes of voice calling. That's less than the Samsung Jitterbug Plus (5 hours and 37 minutes), as well as the six hours of talk time Doro claims it should have. However, when closed and in standby mode, the phone drains almost no battery at all; Doro says it can last up to 16 days like this.
Camera, Navigation, and Conclusions
You get a 2-megapixel camera with an LED flash. It's capable of taking pictures, recording video, and even has a digital zoom. However, most shots of my test shots were blurry or soft, unless I kept extremely still. Photos are saved in JPG. You can share them via text message, Bluetooth, or by saving to a microSD card then transferring to your computer.
There are only a handful of other functions. On the home screen, you have the information about the network, time, date, and battery life. From there, you can choose between Menu and Name. Name takes you to straight to the Phonebook. Menu lets you navigate the Call Log, Camera, Messages, More, Organizer, Settings, and Phonebook. Under More, you'll find a Calculator, Flashlight, FM Radio, Games, and Status information. Organizer is home to Alarm, Calendar, Daily Reminder, and Notes.
You have to navigate through layers of menus in order to activate simple settings like Bluetooth. There's no media player, but you can play music (WAV/AMR/MIDI/MP3/AAC/AAC+) and video (MP4/3GPP) by going into the File Manager (under Settings) and opening the file. In this regard, the 626 is not as user-friendly as it could be. A simpler menu layout could greatly improve usability.
The phone comes with 128MB of storage, of which 78MB is available. Since there's very little you can actually do with the phone, that should be more than sufficient. If you want to store music, photos, or video you can always toss in a microSD card.
See How We Test Cell Phones
The Doro PhoneEasy 626 is a no-frills feature phone with great call quality. It's one of two flip phones you can get on Consumer Cellular. The other is the Envoy. We haven't tested the Envoy yet, but it has the same basic capabilities than the 626, except it lacks an Emergency Alert button. On the other hand, if you're looking for something more advanced, the Doro 824 SmartEasy is our Editors' Choice for easy-to-use smartphone. It lets you download apps, browse the Web, and make video calls, all with a simplified interface that's geared toward seniors and other first-time users.