The Vodafone 155 is an entry-level phone designed for elderly mobile users -- or anyone who wants a straightforward mobile with large buttons and menus that are easy to understand.
At just £25 on pay as you go, the 155, also known as the Alcatel V155, is very affordable -- yet it packs in a fair few features, including an SOS button on the back that can be customised to call and text a variety of contacts, plus hearing-aid compatibility and an FM radio.
The 155 also comes with a handy charging dock where it can be placed when at home.
Should I buy the Vodafone 155?
The Vodafone 155 is designed for elderly people who would have trouble with small buttons or touchscreens.
The network describes it as a "helpful no-frills phone" -- and it's certainly light on features. But in my view they could have trimmed a few more functions to make it even more straightforward to use.
While it's pretty simple for making and receiving calls, and has a handy SOS button on the back for emergencies, the menus and features aren't always as basic as they could be.
But it is very cheap -- just £25 -- which makes it cheaper than other super-basic mobiles such as the Doro PhoneEasy 409gsm, which costs around £90.
Calling and texting
The Vodafone 155 has big, easy to mash buttons, and a small, colourful screen. It looks more like a cordless telephone than a fancy new-fangled mobile, especially when sitting in the handy charging dock that comes in the box.
There is one three-way navigation key that might be a bit fiddly for someone who's not that dextrous so, if in doubt, do try to test the phone before buying.
Making a phone call is easy from the homescreen -- you simply key in the number you're after and push the big green call button. The phone also includes a contacts book where names and numbers can be stored so you don't have to input the number every time. And there's a handy call log so it's easy to see who's been trying to call you.
On the back of the handset is an SOS button, which can be configured to dial up to four contacts. The button will also send an SOS text message to the listed contacts -- a useful feature if you have concerns about the safety of an elderly or frail relative.
But bear in mind that they would still have to be able to get to the phone to use the feature -- and since it's likely to be sitting in the charging dock when at home, they may not be near it when they need to call for help.
Ease of use
The 155 lets you write and read texts via a messaging menu. Composing texts means multi-pressing the numeral keys in the old-fashioned pre-T9 way -- so, for example, typing the word 'the' means pressing the 8 key once, the 4 key twice and the 3 key twice. It's certainly a slow and fiddly way to text but does mean the phone can have fewer -- and therefore bigger -- buttons on the front.
Despite having a generally stripped down feel, the 155's menus do tend to have more options than are strictly necessary for the target audience. For instance, when adding a contact to the phone book the user is prompted to specify whether they want to store the contacts on the phone or the SIM -- a decision that's likely to confuse many people.
There are also often more features and options than feel strictly necessary to ensure a really simple experience -- the phone has a voice memo feature, for instance, and even a few games. In my view it would have benefitted from stripping back even more to reduce the risk of confusion.
One feature that might be welcomed is an FM radio. This is fiddly to use, however -- locating stations is especially tricky as the interface is sluggish. It's also not immediately obvious how to turn the radio off when you've turned it on -- although there is a dedicated (but small) FM radio button on the side of the handset that can be used to toggle it.
Size and build quality
The handset fits easily in a small hand -- it's about as wide as a credit card and thinner than a pack of cards. It's plasticky so is reasonably lightweight. The buttons have raised numerals which stand out slightly when you run a finger over them. The sample I tested had pale grey numerals on a gunmetal grey background, however, which doesn't seem ideal colourings if you have poor eyesight.
Although the handset has a slightly textured surface on the back this isn't enough to make it feel grippy. Indeed, the plastic is very slippery to the touch, so someone with poor dexterity may find it difficult to hold comfortably.
The Vodafone 155 is a very affordable mobile, ideal for an elderly relative or someone who needs a very basic phone for making calls and to have in case of emergencies.
The handset is not always as simple to use as it could be, but it's considerably cheaper than most of the phones in this basic category, including Doro's range of simplified devices, so if your budget is very limited the 155 is a worthy option.