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Smartphone review: amplicomms PowerTel M9000

amplicomms entry level android handset featuring T4/M4 hearing aid compatibility.

Amplicomms M9000

The amplicomms M9000 is a smart phone customised for older people and those with hearing impairment. The device is feature rich and runs on the ever-popular Jelly Bean OS.

Like Doro’s recent foray into tailored smartphone technology (Liberto 810), the M9000 is far removed from the ugly, big button devices that were previously the mainstay offering to the older market.

The M9000 is a leap forward but, and it has to be said, it has a couple more to make to align itself with its stated aim of ease of use for entry level users. Nevertheless, the pros offered by this feature rich handset outweigh the cons and amplicomms have delivered a device that shows real potential.  

User interface

The user interface on this device is excellent – bringing the familiarity of windows ‘live tiles’ in a hierarchical layout.

There is a pleasing level of adaptability to the User Interface (UI). For users who are familiar with Andriod handsets there is the option to revert to an Andriod standard display, while if the user is new to smartphones, or struggles with smaller fonts, the live tile system is a perfect navigation aid.  

One aspect of the UI that amplicomms need to address is touch screen sensitivity and responsiveness. All testers became frustrated with the performance of the device, particularly inputting text, though navigating the web and playing games also suffered – even with 'Show Touches' visual feedback switched on (this feature effecitively highlights where the user has touched). Whether this is a hardware or firmware based issue we don't have the expertise to say – but when you've reached level 83 on Candy Crush and you make a wrong move on account of an errant sweep of the finger it is pretty annoying. Joking aside, disruption to game play is one thing, being unable to input text (without significant effort) is another.

Live tiles

The live tile interface is a customisable menu of memory buttons which can be pre-programmed with phone numbers so you can phone someone by pressing one button rather than entering the whole telephone number. Tiles include: call logs – listing missed calls and previously dialed numbers; Messaging – for quick access to text messages; Contacts – for everything from family and friends to your whole social circle; Camera – 5mega pixel and gallery – for media (photos, video) you stored on the device. Plus there are programmable tiles for Calendar, Internet, Alarms, Music and Settings.

Features

Built on Jelly Bean 4.2.2 the device includes all the functional goodies you would expect of an Android handset, but with the added bonus of an SOS button (on the back of the handset), extra-loud volume and hearing aid compatibility.

Amplicomms M9000 emergency button

Emergency call button

The M9000 has a ‘no fuss’ emergency call button, which when pressed will automatically call a pre selected list of numbers (usually up to five numbers). The numbers can be programmed or changed by the user (or a family member ); meaning once activated the device will automatically send a text message to each of the numbers, then begin dialling each number in turn until the call is answered.

T4/M4 hearing aid compatibility

The M9000 is a phone that promises much for people with hearing loss so we were eager to discover whether it would live up to the PR hype.

The volume controls are prominent and easy to use. All our older testers commended the device on volume control, clarity and audibility. The incoming speech volume offers up to 40dB of amplification without distortion or the tinny sounding output of some of the smartphones on the market – a phone is there for conversation and we're pretty confident that the M9000 does the job. Like most devices, this handset can be used with ring tone or with vibrate – you are un;ikely to miss a call with either; the ring tone, which can be selected by the user,  has a volume scale of up to 90dB – very impressive and very useful for taking calls when you are outdoors or in a noisy environment.

Battery & charge

We were impressed with the operating life of the battery in the M9000. The device was used as a consumer handset and as a working (office) device with similarly impressive results. The product spec says the battery will hold for 8 days on standby and we found that that wasn't far off. Our testers gave the handset some heavy consumer usage and the battery exceeded the estimated life by more than 90 minutes, which was pleasing. Even when used for data intensive tasks such as office-related email and online use, the battery stood up well.

It is very reassuring to know that the device will hold its charge when out and about. This is a definite plus point for ampliccoms.

Our verdict

We sent the handset out to a number of 50connect members and their comments varied in line with their experience of using smart devices. Praise for the stripped down amplicomms interface was universal – the high contrast customisable tiled layout was found to be easily navigable, and easy to use.

Some of the less familar testers found allocating contacts to the emergency call button confusing, but with some coaching all managed it. Similarly transferring contacts, also presented problems – but this time for all users. The absence of a web interface through which handset owners can sync their device and manage contacts is an oversight the manufacturer would be well advised to correct. 

Browsing the internet via the device was poor with connection only possible via wifi. This isn't a deal breaker, as a phone's primary purpose is, surprise surprise, to be used for calls and contact, however when a function is there and fails to work it is disappointing. For those of our testers who use Facebook and play games such as Candy Crush and Farmville this was an inconvenience, but lacking connectivity severely inhibits the effectiveness of other services that are available through the device – ie use of maps, email, and internet.

Battery life is excellent and the phone can be charged by traditional mains charger or from your computer – connecting USB to micro USB.

In short then, a nice try from amplicomms but more work is needed to bring it to the level that would make it the go-to device for older or hearing impaired phone users.

   

Product specification

  • High resolution 4" TFT-LCD colour display

  • Front camera 300 K Pixel, back camera 5 M Pixel Autozoom

  • Send / receive SMS/MMS messages and emails

  • Menu in 12 languages (GB, DE, FR, ES, IT, NL, TR, PT, SE, DK, NO, FI) on both interfaces (amplicomms and Android)

  • Quadband GSM (850/900/1800/1900 MHz)

  • Dual Cards (SIM + UIM)

  • Dual Core 1.2 GHz CPU

  • 256 MB RAM, 516 MB ROM, support a TF memory card up to 32 GB

 

Features

Front camera 300 K Pixel, back camera 5 M Pixel Autozoom

WiFi: IEEE 802.11b/g, 2G GPRS/EDGE, 3G: WCDMA/HSPA

OS: Android 4.2.2

Handset volume up to approx. 40 dB

Music player support WAV, WMA, AAC and MP3

Extra-loud ring tone adjustable to approx. 90 dB

Selectable vibration alarm for incoming calls

Wireless connection to Bluetooth devices including computers, headsets, induction loops or in-car systems.

Transfer of phonebook entries (dependant on Bluetooth® protocol)

Send/receive SMS/MMS messages and emails

Chargeable with power supply (Micro-USB)

Headset socket (3,5 mm Jack)

Functions: Calendar, Calculator, Tasks, Alarm Clock, Stopwatch

Operating time of approx. 6 hours

Stand-by time of approx. 8 days

Battery: Li-Ion 1.600 mAh

Dimensions mobile phone: 126 x 66,3 x 11,9 mm

Weight incl. Battery: 126 gtest

Last modified: January 5, 2015

Written by 11:50 am Technology