The Doro 7050 ($49.99), Consumer Cellular's new flip phone, stays connected using AT&T's growing LTE network, tapping into a wider coverage area than previous 3G flip phones are able to.
If you're looking for a simple voice phone just to make calls, the 7050's roomy keypad and decent speaker are just the ticket.
You also need to start moving to 4G voice phones now, and the 7050 is one of very few choices out there.
The 7050 will have better coverage, for more years, than almost any other flip phone currently on the market, making it an Editors' Choice.
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The 7050 looks like your typical flip phone.
It has somewhat shiny red plastic on the front, with matte and textured plastic on the back.
It weighs 4.3 ounces.
The phone isn't waterproof, but it has a removable battery, and if you drop it, the parts might fall apart, but it should be just fine when you put it back together.
The keypad is a real star here, with raised, separated, clicky, and backlit keys, all of which are slightly domed but not mushy.
There's a volume rocker on the side.
The power button is the same as the hang-up button, because this is an old-school phone.
There's a big, bright monochrome LCD on the outside that shows time, date, battery, and caller ID, but oddly not signal strength.
The outside also has a small, dim green light that flashes slowly when you have a missed call.
Inside, there's a bright 2.8-inch, 320-by-240 LCD that defaults to large fonts and a high-contrast theme.
On the back, you'll find an unusual button.
It's an emergency button, which can be set to call a custom number if you press it three times quickly.
You can set it to 911 if you want, or to any of your contacts.
While this phone is designed for seniors, it could also work as a phone for kids because it can be locked to fixed dialing, or to only being able to call or be called by whitelisted numbers.
Carrier and Operating System
The 7050 is exclusive to Consumer Cellular, a major virtual carrier that uses the AT&T network.
Consumer Cellular has decently priced plans; this phone seems likely to pair well with the $20-per-month, 250 minutes and unlimited text plan, or the $25 per month unlimited talk and text plan.
One advantage of a phone this limited is that it doesn't use a lot of data—you'll only be using data for photo and video messages sent through MMS.
Consumer Cellular is less expensive to use than GreatCall, the other senior-focused carrier, largely because it doesn't have GreatCall's specialized health and safety services, like on-call nurses and human operators.
Consumer Cellular is for folks who just want good customer service and not much fuss.
KaiOS is an innovative, low-impact new operating system based on some of the same original code base as Firefox OS, but you'd never know it; the 7050 has been tweaked to work like the most basic possible feature phone.
It stores 500 contacts, which you will need to enter on the phone.
There are 26 ringtones, and you can choose ringtones by contact.
The phone also has a basic calendar, calculator, photo gallery, flashlight, and file manager.
You can use the digital zoom in the camera app as a magnifying glass.
There is nothing downloadable, no email, no messaging apps other than SMS, and no web browser.
Unfortunately, KaiOS can also feel a little sluggish, because screens sometimes have fancy transitions that take more time than necessary.
There's a microSD card slot under the battery that took our 256GB card just fine, but it's only for photos and videos that overflow the 2GB of internal storage.
The phone has no MP3 player, although there's an FM radio you can use with a standard 3.5mm headset.
US wireless carriers are going through a transition that will leave many voice phone users behind.
AT&T has turned off its 2G network, and as of the end of 2018, its 3G network will be slowly deprecated toward a 2021 turn-off.
Verizon is ending 3G in 2019.
T-Mobile has already pretty much killed 2G and 3G.
But there are very few simple voice phones that can work both on the older 3G networks and the newer 4G networks during this changeover period.
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The 7050 connects using Consumer Cellular/AT&T's 3G network and its LTE bands 2/4/5/7/12.
So coverage here combines 3G and 4G—it's not like the Kyocera Cadence LTE on Verizon, where you lose 3G.
The phone has 2G onboard, too, but AT&T doesn't have a 2G network anymore.
Voice quality is good.
The phone supports AT&T's HD Voice standard, which works when calling both AT&T and Verizon phones.
It's important to note that HD Voice is a 4G LTE technology on this network, and so 3G flip phones won't have it.
You can turn off VoLTE and make calls on the 3G network, but then you lose HD Voice.
There's no Wi-Fi calling on this phone, because there's no Wi-Fi.
If you want to use a headset, there's a standard 3.5mm jack and Bluetooth 4.1.
There's a little bit of background hiss in some calls but otherwise things are clear.
There's an "enhance volume" option that increases the volume by about 7dB.
The earpiece feels quite loud with it on, but I measured it to only be as loud as the iPhone XS Max or other large, leading, $1,000 smartphones.
The speakerphone is quieter than those large smartphones, at 75db at a 6-inch distance, but it's still fine to use indoors.
Text messaging is basic, but at least the phone can both send and receive photos, videos, and GIFs over MMS.
Texting defaults to triple-tapping; predictive text is also available.
The phone doesn't support emoji, though—there's no way to type emoji, and any emoji received just appear as a square block.
There's no quick keypad button for texting—if you want to start a new text message, you have to go into the menu.
The camera is poor.
There is only one, on the outside of the flip, and it takes 2-megapixel shots that look dark and smeary.
Any backlight creates a flare; anything other than bright, even light becomes first noisy, then consumed by shadows.
The video camera records videos in the postage stamp size of 176-by-144.
There's not much good to be said here.
Doro says the phone has 10 hours of talk time on its 1,000mAh battery; I found it had about three days of standby, on the better side if you set the front screen to not be lit up showing the time by default.
It Could Have Been More
So here's what I know that isn't obvious: The 7050 is a crippled version of the Doro 7060, a European phone that runs an OS called KaiOS 2.5.
KaiOS is capable of browsing the web, running apps, and connecting to services.
Consumer Cellular president John Marick convinced me that his customers don't want to browse the web on its phones—fair enough.
But KaiOS could have let this phone sync its contacts or calendar with web or cloud services, making them much easier to input.
Verizon flip phones were doing that in 2006.
It's not like it's a new technology.
Consumer Cellular could also have brought over the streaming music player from its GrandPad tablet; I know lots of older people who like to listen to music while gardening, for instance.
I would love to have seen how Doro and Consumer Cellular could have reinvented the feature phone idea, in an era of cloud services, to make it more powerful and yet still easy to use.
Instead, they took the most conservative possible path, which doesn't result in a bad product, just some missed opportunities.
Carriers are focusing on 4G for coverage and call quality, and yet there are not many good 4G flip phones on the market.
(The Alcatel Go Flip, which runs an earlier version of KaiOS, isn't very good.) The Doro 7050 is one of the few 4G LTE voice phones out there.
With HD Voice, it delivers a significant leap in voice quality when calling other phones on the AT&T physical network, and it has a delightful keypad.
It's all the phone you need if all you want to do is make calls, and our Editors' Choice for simple voice phones.
The Jitterbug Flip, our other pick for senior phones, is soon being upgraded to work with 4G voice calling.
The Flip is even easier to use than the Doro 7050, and its carrier, GreatCall, has interesting health-and-safety services like live operators and on-call doctors and nurses.
It's a more expensive phone, though, so it's primarily for people who want to take advantage of those services.
Doro 7050 (Consumer Cellular)
The Bottom Line
The Doro 7050 for Consumer Cellular is a rare affordable-yet-future-proof LTE voice phone.
Its capabilities are very basic, but it'll stay connected for years to come.