Review of Amplicomms PowerTel M9500
On the surface, the Amplicomms PowerTel M9500 looks like any other smart phone. It has a large 5 inch screen which runs on Android, 8MP rear camera, 2MP front camera, Micro SD support (up to 32GB), Bluetooth 4.0, and 4G capabilities. This is however where the similarities end because the M9500 was designed with simplicity in mind and caters to a senior market that want to have the latest technology but struggle with the application of it.
Phone for the hearing impaired
You may be thinking…how is this related to hearing? Well, the Amplicomms telephone was designed with hearing impairment in mind. It has the most efficient hearing aid compatibility rating of M4 and T4. These ratings are basically a measurement of the quality of the Loop/T setting and the microphone. It indicates that the phone has received the highest compliance rating with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) standards for hearing aid compatibility.
Volume Boost function
It has a boost function button on the side of the phone which enables the user to enhance the output of the speaker by up to 40dB. Also, the ring tone itself can be up to 90dB which is very loud. I myself have normal hearing and the first time it rang I must say it scared the life out of me. Amplicomms are not exagerrating and means that even people with severe hearing impairment should be able to hear the phone ringing.
The handsfree kit that comes with the M9500 is very basic. The headphones are poor quality and voices were shallow and distorted. I found this disappointing as the phone is designed for individuals with hearing impairment. In fairness to them though, I can’t name any phone that comes with a half decent set of headphones as standard.
The M9500 is built on the Android 5.1 system and Amplicomms have essentially added an operating system to work on top of this. You can easily switch to the traditional Android format by going to option 3 under the ‘More…’ menu and selecting ‘Exit System’. I used it in this mode for some time but the phone experienced a lot of lag as the computing power is somewhat lacking compared to a higher end smart phone. This is of course irrelevant if you are going to be using the phone how it was designed.
The PowerTel M9500 uses patent-pending ‘senior friendly’ touch buttons which means that you must press and hold the screen rather than simply tapping. This is to prevent accidental button presses and allows for slower reaction times. It is also to accommodate for individuals with decreased sensation in their fingers.
What I really liked which I hadn’t seen before is the dual SIM card socket. It would allow the user to simultaneously use two numbers in one phone. For example, if you were to have a winter home in Spain it would be cheaper for you to have a Spanish number but then you would have to switch to your UK phone when you got home. With this phone, you wouldn’t need to. You get to choose which SIM you would like to engage before initiating any form of communication.
This is the feature of the Powertel M9500 that really caught my attention. I have had to help family members many times with technology and often requires a special visit to see them to get it sorted. However, this may not always be possible and so the M9500 allows the user of the phone to request help via the ‘Help’ button on the main screen. They can then select the contact they want to help them and an invite is sent. The recipient of the invite is then able to follow a link and gain full remote access of the phone. Even better than this is the ability to draw lines and highlight buttons on the phone remotely so you can teach them rather than just taking over.
SOS & Caretaker
On the back of the phone is an SOS emergency button. When setting up the phone you have the option of assigning up to 3 emergency contacts. When you press and hold the emergency button a text is sent with a map of where the phone is at the same time as initiating a phone call to the selected contacts. A very useful feature if the person using the phone can remember to use it in an emergency.
As well as this, you can assign a caretaker for the phone. This basically means that when the battery reaches about 15% a text is automatically sent to the assigned recipient so they can remind the user of the phone to charge it.
A nice add on for the phone is a medication monitor. It reminds you to take your medication at selected intervals and notifies an assigned contact if a pill is missed. You can add morning, afternoon, evening and night time medication routines and also record a wide variety of measurements such as blood glucose levels which is great for people with diabetes. It also allows you to store information about your GP, and your hospital appointments.
Personally I found the phone very intuitive and did not require any instructions for use. The messaging centre was very nice as it integrates all of your whatsapp, texts, and email in to one space making it easier to access. The remote access was surprisingly easy to use; I thought that it may be too difficult to accomplish but the app works well. The battery lasted as advertised and the camera was surprisingly good when I did some filming at a wedding. My one bug bear with the phone was the lack of a light dependent resistor which turns off the screen when you are on a phone call. I hung up on a few people with my cheek without me knowing which would most certainly be confusing for their target audience. This is something they should look at improving on in the future.
Overall the phone is well thought out and is certainly something I will be passing on to my older relatives. It has some great features that really target their demographic and moves away from the traditional ‘brick’ phones that are associated with the senior market. There are certainly things that can be improved on for the next generation but it is certainly a great entry in to the smart phone market for Amplicomms.