Emporia LIFE Plus, TALK Premium and hagenuk fono e100: side by side

Introduction, Design and Functionality
Note: From all three phones, only the Emporia LIFE Plus has a version supporting U.S. GSM frequencies.


Smartphones are all the rage now and have been the most revered and highly respected inhabitants of the cell phone world lately. There is nothing wrong with that really, but have you ever though what this means for older people? You know, the generation that still considers phones with number dials the best and will never admit paper letters are a thing of the past. While young people want more and more extra features, all that most of our elders need and wish for is a cell phone that is as simple and user-friendly as possible – with large buttons, powerful loudspeaker, robust battery, large-size fonts and basic functionality with simple interface that doesn’t require a degree in quantum physics to operate. This is the type of cell phones we are going to talk about today.

Say “Hi!” to the slider Emporia LIFE Plus and the classic candybars Emporia TALK Premium and hagenuk fono e100 – three handsets aimed at the customer group we described above.

Design and functionality:

Generally speaking, the overall design and appeal of a cell phone is one of the major factors behind its market success or failure. In the particular case of the Emporia LIFE Plus, Emporia TALK Premium and hagenuk fono e100, however, said factors are not of an utmost importance. We highly doubt it older people are keenly interested in the color scheme or material a handset is made from. They just need something to help them dial numbers, answer calls, have a conversation in the easiest way possible and see what’s on screen (without having to resort to a pair of an inch-thick glasses). We will even go as far as to say that (within certain and reasonable limit, of course) the overall size and weight are not decisive factors either.

Size does not really matter... or does it?

Of all three, the Emporia LIFE Plus, Emporia TALK Premium and hagenuk fono e100, the only one that we consider overly bulky is the LIFE Plus and as we have already mentioned, it’s a slider phone. When open, however, it is really huge. We guess most people will find it appealing – those with big hands would be happy that they have finally found a handset to meet their needs, while everybody else would probably be tempted to get one for its self-defense qualities (not a joke), because the device is literally on the hefty and voluminous side of life. Both the Emporia TALK Premium and hagenuk fono e100 have utterly acceptable overall dimensions and we even consider the latter compact.

All three are equipped with ordinary, monochromatic displays that are not touch-sensitive and have orange backlighting. Logically, the colossal Emporia LIFE Plus is the easiest to read text on, especially with the so-called “jumbo” function activated. The other Emporia model offers font resizing and we believe it also allows its owners to easily discern on-screen letters. The hagenuk fono E100 doesn’t offer such a function, but the font is of large enough size, so it won’t give you any troubles even if you happen to have a problem with your eyes.

The buttons are… huge!

As Winnie-the-Pooh says “You never have them till you're having them” and this fully applies to the size of the buttons all three handsets are equipped with. In this case, however, it’s not all about size, because the marks on them, proper backlighting and comfort of use are not to be underestimated. And the winner is… the Emporia TALK Premium with its black buttons with white letter pattern and bright backlighting that are absolutely trouble-free to press. The runner-up is the hagenuk fono E100 that integrates truly comfortable keypad, although the button designations tend to melt into the background color. The gigantic Emporia LIFE Plus comes up last and the reason is the buttons below the display (i.e. send, end and navigational keys) are unhandy, since they are quite hard to press.

There are other hardware buttons on the left and right hand sides of the three handsets, but they are not really easy to use in the case of the hagenuk fono E100, not to mention they are just a few alongside of what the Emporia duo is equipped with.

And let there be light

All three handsets sport extra features that are not exactly common with cell phones today – torchlight. The function is slightly harder to activate on the hagenuk fono E100 as compared to both Emporia handsets, because the button is actually a slider. On the other hand, the flashlight switch of the latter two is less comfortable to operate, because you have to keep it pressed all the time, while in the case of the fono E100 all you need to do is slide the switch. If you consider the torchlight of great importance, then you probably need to know that the Emporia LIFE Plus is the brightest, with the Emporia TALK Premium coming off next and the hagenuk fono e100 faring worst. For the record, they all emit light that is intense enough to help you find your keys or spot the keyhole in the dark.

Simple things can be unique too

Who would have thought that cell phones like these can actually integrate unique features? No, this is not a joke. Each one of the Emporia LIFE Plus, Emporia TALK Premium and hagenuk fono e100 comes with its unique option that is not common with handsets today.

-    The Emporia LIFE Plus integrates an SOS button located on the back. Pressing it makes the cell phone immediately dial the emergency number for the country you are in. it’s a good thing the special button (with the symbol of a heart on it) can be deactivated or assigned up to five additional numbers that are both dialed and sent a short message whenever you press the SOS key. Finally, it’s built deep into the phone body, so pressing it by accident is unlikely.
-    The hagenuk fono E100 offers similar functionality as well, although you don’t have the option to add additional phone numbers to be dialed/texted in case of emergency. The SOS button is, however, just a slider that moves way too easily and we ended up calling for help on several occasions during our tests. We cannot say the experience was enjoyable either.
-    The Emporia TALK Premium lacks a dedicated SOS button, but comes with a retractable panel that allows you to (physically) write down up to five telephone numbers and we do mean with a pen. This is quite a nice feature indeed, since you can just pull out the pane and see your daughter’s number instead of wasting half an hour going through a lengthy paper directory. Cool, isn’t it? We do think that modern Android handsets should be equipped with such a panel.

Simplicity – fundamentals of the interface

You don’t really think that cell phones like these will be brimming with games and allow access to application stores full of software titles, do you? Everything about the interface of the Emporia LIFE Plus, Emporia TALK Premium and hagenuk fono e100 is minimalistic and simplified as much as possible, including phone book,  text messaging, speed dial, alarms and event entry (to help you not to forget the birthdays of your grandkids). The only cell phone of these three that comes with a relatively richer functionality alongside of its brethren is the LIFE Plus.

No matter which one you opt for, the Emporia LIFE Plus, Emporia TALK Premium or hagenuk fono e100, the handset will be exceptionally easy to handle. Well, we like the TALK Premium best, because almost all phone functions are accessible via the buttons on either side of the device.


It’s all about calls really

Having made it this far, you probably already know that cell phones like these are designed with calls in mind (more than anything else). The fact that there seems to be a logical conformity in the overall functionality with this respect is merely accidental.

The largest of the three, the Emporia LIFE Plus, offers the loudest sound at both ends of the line, but happens to be the worst when it comes to in-call quality. You will understand you callers, although their voices will sound overly sharp and nasal, rather displeasing really.

The Emporia TALK Premium gets the silver and it also delivers sound that packs some punch, plus the in-call quality is better alongside of the LIFE Plus. The excessive sharpness is almost too much to bear though.

The hagenuk fono е100, the smallest of these three, comes off last. Unlike both Emporia models, the compact device proves to be a capable performer, at least in terms of in-call quality. What you can hear on both ends of the line is relatively clear sound and it’s just too bad that it’s too quiet in our own lights. Imagine how the people it’s targeted at would feel when using the handset for calls… By the way, the cell phone offers a special function for people with impaired hearing that allows you to hear your own voice.

All three handsets integrate loudspeakers, although we cannot say they sound any differently. Both Emporia models appear superior to the hagenuk fono e100, because they produce loud sound, even if the quality is far from perfect.

What’s that power cut?

Given the overall functionality of the Emporia LIFE Plus, Emporia TALK Premium and hagenuk fono e100, we did expect them to fare much better in terms of battery performance, at least when used for calls. Here is what the manufacturers claim about their products:

-    The Emporia LIFE Plus – equipped with Li-ion 1,200 mAh battery that keeps the device operational for up to 250 hours in standby and provides about 3 hours of continuous talk time.
-    The Emporia TALK Premium with Li-ion 1,200 mAh battery that keeps the device operational for up to 210 hours in standby and provides about 2.5 hours of continuous talk time.
-    The hagenuk fono E100 – comes with Li-ion 1,000 mAh battery that keeps the device operational for up to 150 hours in standby and provides about 2.5 hours of continuous talk time.

To put it mildly, we are disappointed at the batteries of the handsets, since we just cannot see what drains them so fast – they all lack 3G, multitasking, color (and touch-sensitive) displays, cameras, Bluetooth… equipped with batteries like these, the cell phones should perform at least twice as good.


The first thing we thought when we unboxed the Emporia LIFE Plus, Emporia TALK Premium and hagenuk fono e100 was „Oh Dear, this cannot be.” at the sight of the huge keys and strange SOS buttons. However, we are pretty used to ignoring first impressions and not allowing them to influence our opinion. Eventually, we believe these cell phones deserve the attention of the market segment they are aimed at. Come to think of it, most of us have relatives that are advanced in age and might well fall out to be what said people need.

Ultimately, we believe there is market for the three models we reviewed and they will manage to find their own niche in the expanding cell phone universe, because each one of them has its own virtues and demerits (there are no perfect devices). The Emporia LIFE Plus is huge... and it’s got a heart on its back (SOS button); the Emporia TALK Premium lacks such a key, but comes with a writing pad (you literally write using a pen) with enough space for 5 numbers of your choosing and features extremely handy buttons; we like the hagenuk fono e100 best, at least in terms of design and overall appeal, but its unhandy hardware buttons located on either side of the device are rather disagreeable, even if we disregard the overly quiet sound during calls.

We don’t really think one these is vastly superior to the other and there is no clear-cut victor or vanquished here. Still, we admit the Emporia TALK Premium is our favorite, since it appears to be better balanced on the overall.

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