One of the great things about talking to customers is that they sometimes ask really obvious things you’ve never thought of before. Like “How big are the buttons on your big button mobile phones‽”. When I worked on What Mobile magazine we used to print all the pictures of phones actual size. In those days the size of the phone was status, the smaller the better.

Buttons are generally getting worse on mobile phones. Touch screens don’t have the tactile feedback of real buttons, and smartphones with qwerty keyboards have more choc-a-block-buttons than a Cadburys factory.

So in a bid to answer the question I got out my camera, eleven big button phones and a pound coin.

They are shown above, from left to right they are the Geemarc CL8400, Panasonic KX-TU301, Beafon S700, Doro 610, Redstar BB1, Doro 410, Emporia RL1, Binatone BB500, newPlan CP21,  newPlan CP18, and EmporiaLife. The pond coins should all be exactly the same size so you get a relative feeling of size. If the coin looks bigger on the Redstar than on the Doro that’s an optical illusion caused by the size of the phone.

I don’t however think that the question is correctly framed. It should not be “which phone has the biggest buttons”, but “Which phone is easiest to use for someone with big fingers”. What really matters is the gap between the centre of the buttons. Phones like the Doro which has a gap all the way around the button are going to be easier to use than those like the Panasonic which has buttons that abut.

The Doro also has buttons that are slightly concave so if you press on the edge of the button your finger will be slid into place. The Panasonic has a little lip on each button to help you locate it. Note also that all phones have a pimple on the 5 key to help you locate the centre by touch.

The problem with dips, lips and pimples is that they can mark the screen of a fold phone, or worse, like the emporiaLIFE impede the slide. This also affects the travel of the keys so the phone with the best travel is one that doesn’t have a flip – the Beafon S700.

When looking at these pictures please don’t use them to judge screen sizes. The angle of the flip foreshortens  some of the screens.

All these phones have better buttons than a smartphone but that doesn’t mean there is no room for improvement.

Simon Rockman