Vodafone follows Fuss Free with 30 Day guarantee

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Vodafone has today announced that it will allow customers to cancel a new contract within 30 days and receive a full refund. Here at Fuss Free Phones we are a little surprised that they think this is so special. We’ve been doing exactly the same thing since we started.


Fuss Free Phones understands that sometimes people need a little more time. Customers might want a friend or relative to come round and help them with their new phone. Indeed research at Loughborough University  found that having someone over for tea, biscuits and to get a new phone going is a fun thing to do.


We also feel that our pride has been a little dented.  Vodafone says “We’re the only network that lets you try us out – our Vodafone 30-Day Network Guarantee gives you the freedom to experience the strength and quality of our network before you commit.”.

Hey! What about us, we are a mobile network too. And there is another thing missing: service isn’t just about mobile network coverage. It’s about how well the whole service works. Fuss Free Phones uses the O2 network which has 95% coverage of the UK population and while the mobile networks all give statistics from surveys measured in different ways to show that they are the best, the truth is that in some places one network will be better than others and in others they share tower sites so they are all exactly the same. No network is uniformly better than another but that doesn’t matter. What matters is how well it works for you. Both Fuss Free Phones and Vodafone offering 30 days is a good way to test this. But it’s also important to understand that the handset plays a big part in how well the service works.


Fuss Free Phones uses Doro phones which because they are not smartphones have more space inside for the antenna, power amplifier and other radio parts. This means that even if the signal isn’t as strong a Doro phone might well out-perform an Apple or Android phone. The Vodafone Guarantee doesn’t explain this.


And even beyond the coverage there is an aspect of service which is completely missing: what it’s like when you have a problem and call for help. Vodafone will greet you with a message saying “please enter your mobile number so that we can direct you to the right department”. Fuss Free Phones puts you straight through to a person who sees your number on the screen of their phone. We answer 80% of calls within 20 seconds. Most calls are answered immediately. There were more complaints to Ofcom about Vodafone in last three months of 2015 than TOTAL for all other major mobile providers combined.

So yes, matching Fuss Free Phones’ 30 Days is a nice try but you will have to go some to beat our service.

Ofcom’s guide to unlocking fails the Fuss Free test

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Unlocking a mobile phone

Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, has just published a guide to unlocking mobile phones. It claims to be everything you need to know on unlocking a mobile phone, this is what Ofcom tweeted:

Unfortunately it’s not everything you need to know. Because that’s too complicated. It doesn’t explain why mobile phones are locked. It doesn’t mention the words “Handset subsidy”. Nor doex it mention that Apple phones often have different rules because the are sometime unlocked through iTunes. The prices in the table Ofcom prints are wrong when it comes to iPhones.


This “complete” guide has comments like “Usually”, and “A small proportion of smartphones may be unlocked”. This is not useful information. Fuss Free Phones works with Go Mobile, which in addition to selling phones on Fuss Free Phones also uses EE and Three. By stocking unlocked phones the shop can decide at the time of sale which is the best network or tariff to sell with which phone. The Ofcom guide completely fails to understand this. There is no element in the guide which accounts for where a phone  has been bought. Go Mobile, Carphone Warehouse, The Apple Store and operator shops all have different rules.


But perhaps the thing which makes the guide most useless is that it completely fails to acknowledge the grey market for unlocking. This is fiercely complex depending on what phone you want to unlock, and what version of the handset software it has. It’s also fraught with legal and moral issues.


Normally the patronising response to a well-meaning organisation doing a light-weight job of something horrifically complicated is to say “well you can’t fault them for trying”. In this case you can. Ofcom should jolly well know that this is a deeply complex subject and should know that it’s a mistake to do it badly.


A better solution would have been to explain to a customer how to look up the IMEI of the phone (type *#06#) and then have a database where the customer could type in the number and be told what they need to do with that phone.


But Fuss Free Phones has a much simpler solution.


Our phones are not locked.



Nuisance calls are the most irritating thing about everyday life.

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In a survey of over 2,000 people, 77 per cent said nuisance calls about injury claims or PPI compensation was the most annoying feature of life in twenty-first century Britain, Tandem Bank said.

In the list of the top 25 things Brits find annoying about everyday life, Fuss Free Phones helps with not just the number one issue of Nuisance calls, but the number two of being kept on hold, the numbers four and five of “unexpected fees and charging” and of “unclear pricing and misleading offers.

Fuss Free Phones also doesn’t do the ninth most complained about thing – offering better deals to new customers than to existing ones. We’ve just upgraded all existing customers to the new offer of 500 minutes a month. And all our telephonists are super-polite so we can’t be accused of the number eleven item, lack of basic manners.

Reading the Tandem bank survey sounds like a recipe for Fuss Free Phones indeed the only thing we can’t help with in the top five complaints is inconsiderate dog owners who fail to clean up dog mess. Our boffins are thinking about that one.




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Cash registers have become more modern

If you are a retailer selling the Fuss Free Phones service you might find the files on this page useful.

If a customer wants to add more contacts to their Trusted Caller list they can call a telephonist by pressing the button on their Fuss Free phone. As a registered retailer you can log into the trusted callers list of the customers you have registered or you can download print out a copy of the Fuss Free Phones Blank Trusted Callers List and ask the customer to send it to

Fuss Free Phones

4th Floor

142 Central Street



Please write the customer’s Fuss Free Phones number on the sheet.

If you are configuring a phone and need the Fuss Free Phones wallpaper you can download it here. Just right click and “save as”.



It’s technology which is confusing, not new technology.

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Just as the old struggle with new technology, the young struggle with old technology. the issue is technology not age.


I’ve looked at lots of research into how older users find mobile phones difficult to use. It’s the driving force behind Fuss Free Phones. The model for the business is to take all the technology which is hard for customers to understand and to put it in the hands of a team of telephonists who can guide the user.  You don’t have to understand how to send texts, a tilly will do it for you.

My friend Ian Hosking at the University of Cambridge is the leading researcher in this field. His thinking has guided a lot of the work behind Fuss Free Phones and it’s worth watching this video from BBC Click.


I’ve been to enough talks from Ian and other people working with phones for older people to have thought through lots of issues. But I was very amused when a friend posted something:

What struck me comparing the two was how similar they were.  Both the older and the younger users thought themselves “stupid” for not being able to understand what they were being shown. It’s not about age but familiarity.

We’ve grown to think that technology is leaving older people behind. That every generation accumulates the understanding of how techie things work but if you think about it that’s not true. In my youth I played with developing film and printing. That’s pretty much a lost art, and we can accept that some skills become redundant.

But we feel differently about technology and that people should be constantly learning how to use new stuff.  What we don’t appreciate is that we all live in a bubble of understanding. The kids in the second video are best reflected by this cartoon

3d save icon

We should remember that features in phones which many people regard as obvious are not only alien to people who are too old to have come across them but also alien to those too young to have done so.

New Look for fuss free phones website

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If you’ve been to the Fuss Free Phones website before you’ll have noticed a change. The new design goes hand in hand with a change of emphasis. While before Fuss Free Phones concentrated on selling mobile phone handsets for people who struggle with technology and mobile phones the new site concentrates on a combination of service and handset.

new ffp site

It’s something we’ve been working on for a very long time, and comes from the genesis of Fuss Free Phones. I’ve been a phone geek for years, I founded What Mobile magazine in 1992, and have worked for Motorola and Sony Ericsson. However much I like the latest technology I have always understood that plenty of people find it confusing. Indeed everyone I’ve talked to understands this. When I was first looking at the problem 15 years ago, and suggested easy to use mobile phones, people would say to me “That’s just the thing for my Grandmother”. Today they say “That’s just the thing for my mother.” The only thing that has changes is that I have got older.

In 2009 I looked at the large number of mobile phone companies which were offering products and services for seniors and realised that they didn’t really know each other.

This led to me setting up a conference on mobile phones for seniors. We had lots of inspiring speakers, but one I remember best of all was Arlene Harris of the US mobile phone network Jitterbug. Arlene has been in the mobile industry since long before cellular – since the 1950s when as a young girl she worked for her parents wireless business. Jitterbug is a service aimed at older people and Arlene said that it’s not about the handset or the service but about both.

From this Fuss Free Phones was born. In March 2011 I went to visit Bazile Telecom in France and could see how they had got Arlene’s model of handset and service completely right. With their inspirational support I’ve set up Fuss Free Phones. You can read about it on the rest of this site.

Simon Rockman

Introducing the Fuss Free Phones Service

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The new Fuss Free Phones service is now available.

We take the fuss out of mobiles. Our mobile phone is really easy to use but we offer much more than that. One button on the back of the handset links you to our 24 hour call centre where a real person can put a call through for you.

No automated call services. No contract and a team of people based in the UK who will help you at every step. We even offer a 30 day money back guarantee.

You can find more details of the service here and read about the costs here.


Comparing Big Button Mobile Phones

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The BC5C and 505 shown to scale

A lot of people have asked me about the merits of the Doro 505 over the Bluechip World BC5C, why is the Doro 50% more expensive than the Bluechip?

One thing no photograph can tell you is build quality. All mobile phones are built to a price, even the most expensive smartphones have some element of compromise. It’s always a difficult balancing act for the companies choosing which components to use. Do you go for more expensive plastics, metals and materials which show in the shop or spend more money on the electronics – particularly a part called the Power Amplifier and have a phone which works better with longer battery life.

At the super-cheap end of the market everything is compromised. The Bluechip BC5C uses a cheap (albeit solid) chipset from the manufacturer MTK, and is built to a design for senior phones that wasn’t terribly well researched. It’s fine if you want something which is a budget phone for occasional use but Doro understands the senior market very much better, it’s what they specialise in.

No-where is that more obvious than in the buttons. The photograph here shows both phones at the same comparative size with a pound coin. You’ll see that the coin covers two rows of buttons on the Doro and three rows on the Bluechip, but it’s easy to look at both phones and think that the Bluechip will be easier to use because it has bigger, or at least wider buttons. The Bluechip buttons are 1.5cm across and the Doro ones are 1cm across. The actual button size however isn’t the most important thing in how easy it is to make sure you press the right one. The distance between button centres is what matters and here the two are exactly the same on width and the Doro is better on height. If you have big or inaccurate fingers you are going to find the Doro easier.

Another important factor is separation and shape. The Doro has gaps between the keys making it much easier to feel the edge of a key and a lot harder to accidentally press two keys at once. The Doro keys are also subtly concave while the Bluechip ones are convex. If you are not very accurate in pressing a key the Doro will gently help you slide your finger towards the centre of the key while the Bluechip will slide your finger away.

In conclusion the Bluechip is a good phone in that it has a good enough display and big enough buttons to help people who find the vast majority of phones too small and fiddly, but the Doro really does justify the price difference. Indeed it should be a lot greater as the ones here are special purchase which has helped keep the price down.

The telecare industry needs to learn from the mobile phone industry

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I’ve been researching the telecare frequency. It’s something both Doro and Emporia announced support for at Mobile World Congress and at first blush it seems to open up a huge opportunity for using mobile phones for keeping an eye on people so that they can live for longer in their own homes.

Doro and emporia both offer their own ecosystemsThe Doro Phone  shown here on the left is the 681, and the Emporia on the right is the EmporiaCARE.

The idea is that devices such as fall sensors, smoke alarms, burglar alarms, panic buttons and hearing aids can all communicate with a mobile phone in a standard way. A bit like Bluetooth,

If a person presses the panic button or has a fire their carer can be alerted remotely. There are two frequencies set aside for telecare 169MHz and 869Mhz. The 169MHz frequency includes support for hearing aids the 869MHz one does not.

The problem with 169MHz is that it needs long antennas. The lower the frequency the longer the antenna you need. So a mobile phone which works at between 900MHz and 2100MHz can have a very sort antenna. By contrast submarines which often communicate at incredibly low frequencies might tow an antenna miles long. A little bit of physics: An antenna works best when it’s length is equal to the wavelength of the frequency. That is the distance between peaks or troughs in the signal. You can compromise by having an antenna which is a half or quarter of the wavelength. At 869MHz a quarter wave antenna is a little over three inches. So small enough to fit inside a mobile phone or smoke alarm. At 169Mhz it’s more than 16½ inches. Which would be too awkward to use.

Even 3 inches is too long for a hearing aid, and there isn’t enough  spectrum to support voice at the 869MHz frequency.

So the 169MHz option is pointless, but what is the real shame is the way the 869MHz frequency is used. Although the frequency is allocated there are no standards for how it is to be used. While you can pair a Motorola bluetooth headset with a Nokia mobile phone or control JBL Bluetooth speakers with an HTC phone, the equipment which supports Telecare has no standard protocols.

In the mobile phone world there are working groups and special interest groups (SIG) which produce standards. So the Bluetooth SIG defines a wide range of protocols and sets up interoperability testing.

None of this exists in telecare, it’s not even clear if the signals are analogue or digital. The upshot of this is that one manufacturer’s sensors won’t work with another manufacturers phones – be they fixed or mobile.

Talking to a few companies there seems to either be a lack of awareness that it could be any different or a feeling that it’s the best way for them to control the whole system.

It could work out with a defacto standard – Doro is compatible with Bosch. But the whole area falls so far short of what is considered normal in the phone world.

Simon Rockman


You can learn more about the Doro solution in this video.