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Verizon Wireless Coupe - Simple Cell Phone

Smartphones are hot, combining phone and email and Web and media -- There's the excitement for the Apple iPhone, addiction to the RIM BlackBerry, patient fans of the Palm Treo, and the new promise of the Google phone. And regular cell phones are going multimedia, with music, video, and now TV phones.

But some people don't need all that stuff, and instead just want a straightforward phone for making occasional calls. All you need could be a simple, easier to use phone, avoiding the zillions of tiny buttons and confusing icons crowded on a small display. But at the same time, you don't want a dumbed-down ugly phone either.

The Verizon Wireless Coupe mobile phone targets this sweet spot of a simple but useful phone. It's a flip phone, with slightly larger keys and a more readable display, plus extra dedicated buttons for 911 and other important numbers.

The phone itself fits in your palm -- small but not tiny. There's a small monochrome display on the front that displays the time, date, signal strength, and battery power. It lights up when you open the phone, or to show the number of an incoming call.

Flip open the phone to see the larger main display, in color. As welcome help to old (or young) eyes, the text on the display is a bit larger than other phones, the keys are a bit larger, and even the print in the Getting Started and User Guide documentation is larger. None of this is blatantly oversize, but the keys and text are all a bit larger and therefore easier to read and use.

Simplified interface ...

In addition, the Coupe's menus are simplified -- with icons and text for Contacts, Recent Calls, Messaging, Tools, Settings, Phone Info. So yes, there's still a contact list (up to 500 entries), voice mail, and text messaging. The tools menu has Calendar, Alarm, World Clock, Notepad, Stop Watch, Calculator, and Tip Calculator. Nicely, the interface explicitly acknowledges setting changes -- even volume -- by displaying a confirmation screen for several seconds with an animated checkmark.

The Coupe's keyboard is also straightforward, but with the addition of a dedicated 911 key, and three programmable keys under the display labeled I C E (In Case of Emergency) -- although you can set them for pizza delivery, if that's your idea of an emergency.

The right side of the phone has a dedicated Voice Recognition key that you can use to speak your contact names or shortcuts -- although this is something of a more advanced mode outside the regular menus, and displays with a smaller text size. There's also a Speakerphone button and audio jack for other listening options.

What you don't see are sexy features like a camera, photo and video playback, download access to music or video, Bluetooth for a wireless headset, data connections for e-mail and Web, downloaded applications, or GPS navigation.

But the idea was that you didn't need all that fluff, right?

The Coupe is available from Verizon for around $39 with a two-year contract.

Meanwhile, whether or not you're picking up a new phone, it's time to check your mobile service plan. Last week, Verizon Wireless (and other carriers) announced unlimited mobile plans, including all calls - anytime to anyone in the U.S., including landline phones - at a flat rate for $99.99 monthly access.

See more details on cell phones and services in my Mobile Communications Gallery

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