Orange adds extra hand holding features to new smartphones

The goal is to convince more users that smartphones aren't complicated to use

Orange's latest smartphones, the Android-based Hiro and Yumo, come with feature that walks users through the setup, which the operator hopes will make it easier for first-time buyers to start using their device.

Smartphones are taking over the mobile market, but there are still consumers who haven't made the leap. During the third quarter about 55 percent of all phones shipped were smartphones, according to IDC. Orange said 60 percent of its subscribers in Europe have a smartphone.

Some people still think smartphones are too complicated, and that's holding them back, said Yves Maitre, executive vice president of mobile multimedia and devices at Orange.

To lower the bar for these users, Orange will allow them to choose a simplified home screen on the Hiro and the Yumo. The company has also developed a feature it calls the Assistant, which helps smartphone beginners get accustomed to using a touchscreen and aims to simplify the configuration of features like email.

"We are really hand holding the customer, so it's not a scary process. It is really about getting them engaged with their device. Because, I think at this point, if we don't do enough to engage the customer there is a very high chance they won't use all the functionality on the phone," said Amman Abid, program manager at Orange.

After the initial configuration, users can go back to set up things they skipped. The Assistant also lets users choose between the standard and the easy home screen. The biggest difference between the two is that the latter only has one page, to prevent confusion. When users feel more comfortable they can switch to the standard Android user interface, according to Abid.

The Yumo is an LTE smartphone with a 5-inch HD screen. It is powered by a dual-core 1.2GHz processor from Qualcomm and has an 8-megapixel camera. There is also 8GB of storage that can be expanded using an MicroSD card.

It will cost approximately €200 (US$275) and start shipping in November in Spain and Romania. Orange also has its own LTE network in France, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Moldova, the Dominican Republic and Uganda.

Maitre hinted that even cheaper LTE smartphones will launch in the near future.

The Hiro is powered by a dual-core 1.3 GHz processor from MediaTek and has a 4.3-inch screen with a 854 x 480 pixel resolution. It also has a 5-megapixel camera and 4GB of memory that can be expanded using a MicroSD card.

It will cost about €150 and will also start shipping in November in France, Spain, Slovakia and Romania.

Both phones can also a make HD voice calls, a technology that Orange continues to push.

Two years ago Orange restarted the development of its own-branded mobile devices. During the fourth quarter sales are expected to surpass the 20 percent share that Orange set out as its goal in Europe, according to Maitre.

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