With Vodafone's launch of 3G, the world of 3G in the UK has gone mainstream. No longer do 3 have to carry the lantern, but aside from the parties, aside from the huge amount of cash spent on the launch and getting the licence in the first place, is it any good and more to the point, will consumers actually find it improves their telephone lifestyle?
With six handsets in the initial line-up, the Sony Ericsson V800 has its work cut out for it. There is Motorola e1000 the entertainment number from Motorola, and the 2 megapixel camera phone from Sharp.
Retro in its styling, the V800 represents the next stage on from the z1010 in our minds, still there is the shiny but buffed casing that's present on most of the current range including the Z600 and this gives a solid, well made feel to the device. The clamshell design gives little away aside from the colour display on the top. Under the screen is a small speaker and the hinge hides a 1.3megapixel camera similar to Motorola swivel models.
Open it up and the phone has been well laid out with nothing too risqué happening to the keypad a la Nokia or Siemens. In addition to the standard 12 keys, Sony Ericsson has added three buttons; videocall, menu and a “my entertainment” button for quick access to all three areas. Above this is the standard D-pad, select, back and cancels buttons.
The opened clamshell design also reveals the swivel camera, which, as mentioned, can be rotated. Interestingly and obviously to appease the nightclubbing fan club, the phone comes with a very bright flash to help light up whose dark moments. For the most part camera flashes or even lights on phones have been half-hearted attempts, this is two bright bulbs in your face. It's a bit disconcerting, but nonetheless gets the job done.
All this is displayed on a large 2.2in 262k colour screen that is as bright as the GX30 and Vodafone is probably fully aware, shows off its logo in bright vibrant colours.
Phone aside the integration of the new services through Vodafone is amazing. The Vodafone live service has been completely overhauled. Loading up the first page gives you headlines via ITN. These can then be examined further and video clips played. Their has been a lot of discussion about whether or not people will turn to watching content on a mobile phone. While I don't disagree, news clips and trailers are different. The service, which is updated four times a day offers all the latest news across a variety of areas and as its ITN (they do the news for Channel 4, five and ITV) its very consumer friendly.
Scroll past the news and you're offered movie trailers, music downloads and more. With the 3G service, Vodafone has now also gone into the music download business. At £1.50 per track it's a bit pricey, but they are hoping for the instantaneous purchase rather than the getting you to start buying your music collection. The V800 comes with a 32Mb MS Duo and with a quick upgrade means that this phone could easily become a small MP3 player. Combine that with the phone's impressively good speaker (we were very impressed for a phone) and you've got a winning combination.
Movie trailers like the music are quick to find and within seconds we were watching the latest trailers. Picture quality thanks to the screen is excellent and even on dark movie clips the phone presented no problems. After watching the movie trailer you can then find the nearest cinema, triangulate your position so you can work out where you are and then dial the cinema booking line to order the tickets. Vodafone hasn't ruled out the idea of payment over the phone DoCoMo style, but that's not here just yet.
With Bluetooth data, 3D gaming, global support including Japan, and everyother feature you would want to put on a phone this phone has more swings and bells on it that a Christmas tree. To put it shortly WE ARE VERY VERY impressed. The phone is a gem to use, and what makes it better still is that the integration of the services is very good as well, at no point did we feel that crap we didn't really want, was being shoved down our necks. Vodafone has taken the rather risky, in our minds, price plan that on the surface seems to be more expensive, however almost everything (bar the music downloads) on the 3G service is included. This for us meant that we didn't have the fear (we have it with Vodafone live! On 2G) that every time we click on a button we are going to get charged.
If this is just the start of 3G? Wow!
price dependent on contract