(Pocket-lint) - On the surface, Sharp and Vodafone's latest offering to the GX range doesn't look like much of a change over previous models. A slightly larger body than the GX20 and an addition of a larger external LCD on the outside might offer a few clues. However open it up and you'll realise that a lot has been done to improve the offering since the GX20 and certainly the GX10.
The main new features are the addition of Bluetooth for the business user, a 1 mega pixel camera and a SD/MMC card slot for saving images, music and applications. The addition of Bluetooth is a great add-on and something that both the GX20 and GX10 sorely missed and this phone with its tri-band offering means that it will now appeal to business users.
The camera's capabilities have been boosted to 1.1mega pixels, making a huge step forward for digital camera phones (even if it's still CMOS) and while many manufacturers are due to follow, this is the first one we've tested. While this does mean larger file sizes to send (you can reduce the quality and size if you need to) it does mean that the pictures you take can be used for general low res use rather than just staying on your phone, so your quickly snatched wedding snaps won't be an embarrassment. Taking pictures is easy and the camera button above the rather flat but easy to use keypad will launch the camera instantly.
Sharp has worked hard to create plenty of options. Macro and portrait modes, ability to change shutter speed, delay timer, use of the photo light (a kind of disco-coloured flash replacement) and the ability to change the viewfinder views are just some of the possibilities. Rather than rely on a silver-mirrored button on the front casing like the GX10 once did, the colour LCD can now be changed to the camera's display allowing you to frame yourself perfectly. Probably not something you are likely to use over and over again, but none the less a useful tool for showing that this phone offers pretty much everything.
Of course if you are planning on taking plenty of pictures you are going to want to save them and the GX30 comes with an 8Mb SD Card to get you started. Unlike some phones that use SD cards, (particularly Nokia's), Sharp has gone down the route of the Sony Ericsson design and you can easily swap out cards when the urge suits you without having to remove the case or the battery.
For the easily bored the phone features MP3 playback- ideal because of the memory card option, voice recorder and the ability to play games as well as polyphonic ringtones, in fact bar making a cup of tea there is little this phone can't do.
Every so often you get a product that seems ahead of its time and the Vodafone GX30 seems to be one of them. Whether it's the camera, the built-in MP3 player or merely Bluetooth connectivity its all their. A standby time of four days (even with the large screen) and a talk time in the region of three hours should keep the chatterboxers happy, while a 260k screen display rather than the current 64k displays found on most mobiles and you'll be able to clearly see everything as well.
The previous models, while good, always had something missing and the only downside we can see to this phone is that Vodafone has kept it to itself. But what a way to draw in extra customers! A delight to use and one that we will sorely miss when we have to send it back.