Product Type: Vodafone mobile phones
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Touch Screen Just Got Cheaper
Vodafone VF541 Touch
Member Name: OscarsWilderness
Vodafone VF541 Touch
Date: 23/02/10, updated on 09/05/10 (2163 review reads)
Advantages: Looks good, low cost, very easy to use
Disadvantages: Not as responsive to stylus as you might hope
My reasons for choosing this particular model were that firstly, it is small, compact, slim line and easy to hold and carry around; secondly, it's lightweight, which I personally think is important; and thirdly, it has a touch screen and no buttons at all apart from the volume and the keypad lock which are located one on either side of the phone. The fact it is available in black was a bonus as I am fussy about colour, but I believe this model is also available in red, white or pink.
I am quite impressed with the screen size of this phone, which is approximately 5cm by 4cm, and the lack of buttons does rather appeal to me since I hate the idea of carrying around a miniature computer all the time. Having said that, if you are someone who wants to write emails on the go, the 541 would not be the most efficient way of doing it since it does not have a Qwerty keyboard. Instead, the letters (along with the numbers) are displayed on images of keys on the screen, which you can press either with your finger or with the stylus provided. While the stylus obviously has a much smaller surface area than a finger, making it more precise, I have found the phone to be much more responsive using a finger or even a nail. It seems that you also need to press a little harder when using the stylus.
An interesting and unusual feature of this model is the blue LEDs, which are invisible when they are off, but which are located along the bottom of the phone. These light up for several reasons. Firstly, if the phone rings or you receive a text message, the LEDs will flash. Secondly, when using the phone, certain LEDs light up and correspond to specific menu options on the screen, and in this instance, they act as buttons, although you only need touch them rather than press them hard. Thirdly, you can navigate backwards and forwards through menus by sliding your finger or thumb across the LED area to the left or right and they will light up in the shape of an arrow in either direction accordingly. This is a little bit of a gimmick, although I have to say I do actually use the feature as it's there.
One thing I have found annoying with some phones I have owned in the past is the fact that you have to press a sequence of buttons (albeit usually only two) each time you want to lock or unlock the keypad. Of course, this is to prevent you from unlocking it accidentally, but the Vodafone 541 has only one lock button and it's located on one side of the handset. So far, carrying this phone around has not caused me to unlock it by mistake or make any erroneous calls so it seems to be effective.
Another feature that surprised me, given the low cost of this phone, is its drag and drop capability. There are two menu bars on the main screen - one vertical and one horizontal - and each contains symbols corresponding to various functions, including weather reports, a music player, the camera, access to Vodafone Live!, the inbox, the main menu, text messaging, the keypad for making calls and the call records list. The first five of these can be "dragged" onto the main "desktop" area, much like you would with a computer, and the applications remain open until they are dragged back. This is quite useful when it comes to your inbox for text messages and missed call list because it provides you with quick access to both. If you don't do this, you do need to press a couple of extra buttons each time a text message comes in that you want to read. In the interests of speed, I leave this one open all the time.
Additional features of the 541 include internet access, Profiles (enabling you to quickly adjust the handset's volume, ring and vibrate settings in accordance with your environment), Notes (which allows quick recording of written or spoken memos), Calendar, Image Viewer, an FM radio, a music player (for mp3 files), Ebook, a calculator, Bluetooth (for easy transferring of files between devices and for use with Bluetooth headsets, etc.), a world clock, and an alarm. There are a few games already on the phone when you buy it, but these are only demos with the option to download the full versions should you so choose.
This model features a 1.3 megapixel camera, which doesn't do a bad job for the money, as long as there is sufficient light. Although there are quite a few features within the camera, including Night Mode, I have found that without plenty of light, the photographs are quite dark and not of fantastic quality. There is also the option to shoot moving video, but this is really quite grainy even with adequate lighting.
The sound quality for mp3's is about what you'd expect from a phone in this price range; it's perfectly adequate through the headphones which come with the phone, although if you remove them and turn the volume right up the sound does distort somewhat. That said, if you wanted a fantastic sound system, this probably isn't the product you would be buying!
What Vodafone doesn't tell you is that, ideally, you should charge this phone for twelve hours before using it, not three hours as stated in the manual. In addition to this, since most phones are sold with some charge in them, it's advisable to allow them to run down completely before charging them fully. I found that the battery was running out pretty quickly until I did this, but it does seem to have resolved the issue and the battery life is now pretty good.
Being a fairly cheap phone, the reception is perhaps not as good as it might be on a high-end model, but, whilst this is admittedly noticeable, it hasn't been too much of a problem so far.
So far this phone has exceeded my expectations, considering the price. If you want a really responsive touch screen phone, I would have to suggest you spend a bit more, but if you just want something that looks modern and does a bit more than an average job, this is a good choice.
TWO AND A HALF MONTH UPDATE: Unfortunately, the LEDs have now stopped working, which is bad luck indeed since Vodafone are completely incompetent when it comes to customer service and cannot even decide whether I should send the phone back to them or take it into the store.
Summary: Modern technology on a budget.
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