When Vodafone launched its 3G service with five phones, the top model in the range was the Sony Ericsson V800, a stylish black-and-silver clamshell phone.
The V800 is somewhat large and certainly taller than most clamshells (for the record, it measures 49 by 102 by 24mm). The height is in part due to the fact that its hinged area houses a camera, which can be used to shoot snaps and video, and also to make video calls. The lens swivels on a hinge and can be set either to face the caller or to point outwards. It's all straightforward to use and the camera is easy to turn with a thumb.
Sony Ericsson has also allowed plenty of width and height in the main body of the device, allowing ample room on the keypad area for well spaced number keys, a separate row of function keys (dedicated to video calling, accessing the on-screen graphical menus, and accessing music and videos), a navigation pad and a further four keys. Two of the latter access menu options, while two provide 'back' and 'clear' functions. The separate power key is also located here.
The left and right sides of the device house further buttons: on the left there's a pair of volume buttons, while the right side houses a shortcut to the camera and a light button that activates two banks of LEDs around the camera lens. These LEDs can be used either to illuminate what you're trying to photograph, or as a torch in their own right. They are certainly bright enough to light your way in the dark, but are a bit too bright for video calling.
The V800 has two screens: the internal one is a 176x220-pixel unit measuring 36 by 45mm and supporting 262,144 colours (18-bit colour); the external screen is a small (12 by 21mm) display of 80x101 pixels offering just 400 colours. External displays are becoming ever more functional, and the V800's can show the time and date, battery status, song titles if you are playing music, your next calendar appointment and who is trying to phone you. It will also act as a viewfinder for the camera -- after pressing the side button that activates the camera itself, you can frame and take a snap without opening the phone.
The V800's feature set reads like a catalogue of everything a top-of-the-range mobile phone should have: it supports tri-band GSM and GPRS as well as 3G, includes Bluetooth, comes with software for synchronising data with Outlook Express and Outlook 2000 and higher, and will act as a modem via a Bluetooth, infrared or cable connection with a notebook computer. A cable is provided.
The main screen is superb -- its sharp and clear rendering of video is particularly impressive. The 1.3 megapixel camera is excellent, too. However, we can't help feeling annoyed about the meagre 7MB of memory available to the user for storage, or the fact that expansion is via Memory Stick Duo cards rather than the much more popular SD cards. However, you do get a 32MB card in the box.
The V800's graphical interface is easy enough to operate using the navigation button and soft menu keys. Naturally, one of the more prominent buttons is dedicated to accessing the Vodafone Live service. Press this and a 3G connection is made, and you are taken immediately to the service's main screen.
Vodafone Live's content is reminiscent of what's already available from 3. As you scroll down the main screen, you'll find news services from which you can stream or save video content as required. Next there's a 'what's new' area, followed by content areas such as music, ringtones, games, sports news, general news and weather, film trailers, movie news and so on.
The V800 provides HTML and WAP browsing, accessed via an icon on the main screen rather euphemistically labelled 'Favourites'. Our browsing experience was somewhat mixed. Even simple Web sites failed to format very well, and some more complex ones refused to download at all.
Battery life is estimated at 10 hours talk time, 1.5 hours of video calls, and 240 hours on standby. We used the phone regularly for a couple of weeks and were never quite confident enough not to charge every couple of days. Having said that, we never ran out of juice during a single day of usage.
The V800 will function as a 3G modem for a notebook, and we set it up to do this with our Fujitsu Siemens notebook. The phone functioned perfectly well in this role, dropping down to GPRS automatically when we moved out of 3G range.
Edited by Charles McLellan
Additional editing by Nick Hide