T-Mobile's mandate to bring touchscreen technology to the masses has spawned this ultra-cheap device but, sadly, the Vairy Touch II suffers very much the same fate as its lacklustre predecessor. The need to maintain a low retail price has forced the designers to rely on largely unsatisfying materials, making this a hard device to recommend wholeheartedly.
The T-Mobile Vairy Touch II is available for around £30 on pay as you go.
Touchscreen on a shoestring
The recent proliferation of high-end touchscreen devices -- such as the iPhone 4 and HTC Desire HD -- has led to a spate of 'me too' arrivals at the lower end of the mobile phone scale, with budget manufacturers looking to capitalise on the popularity of buttonless interfaces with their own products. Mid-range devices such as the Huawei Ideos and T-Mobile Pulse Mini have given way to even cheaper phones, and the T-Mobile Vairy Touch II is arguably at the vanguard of this cut-price revolution.
The sequel to the rather uninspiring Vairy Touch, this new model boasts a massively superior design. The 2.8-inch touchscreen has allowed the designers to keep things compact, and at just 83g the Vairy Touch II will slip into your pocket almost unnoticed. The rounded casing, silver edges and glossy back understandably call to mind Apple's iconic iPhone 3G design, albeit with a more pronounced reliance on cheap plastic. Despite the modest materials used, this is quite a looker.
Low on buttons, high on frustration
The Vairy Touch II's visually appealing shell features just three physical inputs -- a power button, volume controls and camera button. All other interactivity is channelled through the phone's resistive touchscreen display, which extends all the way down to the 'call' and 'call end' buttons at the bottom of the phone's face.
Resistive screens are commonplace on pretty much all
budget touchscreen phones these days, and don't offer anywhere near as much
accuracy as the capacitive types of expensive devices like the
iPhone and Samsung Omnia 7. The example seen on the Vairy Touch II is
At times it appears to be ultra-responsive, to the point where it picks up even the slightest of finger contact, leading to unintentional selections. Other times, however, it stubbornly refuses to acknowledge your input. The flaky nature of the display is likely to be the reason that T-Mobile has included a strange plectrum-style stylus, which is supposed to be secured to the phone via a lanyard. It improves accuracy, but looks like an especially awkward phone charm when attached to the Vairy Touch II's casing.
More than meets the eye
Considering the Vairy Touch II's low price, it comes packed with a surprising amount of technology under the bonnet. There's a microSD card slot (complete with 2GB microSD card), 2-megapixel camera, MP3 player and FM radio. The phone is even capable of shooting 3GP-format videos, which can be shared with other phone users via Bluetooth. Sadly, there's no 3G connectivity or Wi-Fi capability, which means you'll need to use the much slower GPRS data link to perform tasks such as sending MMS messages and surfing the Internet.
The Vairy Touch II's aforementioned camera capabilities are passable so long as you only intend to take shots to share with friends. The camera lacks an LED flash and takes disappointingly washed-out images, and the video-recording quality is abysmal, with blocky footage and almost inaudible sound.
The Vairy Touch II has taken inspiration from the likes of LG's Cookie Fresh when it comes to user experience. There's only one main home screen to play with, but you can place your own wallpaper on it or choose from preloaded examples. A slide-out application tray holds all of your available widgets, such as a quick-access calendar, music player and phone profile toggle. These widgets can be arranged in any way you wish, and can even be overlaid on top of one another.
What's on the menu?
Elsewhere, there's a grid-style menu that features the Vairy Touch II's core options. From here you can view your contacts, read text messages, play games and tinker with underlying elements of the phone's functionality. It's all arranged in a fairly intuitive manner, although there are a few puzzling inconsistencies -- screen brightness, for example, is listed under 'misc options' rather than in the display sub-menu, where you'd naturally expect to find it.
The Vairy Touch II comes preloaded with Opera's Java-based Web browser, but the slow GPRS connection and lamentable touchscreen make surfing the Internet a chore rather than a pleasure. It's useful to have for very basic Web-related tasks, but doesn't provide the streamlined experience you expect from other touchscreen phones.
The T-Mobile Vairy Touch II tries very hard to bring smart phone functionality to budget users, but too many corners have been cut to keep the price low. The display is at the centre of much of our dissatisfaction with the device -- it's downright painful to use without the bundled stylus, and even then you feel like you're fighting an uphill battle.
It's a shame that this is the case, because the phone does have some incredible features when you consider the price -- MP3 player, 2GB microSD card and a 2-megapixel camera. When you look at some of the super-budget phones available right now -- like the Samsung E1170 and Nokia 1616 -- that are not much cheaper than the Vairy Touch II, it makes you appreciate just how much has been crammed into the diminutive frame.
The Vairy Touch II could serve as a cheap and cheerful way of introducing touchscreen technology to less experienced mobile users, but the lack of precision might put people off the concept, rather than endear them to it. On a side note, it's worth noting that the Orange Miami is essentially a rebadged version of this device. Both phones are manufactured by ZTE, creators of recent cut-price Android phones such as the Racer and Blade.
Edited by Emma Bayly