Tesco wants you to party like it's 1999 with the VX1 Party Phone. Capable of little more than making calls and sending texts, this phone will make you feel as though you've stepped into a time warp and come out in the last millennium.
But its low price and simplicity make it disposable, and that's the whole point -- if you lose it during a night on the tiles, you'll neither be stricken with remorse nor substantially out of pocket, as you would be if you lost your expensive smart phone. We took the VX1 out on the razzle to find out if it's any good.
It's available SIM-free direct from Tesco for £9.49 -- about the cost of three Snakebite and blacks.
Won't bulge in your trousers
The VX1's dimensions are eminently suited to a thrilling night of debauchery. It's slightly smaller than a credit card in terms of height and width, and it's only 10mm thick. That means it'll fit in pretty much any pocket, and won't cause much of a bulge in the skin-tight breeches of a Shoreditch hipster. Its black plastic case also feels sturdy enough to withstand being repeatedly sat on. On the left side is the phone's sole connection, a micro-USB charging port.
The soft buttons give a satisfying click when pressed, and a blue backlight means you'll be able to see which keys you're poking at in even the dingiest of watering holes. The tiny, monochrome screen also has a blue backlight, but is capable of showing only about three lines of a text message at a time -- around 13 words. Texts can be scrolled though quickly using the four-way navigation pad though.
The navigation pad also provides shortcuts to what few features the VX1 offers. You can access your contacts list, text messages, see your call records and set up to three alarms. Note that if you put the phone in silent mode before you collapse into bed, your alarm will go off but it won't make any noise, so you'll probably be late for work in the morning. Thanks, Tesco.
Two other dedicated shortcut keys give access to the menu and a calculator, which will let you keep a tally of how much money you've wasted on shots of crème de menthe. In terms of features, that's it. There's no music player, no FM radio, no camera and certainly no Web access.
The VX1's call quality isn't brilliant, but it's good enough. Incoming calls sounded slightly quieter than usual to us, but our voice came through clearly to people on the other end of the line. You're going to have difficulty hearing anyone talk during a frenzied slap-bass session down at your local jazz club though, particularly if your caller is slurring their words.
Texts are easy to read, but typing them is an excruciating experience. The main reason is that the VX1's predictive text is truly diabolical, failing to recognise key party words such as 'pint', 'taxi' and 'curry'. You can't turn it off either. The result is that writing texts will take you much longer than on most other phones, particularly if your manual dexterity has been somehow compromised. You'll have to delete texts after you've received them as well -- there's only enough space to store about ten.
On the bright side though, the VX1's battery life represents a return to the glory days of yesteryear. We managed to get about four days of moderate use from the phone before it needed topping up, so you won't have to take your charger with you if you're planning an epic bank holiday weekend bender.
Flies in the ointment
The VX1 is designed to be lost, and its appearance and size make that easily accomplished. If your contacts are stored only on your SIM card and it's in the VX1 when it goes missing, you're going to lose all of your contacts as well as the phone. It'd be a good idea, therefore, to back up all your chums' details on your main phone before putting your SIM in the VX1 and taking it out on the lash.
The second problem with the VX1 is that there are cheaper phones out there that could be used for the same purpose. At the time of writing, for example, Asda is offering the pay as you go Alcatel OT-222 for just £9, with £10 free credit included, although it's locked to Orange. Buy that instead and you'll have a better-looking phone, as well as effectively being £1 wealthier than you were before.
If you're worried about losing your iPhone once you've got a few shandies inside you, the Tesco VX1 Party Phone will make a sensible investment.
Cheaper phones exist, but you can't describe it as expensive, and it's certainly unobtrusive, which will appeal to those who like to party free of encumbrances. We'd rather have our toenails forcibly extracted than use this phone to send texts, however, so we can't recommend it for more than sporadic use.
Edited by Nick Hide