Like the Vodafone 360 Samsung H1, the Vodafone 360 Samsung M1 is built from the ground up to work with the company's 360 social-networking service. But the M1 is a much more affordable option. It's currently available for free on a £15-per-month, 2-year contract.
The M1 isn't quite as handsome a handset as the more expensive H1, but it's still a fine-looking phone. The front is finished in glossy black, while the curved battery cover on the rear has a more matte look. The majority of the front of the handset is given over to the large, 81mm (3.2-inch) display, but, beneath this, Vodafone has added physical buttons that act as shortcuts to the dialler, 360 contacts book and applications menu.
The M1 sports a traditional TFT LCD display, rather than the OLED one found on the H1, but the screen does employ capacitive technology, as does the iPhone's, so it's impressively responsive to finger swipes. While the resolution is also lower than that of the H1's screen, it's still respectable, at 240x400 pixels.
Come full circle
The M1 differs from most mobiles in the way that Vodafone has integrated the 360 system into the phone's user interface. Rather than a traditional home screen covered in alerts and icons, the phone's interface is built around the 360 contacts book. This presents you with a 3D, floating view of your contacts in which their Facebook status is shown next to their picture.
When you tap on a contact, it rotates and zooms out to show the full contact card. Here you'll find soft buttons that let you quickly place a call, send an email or text message, or 'nudge' your contact with your current location if they're also signed up to the 360 service -- the M1 has GPS functionality. The system works well with smaller amounts of contacts, but the more you have, the more unwieldy it gets, and you may find yourself resorting to the traditional list view, which you can access by double tapping the contacts button at the bottom of the screen.
That's not the only issue with the M1. We also found the phone's software to be quite buggy. At random intervals, it would slow down; it wouldn't reliably sync with our Gmail account; and Facebook status updates didn't always update properly.
The phone's camera isn't all that impressive either, as it's only got a 3.2-megapixel resolution. Shots taken outdoors in good light tend to look reasonable, but the lack of an LED flash means the phone really struggles indoors.
Cost-cutting is also evident in the phone's range of connectivity options. Although it supports HSDPA, it lacks Wi-Fi, leaving you totally reliant on the mobile network for data access, which isn't ideal if you live in an area with poor 3G reception.
On the plus side, however, we had no problems when it came to making phone calls, as the earpiece is quite loud and the mic delivers crisp, clean audio. Also, the battery life is reasonably good by touchscreen-phone standards -- typically, the M1 managed to go for around two days before needing a recharge.
The Vodafone 360 Samsung M1 looks good, it has a responsive touchscreen and its user interface offers an intriguing approach to social networking. But we experienced a number of problems with the phone's software, so we'd advise potential purchasers to hold off until Vodafone solves these issues.
Edited by Charles Kloet