Vodafone 360 Samsung H1 smart phone [reviewed]

15 Dec 2009

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The truth today is that any smart phone worth its salt is a social-media device. The problem has been linking your offline world of business and friends with your online world of business and friends.

The Vodafone 360 represents one of the world’s biggest mobile networks’ efforts at making sense of the communications opportunities afforded by Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, et al, in our digital lives as well as ensuring it has a marketplace of apps to sell in a world where the mobile is the new PC.

A good beginning

The Vodafone 360 device, effectively the Samsung H1, is a good chassis for what Vodafone has in mind, and represents a promising start.

The most obvious stand-out feature is the social address book that features photo representations of all your contacts on Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, and going to the 360 website allows you to blend them all together. You can just sift through their profiles with your finger as opposed to the tired and trusted method of searching by name.

As in life, context is king and being able to organise contacts in a way that is appropriate to your personal and working life needs is a brilliant idea. Then again, these lines are blurring and whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen. The web is littered with horror stories of workers who played the sick card only to have their boss read on Facebook that instead of sweating out the flu in bed the patient was on the tiles in Soho or bungee jumping in the Canaries.

Making contact

The 3D social address book concept is, however, a breakthrough. I’ll admit it took me a while to get the hang of it and for awhile I was texting a mate about being late for her party and instead of going to her phone it was appearing on her Facebook inbox.

The operating system on the H1 is straight forward and easy to use and its messaging system keeps messages on the one strand so you can keep track of your entire messaging history with someone in a single thread. Very handy.

The main screen on the H1 is easily customisable, just hit the edit button at the top of the screen and you can move apps around with your finger. Accessing apps such as Facebook and Twitter (in the Vodafone shop the key Twitter app, ‘Twitta’, shows you what people on the Twitterverse are saying at all times). Finding and downloading favourite apps on the store is quite simple and most of them are currently free.

Wi-Fi connectivity on the device is quick and easy. Battery life is also superior to the iPhone, I could get days out of a single charge.

High-definition screen

Where the device really mattered to me was its high-definition 3.5-inch OLED screen, which proves smart phones needn’t be big and clunky affairs. Photo quality via the 5-megapixel camera was brilliant, and it was easy to share and upload pictures. The device also works well with synching up to peripherals, like Bluetooth headsets.

The only real problem I had with the device was the power button, which also locks the screen. I would have preferred if the button was off to the side and bigger, so that locking and unlocking the screen would be quick and easy. Instead, the button sits at the top of the handset and is tiny and hard to find, resulting in it slipping from my grip a lot of the time when I’m in a hurry to access the device.

The maps function also allows you to find and locate friends, but only if they allow it. For example, if I chose to locate a friend it pings them with a message and if they want to allow it, I can find them on the map. This feature brings social, as well as the future of commerce, to an interesting new level.

Looks right

All in all, the Vodafone 360 Samsung H1 is a brave statement of intent from Vodafone and the 360 experience is definitely the right direction to head in.

Boasting a 3.5-inch, high-definition OLED screen, 16GB memory, Wi-Fi, GPS, a maximum talk time of more than 400 minutes (3G) and a 5 megapixel camera, the Vodafone 360 Samsung H1 provides a great Vodafone 360 experience.

The Vodafone 360 Samsung H1 costs €99.99 on 18-month contracts of €35 and above, with an unlimited data package included, available online.

To develop the apps marketplace, Vodafone in October launched a global competition, with up to €1 million in prizes to find the perfect app.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Vodafone 360 Samsung H1 smart phone.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com