Tools Of The Trade: The Sony Ericsson V800 on Vodafone 3G

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The Independent Online

When Vodafone unveiled its 3G phone service earlier this month, it was reported to be the most expensive consumer product launch in history. As a result, both the handsets and the network have a lot to live up to.

When Vodafone unveiled its 3G phone service earlier this month, it was reported to be the most expensive consumer product launch in history. As a result, both the handsets and the network have a lot to live up to.

When Vodafone launched its first 3G services, based on laptop data cards, there were a number of teething problems and coverage was patchy. These issues, though, appear to have been addressed. The performance of the Sony Ericsson V800, admittedly the most expensive 3G handset, is generally excellent.

Testing the phone around London and on the South Coast revealed few of the problems associated with handsets on the "3" network, which sometimes struggle to find a signal of any sort.

On Vodafone, the V800 switched seamlessly between standard GSM coverage and 3G. Services on the Vodafone Live! Portal worked perfectly well on both, although video calls are only possible where there is a 3G signal. The quality of streamed video clips, including Premiership football highlights and ITN News, was far from stunning even on 3G, but this is as much a limitation of handset design as of the 3G service.

Business users, though, are likely to be more interested in features such as email and the ability to use the phone as a modem. Setting up email using Vodafone's own service is straightforward, and creating an Imap email account also worked well. For some reason, attempting to connect using the more common Pop3 email system was much harder.

Within 3G coverage, though, downloading email is extremely swift. This makes the phone more convenient as a way of viewing mail than it is on slower, 2.5G services. The email software that Vodafone has installed on the V800 is somewhat less flexible than the Sony-Ericsson software on handsets such as the P900, but it is usable none the less.

The V800 also works well as a wireless modem with a laptop or personal digital assistant (PDA), and this is one of the most compelling reasons for business users to upgrade. The phone comes with both Bluetooth and infra-red connections, so it will work with most devices. More importantly, there were no problems connecting to the internet via Vodafone, either in 3G or 2G coverage areas.

This represents a significant improvement over Vodafone's 3G data cards, which seem to struggle in marginal coverage areas. Nor does using the phone as a modem run down the battery too much. A full charge enabled the V800 to work for three days, with a mixture of voice calls, direct access to the internet, multimedia messaging and working as a modem via Bluetooth.

The design of the V800 might not be to everyone's taste - it has some sharp corners, protruding buttons and is rather bulkier than the best 2.5G phones - but it is hard to fault its efficiency.

While Vodafone's 3G data card seemed something of a work in progress when it launched this summer, the V800 is a more polished device, working on a network that has also improved. As a new phone it is selling at a premium price, but if you need 3G speeds, it comes recommended.

THE VERDICT

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Pros: good coverage, good battery life, plenty of features.

Cons: a price premium for 3G.

Cost: from £50 to £250, depending on contract.

Contact: www.vodafone.co.uk

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