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REVIEW: Vodafone VDA V/v1415 Windows Mobile 6 Standard Smartphone
Posted by Arne Hess - on Thursday, 28.06.07 - 14:56:08 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 37442x
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For two weeks now, I'm using a Vodafone VDA V (in the UK known as Vodafone 1415), which I got from Vodafone Germany for testing, as my primary smartphone.
The Vodafone VDA V is based on the HTC Vox (better known as HTC S710) and therefore also features Microsoft's latest Windows Mobile 6 Standard. Powered by a TI OMAP 805 CPU at 201 MHz, the VDA V supports quadband GSM/GPRS/EDGE, WiFi b/g as well as Bluetooth 2.0 incl. A2DP and AVRC. Backed-up by 128 MB ROM and 64 MB RAM (which can be extended with microSD cards), the VDA V has a 2 megapixel camera for photos and video recording, features a 2.4" QVGA screen and measures 101 mm x 50 mm x 17.7 mm at a weight of 120 g.

However, the "hidden" highlight is the QWERTZ (depending on the origin of the device it also sports QWERTY) thumb keyboard which slides out. So the Vodafone VDA V might be the perfect messaging machine for everybody who is looking for an alternative solution to classical BlackBerry-styled devices

The sales box is pretty complete and includes everything you expect to get with Windows Mobile device including the device itself, a 1050 mAh battery, a 110 - 240 Volt travel charger, a USB to HTC's mini ExtUSB sync cable, a stereo wired headset with microphone and remote controls, a carrying case a quick start guide and user manual and a software CD-ROM which includes ActiveSync, Windows Mobile Device Center and a trial version of Outlook 2007:

The device itself is discreetly branded and sports the Vodafone logo on the back only; no logo on the front. The body features a kind of soft-touch finishing which feels nice and keeps finger prints away. A little bit more sensitive is the front since bezel and function keys are mirror finish polished but this combination between black and chrome looks pretty noble.
As said, the front looks like a typical Windows Mobile Standard smartphone including the dial-pad bellow the display and the Windows Mobile typical function keys:

On the backside, the device features the 2 megapixel camera, including a mirror for self-portraits and right to it the loudspeaker for hands-free conversations or media playback:

Left and right, the device only features the volume keys and the voice dial launcher (left picture) and the camera key/shutter (right picture):

On the top, you get the power switch and on the bottom the microphone and the (protected) mini USB port:

As you might have noticed above, the VDA V seems to be pretty thick for a today's mobile phone. Well, the reason therefore is, that the device includes the previously mentioned (semi-automatic) slide-out keyboard which makes this smartphone such an interesting BlackBerry alternative:

However, as you can see above, the keyboard layout is pretty uncommon. Instead of the traditional 5-row keyboard, the VDA V only features a 3-row keyboard (which is even one row fewer than the HTC Hermes which sports a 4-row keyboard):

The reason is clear - since the VDA V is so slim, there was not enough space for adding a fourth row without making the keys to small. However, this resulted in a pretty uncommon keyboard layout where the space bar is between the B and N keys and where the numbers and all special characters (except the full stop) are available though the function (Fn) key only.
However, after some time of use, you get used to it and after some "training" it definitely works quite well. Somehow disappointing is the location of the left soft key (above the T) which is aligned to the left soft key on the screen rather than aligned to the keyboard layout and therefore it's way too much insight.
Anyway - also this weakness is something you can get used to if you've used the keyboard for some time. The tactical feedback of all keys is pretty straight forward and provides a real good feeling. You can hardly miss hitting a key without getting a notice.

Typical for HTC devices with slide-out keyboards, is the mechanism to auto rotate/adjust the screen - from portrait to landscape and back. However, switching the screen orientation takes up to 1.5 seconds. While that's not bothering me, it's quite unusual for an HTC device to take that long. Pocket PCs with slide-out keyboards perform better but some of them has faster CPUs anyway.

The software of the Vodafone VDA V is the typical one for a Windows Mobile 6 Standard smartphone. Vodafone is shipping the device with AKU 0.2.1 already and this includes all the latest and greatest Windows Mobile 6 enhancements including Office Mobile (to open and edit Word and Excel files respectively open PowerPoint files) as well as Windows Live services and Windows Live Messenger_

Not yet supported are XML-based Office 2007 files but this should be added with a later ROM update anyway. Pretty uncommon for Vodafone is the fact, that the carrier left the Windows Live Messenger on the device but who want to blame Vodafone for this decision?
So far, Vodafone was well known to remove the MSN Messenger from its Windows Mobile devices but thankfully this time it was left which really makes sense to leave a messenger application on a messaging-centric device with a keyboard.

Also the VDA V isn't too much branded and the Vodafone branding isn't hard-coded at all. This means you can easily change between the Vodafone theme and the original Windows Mobile themes (which even includes the Windows Live theme) or download any other themes from the Internet:

Also the device isn't application locked which means you can virtually install all available Smartphone applications on the VDA V. I've tested a couple and haven't found a single one which I was unable to install.

An interesting non-standard application is Quick Notes. Quick Notes lets you create notes (similar to Outlook Notes on the PC):

However, even if Quick Notes reminds very much on Syncdata's great Smartphone Notes, it seems to be an HTC self-development and it has one serious disadvantage: Quick Notes notes are not synchronized between the PC's Outlook and the device's Notes application but Quick Notes produces ASCII text files only, which are synchronized to the computer - as long as you have the latest Windows Mobile Device Center version installed which finally supports file sync for Windows Mobile Standard smartphones:

But anyway - even if not perfect yet, another application which allows users to make short notes on the device and best of all - it's preinstalled already.

Anyhow - all together the standard software package convinces.

Final Conclusion

Definitely, the Vodafone VDA V can convince in nearly all areas. It looks pretty, is full of features and functions and makes a pretty complete occurrence. Doesn't matter if used closed as a standard mobile phone or open as a messaging device, it's definitely a pleasure to use it and I hadn't had a single day in the past 14 days I wanted to throw it out of the window. No kidding - the Vodafone VDA V convinced me pretty much except in one area: it misses UMTS. Sure, while it's not too critical for others, for me it's critical because I do a lot of work from my Windows Mobile smartphone (including web surfing, E-Mail and site maintenance) as well as I'm using my smartphones as UMTS and HSDPA modems for my Notebook. However, if you say, that you don't need UMTS in your phone, the Vodafone VDA V can be the right choice for you. Both, HTC and Vodafone made nearly everything right. HTC designed a rocking solid device and Vodafone left all the Windows Mobile 6 standard features on the device and therefore you get a smartphone you can use to save time (by being productive) or to kill time (by listening music, watching movies, etc).

I was pretty impressed by the stand-by time. Without touching the device (over the weekend for testing the stand-by), the device easily reached 4 days before it required a recharge. In continuously use with the Slingbox (TV streaming via GPRS, screen switched on the whole time), the device reached a use time of nearly 3 hours (2:50 h) which isn't too bad at all.

So if you are looking for messaging device but a BlackBerry kind of design isn't yours (as also used for the Samsung BlackJack/i600 or HTC Excalibur/T-Mobile Dash), the Vdafone VDA V might be an interesting alternative. With all the latest and and up-to-date Windows Mobile 6 features, you get a pretty complete and nice looking device which is also functional. Give the next version UMTS as well and it's perfect. If you can live without UMTS it might be perfect for you already.

The Vodafone VDA V is available (with a 24 month contract) from Vodafone Germany for 159,90 Euro (without a contract it's 429,90 Euro). From Vodafone UK, it's available (with a contract) from free to £59.57.

Cheers ~ Arne

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