The Vodafone 845 certainly isn’t the first tiny Google phone we’ve seen: Android is quickly becoming the king of the budget smartphone castle, and even at this very low-end, choosing a handset can be very tricky. Do Android 2.1 and a low price make a strong enough case for this critter? Find out in our full Vodafone 845 review.
The Vodafone 845 is the first Android phone to be released in Vodafone’s own-brand series. It’s fairly powerful and compact, but can be yours for much less than a high-end Android like the HTC Desire – from £15 per month, though there’s no Pay As You Go option.
At the front line of the Vodafone 845′s feature list is Android 2.1, the same core OS used in top-tier Androids like the Samsung Galaxy S. Other than general performance and minor feature updates over the previous versions of the OS, Android 2.1 gives you a decent media player app and the excellent power control widget, which lets you switch off a handful of power-sapping features from your home screen. It also offers you full GPS navigation using the free Google Maps Navigation service.
The Vodafone 845 piles a custom user interface on top of the Android OS, and it’s packed with widgets and features from Vodafone’s 360 software suite, launched last year. Several of these widgets are pretty neat too, such as the FM radio, video player and the very attractive selection of custom clocks. Don’t underestimate how much a good clock can do for a drab-looking home screen, readers.
In a somewhat misjudged move towards boundless flexibility however, the Vodafone 845′s UI lets you add as many home screens to your mobile as you like, in any direction – up, down, left and right. Just drag an icon over to the edge of a home screen to add a new screen – and you can have hundreds if you like.
This feature would feel more at home on an Android enthusiast’s mobile phone than a budget Android like the Vodafone 845, but it works surprisingly well. Newbies can stick with the standard five home screens if they like, and if you suddenly feel overcome with a self-destructive streak one night, you can muck up your mobile by adding a thousand home screens rather than downing a handful of sleeping pills with a half-bottle of whiskey.
The other key addition of the Vodafone 845′s custom UI is the dock of four icons, at the bottom of the home screen view. These take you to the apps menu, phone function, messaging, and let you zoom out to view more than just a single home screen. As crazy as it sounds, the Vodafone 845 lets you zoom out to see more than a hundred home screens at once.
Is this home screen excess madness? Kinda, yes. The Vodafone 845 isn’t a high-powered Android, and you’ll experience some lag as you flick through its interface, so including a feature even more demanding than HTC Sense’s Leap view (which lets you view seven screens at once) seems a bit silly. We do like the quick-access icon dock though, as it bridges the gap between the smartphone and feature phone worlds that the Vodafone 845 straddles.
Quick and easy access to the Vodafone 845′s core functions is a big win for this budget smartphone because its resistive touchscreen doesn’t make whizzing through its menus as slick as doing so on a snazzy capacitive-screened phone like the HTC Legend. It feels less responsive, slowing you down a notch. Matched with the small size of the 2.8-inch touchscreen, typing is a little tricky using the virtual QWERTY keyboard.
Switch to landscape view and typing gets easier, but it’s more accurate and quicker with a stylus – which, er, isn’t included. While many budget phones still use a resistive touchscreen, few are unashamed of their resistive roots – and the Vodafone 845 is no different. It’s elements like this – alongside the weak camera and the 65k colour screen – that show up the Vodafone 845′s budget deficiencies.
With Wi-Fi and 3G on-board, and full access to the Android market, the Vodafone 845 gives you the full Android experience. However, a slightly confused UI and less-than-stellar touchscreen stop the Vodafone 845 from demolishing our desire to go a step up the price ladder to the HTC Legend or HTC Wildfire.