Vodafone 541 3 Stars

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Vodafone has recently branched out into highly affordable phones that boast the kinds of features usually found on higher-end phones – namely touch-screens and widgets. One of the first of these handsets is the 541, a neat touch-phone that features a customisable home screen, just like its more expensive big brothers.

In the pink

The Vodafone 541 looks good, with its rounded edges, matt gloss finish and small dimensions. Our test model came in pink, with black accents. On the back you’ll find a 1.3-megapixel camera, and on the front a 2.4-inch touch-screen. But the best thing about this device is the touch-sensitive LED panel that sits under the screen and lights up with a different pattern, according to which app you’re using. It even acts like a whole new navigation system – press on different parts of it to perform certain actions. For example, if you’re in the home screen, the four LEDs create a diamond shape, with the left dot covering the widget toolbar, the centre pair over the shortcut bar and the right LED calling up the all-programs menu.

On the widget toolbar, you’ll discover an events log, weather widget, music player, camera and an applications box. All of these can be pulled out onto the home screen and dragged to the exact place you want. The shortcut bar offers links to your contacts book, call log, all programs and messages.

Tap once for yes

The touch-screen is unlike those you may have encountered before – you’re not really able to swipe across it. For instance, if you’re scrolling through the all-programs screens, you can only tap at the bottom of the screen to get to the next one – swiping won’t work. And if you are scrolling down a window, you can only swipe on the side scrollbar. This is definitely a budget version of a touch-screen – but at least it is pretty accurate.

Sadly, it is also somewhat unresponsive – you’ll notice this if you’re trying to type a text message – and it ends up being incredibly frustrating. There is a stylus included, but it’s rather fiddly to use. The virtual keypad is equally sluggish, and we found that even with predictive text switched on, the full stop doesn’t instantly pop in when you tap the symbol key – you have to go to a separate screen to get the symbol you want. We fear that the target teenage market will not take to this kindly (according to recent stats your average teenager sends about 100 texts a day).

However, the 541 does have a cool additional feature – you can record voice memos and send voice messages.

Give me a call

Making a phone call, we found audio quality decent on our end, although our recipient’s voice appeared to lack depth. But our friend said that they could hear a lot of the noise in the background, which was somewhat distracting. The 541 also makes some odd vibrating pulses when it’s trying to connect a call – we found this a bit annoying.

The 1.3-megapixel camera produces rather pixelated pictures, which are only suitable for viewing on the handset. The 541 has just 5MB of internal memory for you to store your images, although you can buy a microSD card to bump up your storage to 4GB. And while you can send one of your shots via Bluetooth or SMS, use it as a wallpaper or contact image, it is not possible to upload it to a social network. Actually, there is no social networking facility on the phone at all, unless you want to view the mobile-optimised versions via the browser over what are pretty sluggish GPRS internet speeds.

The verdict

The Vodafone 541 has some great features, including the customisable home screen and the cool LED control panel, especially for a phone with this price tag. And if you didn’t need to type on the phone it would be great. While the touch-screen is more than we had hoped for on a budget device, and the cute design and user interface are appealing, the very fact that it doesn’t offer an easy typing experience is bound to put off its target youth market.

Neat, fun design; touch-screen is decent for the price; home screen has widgets and is customisable.
Texting is far from user friendly thanks to the sluggish in-screen keyboard.
  • Look and Feel 4 Stars
  • Ease of use 3 Stars
  • Features 3 Stars
  • Performance 3 Stars
  • Battery life 4 Stars

Final verdict: 3 Stars

Review by Mobile Choice