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Sony Ericsson V800 3G handset

The phone 3G was made for? Vodafone's launch of its 3G service is good news for the UK 3G scene. No longer does 3 have to carry the lantern. But aside from the parties, aside from the huge amount of cash spent on the launch - not to mention getting the licence in the first place - is it any good and, more to the point, will consumers actually find it improves their telephone lifestyle? asks Stuart Miles.

Sony Ericsson V800With five other handsets in the initial Vodafone 3G line-up, the Sony Ericsson V800 has its work cut out for it. It's up against Motorola's entertainment-oriented e1000 and a two megapixel camera phone from Sharp.

Retro in its styling, the V800 represents the next stage on from the z1010 in our minds. Still, there's the shiny but buffed casing that's present on most of the current range, including the Z600, and this gives a solid, well made feel to the device. The clamshell design gives little away aside from the colour display on the top. Under the screen is a small speaker and the hinge hides a 1.3 megapixel camera similar to Motorola swivel models.

Open it up and the phone has been well laid out with nothing too risqué happening to the keypad a la Nokia or Siemens. In addition to the standard 12 keys, Sony Ericsson has added three buttons: videocall, menu and a 'my entertainment' button for quick access to all three areas. Above this is the standard D-pad, select, back and cancels buttons.

The opened clamshell design also reveals the camera, which, as mentioned, can be rotated. Interestingly and obviously to appease the nightclubbing fan club, the phone comes with a very bright flash to help light up whose dark moments. For the most part camera flashes or even lights on phones have been half-hearted attempts, but this is two bright bulbs in your face. It's a bit disconcerting, but nonetheless gets the job done.

All this is displayed on a large 2.2in, 262,000-colour screen that is as bright as the GX30 - and as Vodafone is probably fully aware - shows off its logo in bright vibrant colours.

The integration of the new services through Vodafone is amazing. The Vodafone Live! service has been completely overhauled. Loading up the first page gives you headlines from ITN. These can then be examined further and video clips played. The service, which is updated four times a day, offers all the latest news across a variety of areas and as its ITN - it does the news for Channel 4, Five and ITV. It's very consumer friendly.

Scroll past the news and you're offered movie trailers, music downloads and more. With the 3G service, Vodafone has now also gone into the music download business. At £1.50 per track it's a bit pricey, but they are hoping for the occasional instantaneous purchase rather than expecting you to start significantly extending your music collection. The V800 comes with a 32MB Memory Stick Duo, and with a quick upgrade means that this phone could easily become a small MP3 player. Combine that with the phone's impressively good speaker and you've got a winning combination.

Movie trailers like the music are quick to find and within seconds we were watching the latest teasers. Picture quality is excellent and even with dark movie clips the phone presented a good image. After watching the movie trailer you can then find the nearest cinema, triangulate your position so you can work out where you are and then dial the cinema booking line to order the tickets. Vodafone hasn't ruled out the idea of payment over the phone, DoCoMo-style, but that's not here just yet.


With Bluetooth, 3D gaming, global support including Japan, and every other feature you would want to put on a phone, the V800 has more baubles on it that a Christmas tree. To put it shortly, we are very, very impressed. The phone is a gem to use, and what makes it better still is that the integration of the services is very good as well. At no point did we feel that crap we didn't really want was being shoved down our throats.

Vodafone has adopted a rather risky, in our minds, price plan that on the surface seems to be more expensive that other such services. However, almost everything bar the music downloads on offer through the updated Vodafone Live! is included in the price. This for us meant that we didn't have the fear - as we have with Vodafone Live! On 2G - that every time we click on a button we are going to get charged.

If this is just the start of 3G, we're eagerly looking forward to where it's going to go next.

Sony Ericsson V800
Rating 90%
Pros — Stylish; easy to use; good features all round.
Cons — Takes Memory Stick rather than SD card.
Price £50-250, depending on contract
More info The Sony Ericsson UK website
The Vodafone website

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