The large, lightweight silver chassis takes away from the high-end features that the Samsung H1 houses, making it look far cheaper than it actually is.
This Vodafone 360-enabled smartphone boasts high spec features, but is seems to offer a number of different ways of doing the same thing – filtering your contacts. What struck us most in terms of usability is that it is not the most efficient handset, requiring a lot of unnecessary and annoying clicks.
A massive 16GB internal memory is superb, and Samsung always excels when it comes to cameras – the H1’s five-megapixel snapper doesn’t disappoint. Vodafone 360 offers a number of social networking features, but your friends are required to also have an enabled device for them to reach their full potential.
Although the H1 is packed with social networking features, there is limited opportunity to actually interact on this phone. The keyboard is frustrating to use but the music player and camera are both excellent.
Battery life was exceptional, with a talktime of 400 minutes.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:56:36 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Good touch-screen, supports dozens of social networks, automatic backup for contacts and photos
Social network integration is pretty basic, keyboard not efficiently designed, confusing feature set
Vodafone 360 is kind of confusing. The social networking service launched last month, but it’s as though the operator can’t decide if it’s a feed of other social networks or actually its own network. But if it is, it’s not very good (yet!) because its better social networking features hinge on you not only knowing people on Vodafone, they must also have a Vodafone 360-enabled handset. And for now, that’s basically the Samsung H1.
The H1 is a 360-optimised handset, which makes it a necessarily high-end smartphone. That’s belied by its rather large, light silver chassis though, which just doesn’t have that slick, minimalist style you associate with pricey genius phones. Buttons and slots decorate the side and back like it’s some kind of triple war veteran, but we’ll give it major props for functionality – you’ve got a five-megapixel camera lens, LED flash, dedicated search button (in bright red so you can’t miss it), dedicated camera button, zoom/volume control, miniUSB, plus two neat little red vents for the speaker. At the base of the 3.5-inch touch-screen is the call button and our two special Voda 360 ones, ‘Contacts’ and ‘Apps’. You’re prompted to sign up for a 360 profile when you use the phone for the first time, and this includes linking your other social network accounts. For now, that’s Facebook, Google, Windows Live, AOL, plus several smaller ones, with Twitter to come. Once that’s done, pressing the Contacts button brings up a home screen with all your contacts across all your accounts, and you can also scroll to separate screens for each account, as well as ‘Work’, ‘Friends’ and ‘Family’ pages that you customise. Then there are the groups you can create too. It’s a lot of different ways to filter your friends – which you’re going to need a lot of to really work this phone to its max. The lock screen features a snazzy digital clock and notifications of texts, calls, chats and emails pop up here. And Vodafone hasn’t forgotten that this is a phone – to bring up the dialler, simply tap the top of the screen.
The whole phone is built around 360, with the most obvious and unique feature being that the home screen is all about your contacts, filtered by who you use the most – whether by email, text, or the 360-exclusive interaction, ‘location nudge’ (give other 360 friends a friendly GPS tap and send your exact co-ordinates with map link). Sounds a cool idea, but the 3D view with mini contact cards for each friend look quite messy. This results in seven or eight cards in ‘front’ and tiny background cards that are meant to be in ‘the distance’. Once you know that, the layering makes sense, but why not just leave it as a single screen of eight or so contacts?We were also slightly annoyed by the fact that if you have a most-contacted friend who’s both a Facebook and Google contact, and also in your ‘Friend’ group, they will actually show up in all three screens, AND the all-contacts screen. The phone only syncs contacts based on the same email address, not on the same name, so many of our contacts, who for example were on Gmail but signed up to Facebook using another address, were doubled up. We get it – two people can have the same name, but not the same email address, but how many people in your social group actually have the exact same name? It makes for more manual contact-merging, and to do that, you have to go to the 360 website. It’s slightly annoying, but as you’re probably going to have to do a lot of merging, maybe it works out easier this way.
Though you can sync your Facebook contacts, you can’t actually view their status updates from their contact card – you can only view whatever snippet fits on screen, and you can’t click through to Facebook either. Speaking of, there isn’t even a Facebook app available for this phone. It’s not a patch on HTC’s social network-centric interface, which lets you view and click through to updates and photos on Facebook and Flickr. There is a status feed where all updates can be viewed in full, but that’s in a separate screen not reachable from a contact’s profile. You can only look at updates by tapping the ‘saying’ icon on the toolbar, but there’s no way to comment. And that’s part of what niggles us most about the phone – it’s a lot of information that you may or may not want, without much option for interaction. Then there’s the keyboard, an integral part of any social networking experience – and it ain’t all that. While accurate and responsive, its auto-suggest is just that – it doesn’t complete the word for you, only displaying a list of possibilities to choose from, so you’re looking at an extra click per mistyped word on every message. Also, there’s no punctuation in the main screen, so it’s another extra click to add those commas and full stops. And, after switching to the numbers/punctuation screen, spacebar doesn’t automatically switch you back to alphabet, so that’s another click. By now, we’re seriously clicked out. We liked the apps menu though, reached via a dedicated button on the phone’s face. A grid style menu, it looks like iPhone’s menu, and you can also pepper it with widgets for an aesthetically pleasing combo of 1x1 app shortcuts and 2x2 widgets. Program shortcuts are also here, as in a link to Vodafone’s app shop where you can download apps direct to phone for anything from free to £5. Unfortunately, prices are’t shown in the main catalogue and you have to actually click on the app to find out if it’s going to cost you.
The full HTML browser ponies up a great web experience, with a responsive touch-screen and innovative ways to zoom and hit links. Double tapping brings up a box telling you the zoom magnification; you then drag on the box up to zoom out, down to zoom in. This also works in the maps program. To hit a link, tap on or near it, and the browser brings up a magnified bit with everything you hit, often more than one link. You then select the one you actually meant. Then there’s the camera – as you’d expect from Samsung, which claimed our ‘Best Camera Phone’ award with the Pixon12, the five-meg snapper is pretty good, and comes with anti-shake, anti-focus, flash and geo-tagging. You can choose from several auto settings including landscape, sunrise, sunset, and the hugely useful ‘take picture against light’, which you’ll love if you’re ever shooting a person or object in low light. No macro, but a quick and timely shutter release means action shots are framed and shot very well. Colours indoors look a bit green, but we almost didn’t care when we found the post-production tools at our disposal – along with the usual fixers, you can draw on pictures or add cool filters like ‘cartoon’ or ‘magic pen’. Best extra? Any photos you snap are automatically backed up, over-the-air, to your profile on the 360 website. Of course, there’s a music player as well and we’re gobsmacked by the generous 16GB of internal memory and happily, a 3.5mm audio jack with decent in-ear headphones.
Unless you have lots of friends on 360, the H1’s social networking features are pretty basic as you can only view, and not interact with updates. There’s no Facebook app and we’re not sure why you can instant message on Gtalk and not Windows Live. Still, it supports more networks than any other handset out now, and even without the social networking aspects, we like this phone for its bright, clear AMOLED screen, pimped out media features and innovative, intuitive user interface. Hopefully as Voda rolls out more 360-enabled handsets, it’ll iron out the more confusing bits of the service too.