Design is simple and non-threatening, weight is minimal and the keys are satisfyingly clickable
Sending texts and making calls is simple, but web navigation and social networking can be frustrating to master
Not every budget handset can boast dedicated social networking access but this has both Facebook and Twitter features
Using the basic functions of the phone is straightforward enough, but web browsing can grind things to a halt
A single charge will last you days on standby, even with hours of talktime under your belt
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,5/30/2012 4:30:32 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Facebook and Twitter access, massive battery life
Text input is very fiddly, web browsing is slow and very basic
Low-cost budget handsets are hardly the most glamorous of options in a market awash with Galaxys, iPhones and Xperias. But there's something to be said for the simple option. Not everyone wants or needs a smartphone, and budget handsets offer a simple solution for those looking to make calls, send texts and take the occasional peek at social networks.
The VM560 was built by Alcatel and bundled by Virgin Media for under £20, making it a great lure for anyone looking for something cheap and cheerful. On closer inspection however, the phone has a few extra whistles and bells that mark it out from other budget phones. So do these features give the VM560 an edge in a saturated prepay market?
The VM560 is a non-threatening, curvy candybar handset with slightly raised and well-spaced keys. This includes a large navigation button that acts as your main selector. Two (upper and lower) soft keys flank each side of the central button; the top control your on-screen selections, the bottom left (green) starts calls and the bottom right (red) ends them and switches off the phone when you press and hold. This is button layout 101, and an arrangement that even first timers would be able to quickly get around.
Up the top of the phone is a 3.5mm jack for your headphones; down the left hand side is a dedicated Camera button, while the right houses the USB charge port. The main home screen gives you the essentials: Messaging, weather, calendar and call log shortcuts, while the central menu grid houses these and other programs like your contacts book, email, and camera.
At this price point, you should expect basic – and that's exactly what you get. It has a two-megapixel camera that takes average snaps, which you could embed in texts but certainly not share on Facebook even if transferring files wasn't baffling. Email access is basic and web browsing is far from slick. However, for someone who merely wants the option of internet access, the phone certainly has a range of features to recommend it even at the most basic of levels.
The VM560 has opted to move with the times for the current pay-as-you-go shopper, throwing in access to Facebook and Twitter. Sadly, these are frustrating to navigate and even the simple action of inputting your password can be a chore. A lot of that is down to the poor symbol navigation, for those with more adventurous passwords than "1, 2, 3, 4, 5." Go too fast and you'll pass the icon you want; too slow and you'll pick the wrong one. It sounds pedantic but you use underscores, @s and apostrophes probably a lot more than you realise and it makes logging in to Facebook and Twitter potentially off-putting.
It's hard to fault a phone that costs less than a trip to the cinema. The VM560 is an ideal basic handset for talkers and texters, with social and web features not present in every handset at this end of the scale. Its battery life is massive, its memory can be expanded to 8GB and it's simple to master, but the frustration factor does make the experience a bit of a mixed bag.