The 541 is a tiny, rounded device with a matt gloss finish that fits nicely in the pocket and the hand
The low-rent touch-screen is a tad unresponsive, and sending a text message proved to be an incredibly frustrating experience
One of the stand out features of the Vodafone 541 is the ability to record voice memos and send voice messages, which is pretty cool for a low cost handset
The customisable home screen and LED control panel are cool features on a phone this cheap, but the 1.3-megapixel camera and the resistive touch-screen disappoint
With 270 minutes of talktime and 380 hours standby, the Vodafone 541 has an impressive battery life for a low cost phone
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:59:11 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Cute, fresh design, decent touch-screen for the price, a customisable home screen with widgets
Slow on-screen keyboard makes sending texts an ordeal
Vodafone recently launched a line of super affordable phones that nonetheless boast things like touch-screens and widgets that are more commonly found on higher-end handsets. One of the first in this collection is the 541, a compact touch-phone with a smartphone-esque customisable home screen.
The 541 is a tiny, rounded device with a matt gloss finish. Our model was a cute pink with black accents. There’s a token 1.3-megapixel camera on the back, and below the 2.4-inch touch-screen sits the coolest thing about the device – a touch-sensitive LED panel that lights up with different patterns depending on what app you’re in. You press on specific bits for particular actions, and it’s almost like a whole new navigation system. For example, when in the home screen, four LEDs make up a diamond shape where the left dot hides the widget toolbar, the middle two hide the shortcut bar, and the right calls up the all-programs menu. The widget toolbar has an events log, weather widget, music player, camera and applications box, all of which you can pull out onto the home screen and drag to the exact place you want. The shortcut bar has links to your contacts book, call log, messages and all programs.
If you’ve used a touch-screen phone before, you might find the 541 a little odd – you can’t really swipe on it. When scrolling through the all-programs screens, you can only tap at the base of the screen to get to the next one – swiping has no effect. When scrolling down a window, swiping only works on the scrollbar at the side. It’s an even lower-rent version of existing budget touch-phones, but in general works pretty accurately. Unfortunately, it’s a bit unresponsive, which you only really notice when trying to type text messages – and then it becomes incredibly frustrating. There’s a bundled stylus that is quite fiddly. The virtual keypad is really slow going, and even with predictive text on, the full stop won’t automatically slot in when you hit the symbol key – instead you head into a separate screen to tap the symbol you want. Considering that the target market of the phone is likely to be the cash strapped teenager (who according to recent stats sends something like 100 texts a day), this is a pretty serious flaw. As a kind of compensation, you can record voice memos and actually send voice messages, which is quite cool.
The audio quality was decent on our end, though our recipient’s voice seemed to lack depth. However, on the other end, our friend said they could hear all the noise in our surroundings, which was really distracting. We’re also not fans of the way the phone makes weird little vibrating pulses while trying to connect the call. The camera, at 1.3-megapixels, takes pretty pixelated shots meant strictly for viewing on the phone. There’s also only 5MB of internal memory to store the snaps, though you can bump it up via the microSD slot which supports cards up to 4GB. You can send the picture via Bluetooth or SMS, or set it as wallpaper or a contact image, but not upload it to a social network. In fact, there’s no social networking aspect to this phone, unless you can stand to hit up the mobile-optimised versions via the browser over slow GPRS internet speeds.
We love the customisable home screen and snazzy LED control panel, cool features on a phone this cheap. In fact, this phone would be great if only you didn’t have to type on it. Though the touch-screen is better than expected, and the fresh design and user interface will appeal, the fact that it’s so hard to type text messages will likely deter its target youth market.