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The last time I reviewed a 3G phone on the 3 network was over a year ago and many things have changed since then. The most important change is that 3 has finally got competition from the established mobile phone carriers. To be honest, I bought a 3 phone some time ago, but it wasn’t because any of the services 3 provides, but rather because of the amount of inclusive minutes you get every month.
I’m sure I’m not the only one that has been temped, but there are times when I regret my purchase - early on this was due to the poor network coverage, which I can gladly say has been vastly improved upon. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is the poor battery life of the handset, even though I’m using the extended battery.
My handset is a second generation 3G phone, but if the new Motorola E1000 is anything to go by, things are set to improve with the third generation of handsets that are now being launched. The E1000 is a traditional “candy bar” phone while most 3G phones so far seem to have been of the flip variant. If this is a good thing or not tends to be down to personal taste, but Motorola has come up with some interesting additions to a traditional design.
The first thing you notice about the E1000 is the large screen and at 34 x 44mm, with a resolution of 240 x 320 pixels, this 16bit display is excellent in use and very clear and easy to read. The second thing you notice is the odd button layout – there’s a row of four buttons on each side of the display, which is similar to the design of the Siemens SX1, although not quite as brave as having the whole keypad down the side of the phone.
On the left hand side are the volume buttons as well as a video call and a voice call button. On the right hand side you’ll find a quick access button to the Internet, one for the camera, a back button and an end call button that also doubles up as the power on/off button. The camera button will also capture pictures once the camera software is running.
Just below the screen are three soft buttons, with the middle one taking you directly to the phone’s menus. One thing I found strange with the E1000 is the location of the small joystick, as it is placed between the 2 and 5 buttons on the keypad – this becomes particularly awkward when you’re trying to play games on the phone. You should also remember not to place your phone face-down on a surface - the joystick sticks out quite far from the keypad and it could get pressed inwards by mistake.
With the E1000 being a 3G phone it has two cameras, the rear one is a 1.2 megapixel camera with a native resolution of 1,280 x 960 pixels, while the front one which is used for video calls can only manage VGA quality - 640 x 480 pixels. This is not really an issue, since the video quality is heavily compressed and the picture you receive on the other end doesn’t look anything like the one you see of yourself in the preview window.
The good news is that we successfully made a 3G video call between the E1000 on 3’s network and a Sony Ericsson V800 on Vodafone without any problems at all, which goes to show that 3G is maturiing nicely. We’ll have a full review of the V800 up shortly.