Making a call is a relatively easy process – you simply tap the call button and a virtual keypad will appear on screen. You then simply tap in the number using the stylus or your finger and hit the call button again. The Vario is a quad-band handset, so it should work in most countries around the world – in fact I’m using it while in San Francisco right now, so GSM 1900 definitely works.
There’s a decent amount of memory built into the Vario, but about half of the 44MB of program storage is already filled, leaving you just under 24MB to install anything else. There was also about 40MB of storage space free, although you can easily augment this with a mini-SD card – at around £20 for a 512MB card, it won’t cost the earth to expand the storage capacity.
The MDA Vario is available for free on T-Mobile, with the Web ‘n’ Walk 100 plan giving you 100 anytime, cross network minutes a month, along with 40MB of included data for £30. That’s a pretty good deal, and should mean that you can make use of all the data features on the Vario without ever worrying about your monthly bill.
The big question though, is whether I’d be willing to use the Vario as my everyday mobile phone, as well as a mobile data device and the answer is, probably not. Even though with dimensions of 108 x 58 x 18.1mm (LxWxD), the Vario is far smaller than the SPV M5000 that I currently use as my mobile data device, it’s not really small enough to make me want to carry it around with me all the time, even if I don’t need data services. That said, there are many people, including some of the guys in the TrustedReviews office that feel differently to me. Considering I personally know people that use far larger devices as their everyday phone, it’s not surprising that they see the Vario as a pretty compelling concept.
As a mobile data device the Vario doesn’t quite have the edge of the SPV M5000 or XDA Exec, both of which offer 3G high-speed connections. However, I’ve been using the Vario as my mobile mail client for a few weeks and it works admirably. Likewise, it’s a great device for using instant messenger on the move – for a true testament of mobile computing, I recently spent a train journey chatting to my News Editor, Gordon over MSN, while he was sitting in Brazil with his notebook. It was almost like one of those Intel Centrino TV adverts.
The MDA Vario is probably the closest thing I’ve seen to a “do it all” mobile device. It works well as a pocket size data centre and is just about small enough to use as a phone. That said, I’d still like to see something a little smaller and with 3G support. Ultimately though, if you want to carry just one device that does everything, the Vario deserves close inspection.