The M1’s approach to applications and settings is slightly different to most other phones. For starters, applications and settings are all displayed in a single horizontally scrolling grid of icons, but interestingly some applications have a special preview mode. The first time you tap on them they expand to four times normal size to show you a live preview of the app. You can then tap on it again to open it full size on the screen. The thinking behind this seems to be that for some apps you won’t always need to see the full interface to get the information you need. For example, from the preview of the Accuweather app you can see the temperature and weather conditions for today, plus the next three days via the preview view, so you only really need to fully open the app if you want to see the satellite view. This is a neat idea, but unfortunately the preview is quite slow to display, so by the time it appears you may as well have loaded the full app.
The phone is loaded with a decent range of applications including an impressive web browser that’s based on Opera and a media player that can handle Divx and Xvid files. The phone’s music player is also rather good and the M1 has a built in FM tuner with RDS so station names are automatically displayed on the screen. There’s also an on-phone app store, although the range of apps on offer is a tad anaemic at present and with the M1 and H1 being the only real LiMo phones available in the UK it’s difficult to see it filling out much in the near future.
Another area where the handset falls down is connectivity. The M1 does support GPS, Bluetooth and HSDPA, but it lacks Wi-Fi. If you live in an area with a poor 3G signal this will be a real pain as you’re left totally reliant on the mobile network for data access. Nevertheless, we had no problems with call quality during our test period and battery life isn’t too bad either - we found it would run for around two days before needing a charge.
There’s plenty to like about the M1. It’s available for free on a very affordable £15 a month contract, it’s got a good range of media features and a decent line up of apps. However, the phone’s software is annoyingly buggy. Vodafone has big plans for its 360 service, but if it doesn’t want to strangle the 360 brand at birth then it needs to quickly get on top of the issues we’ve seen with both the H1 and the M1. There’s definitely potential here, but the software problems make this handset difficult to recommend at present.