On the back of the phone the fascia is black and pockmarked with a regular array of indents that lend a little distinctiveness to the overall look.
There are some neat touches to the software, too. Press the Call button from the main screen and a little tabbed menu pop ups letting you see dialled, received, and missed calls, as well as total call duration. Press down on the navigation button and you are into your contacts list; pressing right takes you to multimedia (pictures and ringtones); left takes you to messaging; and up drops you into the Vodafone Live! menu where you can fritter away your pay as you talk pennies on the GPRS data connection.
There is no Bluetooth on board, and, probably not surprisingly, no mobile email either. Voice dialling is absent, there is no FM radio, and no microSD card slot for bumping up the 1.5MB of memory the phone has internally.
The camera is not up to a great deal. It does have a self-portrait mirror, but there is no flash and few software goodies. You can drop into sepia mode if the mood takes you, but there isn't much else to play with. The camera's maximum resolution is 640 x 480 pixels.
With neither Bluetooth, infrared nor a PC connection to get pictures off the phone, the only real option is to MMS them to people or to use Vodafone's Live! Postcard service, which sends a real postcard of your photo to a residential address.
Vodafone rates the 526 as capable of 3 hours of talk and 220 hours on standby. I charged my review sample and left it switched on, using it intermittently for voice calls. It gave a somewhere between 120 and 140 hours of life using this method and I suspect for infrequent users twice weekly charging would be sufficient.
The Vodafone 526 is a small and neat minimalist mobile phone and its battery life is not bad. The competition around the £30 and below mark is currently quite healthy though, so shop around.