Looking at the VM621i's software, it's based on quite an effective if very simple operating system. On the homescreen (the background for which can be changed) you get battery and signal strength icons across the top with time and date shown just below. Along the bottom are customisable shortcuts to the camera and message folder. Meanwhile the D-pad also has four customisable shortcuts assigned to each direction and pressing the central button opens the main menu - all very simple and intuitive stuff.
Once in the main menu, you're greeted by an initial grid of options while further menu levels are simple text-based lists. It can take quite a few menus to get to the options you want but everything seemed to be where we expected and navigation, though not lightning fast, was sufficiently speedy.
In terms of messaging features, you get the ability to send and receive text and picture messages but there's no email facility and messages aren't arranged in conversations but are instead just stacked in the order they arrived. Likewise, contact organisation is limited with no social messaging integration or Outlook syncing or anything so fancy. What you can do, though, is arrange contacts into groups so you can, say, keep your colleagues and friends separate.
There is a web browser but it's pretty slow and limited and due to the very low resolution of the screen it takes a lot of scrolling around to read anything. As for graphically intensive websites that don't have a mobile version, like TR, it will often fail completely to load them. It does, however, have its uses in an emergency such as looking up the number of a hotel you're staying at.
Other tools and features include a file manager, which is always useful for organising your music, photos, and videos. Incidentally, there is a video player but we couldn't find anything that would play on it and considering the incredibly slow refresh rate of the screen we think it would be unwatchable anyway. You also get a calendar/organiser, calculator, unit converter, voice recorder, a contacts backup tool (contacts are saved to a memory card), and Bluetooth connectivity is supported. Overall connectivity, however, is limited. It doesn't support 3G or have Wi-Fi and is a dual-band handset (limited mostly to working in UK and Europe).
Call quality is acceptable though there was a slight hiss to the received signal and the microphone seemed sensitive to picking up background noise (especially birdsong). As you'd expect for such a simple phone, battery life is very good and just using this for the odd text and call should see you easily get a week's use, if not more.
With a light, slim yet attractive body, colour screen, intuitive operating system, relatively speedy operation, adequate call quality, and impressive battery life, the Virgin Media VM621i ticks all the essential boxes for a basic phone. Sure, its web browser is very poor, it lacks volume controls, and the screen isn't great but for £15 we can find no major reasons not to consider this for a cheap backup, emergency, or child's phone.