The keyboard naturally has serious knock-on effects on browsing. Typing-in web addresses on the Virgin Media VM720 is a slog, and using the miniature Qwerty we found we typed-in the wrong character more often than not.
As the browser software is java-based, it's basic and relies heavily on sites having cut-down mobile versions available. Rendering of pages was slow and we soon became well-acquainted with the "insufficient memory" pop-up that appears whenever everything gets that little bit too taxing for the VM720.
The final kick to the web browsing experience comes from the resistive screen, which slows surfing further and rules-out the multi-touch zooming that owners of pricier phones enjoy. The browser software doesn't allow for zooming anyway, relying on cut-down WAP sites.
Although the VM720 has Wi-Fi, it's not a good web-browsing device. In this price band, you'd be better off with the Samsung Galaxy Europa. However, there are no web-browsing superstars available this cheap. Manage your expectations accordingly.
Here's a close-up of the 240x400 pixel display - perfectly respectable at the price
There's a basic 3.2-megapixel camera onboard, which can also captures 3GP video up to a surprisingly-high 720x480 pixel resolution. Video at this quality is jerky though. The VM720 isn't up to capturing any special moments for posterity.
Stills quality is similarly limited. Photos are fairly noisy and lack detail, and with a fixed focus (instead of autofocus) you can't pap anything close up. But you'll still be able to snap a few Facebook-worthy shots in good light. The camera and gallery app don't let you pipe them over to your profile directly though - only share over Bluetooth or as an email attachment.
The lack of flash means the camera's all-but useless during the night and evening, but the camera app does give you a few control options and modes to play with. There's a digital zoom, exposure compensation and a "night" scene mode, as well as a few effects (Greyscale, Sepia, green/blue colourisation and colour inversion, adding a frame.) On top of these, there are Panorama, burst shot and continuous shot modes.
Getting down to day-to-day practicalities, call quality is pretty average, but the lack of always-on 3G connectivity mean the VM720 will last several days off a charge. As we were put off coming back to browse the web as we might with a more expensive smartphone, the need for every day charging we're used to dissipated. Yes, it's a bit of a backhanded compliment.
The Virgin Media VM720 boasts a lot of features for hardly any money - Wi-Fi stealing top billing. It doesn't have the software to make using many of them worthwhile though. On the surface, everything looks great. It's a cute-looking device with an unsually slick interface veneer. Scrape this away and there are too many clumsy and awkward navigation elements to make using the phone enjoyable as anything but a calling device.
The Virgin Media VM720 makes a great entrance. The purple body is something different, the interface looks decent and is packed with slick animations that wouldn't look out of place in a device several times the price. Get to know the phone a little more and you'll start to see its ugly side though. Navigation is awkward, social networking integration is poor and typing anything longer than a phone number on the dodgy virtual keyboard is no fun.