Vodafone has a range of own branded exclusive handsets and recently I looked at the Vodafone Vodafone 810, a 3G slider. The Vodafone 526 is somewhat lower down the pecking order in terms of specifications, being a rather more straightforward candybar phone.
It comes in at just £30 on Vodafone pay as you talk, and at that price, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that it isn’t going to be your cup of tea if you want the latest fancy features. But it might fall within your sights if a small, neat phone primarily designed for voice calling is what you are after.
This mobile phone is made for Vodafone by Sagem whose handsets tend to sit in the mid to low end of the spectrum. I have really liked some of their more recent offerings, not least the ultra low cost My150X.
As a dual-band phone, the Vodafone 526 clearly isn’t intended for those who like their international travel. Nor does it have any pull for those who like music on their mobiles as it lacks a player.
Still, the Vodafone 526 is small and neat enough that you can easily carry it and a separate music player probably in the same pocket. At 77g its weight is negligible and at 108mm tall, 47mm wide and 12mm thick it is comfortable in a small jeans pocket.
The general styling of this mobile also makes its ordinary candybar form appear at least a little distinctive. The key here is the navigation button whose large central select key is framed by an almost complete silver circle used for directional movement. The softmenu, Call and End keys are separated by narrow horizontal silver strips, completing this ‘sliver against black’ look.
The number pad is made up of mechanical keys that sit flush to each other, which are large and quite easy to hit at speed. Fast texting is certainly on the cards. I measured the main screen at just 1.8in diagonally. It is a CSTN type – old fashioned but adequate unless you get really multimedia heavy, and this phone isn’t up to a great deal of that.
A silver band runs all around the edge of this phone. The only slot it offers is for the proprietary connector that is used to charge the phone. There is no PC connectivity and no connector for an external headset so if you want to use hands-free for calling it has to be via the phone’s loudspeaker, which isn’t all that loud and is best avoided altogether.
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.
Score in detail