Vodafone’s recent own branded phones have been a bit of a mixed bag, but the 845 looks much more interesting mainly because it runs on Google’s Android operating system and appears to be a bit of a bargain as it can be picked up for free on a cheap £15 a month contract.
For a touchscreen smartphone, the 845 is actually quite small and compact. It’s about half an inch shorter than the iPhone and a smidgen narrower too. We had the black version of the phone in for review, but Vodafone also offers it in white if that’s more your bag. The front of the 845 looks quite attractive with nicely rounded corners and a sloping edge at the bottom of the screen.
Beneath the screen is a neat row of four traditional clickable buttons – two call control keys, plus menu and back buttons. In the middle of these sits an optical track pad that you can use for moving through menus or scrolling through long lists. The track pad is responsive and also fairly accurate at tracking your finger movement. However, as the phone already has a touchscreen we found we didn’t actually use it that often, something that we’ve also found on other Android handsets with trackpads and trackballs. Nevertheless, the phone’s build quality is good and the case, although made entirely from plastic, feels quite solid and doesn’t creak or flex when you apply pressure to it.
The smaller dimensions means there’s only room to fit a 2.8in screen and this ends up being one of the handset’s biggest failings. The screen looks and feels quite small to use and matters aren’t helped either by its low 320 x 240 resolution. As a result, text and graphics don’t look as smooth or crisp as they do on some other budget Android handsets like the Samsung Galaxy Portal or T-Mobile Pulse. It also means you have to do an awful lot of scrolling when you’re viewing web pages and makes the tiny letters on the onscreen keyboard quite tricky to hit, which seriously slows down your typing.
For touch input, the display uses resistive rather than capacitive technology, so it doesn’t support multi-touch in applications like the browser and Google Maps. However, for normal touch input like tapping on alert boxes or selecting menu items it actually does feel surprisingly responsive for a resistive screen.
Unlike most other budget handsets, the 845 runs on the reasonably recent V2.1 version of Android, which was the newest one available until the launch of Froyo (2.2) in May this year. This means it has the improved web browser, support for Exchange email as well as the user interface updates that were introduced with Eclair. The 845 also meets the Open Handset Alliance’s minimum specification so unlike Acer’s E110 it does have the Android Market installed to let you download new apps.
Vodafone has also customised the interface slightly so there are seven homescreens and a range of widgets that you can drag and drop onto to these homescreens, including a calendar, notepad and a HTC-style weather clock. Furthermore, if you press the trackpad down it calls up a neat thumbnail view of all seven homescreens so you can quickly jump to a specific one.