Phones are nothing these days without a devilishly clever social networking interface. The HTC Hero is fronted by Sense, the Motorola DEXT has the excellent MotoBlur – and now Samsung has given it a new twist with the H1, which debuts Vodafone’s 360 service.
First, let’s clear this up – Vodafone 360 is a service, and the H1 the first of many 360-ready phones to come. You simply enter all of your social networking details – from the likes of FaceBook, MSN and Google Talk – at www.360.com, and the H1 neatly meshes them together with your phone contacts.
Before we delve into how well this works, let’s look at the phone itself. The H1 itself is an iPhone-sized handset with extra padding, so it doesn’t feel particularly sleek in the hand.
That said, its hard plastic casing does give it a robust build, while an all-over metallic finish is punctured by a glaring red side-button summoning a search facility for Google, the app shop, 360 members and phone content.
The hi-res 3.5in AMOLED display is nothing short of stunning; it’s vivid and bright, with strong definition. Unfortunately, the capacitive touchscreen lacks the sensitivity of poster-boy ticklers like the iPhone, HTC Touch HD2 and Hero.
Response to taps and swipes is erratic, and there’s also no multi-touch for zooming in on web pages. Surprisingly, though, a prolonged press and down swipe is just as controlled, if not as intuitive.
But now back to that 360 service. It gathers all your contacts from web accounts like Facebook and Google and displays them as floating 3D tiles – funky to look at, but a tad confusing at times.
Frequently used contacts are shunted to the front and can be assigned to different groups, and all changes are automatically synchronised with your 360 web account online.
The UI is certainly not as immediate as MotoBlur and HTC’s Sense, and you'll need to get friends onto the 360 bandwagon before you see its true worth – location sharing, in particular.
The biggest disappointment of all is the lack of full Facebook integration – you need to go online to reply to messages via the dedicated Status page – and Twitter is only accessible through a downloaded app.
Powered by the latest open-source Linux OS, LiMo, press the front Apps button and you’re taken to a iPhone-esque sliding main menu page. Downloaded app icons sit happily here next to traditional phones features.
Its customisable, user-friendly and handy ‘live’ widget tiles can grow larger to show active info without having to completely open the app.
Unsurprisingly, Vodafone’s App Shop is lagging behind rival stores from Apple, Android, BlackBerry and even Nokia for variety and stock, but there’s enough onboard to explore – especially if you’re a gamer.
The user-interface is intuitive to use and nicely categorised under familiar subjects and the search facility is extra sharp; you can sort within each group by date, name, rating, free apps, recently added, recommended and most downloaded.
Annoyingly, pricing isn’t displayed until you nominate an individual app, but they cost anything from free to £7 for a best-selling eBook. There’s also no call to enter credit card details when paying – the cost is simply added to your Vodafone phone bill.
Music and video
The 3.5mm integrated headphone jack boosts audio playback and DRM-free MP3s from Vodafone Music sound surprisingly full-bodied, even through the supplied earphones. 16GB of built-in memory is ample storage for the multimedia guzzler.
So can this innovative combo package be classed a success? Not quite. With Android finding its feet on several accommodating handsets like the Motorola DEXT, it'll have to brush up its UI to be a true contender.