Now that 3G is a bona fide mainstream technology the race is on to bring customised content to users' phones with a minimum of fuss.
The technology might be highly advanced, but if the handset is designed well, you should barely notice it working. Sony Ericsson's V630i is exclusive to Vodafone, meaning that all the 3G features on the phone are custom designed to give high-speed access to Vodafone's wealth of content and services.
The V630i has an understated appearance, but look closer and the give away lens on the front face tells of its video calling ability. Along with video calling, 3G offers massive amounts more in the way of content.
The huge range and sheer quantity of goodies available through Vodafone's live! portal makes the V630i an attractive offering all on its own. The sort of features you can expect include TV streaming, full music track downloads, 3D gaming, internet access and advanced messaging.
It's hard to believe all this is possible in such a modest looking device, but even this doesn't tell the whole story. There are also dedicated music playback controls, a 256MB Memory Stick Micro (M2) card for storing more than 200 of your favourite tunes, and stereo Bluetooth allows you to enjoy them with wirefree headphones.
To top things off there's a high resolution 2-megapixel camera on the back.
One of the first things we noticed about the V630i was how light it was. At 91g, it's not the lightest, but for its size the weight is impressive, despite maintaining a solid feel to the build.
The classic candybar form factor of the V630i has been tinkered with slightly, with a few curves added in here and there to make it more tactile. The result is an instant feeling of comfort as you pick it up, and a familiar enough layout of keys to navigate easily.
When you turn the phone on, you first get to choose between Normal and Flight modes. This is becoming a common feature, as while mobiles can't be used in flight, there's an ever increasing number of different features mobiles come packed with that can make flying a whole lot more enjoyable.
Once started up, the main screen holds an animated screensaver, showing up vibrant colours and good detail. The resolution of the screen is a decent 176x220 pixels, and capable of 262k colours. The controls on the V630i are familiar enough, with the important addition of dedicated music playback keys.
The usual four way rocker and okay switch on the face has further music controls etched onto it, so that once the music player is opened, it's obvious how to navigate through your tracks. Better than this though, on the upper left hand edge there's a play button which takes you directly to the music content stored on the phone and the M2 card.
This works wherever you are in the menus, and makes the V630i feel like a genuinely dual-purpose device. The operation couldn't be simpler, and we wouldn't be surprised if this approach to music player functionality catches on.
Another aspect to the V630i's music features is Radio DJ. This is a whole new approach to the idea of downloading music, as it works on the principle of a personalised radio station. Instead of scrolling through a list of existing stations, you create your own, specifying the type of music, the mood and the decade you want to hear.
The software then compiles a playlist of what it thinks will suit you. As you continue to use it, the smart aspect to the service can learn what you like and don't like, according to how you rate the choices it makes.
The idea is excellent, and although we didn't have time to test how good the service could learn to be, we're sure Vodafone is on to a winner with the idea at least.
The camera on the V630i is the same model that will be familiar to users of Sony Ericsson's K750i and W800i mobiles. It may not be an upgrade, but the 2-megapixel Sony Ericsson camera ranks among the best currently available on any mobile phone, so it's not to be sniffed at.
Pictures are strikingly realistic and full of colour and definition - it's easy to see why people are saying the end is in sight for the dedicated digital camera. There's a video mode as well as one for stills, and a raft of effects to stylise images with, as well as night mode, self timer and white balance controls.
Further picture editing can be done in the PhotoDJ application. This is found in the menus under Entertainment, where loads of other goodies are stored too. VideoDJ can stitch different clips together, along with stills, text and a soundtrack, and MusicDJ acts like a mini recording studio, where you can mix different samples together to make new ringtones.
This is also where the Mobile TV application is stored, allowing you access to channels such as Sky One, Sky News, Channel 4, MTV Trax, Discovery Factual and more. My Games is the final app in the Entertainment section, which in our case had seven games, although on a trial basis only.
Messaging is well supported on the V630i, including the usual SMS and MMS flavours as well as an email client that supports attachments. There's also a feature for receiving RSS news feeds. Bluetooth is supported for sending picture files between phones and PCs, and for backing up the phone using the included software.
The fact that this version of Bluetooth supports A2DP means that it is equipped to handle stereo sound, allowing you to listen to tune collections in full stereo sound without wires - as well as make and receive calls.
Other applications on the V630i include useful features such as a timer and stopwatch, as well as more familiar ones such as an alarm, extensive calendar, voice memo recorder and calculator.
All round, we found the V630i to be a very tidy package, with more than a few surprises. There's nothing outwardly show stopping about the look, but it's well designed and there's a massive amount of features crammed in.
There were no problems with call quality both received and made, and reception was good in the areas we tested. 3G coverage continues to roll out across the country, but the addition of menu choices in the V630i's software now allows you to check if you're in a 3G area or not.
Good battery life
Battery life held up particularly well, doing a good job of standing up to the company claims of 14 days standby or seven hours normal talktime.
The V630i should appeal to users looking for the sort of new content that 3G can offer, while genuinely innovative features such as RadioDJ should add a whole new angle to the experience of downloading and listening to music on the move. Hugo Frazer
- Camera: A secondary video call camera is perched discreetly on the front of the V630i, just above the display
- Megapixel snaps: The main camera on this model is capable of 2-megapixel images, producing high quality pics
- 3G: As well as a high speed web browser and video calls you can get fast downloads and Mobile TV
- M2 card: The V630i uses the latest Memory Stick Micro - or M2 - miniature flash memory cards that slot into the phone's side