We may have seen this keyboard toting smartphone in a scrambled thumbnail earlier this year, but it's now gone official. And yes, there's a Facebook button.
Design-wise, it looks pretty similar to a certain rhythmically named smartphone, with a white shell and physical QWERTY keyboard. But this is where similiarities end; Vodafone’s launching a FaceBook feature phone and it’s looking to take on the world.
It’s not running Android, but in fact a proprietary system with your FaceBook status heavily -really heavily- integrated into everything. Turn on the phone, and you'll be prompted for a Facebook login. The Facebook button is subtly included into the main keyboard, and doesn’t stand out as much as the HTC ChaCha.
Vodafone are pitching it as a bridging device, we were told it’ll cost less than it's own branded Smart Android phone; but there’s so many Facebook features, it can’t be considered a typical feature phone.
At the phone's launch event, there were Vodafone representatives from as far afield as India, where they're hoping a keenly priced Facebook phone will make a huge impact.
Underneath the Vodafone branding is Alcatel hardware. Whilst there’s no touchscreen, the screen is 2.4-inches across, in landscape, which we were prone to futilely tapping. There’s also a 2-megapixel camera on the back. No 3G or WiFi though...
Vodafone’s Patrick Chomet, group terminals director, stressed that the phone business was in a massive transition of voice business to data business, “beyond any plans made”.
Even putting smartphone aside, he added that data was penetrating feature phones too- with 12 million downloads of the Opera Mini web browser.
Facebook seems to be happy with what Vodafone has come up with. At the launch event today, Joanna Shields, MD of FaceBook EMEA, called it “the most social experience you can have.” Beyond real-life?
The Vodafone 555 Blue looks set to arrive at August, priced at around £60. Whether that’ll distract people from the rash of recent sub-£100 smartphones remains to be seen.
See some exclusive launch photos on our FaceBook page.