The Virgin Mobile VM720 is a budget featurephone. It’s not advanced enough to be a smartphone (there’s no GPS), but still offers WiFi, a touchscreen and camera. But the most attractive thing about this phone is the price at £39.95 on pay as you go with £10 credit.
Virgin Mobile VM720: Design and build
At 86g the VM720 feels plasticky, but we’re please to report it’s not flimsy. It comes in bright purple, which makes a refreshing change from the black/grey phone’s we’ve seen and is will clearly appeal to the youth market it's intended for. The phone is actually the Huawei G7210, Huawei of course makes many of the budget handsets around at the moment.
Navigate using the central control button that sits adjacent to the call accept/call reject buttons. Most of the navigation is done using the 3-inch touchscreen. Unfortunately this the worst feature of phone, it's resistive rather than capacitive, so doesn’t always respond straight away and often you have to jab the screen several times before it does something. It just makes the Virgin Mobile VM720 incredibly slow to use.
We found it particularly problematic when using the T9 keyboard, where we frequently selected the wrong letters and typing something as simple as a WiFi code swiftly becomes time consuming frustrating. Swapping to the QWERTY offering resolves this, although it’s cramped if you have large fingers.
WiFi is a useful inclusion, but there's no 3G, so accessing web pages on the move can be slow. Internal memory is 256Mb, so you'll need to invest in a microSD card.
Virgin Mobile VM720: User interface
The Virgin Mobile VM720 doesn’t run Android, it uses it's own proprietary. Flick between eight homescreens: Settings, Calls, Messages, Music, Favourites, Photos and Favourites features, which includes features from the main menu. These features are locked to their own particular screen, so you can’t swap them over or replace them like you can on an Android UI. Swap between each screen quickly by tapping the Switch button to view a 3D carousel of the screens,
The main homescreen can however be customised using widgets you drag from a side bar on the right. The process of pulling out the arrow and selecting and dragging the widget to position takes longer than it should - again because of the sluggish touchscreen.
Choose between three main-menu layouts: grid, Tornado and Space Beam layouts. While the last two are certainly fun, they certainly aren't essential. We could live with the proprietary interface if the screen was more responsive, but it’s just too slow, especially because commands are often buried in menus, so it takes too long.
The web browser is Java based, so it’s incredibly basic, navigating a website like Recombu is like peering through a key hole and seeing only a portion of the page. Overall the browser is fine for checking simple websites, but not really built for multimedia content and certainly not for non-optimised websites, navigation is again very cumbersone.
You can access Java apps, although the only one installed is Facebook, which is basic, yet fine for posting updates and checking message, although if you leave the Facebook app the program shuts, so you'll have to log in again.
Virgin Mobile VM720: Camera
On-board there’s a 3.2-megapixel camera, which comes with a decent array of settings including white balance, exposure compensation and scene modes - surprising considering the camera only costs around £50. There are limitations though: the lack of ISO and flash means it’s best reserved for bright sunlight, otherwise noise can be a problem and photos look very dim. There’s no Macro mode, so it’s not great for close-ups either.
The problem we’ve noticed is that pictures just aren’t very sharp and without a solid shutter, there’s a slight delay when you take the picture, so camera shake is more of a problem and it’s near impossible to capture fast-moving action.
The Virgin Mobile VM720 captures video at 720x480, although with a frame rate of 7fps it’s very jerky with muffled sound, so we’d suggest using it sparingly. Although it’s undoubtedly a good feature to have.
Virgin Mobile VM720: Verdict
If you’re looking for an affordable phone for calls, texting and with moderate internet and Facebook access, the Virgin Mobile VM720 is worth considering and it’s eye-catching purple design will appeal to a young audience.
However, if it’s web browsing you’re interested in, at this price point we’d certain recommend the Orange Stockhom instead (which is around £59) instead, primarily because the capacitive screen is much quicker to use, although being able to download Android apps is a bonus too.
But if you aren't too bothered about web access, this is an affordable, stylish first mobile.