Vodafone’s 555 Blue may not be the first Facebook phone, and it’s certain not to be the last, but it’s the first to arrive without Android. This one is truly a Facebook phone; all the other phone functions are integrated into your Facebook profile.
Does it all work? Does it even compare to the HTC ChaCha?
What we like
Despite the lack of a touchscreen, the multi-directional softkey in the centre works well navigating around the phone’s menus. The volume key doubles up as a scroll button, making it easy to read messages and your Facebook feed with one hand.
The screen, whilst not a beauty, is bright and very readable – especially for anything Facebook related- something which it’s been especially designed for.
The keyboard is suitably clicky, and though it lacks number-specific keys, picks up on when you want to directly dial phone numbers.
Phone-calls are of a good quality, if a little tinny. We assume the plastic shell minimises any signal disruption. Whilst it may not compare to higher priced metallic smartphones, we like how this phone has differentiated itself when it comes to design and colour palette – though the blue volume key does look like a detachable SD card.
We liked how the Facebook button, at the lower right corner of the keyboard can be customised in settings. We went for the refresh option, meaning we could choose to update our messages and newfeeds at a touch. We’d to like say instantly, but, well, we’ll get to that later.
Given the phone’s Facebook-centric feature set, you’ll find the battery lasts and lasts. Obviously, your mileage may vary depending on exactly how much battery life you’ll squeeze out of it.
The phone is capable of playing mp3s, and there’s also a FM radio inside the 555 Blue; the loudspeaker is impressively loud, if slightly tinny, but it certainly punches above its weight.
What we don’t like
However you style it, this is a feature Facebook phone – there’s only a 2G (EDGE) data connection, and that means despite its accessible design, the data takes its sweet time. Even updating your newsfeed can take several minutes, and expect to see several “data connection terminated” messages.
We assume it’s in an effort to save costs, there’s also no WiFi copnnectivity – but given the similarly priced, Android-powered Vodafone Smart can do all this- and so much more – it’s all pretty hard to excuse.
Granted, there’s a full QWERTY keyboard, but like Samsung’s Galaxy Pro, it’s simply not as usable as several other phone keyboards.
The 2-megapixel camera on the back is poor, and despite the flash, seems to wash out most of the photos we took. We’re not sure what you’d be using the video recorder for- as the microphone reception and blurry footage is also weak.
The main gripe is that the phone, despite its smartphone clothing, is severely lacking features. There’s no video player, certainly no app store. If you remotely interested in games, you’re stuck playing dated Java offerings from the past. We’ve been told that in the future, software updates will allow simple Facebook games (and other functions) to run on it, but we’ll reserve judgement for when we see those.
You can forgive the Blue 555 for a lot of things, but the world of phones is moving on. If Vodafone and Facebook had teamed up to make a cheap smartphone – with a physical keyboard – it could have been a very different device. The lack of a data-friendly 3G connection is a real problem, especially for time-poor Facebook addicts.
As it stands, those interested in updating their status (or uploading photos) on the move would be better served by the HTC ChaCha or INQ Cloud Touch especially given all their multifunctional Android goodness . Or for a similar price, try Vodafone’s Smart.