Posted by: Mobile Kugel on Aug 30, 2011
Yes, I know the general term for WAP enabled phones these days is “smartphone”, but after doing some research on the Vodafone 555 Blue, I had to borrow the term “dumbphone” from Tech Crunch’s Chris Velazco.
While there have been other Facebook phones, this latest feature phone claims to take Facebook integration to the next level on pay as you go (PAYG) phones.
The reality is 555 Blue was launched about two years too late. In South Africa, the BlackBerry phenomenon has become a force to be reckoned with.
Internationally, the amount of smartphones on the market is so plentiful that it is difficult to compete with among many other aspects, great camera quality, sexy (Facebook) apps, speedy processors and decent internet connection.
Image from toolsmust.com
My initial thoughts
This phone is so run of the mill I don’t even know how one would articulate it at the front desk of a Vodacom store.
“Um hi there, can I please have a look at the Vodafone 5-5-5 Blue.”
Or is it, “Hi there, can I look at the triple 5 Blue please.”
I get the ‘Blue’ bit, it is the Facebook brand colour but the 555 conjures up the possibility of some evil numerology aligning with bad luck or death. Similar to being named Apple by your parents, it’s just unfortunate.
From a user point of view, it is clear that for the privileged few in South Africa who have average to great internet access from our mobile phones and 3G or ADSL at home on our desktop/laptop/tablet computers, this feature phone is not worth a consideration.
But this phone was not made for the privileged, the app lovers or tech geeks.
Rather it will do well to cater for an audience made up of 16-25 year olds who want to be connected without the monthly cost or to lower income groups. It will also do well for those who don’t know the difference between EDGE and 3G.
In this sense, the phone will most likely take off in poorer regions. 555 Blue may have been initially built to compete in the mainstream mobile market, but it is a perfect match for those in poor countries who cannot afford cell phone contracts and high data costs but still want to be connected their social networks.
All in all the Vodafone 555 Blue seems to have inherited a slow processor, poor camera quality and an average interface design. If you really wanted to find a redeeming feature, one could argue that its body is kinda sexy with its silver-and-white matt plastic casing, it is sneakily suggestive of the previous Facebook phones, the Salsa and Cha Cha later renamed HTC Status.
So why chose the Vodafone 555 Blue?
With a R749 price tag attached to the prepaid deal and R99 per month for Top Up99 Vodacom 4 Less contract customers, it is an appealing option for those PAYG users who are either content with 2.5 G data speeds or blissfully ignorant all together.
- 2.5G data speeds which means you will fall asleep and have a dream before a picture loads.
- runs on Vodafone's proprietary operating system
- 6.1 cm screen with 320 x 240 pixels so not great viewing quality
- QWERTY keypad with a blue Facebook “customizable” button
- Offers integrated messaging, with Facebook messages appearing in the same stream as SMS’s and emails
- Single button photo sharing allows the handset to upload photos directly to Facebook
- Micro-SD card slot
- Earphone jack
- No 3G or Wi-Fi connectivity which means that the user is relying on 2.5G/EDGE.
- 2 megapixel camera, like my BlackBerry Curve 8520 and I abhor taking photo’s with it because of the poor quality. Don’t even think about taking pictures once the sun starts descending, you may as well remember the memory for what is was and get over it or use a digital camera.
- The social network runs from the moment the phone is switched on. The phone’s home screen offers Facebook’s “What’s on your mind?” bar. So it is like a giant mobile Facebook app, but with little room to make a call, send an sms etc.
- It also synchronises Facebook friends’ profiles in the phone’s address book and any messages the user receives on Facebook appear in the handset’s inbox alongside text messages and email.
555 Blue vs. Nexus S
By bringing out Vodafone 555 Blue, Facebook is walking in the opposite direction to Google, its rival for internet dominance, with their Android based Nexus S which caters for a high end user. If this is a competition of the devices then it’s like comparing the performance between Arsenal vs. Man United on Sunday night (28/08/11). You can’t.
The Nexus offers a 1GHz Hummingbird processor, front and rear facing cameras and 16 gigabytes of internal memory.
According to Enzo Scarcella, the Managing Executive of Marketing at Vodacom, there are currently 4.1 million Facebook users in South Africa. The company will be successful in providing emerging markets with access to the world’s largest social networking site but I remain with a question and maybe you could answer it.
Will this phone offer the user a decent Facebook experience?