It may come with prominent Vodafone branding, but the 540 is unmistakably a Sagem product at its core. Mobile phone veterans will tell you this usually means uninspiring performance and cheap technology, and in this case they'd be right. The 540 is a car crash of a handset, and feels every inch a phone from the dark ages. Only a handful of above-average external design aspects help salvage any respect for this beleaguered blower.
Should you be foolish enough to take no heed of our warnings, the Vodafone 540 can be purchased for around £30 on pay as you go.
Last time we saw French manufacturer Sagem, the company was gleefully promoting its much-hyped but ultimately disappointing Puma handset. That phone was a curious mixture of eye-catching design and half-baked functionality. While we're not going to go as far as to callously suggest that all Sagem phones follow this ethos, the Vodafone 540 is certainly cut from the same cloth.
Initial impressions are incredibly positive, especially when you consider the modest price of the phone. At just 90g, it's incredibly lightweight, and with just 11.3 mm of thickness, it slides effortlessly into your pocket without causing the faintest of bulges.
The 540's design is also undeniably appealing. The chromed plastic around the edges of the device make it look far more expensive than it actually is, and the metal battery cover lends a touch of sophistication. When placed alongside other budget phones, the 540 unquestionably stands out from the crowd -- so much so that it was awarded the prestigious iF Product Design Award this year.
And now the bad news
This goodwill doesn't last long, however. Sagem has crafted a fine-looking piece of telecommunications equipment, but in terms of raw functionality, the 540 is distinctly underwhelming.
Before we expand on its myriad shortcomings, it's worth pointing out the astonishing unreliability of the 540. Daily crashes are commonplace, and often the operating system lags appallingly, seemingly incapable of keeping up with your button presses. Basic tasks -- such as launching the music player or activating the 2-megapixel camera -- also cause the 540 to break into a sweat.