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There may be plenty of Android phones on the market, but most of them are quite expensive. Vodafone is throwing its hat into the budget ring, however, with the 845. You can pick it up for free on a £15-a-month contract, making the 845 one of the cheapest Android handsets available. But how does it shape up against the competition?
The 845's design is quite distinctive, not least because it's one of the smallest Android handsets around. It's about 15mm shorter than rivals like the Samsung Galaxy Portal, and this gives it a relatively squat appearance that's rather cute.
As you might expect at this price, the chassis is made from plastic, but Vodafone has added a metallic finish on the frame that runs around the screen. On the whole, the phone feels quite robust. Its short stature and curved battery cover also mean it fits snugly in your hand.
The 845 has a 71mm (2.8-inch) resistive touchscreen, so it doesn't support multi-touch zooming, unlike higher-end Android models with capacitive touchscreens, such as the HTC Desire and Legend. The 845's display is quite small by smart-phone standards and its resolution isn't great either, at just 320x240 pixels. The lack of screen space is something of a handicap when you're using applications such as the Web browser and Google Maps -- you'll have to do plenty of scrolling around.
Beneath the screen are the usual call keys, as well as menu and back buttons. Nestled between these is a tiny, touch-sensitive trackpad that you can use for scrolling around Web pages or moving through menu options. Although you probably won't find yourself using the trackpad very often, it's quite responsive and can come in handy when you want to scroll around a Web site without your finger or thumb obscuring your view.
The 845 is built on version 2.1 of Android, which means it includes support for Microsoft Exchange email and Bluetooth 2.1. It also has an improved virtual keyboard and updated browser. Just as HTC adds its Sense interface over the top of Android, Vodafone has added some tweaks of its own to the operating system. For example, it's increased the number of home screens to seven and added a number of widgets, including a calendar, clock and photo viewer. In another neat feature, the phone presents you with a thumbnail overview of all the home screens when you press down on the trackpad.
The 845 doesn't exactly offer lightning-fast performance, and it can sometimes seem positively sluggish. For example, it takes several seconds to open the camera application, which can be annoying when you need to take a quick snapshot of something. There's only 512MB of on-board storage space too, although you can add more by whacking a microSD card into a slot under the battery cover.
The 845's connectivity is impressive. It supports HSDPA for fast data access on the move, as well as Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth. Its battery life isn't too bad either -- our handset managed to keep ticking over for around 2 days before it needed a recharge.
Thankfully, Vodafone has equipped the 845 with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, although this is rather awkwardly placed on the bottom of the phone. Music playback duties are taken care of by the standard Android music player, which presents you with a clean and easy-to-navigate interface. The sound quality is actually very good once you swap the poor bundled headphones for a better pair.
The 3-megapixel camera is no great shakes, however. It products decent results outdoors in good light, but, as it doesn't have a flash, it often struggles to produce acceptable results indoors.
We think the Vodafone 845 will win many fans due to its low price and cute styling. But the small, low-resolution screen compromises its usability somewhat, so, if you're planning to make heavy use of the Web browser or Google Maps, we reckon you'd be better off opting for the Samsung Galaxy Portal. The Portal is available from 3 for free on a £20-a-month contract. It's got a much better screen, and the version offered by 3 runs Android 2.1, like the 845.
Edited by Charles Kloet