The Vodafone 1210 is a remarkably plain looking smartphone that measures in at 110 x 46 x 18 mm and weighs 105 grams. The 1210 is dominated by its 240x320 pixel display screen. Underneath the screen sits four control buttons; two for selection, one back button and a home button. Further down is a five-way joystick selector that's very similar to those found on many Sony Ericsson models and small dialling buttons. Vodafone sells the 1210 as its "house brand" solution for businesses who want blackberry-style email-aware smartphones, but don't want the price tag associated with such devices. That doesn't stop Vodafone from selling Blackberry units; it's just that this particular unit is the no-frills entry-level model. As a no-frills substitute, it's thus perhaps not suprising that the 1210 is somewhat on the plain side. For those who crave such detail, it's actually an OEM phone produced by Asus for Vodafone.
The 1210 is a 3G capable phone running the Windows Mobile 5.0 platform. Unlike many other Mobile 5.0 phones, however, the 1210 doesn't feature the cut-down Office suite and Internet Explorer. Instead, Vodafone has opted for the no-frills variants of those options; ClearVue for the Office reading capabilities and Opera for Web browsing. As it's a business mobile, there is no integrated camera. Onboard storage comes in the form of 64MB of memory, along with a MicroSD card slot, which hides under the battery. The practical upshot of that is that if you want to add storage, you may as well buy a really big MicroSD card, as you won't be able to access it easily once you've slotted it in and you'll have to power down the phone every time you do so.
As a regular phone, the 1210 performed quite well. Vodafone rates it for up to 3 hours GSM talktime (4 hours UTMS) with a standby time of up to 300 hours. That jibed well with our tests, where the 1210 lasted eight days between recharges on moderate usage. We hit a typical problem that we have with joystick phone controls with the 1210, which often misinterpreted a "down" press as a "select" press, and vice versa.
As an business phone, however, things were a little more murky. Opera itself ran well and did as good a job at rendering complex pages -- in some cases much better -- than competing Internet Explorer or Blackberry Browser alternatives. Likewise, if you're just scanning a document, the ClearVue solutions work quite well. It's when you come to data entry -- such as the email component that the 1210 sells itself on -- that things get much trickier. There's just no good way to do that via a regular phone keypad. The closest we've seen to a good solution comes in the form of the Blackberry Pearl and its semi-predictive keypress method. The 1210 has none of that and you're left slap-bang in the realm of TXT-speak, which isn't really suitable for most business purposes outside of certain youth-branded markets. Even simple things like setting up POP email accounts -- the 1210 supports POP, Windows Mobile Email and Blackberry Mail -- is rather tiresome due to the number of repetitive keypresses involved.
With any budget item there are compromises to be accepted and the Vodafone 1210 arguably falls on the wrong side of those compromises. It's a perfectly usable phone, good for browsing and checking work documents, but when it comes to anything more than just reading your email, it's just too fiddly to be genuinely worthwhile.