The GSM World association thinks the Sharp GX10 is the best mobile phone of 2003 (Winner of 2003 GSM Association Awards). And Vodafone decided to make it the flagship mobile for its new services.
Vodafone live! is now operational in New Zealand, bringing some fun and interactive mobile services to its users.
Mind you, we're talking about lifestyle. If you're a business user you'll probably look for something different, and for business people there are plenty of GSM/GPRS options: Bluetooth equipped T68i and a Pocket PC or laptop, the PCMCIA GPRS card, the Dynalink USB GPRS Modem,the QTEK Pocket PC Phone Edition or the upcoming Palm Tungsten W.
For the market segment live! is intended, the Sharp GX10 is certainly a very good phone:
very big and bright LCD
built in digital camera
external LCD to show information on incoming SMS and calls
easy one-button access to Vodafone live!
dual-band GSM/GPRS (900/1800)
phonebook with multiple entries per contact: mobile, home, business, e-mail, notes, picture
Did I say it supports EMS and MMS, so you can snap a picture and send it via SMS or e-mail to your friends, including sound? Do you miss any other feature?
About the Java stuff : this phone has built in support for Java applets. Currently are quite a lot of games from Vodafone live! itself and other suppliers on the internet. The games are full of colour, sound and even use the phone vibration mechanism for feedback during play. If you want to download new games, you can find some on Vodafone live! or look for them on the internet. It's simple: you find the game you want in some websites (on your desktop, via Google for instance), send a SMS to a special number or pay via credit card on the website and you'll receive back a SMS with a WAP link. Just visit that link and your download starts. Remember, you pay traffic on any data transmission and this will be counted (more on this later in this article).
If you have an infrared port on your computer, there's a CD with drivers, so you can use the phone as a GPRS modem. It's a shame it does not have Bluetooth, but certainly this feature is for another market segment (the business people I talked about). The phone is so small and light that I can't see people carrying a Pocket PC or laptop to use with it.
Vodafone couriered one of the new phones to me and I wasted no time in moving the SIM card from my Ericsson T39m to the new Sharp GX10 . Very easy and intuitive setup, with all information you need on the big screen.
To access the menus you press the big blue button, which is also used as an OK or Enter button. You navigate the menus using the pad around the OK button. Once you find your selection you press the OK button to enter the submenu. You use the top two shiny buttons to select menu options.
The main screen presents the usual information available on any cellphones, plus two options: e-mail and live!. Just press the corresponding buttons to have instant access to the services.
There's also a data cable (RS232) available for this phone, and you can use it as a GPRS or CSD modem, either over Infrared or through the data cable.
Vodafone live! services are based on their GPRS network and WAP. Vodafone provides a "comfort zone" to their users, offering all kinds of services, so people can find interesting things without leaving its borders. But fear not, you're not restricted. You can always enter a WAP site address and browse away .
From the main menu on the Vodafone live! you can check news, information about what's happening, weather forecasts, webcams, online games, downloads (what about a new ringtone or cool game?). You can check your e-mail, and you don't even need to know your POP3 server name if living in New Zealand: the service will use preconfigured settings, so you only have to enter your username and password (except for Xtra users, of course, because this ISP blocks access to their POP3 from other ISPs).
I've gone through all the live! menus available and it covers quite a lot. Stuff supplies all the headlines, and the Metservice gives info on current weather conditions. It's a shame the planned AA webcams are all in Auckland though, we sometimes have quite bad traffic in Wellington and other cities too.
You can also find and download new ringtones and pictures for screen backgrounds or PXT (Vodafone brand name for EMS). And this phone can do it very well.
The cost for Vodafone live! is divided in two parts: there is the GPRS traffic cost, and the service being used. You can contract the data service with an allowance (1MB, 5MB or more) and pay extra megabytes transferred. On top of that, some services are free, and others attract some costs. Prices range from NZ$ 0.20 to NZ$ 2.00, depending on the service and if you are buying a single use or subscription.
Downloads (downloaded games, pictures and ringtones) are paid only once, and you can use multiple times, unless you remove the file from your phone and download again. Also, some games will need interaction with the network (multiuser games), therefore you'll pay traffic. Don't worry, everything is very well explained and big warnings are there if you are about to use something that is not covered in the basic service cost.
Two things I was expecting from this mobile phone: Bluetooth (mentioned earlier in this article) and sync capability. The only way to get anything on this mobile, or out of it, is through the network. Apparently this is by design. The IR and serial connections are only available so the user can access the network via the built-in modem.
I give this combination of phone and services a big for the good implementation and ease of use.
An idea of size: a T39m and the Sharp GX10. They both weigh almost the same.
The little shiny button next to the camera lens is a mirror: if you're taking a picture of yourself, you can see what's going to be in the final image