Vodafone today (27 July) announced its latest own-branded smartphone, the 555 Blue.
The entry-level phone is available on prepay and includes Facebook integration.
The handset is aimed at unlocking the as-yet largely untapped growth of data in the prepay segment.
The 555 Blue will go on sale in the UK in August. The phone will cost around US$100 (£60.80) and will be available on Vodafone's Freebees tariff, according to Patrick Chomet, group terminals director at Vodafone Group.
The device follows on from the Vodafone 858 Smart, an entry-level Android smartphone on prepay. Chomet said the 555 Blue was the next level down from the Smart in terms of affordability.
Chomet said: ‘We are not trying to compete with traditional OEMs. We can identify market trends and spot gaps in the market. We can accelerate those trends by putting out our own devices to bridge those gaps in the market. We want to democratise those trends and empower people, especially in developing markets.’
He added: ‘If you are going to produce a feature phone you need to pick your battle, be it a camera, music or social networking. We have concentrated on Facebook, as it has 250 million users worldwide. A third of Facebook transactions are accessed via a mobile phone.’
In the developed world, the handset will be targeted at teenagers, who cannot afford the more expensive smartphones only available on contract. The 555 Blue is designed to appeal to their love of social networking and messaging friends. In the developing world, the phone is targeted at the millions of people who do not have access to the internet, but who want an affordable way to communicate. Both markets are given access to the internet, but only have a light data use requirement.
Facebook is built into the core of the device and is designed to be ready to go, straight out of the box as soon as it turned on. Phone contacts are automatically synchronised with friends’ Facebook profiles. The device has a 2.4-inch landscape display and a QWERTY keyboard designed to make it easy to type chat, email, send texts and update your status.
It also features a dedicated Facebook ‘F’ button. The F button is customisable in terms of assigning tasks, such as instantly posting a status update with photos or with links from the browser.
The 555 Blue features a fully integrated messaging service that brings SMS, MMS, email and Facebook together in one place. Photos can be uploaded to Facebook, emailed or sent via Bluetooth at the click of button. The device updates automatically every 20 minutes, although this can be customised.
The handset was produced by Vodafone in conjunction with Chinese manufacturer TCL. Vodafone developed its own operating system to keep costs down. The chipset is provided by Taiwanese manufacture MTK. The 555 Blue uses the Opera Mini 5 web browser.