There once was a classic Australian ad featuring a small Australian insect that coined the phrase ďIf youíre on a good thing, stick to it.Ē Vodafone and Sharp have taken this saying well and truly to heart with their latest in the GX series, the GX30, by keeping many of the features of their previous successful handsets the GX10 (and later GX10i) and GX20.
The new handset, however, has several standout features on its specification list that put it well and truly above its predecessors. The quality of the displays and the market leading camera are the two most obvious features, but they really do put this phone into a league of its own. This combined with more additional features make this handset and service combination one that was very hard to remove from this reviewers hands.
But, with the race to release mega pixel camera phones as soon as possible, have Samsung really made a mark with this handset? Sure, it does have a mega pixel camera - but there is much doubt to weather the GX30 lives up to its expectations.
The mega pixel camera could take over this section, but it isnít everything on the GX30, although it is a heap. The upgraded internal display put shame on some other models, and the external display has also been upgraded to full colour. A medium sized internal memory with support for an SD memory card, polyphonic ring tones, PIM applications, and so much more are all plastered on the specifications list of this new model on the Australian Market.
The new and outstanding main feature in the GX30 is the 1mpx digital camera, capable of still and video shots. The maximum resolution it can shoot is 1144 x 858 pixels - huge! Perfect quality photos on a mobile phone camera have been dreamed of since cameras were incorporated into handsets. For more about this camera and a load of example shots, visit the additional page two, the camera performance page.
Compared to every other phone available in stores today, the GX30 has caught everyone with their pants down. The 240x320, 256K screen is down right gorgeous and pretty much the selling point of the handset. It is bright and the colour is brilliant and it shows up well even outdoors - and the quality of images is to be seen to be believed. The external 65K colour LCD is adequate and does its job in displaying time and missed calls, and it can have a background assigned to it. Itís not extremely helpful for self-portraits, but anything is better than OLED displays that are only capable of monochrome vision or 256 colours.
A 7 colour LED is located on the external flip of the GX30, just below the 65,536 colour external display. It is blindingly bright and can be preset to light up any colour you wish. Itís great for two things - to be used as a torch (and you will find things with this, itís really bright!), or to aid in capturing images with the 1mpx camera.
A 8mB internal memory starts off the memory section of the GX30 - but with the huge resolution camera a lot more memory is needed to keep all your images and videos. To accommodate this, a SD memory-card slot is present on the side of this handset, and an SD memory-card is included in the sales package.
40-chord polyphonic ring tones liven up the bright handset even more when it rings, and basic PIM applications can remove the need for a hand written diary. Messaging formats galore, an MP3 player, and Java all hit the specifications list.
The GX30 can be regarded a rather larger size phone but is still relatively smaller than a lot of phones models out there. And when the phones features are taken into account the size issue is overshadowed. The Sharp GX30 has sleek curves, feels solid, is comfortable to handle, and fits snugly to the size of the head when having a conversation.
The overall look of the phone is very simple, but stylish as well. The buttons are reasonably large and well spaced out although buttons height is inline with the surrounding chassis and it would be nice for the buttons to stick out beyond the case a little, as typing SMSís requires the user to have to use their finger nails to push the buttons in - like the 3G NEC e616V.
All connectivity ports such as the charging/USB socket at the bottom of the phone, and the earphone plug on the side of the phone are protected by rubber inserts. These perform their task adequately, but when removed can be lost very easily as they are only small. But this isnít a worry for most - like the RF adapter for a car-kit wouldnít be needed to be replaced once removed.
The directional and ďOKĒ buttons are all chrome while the rest are dull grey. The buttons have subliminal green backlight which lights up when the phone is being used. The chrome is used in the front panel too. The chrome on this handset looks nice, but after being touched it can get smeared with fingerprints and look a little less stylish.
The battery back hides neatly and fits perfectly into the phone. This is also a SD card slot on the right hand side of the phone allowing for memory expansion in addition to an infra-red sensor on the top side of the phone. Itís a wonder how they fit all these things in such as small package.
The major physical difference to the GX20 is a larger and higher resolution external screen, larger external speaker and a dedicated camera button.
User Interface & display
If you have ever used a Sharp GX series phone, then the user interface is instantly familiar. For those who havenít, the main menu is an icon based affair with 9 different icons to choose form. These then lead to sub-menus in list form, giving access to all the phones features.
Some menus overlap, giving you more than one way to get to some things, but itís all very easy to navigate and common sense has been used in placing items in the menus. The phone also features several organiser functions such as calendar, appointments, tasks, notes, alarms, calculator and currency converter.
Changeable wallpapers are a breeze on the GX30- the phone can be set to change the wallpaper on both the internal screen and the smaller external screen! Any *.jpg can be used and it is easy to resize the picture to the required external/internal screen size. A good photo looks amazing on the internal screen.
The menus are pretty straight forward and critical features such as messaging and camera are accessible quickly easily. There are 9 submenus including the usual Messages, Games, Camera, Profiles, and Settings etc.
Once set, all information can be displayed to the main window, including reception, battery life, current location, Bluetooth etc. The picture phonebook is a nice feature as seeing who is calling is fun. In terms of games only one is installed by default (Bomb Link) which really is sub par for todayís standards. However, additional applications/games can be (only) downloaded from the Vodafone Live! Service.
The internal/main screen on the GX30 is far and away the best screen I have yet to encounter on a mobile phone. For those who are into numbers it is a 240 x 320 pixel transparent CG Silicon, 260,000 colour screen. Numbers aside, itís bright and brilliant with rich colours even in daylight. In direct sunlight itís still easy to see all the detail.
The external screen has also been upgraded to a 64x96 pixel, 65 000 colour screen and is 0.9 inch from corner to corner. This has brought the screen up to a workable standard and is quite useful. It can display its own picture and a clock and all the vital signs of the phone and even MP3 info when the phone is in MP3 player mode. As mentioned earlier it also doubles as a view finder for self-portrait mode and does it quite well.
One thing you may find intrusive and annoying is the Vodafone branding spread throughout every aspect of the GX30. If a red and white UI isnít youíre thing, well bad luck - youíre stuck with it!
Making and receiving calls
As is common with most mobiles on the market at the moment, the up and down navigation keys access the phone book when pressed form the main screen. The usual green and red phone buttons make and end calls.
Incoming calls can be set to display a picture from the phoneís memory, be it a picture of your mate when s/he calls, or perhaps a ball and chain for when the wife calls - ;) Sound quality is good and there is a decent amount of volume to play with through both the speaker and the hands free. It is easy to adjust the volume if need be by the controls on the side of the handset.
There is a headset port on the left side of the GX30 if required and a Bluetooth headset may also be used. The phone is answered by opening the flip and then pressing the ďlift handsetĒ button. It would be nice however, to be able to automatically answer a call just by opening the handset. This is not possible in the GX30 - a bit of a pity.
From the standby screen, the left soft key is dedicated to messages, so text or multimedia messages are only a short click away. The GX30 has support for MMS, SMS messages including support for extra long SMS messages and T9 predictive text.
The button layout on the GX30 is perfect for messages, and the T9 predictive text makes it even better. The buttons could have been more Ďoutí of the handset, as you will mainly have to use your fingernails to press the buttons. There is really no delay in typing messages which is something speedy typists will love.
The handiest thing is that you can send messages straight from the camera screen. Once a shot or clip has been snapped the send option is available right there on the main soft key making sending those spontaneous shots to friends MMS compatible phones or email addresses is almost too easy.
The GX30 supports Bluetooth and WAP via GPRS. It also has an infra-red port on top of the bottom clamshell and as an optional extra can be connected to a PC via a USB data cable. Using the bundled software images, sounds, MMS, movie and phonebook data can be moved between the PC and the handset.
The connectivity of the Sharp GX30 is a mixed bag. It can connect to a personal computer by a data-cable and IrDA port. The phone is easily detected by the operating system (tested on Windows XP) and drivers are installed from the CD. The software is capable of completing standard tasks such as address book synchronization, moving ring tones and photos between the computer and the memory.
The GX30 is able connect via GPRS to mobile WAP pages - GPRS Class 10 and WAP 2.0 are supported on this handset so getting information from the web is convenient. GPRS enables connection within a networks coverage area to the internet and allows the download of any data (Images, ring tones, java games, and general information is available on WAP over GPRS).
One of a few problems is that the photos/ring tones have to be on the handset memory for the computer to be able to see them, so you canít transfer data from the SD card using IrDA. Another is that only a Bluetooth Headset profile is implemented, restricting Bluetooth use to only a headset. You canít connect to a PC or other device other than a headset with Bluetooth on the GX30, which is annoying because there is an SD memory card. You also canít send things directly from the GX30 to another device using infrared.
Generally the Sharp GX30 built quality is excellent and Sharp seem to have used good quality materials for the chassis and other components.
The battery fits in nicely into the back of the phone and can only go in one way. The SIM card holder fits in horizontally under a catch in a metal slider and makes changing SIM cards adequate but not convenient. There is a rubber stopper in the charging port to keep everything dust-free however, this method of covering port does not seem as a good idea as the solution is flimsy and can be easily broken.
In the time I had the pleasure of using the phone, under heavy testing use I was only getting a day and a half and during ďnormalĒ use, I was getting about 3 days. Charging, however, only takes about 2 hours. The GX30 is capable to support about 210 hours of talk time and easily a week of standby time on the lithium ion pack.
A possible battery type increase is available to purchase as an accessory however the current battery life is adequate as the phone can easily last a day or two under strenuous use and a standby time of a few days.