If you’re a cell phone junkie, you know that Korea has emerged as a mobile powerhouse. Besides being the home to two handset giants, Samsung and LG, the country houses a number of smaller manufacturers, such as VK Mobile. The company’s VK2020 is a GSM cell phone that offers an interesting range of features in a slim and very sexy package. Unfortunately, the brawn behind the beauty is lacking-reception was just OK, and music quality was dismal-and we weren’t in love with the dim display, the confusing keys, or the lack of a speakerphone. If looks are all you care about, the VK2020 definitely offers eye-catching appeal, but you’ll be better off with one of Motorola’s Slvr phones. The GSM phone is not offered with a U.S. carrier, so it will cost you a pricey $339 from Dynamism.com.
When holding the VK Mobile VK2020, you can clearly see that the battle to make the world’s thinnest cell phone has developed into a major slugfest. It all, of course, started when the Motorola Razr shocked the mobile world by measuring just 0.5 inch. The Razr proved to be so popular that Moto’s competitors rushed to leverage the thin trend with models such as the current title holder, the Samsung SGH-P300 (0.35 inch). And now for the time being (and we realize this could change tomorrow), VK Mobile has also pulled to the lead spot with its VK2020. At 3.7 by 1.9 by 0.34 inches, it’s the same width as the P300 (though slightly taller), and at 1.9 ounces, it’s one of the lightest phones we’ve ever seen.
The VK Mobile VK2020’s overall design largely resembles the Motorola Slvr L7’s. It has the same sleek profile and rounded corners. Without a doubt, it’s a sexy device that will catch a few looks on the street. Despite weighing less than 2 ounces, the metal casing gives it a solid feel, and it will slip easily into a pocket. That said, it may be too small for users with large hands. After a long conversation, we almost wished for heft in our hands.
The 1.5-inch-diagonal (128×160 pixels) display is attractive, but we weren’t overwhelmed by its clarity or its brightness. Although it supports 265,000 colors, it wasn’t quite as vibrant as some other high-resolution screens we’ve seen. Still, animations looked pretty good, and it’s serviceable for scrolling through the bare-bones menus, which are available in two styles. You can adjust the display’s brightness, backlighting time, and font color, but you can’t alter the contrast or the font size.
The VK Mobile VK2020’s navigation controls somewhat resemble those found on the Motorola Razr V3c. They’re flush with the surface of the phone, but the different rows are separated by raised ridges. The navigation array consists of a four-way toggle, two soft keys, a Clear button, a combination Web-browser/shortcut and OK key, and the traditional Talk and End/power buttons. Overall, the keys weren’t very tactile and were somewhat tricky to use. We’ll start with the good news: The large four-way toggle gives one-touch access to the MP3 player, the messaging menu, and a My Favorites folder of user-defined shortcuts. Menu navigation with the toggle was not a problem, though game playing was more difficult. We wish, however, that there were a central OK key in the toggle, which is a common feature on most cell phones. Instead, that function is served by the aforementioned combination button to the toggle’s left. While we could get over that design quirk by itself, the VK2020 took a more confusing step by displaying OK directly above the toggle when we were in a menu. As a result, we were always pressing the toggle in an attempt at selecting OK. In another baffling move, the left soft key, rather than the Clear button, backs you out of a menu function.
The remaining menu keys were much too small for anyone with even midsize fingers. Also, it took a firm press to work the soft keys. The keypad buttons were a similar story: They’re simply too small for quick tapping-frequent texters take note-and they required a firm push. While we recognize the phone’s size necessitates that the keys be small and crowded, we hope VK finds a way to improve them in its next iteration of the phone. The only other control on the phone is a volume rocker on the left spine. The mini-USB port on the right spine also serves as the port for the charger and the headset.
Inside the VK Mobile VK2020 is a decent feature package. There’s no camera, but as with the Motorola Slvr L2, we’re always glad to see a Bluetooth device without one. But first, the basics. There’s a generous 1,000-contact phone book, with room in each entry for six phone numbers, e-mail and Web addresses, a street address, a job title, and notes; the SIM card holds an additional 250 names. You can organize callers into groups or pair them with one of 30 polyphonic ring tones. The VK2020 also supports photo caller ID, but considering there’s no camera on the phone, your image selection will be limited. We also found the phone book a bit confusing to use. You can access it only from the standby mode, and entering new contacts takes too many clicks.
Other features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a memo pad, a calculator, a unit converter, a world clock, and a stopwatch. You get Bluetooth, and you can use the VK Mobile VK2020’s mini-USB port to connect a PC. With the included software, you can use the phone as a USB storage device or sync your contacts and your calendar. You can use Bluetooth to transfer files, but we weren’t always successful in the process. What’s more, syncing over Bluetooth is not supported. Also, we’re miffed about the fact that the VK2020 does not include a speakerphone.
Although it’s nice to have the integrated MP3 player, it is something of a joke. The interface shows the track name and the artist, but the equalizer graphic reminds us of an Atari game. In fact, the overall effect is even more basic than that of the already rudimentary Samsung music player found on phones such as the SGH-T509. Features are limited to an equalizer, as well as repeat and shuffle modes. Loading files on the phone was mostly easy, but your storage space is limited to 128MB.
You can personalize the VK Mobile VK2020 with a variety of wallpaper, clock styles, and sounds. You can download more options and more ring tones if you wish, but keep in mind that you’ll have to get the correct data settings from your carrier to use the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. The phone also comes with two Java (J2ME) games: AI and Bulbman.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) world phone in San Francisco using T-Mobile’s network. Call quality was disappointing overall. Voices had an echoed effect, and there was audible static. The volume was also quite low, so users with hearing impairments should test the VK Mobile VK2020 before buying. Callers said we sounded better, and they had trouble hearing us in noisy environments. What’s more, audio did not fare any better over the included wired headset or when we made calls using the Plantronics Explorer 320 Bluetooth headset. Music quality was iffy as well. Audio quality was metallic, with little bass and not enough volume.
The VK Mobile VK2020 has a rated talk time of 3 hours, but we surpassed that time by an extra hour in our tests. It has a promised standby time of 6.25 days. According to FCC radiation tests, the VK2020 has a digital SAR rating of 0.91 watt per kilogram.