The arrival of the NEC 338 is living proof that the days of the bulky first-generation 3G handsets are well and truly over. In fact, in terms of appearances there is little to differentiate the 338 from an ordinary mobile phone. In claiming it is Europe's smallest and lightest 3G phone, NEC is aiming its eighth 3G mobile squarely at the mass market.

This model is exclusive to 3's network, and you can choose from either a prepaid or monthly contract to go with it. If you move out of a 3G area, the phone automatically switches to GSM, and also supports GPRS where available.

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Battery life has come on in leaps and bounds since the first 3G handsets, but if you're indulging in a lot of video calls combined with a fair measure of video downloads, you'll need to charge the 338 on a daily basis.

When making your first live video call, there is definitely a novelty value in seeing the pixellated face and unsynchronised lips of the person you're calling. For me it brought back memories of the heady old days of video-conferencing over a dialup connection.

After the novelty wears off, users can get their kicks from access to 3's 3G content services, which range from news and weather to games and entertainment. (If you want to access the adult content which 3 calls Top Shelf, you will be required to pay a one-off £5 fee to validate proof of age. Contributors include Paul Raymond, Hustler and Playboy.)

And a word of warning before you go accessing content willy nilly: downloads don't come cheap. A three-minute Saturday football preview cost us 50p, and that seems to be the going rate for most downloads.

NEC 338: Specs

  • Dual-mode 2.5G/3G
  • video telephony in 3G service area
  • 18MB memory
  • media player
  • talk time: up to 200 mins
  • video call: up to 130 mins
  • rotating camera with 2x zoom
  • 47x23x94mm
  • 114g
  • Dual-mode 2.5G/3G
  • video telephony in 3G service area
  • 18MB memory
  • media player
  • talk time: up to 200 mins
  • video call: up to 130 mins
  • rotating camera with 2x zoom
  • 47x23x94mm
  • 114g

OUR VERDICT

If you want the kudos of owning a 3G phone you could do worse than the NEC 338. It won't make you stand out from the crowd, but it does offer standard 3G features, including video-calling and downloads.

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