Forget the iPhone, in two weeks over Christmas, Tesco shifted over 10,000 units of a ££18.99 handset called the VX1i Party Phone. That price is so near to the BOC (bill of costs) that Techeye thinks it may have been dumped.

In Britain, of course, everyone is used to subsidised handsets. Indeed, if you sign up for a 24 month contract with Tesco Mobile you can get a 16GB iPhone 3GS for free. Just don't drop it uninsured into the bath.

The point about the VX1i, however, is that it is 'SIM Free'. It will work on any UK network (and it will actually work in the USA too) except for 3. That's because it isn't 3G (W-CDMA) compatible. So it's an absolute bargain.

Considering transportation costs, plus the distributor – Blue Chip World – and retailer's (Tesco's) margins, where's the profit?

This raises the important issue of who actually made the handset. It seems to be a combination of two– Verixas  and the Shenzen based Chinese firm, Shenzhen Kosun Industrial Co.

The key component, Techeye suspects, is the GSM-on-a-chip component which provides an instant handset and is probably sourced from Mediatek. The fake iPhone which Techeye has seen appears to use one, too.

It was extremely difficult to obtain the specs for the VX1i as news reports regurgitated simply the press release. However, they are available here  when you look for VX1 – Mini Mobile Phone.

A Tesco spokesperson actually confirmed for us that the screen is a colour one. That needed confirming as the handset has disappeared from both the main Tesco and the Tesco Mobile  online shops.

Those with an eye for a bargain have been scouring their local stores – mostly to no avail, even though it is officially still on sale.

Techeye thinks a better name for this handset is the 'trollied phone'. So you can quite happily lose it on the train back from an evening's 'networking' and not worry. Especially if you backup your addressbook numbers up online.

Here's some handset specs for the tech heads ...

Specs

  • Talk time 100 minutes
  • Standby 90 hours
  • GSM 900/1800 or 850/1900
  • Battery 400mAh
  • Main LCD Backlight White
  • Keypad backlight Blue