Vodafone Smart II review

Pros

  • Solid chassis
  • 2GB microSD card included

Cons

  • Small, low-resolution screen
  • Poor battery life
  • Fiddly keyboard
  • Poor camera

I mention this because the original Vodafone Smart didn't impress me hugely, and when I initially heard about there being a Smart II I wondered whether Vodafone had been able to improve on its previous budget performance. That might be what you are wondering too.

One point of immediate note is that the original Vodafone Smart, which sold at around £60, could be livened up with personalised backplates, designed at an online portal and bought for £10. That's not an option with the Smart II, even though the backplate has an odd two-section design, with separate inner and outer parts - almost as if the inner part was perfectly capable of being swapped with different coloured/designed plates. Vodafone must feel, then, that the £70 price tag alone is enough allure.

The build is solid enough, but the general appearance is very much in the budget world. There's nothing particularly special about the look, though a small raised section towards the bottom of the back is distinctive.

The Smart II's screen is small – it looks a little lost even in the relatively pocketable chassis. At 3.2in, it seems just too tiny by modern standards, and the 480 x 320 pixel resolution seems remarkably low too. I found it very challenging to read email, watch video or browse the web on the screen, and these are all key smartphone activities for me. As for tapping out emails and SMS on the on-screen keyboard, it was pretty much impossible for me to be accurate even with the presence of Swype and while working in landscape orientation.

Screen responsiveness isn't at the level you'd get from a more expensive handset. I found I had to be sure to slightly press the screen when swiping whereas the very gentlest of touches is usually enough for other handsets. It's not a deal-breaking feature, but noticeable if you've been used to ultra-responsive phones.

It probably won't come as a surprise to learn that the Vodafone Smart II runs Android 2.3. Asking for Ice Cream Sandwich at this kind of price would be rather hopeful. There are some widgets that Vodafone has added into a basically unskinned Android, but you can't get a lot on screen at once and the five home screens could get very full if you are keen on shortcuts.

I do like Vodafone's weather app and widget, with data provided by AccuWeather. Its design is clear and you can get hourly and 15-day forecasts, and weather maps. There is an FM radio, too, to bulk things out a little. If you hold down the on-screen apps icon a row of thumbnails of each of the five home screens pops up and you just tap one to jump to it. It isn't a bad idea, but the thumbnails are really too small to display the home screens' content properly. I gave up squinting at them and just swept around to move between screens.

The camera has a small flash and shoots stills to three megapixels, which is very much the entry-level these days. Having a side button for the camera is a boon, but photos are a bit on the washed out side. There are a couple of effects available including emboss and sketch modes if you want to have some fun.

The 832MHz processor does a reasonable job, and you really can't expect much more from a handset at this price. There's not much internal storage at just 150MB, and when I checked my review handset I found it reported just 120MB free. There's a microSD card slot with was filled with a 2GB card and that should give most people enough storage to get started with. You can raise it up to 32GB. If you are keen on hotswapping then it is worth noting that the memory card slot is under the battery and you have to power down to get to it.

Battery life is one area where you should be able to expect good performance whatever the price level of your handset. And with a relatively small screen and low voltage processor to manage, you might think the Smart II would do quite well for battery life. In fact, the 1,200mAh battery seemed rather overstretched. I had trouble getting through a day and found myself wanting to give the battery a boost at lunchtime just to get it back to being full again before the afternoon.

Verdict

Vodafone clearly sees value in having an own-branded smartphone line, and I can fully understand why. But own-branded handsets need to be good value for money and to stand up well against similarly priced competition. I don't think the Smart II does that despite its good build quality. In the end, if you have around £100 to spend on a handset, I'd suggest you shop around for better value for money.

Specifications:

Manufacturer and Model

Vodafone Smart II

Network

GSM 850/900/1800/1900 HSDPA 900/2100

Processor

Broadcom 832Mhz

Memory

512MB

Memory expansion

microSD

Display

3.2in, 480 x 320 pixels

Main camera

3-megapixel

Front camera

None

Wi-Fi

Yes

GPS

Yes

FM radio

Yes

Battery

1,200mAh

Size

109 x 58 x 12.35 mm

Weight

120g

OS

Android 2.3