Vodafone Smart III review

Pros

  • Gesture-based app
  • Runs Android 4.1
  • Interesting chassis design

Cons

  • Screen is slightly below par
  • Lacks internal storage
  • Virtual keyboard isn't very good

The Vodafone Smart arrived in mid 2011. In mid 2012, we witnessed the appearance of the Vodafone Smart II. You can guess what’s coming next, right? It’s mid 2013 and Vodafone has launched the Smart III. All three handsets that Vodafone has launched under the Smart name are low cost Android phones, and the Smart III will only set you back £90 on Vodafone PAYG.

Now, that doesn’t make it the least costly Android handset around – remember the Huawei Ascend Y300 I reviewed recently? That’s just £69.95 including a £10 top-up from Carphone Warehouse.

Still, any Android toting smartphone that costs less than £100 is in bargain basement territory, and what’s important is how well the maker has managed to bring the price down without compromising the technical specs too much.

There are three key tech specs which can hurt the end user which can be squeezed to meet a price – the screen, processor and on board memory.

On the screen front the Vodafone Smart III does quite well. It measures 4in and its 800 x 480 pixels are plenty enough for delivering the goods. It is a bit lacking in vibrancy and verve, and viewing angles aren’t the best either. But it is liveable with, and the fact that it is a reasonable size means web browsing, e-reading, viewing SMS threads and reading emails are all easily done without too much scrolling.

I can’t express the same positive sentiments about typing on the keyboard though. There’s heavy haptic feedback, and a part of me feels this is almost compensation for the fact that the keyboard is not very good. I kept hitting the wrong keys. I’m not sure why this was a problem, as I’m well used to 4in screens, but it is something potential buyers might want to bear in mind.

The processor is a single core 1GHz affair with 512MB of RAM in support. This isn’t an unusual setup for a sub-£100 handset, and the Huawei Ascend Y300 I mentioned earlier shares this spec. Quite obviously this specification means the Vodafone Smart III is no sprint champion, but it is speedy enough and responsiveness under the finger was fine.

There’s 4GB of internal storage and just 2.2GB of this is free for you to fill with apps and data. It’s not a huge amount, and a microSD card is likely to come in handy. Unfortunately, the microSD slot will be a real irritation to some who, like me, use cards to store music and like to hotswap them, because you need to remove the battery to get at the microSD card.

For a low cost handset the Vodafone Smart III has some interesting design features. It’s by no means a bog standard block of a phone. There is a lip at the bottom front and in that sits a long, narrow status light that flashes red. It’s different and helps the Vodafone Smart III stand out in the crowd.

The backplate comes off so you can get at the battery and microSD card slot, which is hardly a novelty. What is different is that the back is a two piece affair. There’s a frame into which the flat back fits, and the flat part is slightly see-through so that you can view the battery beneath it. If you’d like something a little more exciting to look at Vodafone provides a couple of paper sections you can pop under the backplate – these give an effect of patterning to the backplate.

It would be easy to make your own personalised sections. Unfortunately what could have been a really clever idea is marred by the fact that the backplate is rather dark and you can’t see what’s underneath all that clearly.

If you want a handset with a great camera then this might not be the place to go. There’s no front camera, and the back facing one shoots at 5 megapixels and 720p for video. There are a few preconfigured scene modes to play with as well as smile shot and face beauty modes. The flash is a bit of a waste of space, though it’s far from unusual to find a smartphone flash that doesn’t really do very much.

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One plus point, however, is that there’s an app called LED Torch that lets you use the flash as, well, a torch. It has three brightness settings. Of course there are plenty of freebies you can download from the Play store that do the same job, and some have far more features. I’ve resorted to the torch app on my handset many times, but a lot of people might not bother to install one or even know torch apps exist, so it’s nice to see this pre-installed.

Battery life isn’t anything to write home about, but it will get you through the day if you are a careful user. I’d imagine the younger age group at which this handset is marketed might want to use it for music playback, and in that case they could kill the battery fairly quickly.

And speaking of music playback, the speaker, which sits on the back of the chassis and has a grill that forms a huge lozenge round the camera lens, is not too shabby. Volume is reasonably good and it’s not too tinny.

Verdict

The Vodafone Smart III brings Vodafone’s own label budget smartphone up to date and doesn’t do anything particularly annoying. The handset design is pleasing, and the ability to personalise the back has appeal – though a clearer backplate would have helped. All things considered, the features and general specifications make this a pretty good phone for the money.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

Vodafone Smart III

Network

GSM 850/900/1800/1900; HSPA 900/2100

Processor

1.0GHz single core

Ram

4GB

Memory

512GB

Memory expansion

MicroSD

Display

4in, 800 x 480 pixels

Main camera

5-megapixel

Front camera

None

Wi-Fi

Yes

GPS

Yes

FM radio

Yes

Battery

1500mAh

Size

123.2 x 64.4 x 10.9mm

Weight

136g

OS

Android 4.1