Not so very long ago each new mobile phone that launched would be smaller than its predecessor whilst packing in more features.
In recent years though we’ve come full circle and phones have started to get bigger again, offering more screen real estate for apps and improved image quality for multimedia use.
Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean more expensive though and the Smart ultra 6 from Vodafone appears to offer a lot of phone – both physically and technically – for just £125 on pay-as-you-go. Let’s see how well it delivers.
What you get
What you receive is a nicely non-flashy package, the box is eco-friendly recycled cardboard and the phone comes with a USB charger cable and mains adaptor and a set of ‘iPod-white’ earphones. This stripped back approach applies to software too and the phone isn’t overloaded with pre-installed bloatware apps.
Although it carries the Vodafone brand name the Smart ultra is made by Chinese manufacturer ZTE. The first thing that strikes you when you open the box is the size, it’s 154mm long and 77mm wide (about six inches by three), it’s slim though at under 9mm thick. Even so if you like things snug in the trouser department your friends will notice you’ve upgraded your handset before you take it out of your pocket. In the interests of gender equality, if you favour a smaller handbag you may have to leave some other essentials behind to accommodate the Smart Ultra.
The back cover is plastic but it has a nice semi-matt grey finish and doesn’t really feel cheap though at the same time doesn’t really have a ‘wow factor’. Under the skin it has an eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (four running at 1.5GHz and four at 1GHz), 2GB of RAM, plus a generous 16GB of storage that can be extended with a microSD card. It runs the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop and it’s 4G capable. There’s a 13-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel front, with 4x digital zoom and an LED flash.
It’s the screen that’s the star of the show here though, it’s a 5.5 inch, 1080p full HD with a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution, and it is impressive. It’s bright with strong colours and there’s no hint of fuzziness in icons and text, video playback is smooth too. The built-in speaker sounds a bit tinny though so you’ll want to use headphones.
In fact performance is smooth generally with no noticeable lag when loading apps or making entries via the keyboard. The camera is pretty good too, it defaults to Auto mode but there’s a high dynamic range (HDR) option available along with some artistic filters. Exposures aren’t always perfect, tending to look a little washed out in bright conditions but it’s fine for everyday use.
Although there aren’t many apps pre-installed, apart from the standard Android stuff like Gmail and YouTube, you do get Vodafone’s own ‘Smart Tips’ software. This leads you though some of the phone’s features, useful if you’re an Android virgin. There are a few other Vodafone apps too but not enough to get annoyed about.
The phone charges up from flat in a couple of hours, it does get quite warm when it’s charging though, and a full battery will give you around 240 hours of standby and 15 hours of talk on 3G. There’s no user access to the battery so if it ever needs replacing you’ll be sending the phone back.
Priced at £125, or from around £17 a month on contract, you do get a lot of phone for your cash here.
Yes there are some minor niggles, but if you want a big screen, 4G connectivity and decent performance there’s not currently much else to match the Smart ultra 6 for this money.