Channel 5

Vodafone Smart Mini

Thursday 18 July 2013


Rating of 4

The basics

This is just getting silly now. They should call it the Battle of the Bargain Bin, as it’s all out war between phone manufacturers in the low-end right now. After some stunningly specced, sub £100 smarties in recent months, we’ve now reached this: the Vodafone Smart Mini, an Android 4.1 powered smartphone with a 3.5-inch display and all of the apps you can handle for just £50 on Pay As You Go. Is this the gadget bargain of the year? Read our full review to find out.

Read our full Huawei Ascend Y300 review here

Vodafone Smart 3 review

The good

We’ve seen the occasional sub-£50 Android phone before, but they’ve never packed a reasonable screen size before. By contrast, the Vodafone Smart Mini’s 3.5-inch panel is as large as every iPhone’s was until last year, and if you think smartphones have got far too big of late, you’ll be right at home on it, as it’s easy to type on and browse the web with using Google’s amazing Chrome for Android browser. At 12.2mm, it’s surprisingly thick and stumpy, but it’s solidly built, and the up to date Android control buttons at the bottom merged into the surface give it a welcome modern look most low price rivals lack.

Android itself has evolved into something very special by this point: whether it’s on high end flagship phones or low-powered critters like this, it’s almost always guaranteed to be great, and the same is true on the Vodafone Smart Mini. Version 4.1 Jelly Bean is fast and easy to use, with clever notifications you can control from a drop down tray at the top of the screen, and stuffed with amazing core services like Google’s Maps with free navigation, and Google Drive for keeping your files in sync in the cloud across every device.

Did we mention the price by the way? £50 on Pay As You Go is astonishing value: you could easily end up spending more per month than that on a 4G phone on contract.

The bad

While the small 3.5-inch screen maybe just what you’re after, its low resolution (320x480, actually the same resolution as the very first Android phone launched in 2008) won’t be: it’s grainy, making text trickier to read, and just as importantly also places a restriction on the apps you can run: many new games don’t support this resolution, and won’t appear for you in the Google Play store. Some of those that do may struggle to run on the single-core 1GHz processor as well - and the less said about the two megapixel camera, the better.

Splash out a little more though, and you can get a lot more: the Vodafone Smart 3 for instance packs in a larger, sharper four-inch screen for £50 more, while the Huawei Ascend G510 boasts an even bigger 4.5-inch display. Then there’s Nokia’s Lumia 620 Windows Phone, an affordable smartphone with build quality in a league of its own, even if it does lack the apps of Android.

There’s also the network to consider: as you can probably guess from the name, this phone is locked to Vodafone’ network, which is far from a problem, unless you’re loyal to another carrier: you’ll have to switch to grab this bargain.

How to get the new Android update now

This is the best budget phone on sale today

The bottom line

If you’re prepared to stretch another £50 or £100, you can get a lot more bang for your buck than the Vodafone Smart MIni - bigger screens, faster processors, better cameras. But let’s be honest: that would also mean doubling or tripling your budget: if you’re in the market for a truly cheap smartphone, the Smart Mini will serve you just fine. Just don’t expect to play too many 3D games on it.

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Vodafone Smart Mini is tagged with Vodafone, smart mini and Android. Select a tag (Vodafone, for example) to find everything on The Gadget Show about the subject.

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