We’re going to do a shorter than usual review of the Vodafone SMART, as it would be a little unfair to break down the new super-budget Android phone in the same fashion as the treatments given to the likes of the Galaxy S II and HTC Sensation .
You can’t really compare the little Vodafone SMART to phones that cost seven times as much money. Well, you can, but you’d look a bit stupid doing it. So here’s a summary of what awaits users down at the budget end of the Android spectrum. In short – it’s Android 2.2 on a 2.9″ capacitive screen for £60. What can go wrong?
The Vodafone SMART is very small, with a large “chin” housing the standard four Android buttons – Home, Menu, Back and Search. It looks a bit silly having this much plastic beneath the screen, but it actually serves a purpose – it keeps the phone balanced in your hand.
The 2.9″ screen is – hooray! – capacitive, which is something we’ve been hoping to see in budget Android phones for quite some time. It’s sensitive enough to work well, although coupled with a 240×320 resolution display means text isn’t amazingly sharp. But it’s readable and works much, much better than the clunky resistive screen found in last year’s super-budget Vodafone 845.
The body is surprisingly solid and heavy, with a power button on the top, USB at the bottom and volume rocker down the side. It certainly doesn’t feel like a budget-busting cheapo mobile.
There is a proximity sensor in the front of the phone, which is a nice premium feature, although round the back you see one of the cost-cutting measures – no camera flash. But at least there is a camera. For £60, you’d not be laughed at for asking if there was one at all.
Web browsing is functional but a little slow. There’s no multitouch support in the SMART, so page zooming is handled by the old Android magnifying glass tool, from way back when there was some weird reason multitouch wasn’t always included on Android phones.
Web page scrolling is pretty respectable once the sites have loaded, which is handy as getting the text to a readable size on the small, low-res screen takes quite a bit of manipulation.
Vodafone has put on a few apps of its own to take ownership of the Huawei-made device, putting on a “Shop” and “Music Shop” that both frustratingly require mobile data access to operate. Songs are 99p each if any modern music interests you.
You also get a Vodafone app recommendation widget, which pings app news direct to your Home screen, along with a tool Vodafone calls Updates – which manages upgrades to the pre-loaded Vodafone apps. All very inoffensive and easily ignored if you’re not a fan of networks telling you what to do and have on your mobile phone.
App performance in general is OK, although things are pretty slow to install from the Android Market. You can be waiting a good 20-30 seconds for something big like Google Maps to install when it updates. And what joker signed me up for Apple spam?
Google Maps – yes. Maps Navigation – yes. GPS – yes. Gmail – yes. YouTube – yes. There’s nothing missing in terms of Android hardware features and software. Apart from Adobe’s Flash Player support, which those in the know won’t be expecting to see on a phone with this low level of processor power.
Angry Birds works, but is a bit laggy when “physics stuff” happens. If you’re new to Android this might be a bit of a disappointment, as will the lack of Flash Player support.
The camera is a basic 2megapixel model without flash. Those are all of its menu options above. All of them! Although, to be fair, there are a few preset scene modes accessed by scrolling the last menu downwards.
Sample photos from the SMART’s camera. Make your own mind up. Just keep repeating to yourself “It’s only £60, it’s only £60″ while looking at them.
That’s a still from a sample video, which is recorded at 352×288 resolution and at around 11 frames-per-second. It’s not great. You weren’t expecting it to be great, were you? Download the unedited sample here [1.6MB] if you need to perform a full technical analysis. At least the file sizes are much more manageable than massive 1080p files. That’s one for the “pros” list.
So that’s it, really. While it’s nice to have a capacitive touchscreen and Android 2.2 at this mega-budget end of the market, the slow processor rather holds things up and it’s not an entirely smooth experience.
However, the Home screens move about well enough, as do the menus, without any show-stopping crunches. And it’s only really gaming and web performance that’s limited to an annoying degree. For the casual newcomer, it’ll work just fine.
And for £60 you can’t complain too much. It’s kind of reassuring that newcomers on a budget are going to get a relatively decent phone that does at least tick most of the boxes and works well enough as an entry to Android. Just don’t think of it as an “upgrade” to anything else out there. It’s very much “entry level” Android for new smartphone users.
If you’d like to earn us about 25p in commission, you can buy the thing from Vodafone here. And we’ll do a competition to give away the above Eurodroid-branded model soon.