Budget handsets can be hard to review, you want to make sure they can perform the tasks that matter but also need to realise that there is a price to pay in saving money. I have had a look at the Vodafone Smart III and this is how I found it.
[toggle title=”Price & Where To Buy” state=”open” ]Available from Vodafone from £13pm over 24 months or on PAYG for £85.[/toggle]
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With no surprises and no omissions, the box contents are standard faire.
- Vodafone Smart III (white in my case)
- USB cable and charging plug
- User manual, quick start guide and warranty card
- The box itself is slim and colourful with a funky look.
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[toggle title=”Device Layout” state=”close” ]
Being a budget handset the Smart III was never intended to win any design awards and it that respect it doesn’t disappoint, that’s not to say it’s ugly but other than a few ‘quirky’ design features it is pretty basic in looks.
As you can see from the image the Smart III presents three capacitive buttons below the screen for back, home, and menu/recent apps styled to look like Nexus on-screen controls. The back of the phone is a semi-transparent plastic cover with a grill containing the camera lens and LED flash along with the single speaker. Vodafone use this semi-transparent back as a design feature, you get the option to place printed cards behind it to change the look and make the handset more individual, but it really adds very little to the look. There is a volume rocker on the left hand side near the top, and a power button on the top edge along with the headphone socket. The back is held on by a bumper style edge that runs round the whole phone and it juts down a roughly 5mm on the bottom edge which on the white model makes the phone stand out a little. on this bottom edge is a single long thin red notification LED which is very easy to see.
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- Android 4.1.1
Running Jelly Bean the device is not too far behind the curve of latest Android versions (I would not expect to receive any future updates) which means all of the latest apps will be available to you assuming they do not have specific hardware requirements. The big winner however is that it runs an almost stock version of Android, no silly skins or bloated apps to slow things down.
There are some additions however, the notification pull down has been ‘pimped’ to offer a little more function and as you would expect there are a few Vodafone apps, but other than sitting in your app drawer they don’t get in the way. The camera app has also been updated from the AOSP default but I will cover the changes in the camera section.
There is a handy little option to switch the phone off and on at scheduled times so if you use it to stream music at night it will turn itself off and perhaps even better it can be set to turn itself on just before your alarm is due to turn on in the morning.
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With a 5 megapixel camera and a budget lens the camera on the Smart III will only really offer you casual shots for posting to social media sites, but considering that many devices in the same price range come with lower resolution offerings the results are not too bad. You can see from the shots below that the images are more than passable if not fantastic. Like most of the device the software is all standard Android AOSP, so no fancy OEM camera app here, but as I said in the section above they have played with it a little. In an effort to give the phone a little edge they have added another way to take a picture. You have your standard still image, video and panoramic shots but the Smart III has added a ‘3D’ camera effect. Now before you get excited by the miracles of modern technology taking 3D images from a single lens phone camera I should explain. The 3D effect is really a short series of images that you take and then when viewed in the gallery app allow you to move left and right as though you were looking about, or as I like to call it a video panorama. It probably started as a nice little idea but with standard video and panorama functions it is really pointless especially as they can only be viewed with the Smart III gallery app.
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A smart phone display is an expensive piece of kit (just look at the price of replacement ones) so it only natural that when creating a budget device this is one of the first areas to suffer. The screen on the Smart III isn’t much to talk about, it does its job. The resolution is no great shake but at four inches it is at least a decent size. It is clear and easy to read, but at lower brightness levels you will struggle to make it out which can be a pain when using auto-brightness.
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- Very competitive price
- Almost stock Android experience
[toggle title=”Bad Points” state=”open” ]
- Poor quality screen
- Short lifespan
The Smart III is a starter phone for Android. If you are coming from a feature phone and want to take your first steps into the Android Ecoverse without spending too much or indeed if your usage needs are fairly simple then it could be what you are after. I can see it being popular for young children and those for who a phone is primarily a phone, the kind of person who may occasionally do a Google search or spend a short time on Facebook. If you plan on spending a lot of time with your nose pressed against the screen on social media or playing time-wasting style games you would probably be better getting something a little quicker with a better screen, but as I say this device is aimed at a particular group and for them it seems to me to be decent value.