Smartphones these days can be incredibly expensive, so it’s refreshing to find one for £90, especially when it runs Android Jelly Bean (albeit not the latest version).
Vodafone declined to tell us who makes the Smart III for them (we’d guess it’s either Huawei or HTC). We didn’t expect much from the handset, thinking that it was a budget phone and wouldn’t be able to put up with everything we threw at it. We were wrong.
Despite its price, this is an incredibly versatile device with some great features. For example, Kikin gives direct access to search results just by holding your finger over text in the browser. The only disappointment was the fact that it only worked in the built-in browser and not across all apps.
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The design is less than inspiring, resembling an old HTC phone of a few years ago.
We’re fairly adept at understanding new stuff. But we had to read the manual to figure out how to even remove the back cover. It’s a complicated two-step system rather than a one click job..
Apparently the idea is to let you slide a piece of paper behind the translucent cover, to write down your details. We don’t really see the point in having skins like this. In fact the translucent back made the phone look better with all the internals being visible. But some people may like the option.
The translucent back was complicated to remove as well as constantly sliding when using the device, which made the phone feel even cheaper than its £90 price.
Rather than enlarging the 4-inch touchscreen Vodafone decided to have some capacitive buttons at the bottom of the phone. These are exactly the same as the buttons on the Nexus 4 or most other Android phones.
They worked well, although there was often a little bit of latency between pressing the buttons and the screen responding, just one sign of this being a budget device.
Neither is there easy access to your SIM or MicroSD card slots. You have to completely take the phone apart into its three separate pieces before being able to access these.
Having a MicroSD card slot is a nice bonus, but it’s a feature that is expected on Android phones. As you’d expect it takes a micro SIM.
Vodafone didn’t build a powerhouse with the Smart III, but for £90, we shouldn’t expect one.
A 1GHz single-core processor and 512MB of RAM is present and correct, but this isn’t a speedy device at all. It often became unresponsive and was prone to crashing mostly when starting up. Many of the animations were very sluggish and juddery. Even launching an app took an age to complete after a restart.
Performance suffered in the Cut the Rope game bundled with the phone. It was so bad that completing a level sometimes felt more like hard work than fun.
Taking burst shots with the camera also felt a lot more laborious than it should have. There was some latency between shots, as well as it not accurately telling you how many shots were taken.
But there was good performance in battery life, with the phone managing to last more than a day on one charge, probably because of the relatively low-spec processor.
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Budget phones almost inevitably mean a poor camera. The Vodafone Smart III seems to buck that trend producing passable quality pix.
This phone has a 5MP camera, so don’t expect to blow your photos up too large. They did looked quite impressive when transferred to a computer monitor.
The image quality is suitable for sharing with your friends on Facebook or Twitter. Most of the detail is captured in the foreground, with the background areas looking washed out in many photos.
Video’s are in 720p, which is fine for quick YouTube videos. Snapchat fans will miss a front-facing camera although they may be able to utilise the back camera, albeit awkwardly.
The screen on the Smart III is where the money has been saved. It’s a let down. Colours are dull with the brightness not going higher than a slight glow. It is also a reflective screen and very difficult to read in direct sunlight. Although we weren’t expecting the highest resolution screen in the world, Vodafone could have done better. Everything looked worse on the Smart III than on any other similarly-priced phones which seem to manage a lot better.
It wasn’t just the poor display that rankled. The screen sometimes refused to register taps, which made typing a chore.
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For all the things that are wrong with the Vodafone Smart III, we must remember it is a £90 phone. That’s under £100 for a phone running Android Jelly Bean.
At least the camera performed well, giving us better shots than a lot of other budget smartphones out there.
If you’re looking for your first Android smartphone to test the waters of the new mobile information superhighway revolution buying the Smart III makes sense.
Be warned you’ll probably become a little peeved by the sluggish performance, but you’ll at least get access to the 800,000 apps on Android. So you don’t need to be left out of the latest app craze just because you don’t want to spend £600 on a phone.
The Vodafone Smart III isn’t going to blow you away – it’s no competitor for the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the Lumia 925. That said, this is a £90 phone so you’re not paying through the nose for these inferior capabilities.