- Expandable storage
- Soft display
We review Vodafone’s Smart 4 Mini, an affordable £50 Android smartphone that packs some decent specs and features.
Vodafone’s own-brand Smart mobiles are pure entry-level, with a wallet-strokingly low asking price. Just £50 bags you the new Vodafone Smart 4 Mini, a 4-inch Android smartphone that boasts the usual range of features, such as a 3.2-megapixel camera.
With low-price phones, the true cost is usually in user experience – so how friendly is the Vodafone Smart 4 Mini for everyday use?
Vodafone Smart 4 Mini design: Chunky chappy
Although the Smart 4 Mini is quite obviously a budget phone from its chunky build, the actual design is a step up from the cheap-and-nasty plastic of yesteryear. From the front it’s nothing special: the plain black glossy surface is completely typical of a cut-price device. However, we quite like the matt plastic rear, with its light grey finish and funky camera-speaker hybrid. The surface is a little slippery and picks up grease and scuffs rather easily, but it can be cleaned just as effortlessly with a quick t-shirt rub.
Pop open the back and you’ll find a removable battery, hiding the full-sized SIM card slot and a microSD memory card slot. We’re impressed by the support for memory cards, something you don’t see on budget phones too often, and the meagre 2GB of on-board storage means you’ll definitely want to invest in one.
Vodafone Smart 4 Mini screen: Good for the money
One area where budget phones usually skimp pretty hard is the screen. On paper, however, the Vodafone Smart 4 Mini does well: 4-inches, a good size for a budget display, and a 480×800 pixel resolution, giving an impressive 233 pixels-per-inch. As a comparison, that’s as sharp as some mid-range mobiles such as the Nokia Lumia 525 and HTC Desire 500.
That crisp resolution really helps when you’re browsing the web, keeping text sharp enough to read even when you’re zoomed right out. Videos also benefit, and while you obviously won’t get the full HD movie experience, we enjoyed catching up with TV shows and streaming YouTube content on our commute.
Of course, it isn’t all roses, as you’d expect at this price. The Smart 4 Mini’s screen suffers from very narrow viewing angles (tilt the phone just a little and the display immediately darkens), and the surface is soft plastic which bends in when prodded. Push a little too hard and the image distorts, although we didn’t seem to cause any long-lasting damage with our excessive poking.
Vodafone Smart 4 Mini performance and battery life: Time is fleeting
With its dual-core 1.3GHz processor and 512MB of RAM, the Vodafone Smart 4 Mini pulls off some admirable performance for a cut-price device. Android 4.2 Jelly Bean runs smoothly, with only the occasional lag as you load up an app or download massive files during use.
However, I did stumble across a couple of pesky bugs and issues. For instance, our Wi-Fi connection sometimes dropped despite staying strong on our other mobile devices, usually while searching in the Gmail or YouTube apps.
Gamers will be limited to basic touchscreen timewasters, as the likes of Asphalt 8 are (as you’d expect) sluggish and unplayable. However, games such as Cut The Rope 2 ran perfectly, so you’ll still have a good selection of apps to kill time on the commute.
Unfortunately it better be a short journey, as the Smart 4 Mini’s battery drains faster than my ever-dwindling bank account during a London-based booze-up. After just four hours of very occasional use (a little bit of web browsing and email checking), charge had already dipped from full to 70%. You’ll make it through the day if you’re lucky, but only if you play with the phone sparingly. Try streaming video, and the phone will die in a measly three and a half hours.
Vodafone Smart 4 Mini camera: Budget snapper
The 3.2-megapixel snapper performs pretty much as expected, and is definitely geared towards newbies. For a start, the interface is streamlined and incredibly simple to use: load up the camera app and you’ll find a shutter button to take snaps, a slider to flick between photo and video, and the settings button. You can’t tap the screen to focus on a specific person or object, and there’s no flash for night shots, but you can pinch to digitally zoom.
Everyday photos look a little grainy when viewed back on a monitor or TV, and especially grainy in low light conditions – again, as expected given the low cost. However, they’re perfectly acceptable for simply posting a quick photo to Facebook. You can’t get too close to your buddy when you’re taking a photo though, as the lack of focus means they’ll come out blurry. You’ve got to keep your hand steady too, or you’ll have the same problem.
Video again is perfectly acceptable for uploading to social media, but we found the microphone picked up the slightest breeze and magnified it to something approaching gale-force malevolence.
Vodafone Smart 4 Mini verdict: Value for money
If you’re a smartphone virgin looking for a simple handset to get started, or if you’re just after a dependable mobile that’s cheap as chips, the Vodafone Smart 4 Mini is a great choice. It shoots well above its £50 price tag, offering one of the best web browsing experiences in its league, and only the duff battery detracts from a solid, affordable smartphone.