Vodafone Smart Prime 6 review: This affordable 5-inch 4G phone is a quality all-round handset, ideal for smartphone newbies or as a secondary handset.
Quite a lot of cut-price handsets now pack in 4G, for nippy web browsing and buffer-free media streaming in supported areas. Voda’s Smart Prime 6 is yet another 4G handset to rival the likes of EE’s Harrier Mini, Motorola’s latest Moto E and the Microsoft Lumia 640, complete with HD visuals and an 8-megapixel camera. But how does it stack up to those other budget blowers?
The Smart Prime 6 is your typical slab of rectangular plastic, but while there’s no frills to speak of, Vodafone has done a decent job of crafting a solid, durable handset.
From the front, the Smart Prime 6 is a non-descript Android phone. The only interesting feature is the light-up touch buttons beneath the screen, which are big and easy to see even if your eyesight’s a bit cruddy. The backside and edges are constructed from silver plastic, which proved reassuringly scratch resistant during our week of use. Even carrying the phone in our bag with keys and coins didn’t duff it up.
The back plate is removable, revealing the micro SIM card slot and microSD memory card slot hidden beneath. The battery can’t be pulled out and replaced, if that’s a deal breaker for you, but then the Smart Prime 6 enjoys decent battery life anyway (spoiler alert), so it’s not really an issue.
Screen and media
We’re now living in a wonderful world where we fully expect even budget smartphones to rock an HD screen, and Vodafone hasn’t disappointed. The Smart Prime 6 packs in a 720p display, 5 inches in size, and it’s a solid all-round panel.
The HD resolution helps to keep photos and videos nice and sharp, while the spacious viewing area makes it a comfortable way to watch even a feature-length film. Colours are bold and whites don’t suffer from the ugly yellow tinge that you see on many cheaper displays. And now that it’s summer and the sun occasionally creeps out from behind the clouds, it’s good to know that the Prime 6’s screen is bright enough to counter pesky glare.
As for audio, the phone’s built-in speaker is just a tiny effort hidden on the back. It won’t even come close to filling a small room with music, so you’ll need to hook up some earphones or an external speaker to get your groove on.
As expected at this price range, the Smart Prime 6 only manages a meagre 8GB of storage space for all of your apps and media. Thankfully the microSD memory card slot can be used to expand and carry around up to 64GB of music, movies, etc.
As with most carrier-branded mobiles such as EE’s efforts, Vodafone’s Smart Prime 6 runs a pretty vanilla version of Android Lollipop. Vodafone’s tinkering is mostly limited to throwing a few of its own apps on board, which are harmless enough and can be deleted from your desktop if you couldn’t care less.
There’s the usual web portals to check your balance and so on, plus a Smart Tips app which will be of some help to smartphone virgins who need to learn the Android basics. And to be fair, that’s pretty much it. Aside from the occasional pestering from the updates service, the Voda stuff was unintrusive and on the whole easy to remove if wanted.
Android Lollipop sports all of the usual features including support for multiple users and the ability to unlock your phone with a trusted Bluetooth device. For more info on Lollipop’s best features, check out our complete guide.
Hardware features are typical of this price point, so you’ll find NFC for Tap & Pay and swapping data, plus of course full 4G support.
Performance and battery life
The Smart Prime 6 is quite clearly a cut-price device when you get down to performance, with the occasional jarring judder and spot of irritating lag cropping up from time to time, especially when switching between apps. I also witnessed a total meltdown when trying to simply adjust some camera settings, which resulted in the phone refusing to turn on for half a minute.
Still, for the most part the Qualcomm processor handles everyday life without too much of a struggle and can run games like Asphalt 8 with a pleasingly smooth frame rate.
Thankfully battery life is great even for a budget blower, with the Smart Prime 6 happily lasting a full day even with constant poking and playtime thanks to the mammoth 3,000mAh battery. If you really pummel the phone with non-stop video streaming, you should still be entertained for a solid seven hours before it dies. That’s enough time to watch at least two of those new Hobbit films, or pretty much a whole season of Game of Thrones.
Voda’s handset comes packing an 8-megapixel snapper complete with LED flash for those everyday photos, something you’ll also find on similarly priced handsets like the EE Harrier Mini. However, while most budget cameras disappoint, the Smart Prime 6 actually does an admirable job of producing good-looking snaps. Just don’t expect poster-quality images and you should be happy enough.
Vodafone has pretty much left Android’s camera interface alone, so it’s a nicely streamlined affair. Tap on the screen to focus (or let the only-occasionally-rubbish auto-focus do its job), then tap the shutter button to shoot. Settings are limited to some basic modes (HDR, sports and night) and the likes of face detection, but that’s fine if you want a no-fuss snapper to capture your pets doing hilarious things or your family mucking around.
My final photo collection on the whole was decent for a cheapy handset. I had to delete a few blurry shots where the lens had taken too long to focus, but even low light shots were only a little grainy. And as long as you don’t get too close to your subject, they tend to look sharp enough even on a TV or monitor.
You can also shoot 1080p video which is perfectly fine for simple home movies, while the 2-megapixel selfie camera is one of the better budget offerings I’ve sampled, matching the likes of the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua’s (a handset which is twice the price) for picture quality.
Vodafone’s Smart Prime 6 is one of the best sub-£100 phones around, easily rivalling EE’s Harrier Mini thanks to its commendable camera tech. Aside from some occasionally ropey performance, the Smart Prime 6 is a great 4G mobile, well suited to smartphone newbies, and an ideal second handset for those hedonistic weekends.