- Fast 4G
- Cheap as chips
- Borderline average camera
Vodafone’s Smart Speed 6 is a super-affordable 4G blower. Fifty of your British pounds will secure you this cheap and cheerful Android phone which, we think you’ll agree, is a very generous price.
But like that old TV ad about cheap bin bags, is this a false economy deal or is it sale of the century? Let’s take a look at what you could get for five thousand pennies.
Vodafone Smart Speed 6: Design
In an era of supermassive phones with 4K Ultra HD panels, the Smart Speed 6 looks positively dinky. It’s 132 x 65 x 10mm black and silver plastic frame houses a 4.5-inch touchscreen.
The rounded corners of the back combined with the metallic silver paint put us in mind of the old-school original iPhone from 2007. It’s a fairly chunky phone, weighing 146 grams (by contrast, the high-end Samsung Galaxy S6, with its 5.1-inch screen weighs 138 grams) but it’s not a brick by any stretch – you won’t exactly give your triceps a workout by lifting this.
Equally, it’s relatively chunky weight means that when you’re walking around, you’ll feel it in your jacket or jeans pocket; it’s not easy to lose, unlike some of the wafer-thin beasts of the modern age which seem to melt into your clothes if you’re not careful.
The plasticky-feeling shell isn’t totally confidence inspiring and it feels like it’ll pick up scratches easily. At the moment, there doesn’t appear to be any cases on the market for this, but if it becomes a big seller, we imagine that Proporta, Griffin and the like will start cranking them out.
The power key and volume rocker sit on the right hand side. The positioning of this meant that when we were taking snaps for the first time, we accidentally turned the screen off – force of habit. The location of the power button just so happens to be exactly where we’d like to put a shutter button. It’s not a massive design flaw to be honest.
Flip the phone over and you’ll see the familiar Vodafone icon (in the same spot where one might expect to see the Apple logo…) along with ‘4G’ at the base, to remind you that the Smart Speed 6 is indeed a 4G-ready mobile.
There’s a little groove on the bottom right which lets you easily prise off the back. Here you’ll see the removable battery, SIM card slot and a port for microSD cards. Thankfully you can get at the memory card slot without having to take the battery out, which is always a plus.
Vodafone Smart Speed 6: Features
The main feature of the Smart Speed 6 is it’s 4G aerial. This promises lightning-quick browsing, app downloading, Facebooking, Twittering – if it requires Internet access on the go, Vodafone’s 4G network should sort you out.
Theoretically, the top download speeds you’ll be able to get when you’re out and about is 150Mbps thanks to the on board CAT 4 LTE radio. In reality, the speeds you’ll actually be able to get vary greatly depending on your distance to the nearest cellular towers, the number of people in your general proximity that are on Vodafone’s network and the time of day.
In crowded central London for example tests with the Speedtest.net app gave us an average download speed of 4.9Mbps during lunchtime and 3.2Mbps during the 5pm bunfight at Oxford Circus tube station. Out in leafy Highbury, we were faring a little better – 12.1Mbps on average when we were working from home on a weekday.
These speeds aren’t the fastest out there but in layman’s terms we think the overall browsing experience you get on the Smart Speed 6 is pretty good. Facebook and Twitter feed refresh quickly and uploading pictures, while perhaps not as zippy and near-instantaneous as it is on other phones, isn’t a nightmare either. For a £50 phone, it’s actually really good.
The Smart Speed 6 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, which means you get convenient features like being able to check notifications from the lock screen and the ability to quickly set silent/vibrate modes from the volume rockers. See our Lollipop Tips ‘n Tricks feature for more info.
Other on-board features include newsreader service Flipboard, which is accessed by swiping to the left from the main home screen. This loads slowly, is clunky and awkward to use. It’s not the best implemented news app we’ve seen but if you don’t want to use it you can uninstall it.
When you do this, swiping left from the homescreen will take you to Google Now instead (which you can also launch by holding down the Home button).
As it’s a network-branded phone, there’s a smattering of Vodafone apps like ‘Smart Tips’ which could be helpful for first-timers, a ‘My Vodafone’ app which lets you check your bill and Vodafone Smart centre which lets you check up on special offers. Luckily, all of these things can be removed if you don’t want to use them, freeing up some of that valuable internal storage.
On paper, you get 8GB of storage, but of course a good chunk of that is taken up by the OS. Thankfully, you can whack in a microSD card to bulk this up – we popped a 32GB card in which the Smart Speed 6 had no trouble playing with.
Vodafone Smart Speed 6: Screen
The Vodafone Smart Speed 6’s screen measures 4.5-inches across and boasts a resolution of 854×480 or FWVGA.
While the screen is nicely detailed, the viewing angles are poor. Unless you’re looking dead on at the thing, you’re going to get washed out, greyed out colour. The screen does a pretty poor job of doing the pictures you’ll take on that 5-megapixel camera justice.
You won’t really get a sense of how good or bad they are ‘til you get them on to a desktop and into Photoshop.
It’s also quite fingerprint-friendly, which means you’ll probably need to give it a good old wipe from time to time. It’s not the grimiest screen we’ve seen and again, for a phone that’s so cheap, it’s not the worst panel out there by any stretch, but it’s also a bit meh.
Vodafone Smart Speed 6: Performance and battery life
That screen also hampers the Smart Speed 6’s ability somewhat as a media playing device. While you can get Netflix and YouTube streaming video at a decent clip – thanks to the combination of 4G and the 1.1GHz quad-core processor – get used to holding the phone very still because those viewing angles will spoil your viewing enjoyment.
Also, make sure you’re close to a charger if you really do plan a big binge-watch session. After an hour of solid video streaming on a full tank, the battery stood at 64 per cent.
Battery performance is generally pretty good but like virtually every phone out there these days, you will almost certainly need to keep it topped up during the day if you’re doing anything like checking social media, WhatsApping people and watching short YouTube videos.
On the other hand, you may just be after a cheapy budget phone and you might not be bothered about streaming media or doing anything fancier than calling and texting. With minimal use, you’ll easily get a full day’s worth of use out of a single charge.
It’s not a great phone for gaming. Titles like Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds and Monument Valley were slow to load and prone to crashes. If you want an inexpensive phone that can handle the odd casual game, then we’d recommend reaching for the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6, which gives you a much more mojo for your money.
Vodafone Smart Speed 6: Cameras
The 5-megapixel main camera of the Smart Speed 6 is capable of turning in some pretty good shots, something which isn’t helped by the quality of the screen. The lack of tap to focus also means it’s hard to take detailed closies although facial recognition software means that snaps of your mates tend to come out looking pretty good.
You can easily tinker with things like white balance and exposure and have fun with the panorama and HDR modes.
The single LED flash unfortunately does a poor job of illuminating dark and dimly lit areas, meaning it’s a fairly poor phone fo documenting nocturnal exploits.
The front-facer is a 2-megapixel shooter which isn’t particularly great in dimly-lit areas either, so it’s rubbish for pub selfies. There’s a fun ‘collage’ mode which takes four selfies in one and stitches them together, photo booth-style. This is amusing, although the low quality sensor means results may vary. As you can see, it’s not particularly kind to this reviewer’s pale and blotchy complexion.
Vodafone Smart Speed 6: Verdict
Much like the EE Rook, Vodafone’s Smart Speed 6 is an inexpensive phone that gives you a fast web browsing experience.
It’s less well suited to streaming video and the 5-megapixel camera is very basic. It’s a good potential buy for parents who want to get their kids their first phone, but don’t want to break the bank on something flashy.
Equally, if you want a back up phone that you can pick up work emails on, then this isn’t a bad shout for £50. You could always keep it charged up for use in emergency situations (provided you’re a Vodafone customer).
By the same token, we don’t think it’s quite as good value for money as the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6, which at £125 isn’t much more expensive.
|OS||Android 5.1 Lollipop|
|Rear Camera||5-megapixel w/ LED flash|
|Processor||1.1GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6735M|
|Bonus features||Vodafone Smart, My Vodafone, Flipboard|