The Vodafone Smart 3 is the network provider's latest own branded budget smartphone. It is a 4-inch, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean powered phone which, at just £90 on a SIM-free basis, is a rival to the more big brands alternatives like the Samsung Galaxy Young and the LG Optimus L3.
It seems ideal for first time smartphone owners and teenagers, the latter of which are bound to enjoy the interchangeable inlays on the its rear. Inside the Smart 3 runs a relatively basic 1GHz single-core processor, and it has a 5-megapixel camera on the rear.
Has Vodafone done enough to challenge the big boys of the smartphone scene? Read on to find out...
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The Vodafone Smart 3's design brings a certain old-school variety to the budget smartphone scene. Its semi-transparent plastic can be decorated with paper inserts – you can even print your own designs to make the phone your own. It’s a neat trick and one reminiscent of the classic Nokia 3310, may it rest in peace.
The Smart 3 is manufactured on Vodafone’s behalf by French budget phone specialist Alcatel. As such there is more than a hint of Alcatel themed design to it, with the phone’s soft curved edges and a flat back giving a nod to the likes of the Alcatel One Touch Idol X. A slight kick to the base of the phone gives it a striking finish, too.
The Vodafone Smart 3 is by no means slight, measuring in at 10.9mm thick and 136g in weight. Compared with its closest rivals, it is the dessert lover of the budget scene. Although 1.6mm slimmer than the comparatively priced Samsung Galaxy Young, it is 24g heavier. Fortunately, this considerable weight is carried evenly across its 4-inch body, creating a comfortable, reassuring balance in the hand.
The matt finish to the Smart 3’s bumper style plastic edge makes it comfortable and easy to grip, and even helps elevate the otherwise cheap, plastic build of the sub-£100 phone.
Overall, the Vodafone Smart 3 feels safe and secure in the hand. Build quality is not the most reassuring with a lot of creaking and moaning accompanying every use, and we would be concerned about how the phone fared against drops to concrete. But it looks more exciting than its £90 price tag suggests.
The Vodafone Smart 3’s screen is hardly a standout feature, but it’s good enough for a £90 phone. Indeed, the 800 x 480 resolution is a step up on the 480 x 320-pixel screen found on the more expensive Samsung Galaxy Fame, but it’s not the brightest. The screen is meek and washed out in bright, direct sunlight and still feels a little diluted indoors. Colours constantly look pale, too, which means photos, videos and even web pages look pallid and dull. Viewing angles are dire, too. Tilt the phone out of anything but a direct line of sight and the backlighting on the capacitive LCD panel causes shadows and bright haloing.
The responsiveness of the Vodafone Smart 3’s screen is acceptable, however, with swipe and selection gestures responding relatively promptly and with little fuss. Things start to fall apart with multi-finger gestures, however. Attempting usually simple tasks, such as pinch-to-zoom, results in a bitty, laggy experience that lacks the fluidity of even cheaper phones.
For all its faults, though, the Vodafone Smart 3’s 233 pixels-per-inch image density stands out from the crowd. Text and graphics are still noticeably hazy at their edges and images are far from pin-sharp, but the improvement over the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Young (176 PPI) is noticeable from the off.