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Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 review

Andrew Williams

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Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Fantastic value
  • Solid performance
  • Very good screen

Cons

  • Camera hit rate a little low
  • Bland design

What is the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6?

The Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 is a seriously disruptive phone. It offers specs that might cost you £300 in a Samsung handset, but only costs £125. That’s without a contract, with no obligation beyond the phone being locked to Vodafone.

There’s the rub. If you don’t mind being on Vodafone, this is the highest-spec budget phone you can get without importing something from China. Something bearing a name no-one’s heard of from a retailer some people wouldn’t be too comfortable sharing their card details with.

Vodafone can’t be making much money off the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 directly, and reassurances you’re getting good return on your money don’t get much better than that. It makes the Motorola Moto G look overpriced. In return, you just have to live with a phone about as anonymous as they come. A status symbol it is not.

SEE ALSO: Best Budget Phones

Smartphones Buyers Guide

Vodafone Smart Ultra 6: Design

The Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 is probably the best-value large-screen phone around right now. But we’re going to start with its weakest element: design.

There are no serious practical issues with the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6’s blueprint, but it is a total style vacuum. It’s as if this was the template from which to start designing a phone, then Vodafone simply said “yep, that’ll do” to ZTE, the company that actually produces the hardware.

The Vodafone Smart Ultra 6’s back is metallic plastic that couldn’t even pass for metal at arm’s length. And despite being a unibody design, there is a contour around the side mimicking where a backplate seam would lie. Normally that’s what unibody phones to their best to avoid: seams.

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Then there’s the volume buttons, which are just a slightly different colour to the shell, but not enough to appear deliberate. And the one part that really does seem deliberate, the blue light-up soft keys, come across as a little juvenile.

The Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 seems a design without all that much attention to detail, with external elements that simply fit the mission statement “make sure it fits the budget”. Sounds damning? Stick with us because this is probably the worst part of the phone.

It’s probably not a phone whose looks you’ll ever be proud of, or something that’ll make friends jealous unless they’re bargain hunters.

SEE ALSO: 13 Best Smartphones and Mobile Phones

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However, the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6’s build quality is perfectly sound. It’s plastic and fairly large, but doesn’t flex or creak. You may not have owned a ZTE phone before, but it knows how to make the things.

The top screen layer is toughened glass that feels just as smooth and strong as a phone twice the price. It does seem to take pressure a little less confidently than Gorilla Glass 3 but as yet we've not been able to find out the exact glass used. And while the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 is fairly large, it’s not unduly chunky at 8.35mm thick.

Like all the best giant-screen phones, it puts the power button right under your thumb, dropping it half-way down one side. The soft keys aren’t a Nexus 6-like stretch to reach either.

The Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 may be about as spiced-up as an unseasoned block of tofu, but it certainly does work. And while we may have been a little mean about the phone’s design, it’s not offensive. Just quite bland.

SEE ALSO: 10 Best Android Phones

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Vodafone Smart Ultra 6: Connectivity

One way to look at this is that the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 puts its budget elsewhere. For example, its connectivity and features are a league above what the price suggests. It has 4G, likely to be some buyers' first experience with super-fast mobile internet, and NFC. These are dead common nowadays, but help keep parity with more expensive phones.

The really impressive stat, though, is its 16GB storage. We’d expect a phone this price to have just 8GB, even one with a smaller, lower-res screen. This should mean most people really don’t have to worry about getting hold of a microSD card, although there’s a tray to accommodate one on the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6.

There’s no IR transmitter, but it’s unrealistic to expect one at the price.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

Couch Potato

June 19, 2015, 11:17 am

How difficult would it be to get this phone unlocked so that I could use it on a different network?

I could just about live with "a bunch of Vodafone crapware apps
installed, and they’re pinned to the very top of the apps menu. It’s a
red stain no amount of scrubbing will get rid of.", so I'm seriously considering this phone as an option to replace my current one.

Richard

June 19, 2015, 12:59 pm

I expect unlock codes will come quickly, since its got the same internals as the ZTE Blade S6 Plus. Install Google Now Launcher (or any other) and the apps will no longer be pinned to the top.

thor2001

June 19, 2015, 2:54 pm

Is it still Dualsim, like the ZTE Blade S6 Plus?

Regards

Richard Burns

June 21, 2015, 8:29 am

Agreed, my Nexus 4 is on it's last legs, this might be the upgrade I've
been looking for. I use Aviate launcher so the Vodafone apps is a
non-issue or me.

CH1NNV

June 22, 2015, 8:08 pm

This device is great I've been using it for a couple of days now alongside my Nexus 6 and the Smart Prime 6. For £125 it is an outstanding handset.
Also, the Vodafone Apps come as "downloaded" rather than system, so they can be uninstalled straight from the Apps settings menu.
There's only a couple that are system Apps which I believe it Message+ and Vodafone Updates, although these can be disabled without detrimental effect on the phone.
I would be careful with keys / coins in pockets, I already have a tiny scratch on the front glass which I'm not sure of the origin of, but I'm sure the glass is nothing special as it hasn't been handled roughly so must've been scratched quite easily.

CH1NNV

June 22, 2015, 8:09 pm

The Apps aren't system Apps either, so they can be uninstalled, which is a big well done Vodafone from me. It's as close to stock as you'll see, but also with the option to restart the device in the power menu!

CH1NNV

June 22, 2015, 8:11 pm

Also, you'd probably have to pay Vodafone £20 in order to have it network unlocked, but then its still only £145 for an unlocked and good device!!

I believe they would already have the NUC's available. I would be thought they'd have to, to comply with OFCOM regulations regarding allowing users to unlock devices.

Couch Potato

June 22, 2015, 9:30 pm

Thanks Andrew,

I'm going to pop into a store to have a look at one and to ask them about unlocking them.

CH1NNV

June 22, 2015, 9:36 pm

Cool, one thing worth noting...I got mine in store as I couldn't use online as my email is linked to my contract and they're migrating PAYG and contract into joint systems at present so it is difficult at the moment....in store I got charged £150+£10 PAYG Voucher, fortunately I get a discount in Vodafone due to my work so I only paid what worked out to be the online price (but I felt it should've been £100!), although I believe this is an error as they're claiming £125 across the board so I should think they'll sort this out.

deekbee

June 23, 2015, 8:40 am

Nope. Single sim.

Couch Potato

June 24, 2015, 5:05 pm

Thanks Andrew, I went into a store but they don't stock it as yet, also they said that it would not be possible to unlock it.

CH1NNV

June 24, 2015, 6:02 pm

Yeah it seems only the bigger stores have them at the moment. Then again I found mine in the Rugby store and it's not that big.
I wouldn't be so sure about the unlocking....I'll be trying mine tomorrow (although remaining on VF) so I can let you know....a lot of the time (not just in Vodafone) people tell you what they think....rather than what they know! :-/

Paul_3891

June 25, 2015, 3:08 pm

great review, am tempted to buy this for my birthday in july which is easy to unlock. tried a few chinese phones and the software always buggy and theres a new device every month. loved the vodafone smart 4 power but sold it and what a mistake

Paul_3891

June 25, 2015, 3:09 pm

theres 2 sellers selling unlock codes on ebay for under a fiver

Paul_3891

June 25, 2015, 3:10 pm

they dont want you to unlock and use on a different network

Zahiras Za

July 16, 2015, 9:41 am

hello all, honest review from user.
it is phone to go if you are on budget or just not willing to over pay,
decent build quality, lovely display, responsive...
not so good.... camera only so so, especially in lower light it does not deliver quality picture, over processed , colors not accurate at all, not much detail, found another camera app does slightly better, it's Open camera app.,
in full day light it performs better, more detail etc., but color still inaccurate.
secondly loudspeaker is just a budget one, don't expect crisp loud sound,
its average, thirdly some apps may crash unexpectedly...
to say all that it still good phone for only £125 !!!!!!

Bojack Horseman

August 3, 2015, 2:56 pm

See Bojack can type in all caps and act like a smartass too. Ewwwww you're soooo smart. One of these days you're going to learn that acting like a prick isn't OK. Such a crybaby one at that too. So go ahead open your mouth and spout some more stupidity.

John

September 26, 2015, 5:17 pm

Those photos looks terrible - grainy and out of focus. Bad camera.

Steve Wales

October 7, 2015, 5:33 pm

On paper this has to be one of the bargains of the year.
My 5 days with the phone unfortunately highlighted that the phone is flawed in so many ways.
Despite 3 hard resets, removal of all the Vodafone bloatware and very few of my own apps loaded this thing is just a buggy as hell. eg.
Apps close down without warning.
Calls end without warning
Bluetooth connection to car (BMW) keeps dropping and when it does work you experience a loud "booyng" noise and apparently a darlec voice is received at the other end
The screen activates when held against your ear resulting in calls being ended to activating apps you name it.
The screen is strangely unresponsive using the thumb - it requires a pointed finger most of the time.
The speakerphone stops working randomly when in a call.

I've never had a phone that tested my patience as much as this, ever. How it didn't hit the wall at times is beyond me??

OK I may have bought a Friday afternoon special but I simply don't have time to be Vodafone / ZTE's extended test mule / quality controller. My trusty G2 (complete with small screen fault) has come out of retirement.

Potential 9.5/10
Actual 1/10 and that's generous

Evan

October 8, 2015, 11:30 am

Hi Steve
We've not experienced any of the issues you have. Have you gone back to Vodafone for a replacement? Sound like you might have got a lemon.

Claire Greene

October 18, 2015, 10:00 pm

I am really struggling between the Ultra for £125 with an ebay unlock compared to the Moto G (3RD) FOR £139 from three. Is it worth paying more for the Moto?

kevy bur

December 29, 2015, 7:02 pm

lies lies or faulty

Steve Wales

December 29, 2015, 7:26 pm

Lies , lies? sorry to disappoint but only the truth from me. , faulty? Perhaps but I don't have time to try phones I just need to use them. Ironing out bugs should be the developers job not the public.
If you've got a good one , good for you. Maybe they listened to the reviews !!

kevy bur

December 29, 2015, 7:36 pm

i have 2 of these and neither exhibit any of the issue's you mention

Tony Williams

January 18, 2016, 4:56 pm

Had mine for a few days, really pleased with it so far, and not one problem to report. Removed all of the Vodafone apps by using the apps menu, selecting them and clicking uninstall, very simple. Running on 5.1 right now. Overall an absolute bargain at £109 from Vodafone.

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