Vodafone Smart 3 review
|Review: June 2013|
In a nutshell: The Vodafone Smart III is an excellent choice if you're looking for a bargain smartphone on Pay as You Go. Top features include the large screen, fast processor, adequate memory and good battery life.
Today's best buy: Cubot Z100 UK Sim Free 4G LT ... from Amazon (£120)
The Smart III (or Vodafone 975) is a budget Android smartphone made by Alcatel exclusively for Vodafone. Alcatel have delivered a highly specified phone for the price, and it feels like you're getting a lot for a low-cost Pay as you Go smartphone.
The Smart 3 certainly packs in a large screen for such a low-priced handset. It's rare to find a 4 inch screen in this entry-level category, so hats off to Vodafone & Alcatel for delivering this. The screen resolution is high too, with 480 x 800 pixels. And yet, this isn't the best screen we've seen by a long way. Viewing angles are extremely tight, so you find yourself tilting and squinting at the screen to read text in sunlight. The three capacitive buttons below the screen are more visible and are more sensitive too.
The phone isn't exactly slim, but it's reasonably compact given the screen size, and doesn't weigh too much. The build is very plasticky, and we don't really like the way the screen sticks up above the rest of the casing in the White version - the Black version looks a lot smarter.
A handy notification LED sits below the screen, blinking to show messages.
The rear cover is made from translucent plastic, so that you can use one of the templates provided to customise the back of the phone with your own graphics. It's an idea that sounds cool, but in practice it doesn't quite come off.
The phone runs the Android Jelly Bean 4.1 operating system, which includes Google Now! and gives access to the Google Play Store for downloading apps and content. The phone is supplied with a number of pre-installed apps, including an LED torch and a couple of games, plus various Vodafone apps. These include Gesty, which lets you create hand-drawn gestures that act as personalised shortcuts, and Kikin, which lets you search the web by highlighting a word or words in any text on screen. There are some shortcuts to Vodafone services and updates, and some handy monitoring apps that show how much memory you've used.
As you first use the smartphone, an interactive tutorial guides you through key features. It's ideal for first-time Android users, or those new to Jelly Bean.
In addition, all the essential smartphone apps are here ready for use - email, a virtual QWERTY keyboard, a web browser, GPS with Google Maps, facebook, twitter and youtube.
The phone is powered by a 1GHz ARM A9 processor with 512MB of RAM, which enables the phone to run smoothly without any noticeable lag. You should be careful about downloading too many apps, however. Playing HD video also proves to be a challenge for the processor.
The built-in memory of 4GB is generous, and you can add a microSD card to boost this by up to 32GB more.
Camera & music
The camera has a 5 megapixel sensor, LED flash and autofocus and can record video at 720p HD resolution. It's good enough for the job, although it suffers from low dynamic range in poor lighting conditions. We'd say that it's better than average in this price range and we've certainly seen a lot worse.
Music is good too, with the usual Android music player and a 3.5mm headphone socket. The memory card option allows plenty of room for storing music. There's also an FM radio included.
This is a 3G phone with support for HSPA, and Wi-Fi support too, so getting fast data access is no problem.
The phone also supports Bluetooth 4.0 and has a micro-USB connection. NFC is apparently available as an option, although our review handset didn't include this feature.
Battery life has been improved since the Vodafone Smart 2, with a 1500mAh battery included. This supplies plenty of power, and can theoretically deliver over 6 hours of talktime.
Conclusion - lots for the money
It may be a bit plasticky, but for less than £100, you'd be hard pushed to find better. In fact, you probably can't unless you're prepared to try the Nokia Lumia 520 running Windows 8. If you stick with Android, you won't find a screen this big, or a nippier processor, or more memory. Not for under £100. On monthly contract, you can probably find better options, but on pay as you go, this has got to be one of the outstanding buys of 2013.
It's got a big screen, a fast (ish) processor, a decent camera, a reasonable amount of memory and a fairly up-to-date version of Android. It's also got funky DIY back covers, an FM radio and a couple of bonus Vodafone apps.
If you're a Vodafone customer or are happy to become one, you could do a lot worse than buy one of these as a low-cost PAYG smartphone.
Vodafone Smart 3 features include:
- Operating system: Android Jellybean 4.1
- 5 megapixel camera with 4x digital zoom, LED flash and autofocus
- Video recording (720p HD @ 30 frames/second)
- Display: Capacitive touchscreen with 480 x 800 pixels (4.0 inches)
- GPS receiver with digital compass and Google Maps with Turn-by-Turn Navigation
- Music player
- FM radio
- Messaging: SMS, MMS, Email, Google Talk (Instant Messaging)
- Processor: 1 GHz ARM A9
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, micro USB, 3.5mm headphone jack
- Memory: 4GB plus microSD memory card slot (up to 32GB supported)
- Quadband GSM (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) plus HSPA/WCDMA (900/2100 MHz)
- Size: 123 x 64 x 10.9 mm
- Weight: 136g
- Battery: 1500 mAh
- 3G talk time: 6.5 hours
- 3G standby time: 312 hours
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Vodafone Smart 3 user reviews
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Average rating from 5 reviews:
Reviewed by stu hadley
on 17th Aug 2015
phone randomly turns itself off.
went from a nokia c3 (blackberry copy) to this, may be going back tomorrow unless I can work out why it just turns off.
Reviewed by Sylvia Salmon
on 17th Jan 2014
My experience with the vodafone 975 is not good. From the start it randomly turned itself off and sometimes was off for a whole day before it would spring back into life. It has been back to the vodafone store twice now and sent back to Vodafone for repair. When getting it back imagine my annoyance when half an hour after fully charging and starting to use it, it turned itself off again. This has continued over the past week, randomly turning itself off. I am very disappointed and feel it was a complete waste of money. I will take it back again but don't hold out much hope for satisfaction!
Reviewed by Gill
on 13th Jan 2014
I bought this phone to replace my Vodafone smart II. ( I loved that phone but the buttons fell off it.)I'm really pleased with my new purchase .It's got all the gadgets I need on it. One point though, they give you templates for customising the back of your phone, but the plastic is too dark to bother putting a pattern or picture in it! But, who cares? A very good phone for the price. I love it!
Reviewed by gb901
on 7th Nov 2013
Very good phone for the price tag. Replaced my HTC Desire C which in addition to inferior screen also didnt feature an auto focus camera!
Battery life seems good and the signal reception also appears better than previously experienced with other phones (I live out in the sticks in Norfolk!).
Very user friendly with plenty of features and relatively up to date android OS.
Definitely would recommend.
Reviewed by Jenny from England on 26th Sep 2013
I was extremely frustrated that my android phone was screaming low disc space, so decided to upgrade to a newer more modern handset. Very happy with Vodafone, I wanted a phone locked to Vodafone. Went to Argos and studied the catalogue. One that ticked my boxes, has Twitter and a larger memory saw the Vodafone 975 for under £100, So happy with this phone as it does all I require in a mobile, able to get emails, Twitter, upload music &photos galore. So glad I chose this phone.