The biggest advancement in smartphone technology over the last few years (at least in the UK) was the release of 4G technology, this allowed us to surf the web on the go with tremendous speeds, the only problem is that this service can quite often come at a hefty cost.
Vodafone recently changed this however with the release of its own branded 4G budget handsets, the Vodafone Smart 4 Turbo and the Vodafone Smart 4 Power.
Today we are reviewing the Smart 4 Power, which is a budget 4G handset that is priced at £120 but still includes some pretty decent specs, whilst being more wallet friendly than most of its rivals.
As soon as you unveil the Smart 4 Power from its packaging you notice one of the phones most attractive specs, its 5 inch display, which does boost the dimensions of the phone up to 141 x 71.4 x 9.5mm, but does mean that you get that wide viewing experience that a lot of people desire.
The phone is also pretty heavy weighing in at 162 grams, but its also pretty sturdy, featuring a plastic body that should keep it reasonably safe from most drops and scratches, however as there is no Gorilla Glass display this may not be the same case for the front of the smartphone.
In terms of actual design, the Vodafone Smart 4 Power is available in both black and white, we reviewed the white backed version which complimented the rest of the phone’s black design, and made it look sleek.
Given the largeness of the display, the Smart 4 Power can also be a little tricky to use on-handed, with both the weight and the difference between each corner of the display making it tough to reach certain areas the display and hold confidently.
Thankfully the control buttons for the phone are still quite easy to use, the power/ sleep button is situated in the middle of the right-hand side of the phone and just beneath it are the volume controls, which are easy to get too and proved to be firm and responsive to presses.
There’s no dedicated camera button on the phone, which could mean that taking quick snapshots could be a tricky feat. You will however find a headphone jack at the top-left of the smartphone, and then the micro-USB port to charge/ sync the device at the bottom.
One added extra with the Smart 4 Power is the ability to remove the back covering, allowing you to access both the SIM card and the microSD card slot, this allows you to swap out SIMs easily and add up to 32GB of extra storage, boosting the smartphone’s original storage from the tiny 4GB that’s available.
However that space is actually closer to 1.8GB after the default apps and Android 4.4 has been installed, which it is from out of the box. This means that it would be advisable to use a microSD card of some sort.
Out of the box you do get both 4G and Android 4.4 KitKat pre-installed, which add to the smartphone’s large 5-inch capacitive IPS LCD touchscreen display which features a 540 x 960 pixel resolution and a pixel density of 220, which is not brilliant, but pretty impressive for a £120 smartphone, especially when the iPhone 6 only has a pixel density of 326ppi, however the impressiveness is somewhat reduced by the resolution, with some icons and text looking rather unfocused due to the scale of the display.
We found that one of the biggest features had to be the Smart 4 Power’s 4G connectivity, which uses Cat 4 to provide 50Mbps maximum upload speeds, with up to 150Mbps download speeds, all of which may vary depending on your location, and given that it is locked to the Vodafone network, this will only include locations which Vodafone 4G covers.
During our testing, we used the smartphone within Leicester, UK where we found that the phone managed to grab a 4G single in most places, and a max of 3G in other more rural areas, however when we did have a 4G connection we found that the phone provided astonishingly quick speeds, in fact during our testing we set the phone to play a Spotify playlist whilst providing directions from Google Maps and we found that Spotify didn’t lag once, music just played as it would do with a WiFi signal, even areas that are normally dark spots on lesser 3G phones.
A 4G connection is not only good for the internet however, it also makes receiving and calls a great experience with clearer quality and less dropped occasions, couple this with the large dial pad and the Smart 4 Power is a good choice for those who have trouble making calls on smaller displays.
In terms of text messaging, this is all handled by Android’s default Messaging app, meaning that everything works just as it would on any other Android device, well aside from that large display which could either make your typing experience better or worse.
And that’s the thing about the Vodafone Smart 4 Power, it’s brilliant for the basics, however it can sometimes fall short when used for other tasks, this includes things like media viewing, which is okay for a budget smartphone but due to its low resolution some videos will not play in a way that you would expect, with blurry images and sometimes jittery playback, a sad thought given that this means its large 5 inch display kinda goes to waste here.
Thankfully music playback is decent enough.
The Smart 4 Power also has a pretty decent pair of cameras for the price, featuring a 5 megapixel sensor for the main rear-facing camera, and a VGA resolution camera for the front-facing shooter.
When I got to the camera in my testing I was expecting all that much given the £120 price tag, and I was right in thinking that, photos taken with the Smart 4 Power are great for the average use of Facebook or quick snaps, however due to their lack of sharpness and clarity images taken from the phone probably wouldn’t be great for the photo album.
Images we took often lacked colour and looked washed out in a lot of situations. This is pretty much the same situation for the VGA camera, which provides shoots that you would expect from a VGA resolution.
If you are the average user, the Smart 4 Power is great, it takes photos quickly, capturing scenes after a quick touch of the capture button.
In terms of video recording, the Smart 4 Power can record 720p video.
In terms of the phones interface, the Smart Power 4 takes advantage of Android 4.4 which comes pre-installed on the device alongside a number of default Vodafone apps, all of which allow you to access a number of the phones features quickly and take advantage of various Vodafone services and deals.
You also get access from all the apps available from the Google Play Store, as you would expect.
To use all of these apps effectively, the Smart 4 Power features a quad-core Cortex-A7 processor, a Mali-400Mp2 GPU and 1GB of RAM, all of which allows the handset to use apps and services with acceptable speeds, certainly not speeds that will allow you to perform high-performance apps, but certainly enough to perform daily tasks.
On the Geekbench 3 benchmark app the Vodafone Smart 4 Power managed a multi-core score of 1152, which places it just above the Motorola Moto G and Nexus 7, whilst just below the Motorola Moto X and Samsung Galaxy S III. We also ran the Antutu Benchmark test in our tests, in which the Smart 4 Power achieved a score of 18323.
To top all of this off, the Vodafone Smart 4 Power also packs a 3000mAh battery, which is quite large for a phone of this price, and will certainly allow for around two days of battery when used not to frequently, basically you should be fine for two days if all you do is light web browsing, play a few games and make a normal amount of calls and texts.
If you cut the usage down to just calls and texts you can easily make the smartphone last around 3 days.
All in all, the Vodafone Smart 4 Power is a fantastic device for anyone looking for a phone with just a little more than the most basic phones can offer, featuring a 5 inch display, 4G LTE, NFC and all of the other normal specs that one would expect, the Smart 4 Power is great for the average user, however that is the condition. If you want something more than just to do the average stuff then this phone probably isn’t the best option for you, however for only £120 or £18 a month on pay monthly, the Vodafone Smart 4 Power certainly offers a lot for its price tag.
You can find out more about the Vodafone Smart 4 Power and pick one up for yourself on Vodafone’s website here.
Disclosure: Vodafone sent us a loan sample of this device for review purposes.