Vodafone are often known for their big flagship alliances with OEMs. This year has seen them in bed with the likes of HTC and Samsung to unveil plans for their latest flagships and market them appropriately. However Vodafone are known for budget options also, and the Vodafone Smart First 6 is the latest in that lineup. Let’s take a look.
The Vodafone Smart First 6 is a simplified Android offering, easing consumers in to the world of smart mobile devices. Indeed, Vodafone specifically call out the fact the device was designed for first time smartphone users in their literature. Available at £40 on a PAYG contract, Vodafone will be hoping that the more prominent budget offerings from companies such as Motorola recently, with their G and E products, will get consumers looking at this segment a little more closely.
Unboxing & Overview
- The Vodafone Smart First 6 device
- Wall Charger
- USB charging cable
- Warranty and Quick Start guides
- 3.5mm Headphones
- Additional “White” back cover for the device.
Upon first feel, it is quite obvious that this is a budget device. The bezels are huge, capacitive buttons flank the bottom section of the front panel, there are a few creaks and clicks from the plastic chassis and the device feels light.
On the front panel is a slit ear piece at the top, and 3 capacitive buttons resembling the Lollipop interface despite the device being bundled with 4.4 KitkKat. At the bottom edge is a micro USB charging port as well as a microphone. The left edge is devoid of any distinguishing features with the power and volume rocker residing on the right hand edge. To the top is a 3.5mm headphone jack for the bundled headset. Finally, on the backside of the device we find some Vodafone branding as well as a 2MP fixed focus camera and a speaker grill cut out.
The specifications of the device are, as would be imagined, aligned to the price point of this device.
- 4″ TN Display (800 x 480)
- 2 MP fixed focus camera
- Mediatek MT6572M, 1GHz Dual-core CPU
- 4 GB ROM + 512 MB RAM, microSD (up to 32 GB)
- 1400mAh battery
- Dimensions at 121.6 x 64.4 x 11.8 mm weighing 112g
- Android 4.4 KitKat
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 A2DP, FM radio with RDS
Design & Hardware:
The Vodafone Smart First 6 is a device that is designed and manufactured to a price point, and nothing more. It’s not an ugly device. It’s simply nondescript and eminently forgettable in its design. Both the black and white backs are smooth with matte finishes and feels “okay”. It’s not a high quality plastic, but if anything this helps the overall selling point of the device. The device is not meant to feel like a £600 flagship device. Consumers shouldn’t be afraid of dropping the device or scraping it against an abrasive surface; it’s intended to be used.
The screen follows the same mantra of cost point before form and function and delivers a TN display. for those that are not aware, TN displays are notorious for poor viewing angles, and this device is practically unusable in anything but face to face use. Tilting the device just 15 degrees one way or another gives distortion of visibility. The screen also has a ‘tacky’ feel to it. Swipes are difficult and the friction often makes elongated use undesirable. This, coupled with the displays low resolution makes the device only barely usable.
The Mediatek SoC is equally low-end. The device has a dual core architecture clocked at 1Ghz and isn’t going to be the workhorse that those used to Smartphones are going to be familiar with. That, again, is the point. This device is aimed at the low-end, new adopter market. The chip has been used in similarly budget devices for Indian carriers primarily. It will, and does, get through some general work, however, don’t ask too much of it.
On to the optics and the story is familiar. Budget components delivering budget output. The 2MP fixed focus camera manages to get some colours correct, but taking pictures with this device is going to be akin to that of Motorola’s original Moto E experience; namely pretty poor. The fixed focus is the cause for lots of the down falls here. Getting a subject in focus is a challenge itself. Invariably by the time this has been competed, the subject has moved or the light conditions changed. In short, it’s not a great experience, but if one is just getting into smartphones in general, it might be that photos are not top of their list; an informed choice here needs to be made per consumer.
Software & UI
The Vodafone Smart First 6 comes bundled with Android KitKat 4.4. The Android operating system is sufficiently mature to make it a very stable option for those wishing to migrate to a smartphone for the first time. There are intuitive swipe functions and easily labelled settings menus, all of which will gently ease in new adopters.
However, the hardware does little to make the experience seamless. Scrolling across home screens, opening applications, and surfing via the built-in Browser all take their sweet time in anything but occasional circumstances.
Users of this device will be happy with the UI in general, and the range of applications that are now at their fingertips as new smartphone users. It remains to be seen how quickly they will get frustrated with the speed of the device however.
The Vodafone Smart First 6 is Vodafone’s newest low-end device. It’s marketing tagline suggests the device is “An affordable introduction to the world of smartphones”. We can’t complain. This is factually correct. The device is just £40 on a PAYG plan from Vodafone and this delivers a much lower price point than the Moto E 1st generation or indeed the 2nd generation Moto E device which currently retails for around £90.
The issue with the device is also its biggest strength. The price will attract consumers, however it also means the components are suitably cheap. The CPU, display and optics take the brunt of the slashed cost of the bill of materials and make the experience of using this device less than desirable.
For a device that is aimed at new smartphone users, it is ironic that it could well do as much to push adopters away from the platform as pull them in! The hardware choices mean that compromises in all areas are immediately visible to users. Is this what new adopters want to see when they are pushed towards a smartphone by the media marketing machine in top gear? We suspect not.
That being said, the build is not as bad as devices twice the cost of the Vodafone Smart First 6, and at just £40 we expect many to use this as a secondary device rather than a primary, first, smartphone.
For £30- £40 more however, the still budget priced Vodafone Smart Prime 6 might be a better option.