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Review: Vodafone Smart ultra 6

Vodafone’s latest own-brand Android smartphone promises to be big, powerful and outstanding value for money. We got our hands on one courtesy of the nice guys at Vodafone UK and put it to the test.

The Vodafone Smart ultra 6 packs a 5.5″full HD (1080p) IPS LCD screen, 2GB RAM, a 4G ready Snapdragon 615 chip, a 3000 mAh battery with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge technology, 16GB storage (plus Micro SD slot), 13MP rear and 5MP front cameras, as well as Android 5.0 Lollipop for just £125 on Vodafone pay-as-you-go. Specs like these usually come with a much heftier price tag, so it’s time to get it out of the box and take a hands-on look.

Overview and Unboxing

Included in the box is the Vodafone Smart ultra 6, a headset, micro USB cable, USB charger, a SIM tray removal tool and quick-start guide. The first thing that stands out is the size of the phone, which fills the first layer of the box. Peel off Vodafone’s spec-sheet screen protector (we’d already done this before the photo was taken) and the phone’s 5.5″ screen is revealed. Flip the phone over and we have a silver/grey plastic back which is emblazoned with Voda’s logo, as well as the 13 MP camera, LED flash, loudspeaker slot and the words ‘4G Designed by Vodafone’. The back of the phone doesn’t come off and the battery is non-removable. On the left side of the phone you’ll find the Micro SD card slot, and on the right side you’ll find the SIM slot, power button and volume rocker. It’s worth mentioning here that this phone is made by Chinese manufacturer ZTE, and is a slightly larger version of the ZTE Blade S6 (and cheaper).

The Vodafone Smart ultra 6 looks unmistakably like a first-generation iPhone, and that’s a bit annoying. Everyone that saw it commented on how much it looked like the eight-year-old Apple device, especially with the chrome frame running around the face of the phone. We found that took the attention away from how fantastic this phone really is. It’s a bizarre design choice, however one that can be forgiven as soon as the phone is switched on. The value for money with the Smart ultra 6 is really where the phone shines.

Switch the phone on and the LCD screen springs to life. The screen is sharp, bright and the colours are vivid. We haven’t seen a screen this good on a sub £150 handset before, so kudos Vodafone – this looks awesome. You’ll also notice the three capacitive buttons light up below the screen. These are completely invisible when the screen is off, and light up blue when touched. The Smart ultra 6 uses the Lollipop navigation key shapes for the buttons, and taking them off the screen maximises the amount of screen real estate.

Key Features

5.5 inch IPS LCD screen 1080 x 1920 pixels (401 ppi)

Quad core 1.5 GHz & quad core 1.0 GHz Snapdragon 615

Adreno 405 GPU

2GB of RAM

16GB of internal storage (Micro SD card up to 64GB supported)

13MP rear facing camera, LED flash

5MP front facing camera

Li-Ion 3000mAh non-removable battery

4G support

NFC

Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n support

Android 5.0 Lollipop

Measuring in at 154 x 77mm, the Smart ultra 6 is slightly shorter than the iPhone 6 Plus, despite having the same size screen, however it is slightly thicker at 8.4mm. Weighing in at just 159 grams, the phone is also lighter than the iPhone 6 Plus. The Smart ultra 6 is comfortable in the hand and the power and volume buttons are easy to reach.

Hardware & Performance

Sharing the same processor at the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua and the HTC Desire 820, the Smart ultra 6 packs Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor, which boasts 64-bit processing, integrated 4G and Quick Charge technology. This is paired with 2GB of RAM, making the phone fast and slick during regular use. You can move around Android without lag, apps are quick to load, animations are smooth and HD video streaming is flawless.

IMG_2289

There’s not a lot to say about the performance of the Smart ultra 6, it’s fluid, responsive, and performs well during day-to-day use. So let’s take a look at the benchmark scores to see where it stands against the competition.

AnTuTu Benchmark results:

Battery Life

Vodafone claims the 3,000 mAh battery in the Smart ultra 6 will last up to two days, which it probably will with light use. You’re unlikely to see longer than a day out of it with heavy use, and at the end of the day, that’s what you’re going to be doing with that bright 5.5″ screen. During a typical day, we found the battery drained to about 20% by around 8pm, which is no mean feat considering the Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9 struggle to get through a day’s use without needing a charge.

Software & UI

Featuring Android Lollipop (version 5.0.2), the Smart ultra 6 joins a line-up of feature phones running Google’s latest operating system and, while not the latest version, Vodafone has kept the Lollipop software close to stock, with the addition of a number of Vodafone applications. Vodafone ‘Direct Accessories’ is a store from which users can buy accessories for their Smart ultra 6, the ‘Discover’ app gives you access to bills, plans and other Vodafone services, while the ‘Update’ app provides updates for Vodafone-specific applications such as Vodafone Wallet, Vodafone Protect and SmartPass. The SmartTips app is basically a user manual for the Smart ultra 6, while the Message+ app is Vodafone’s own messaging service which allows customers to message each other for free, and send SMS messages to everyone else.

 

 

Everything about the software on the Smart ultra 6 is much as you’d expect from a stock Android device. Double-tap to wake brings the phone to life and takes your straight to the lock screen, which provides quick access to the dialler and camera. Pull down from the top to see notifications, and pull down further for access to quick settings. Press and hold the middle button and Google Now springs to life, touch the right button for multi-tasking and press and hold for the option key.

Optics

The Smart ultra 6 packs a 13MP rear camera with autofocus and LED flash, and supports HD video recording at 1080p. It has two main options – manual for complete photo control and Auto for the point and shoot-er. Under Modes you’ll find panorama, HDR, multi-exposure, smile detection, interval capture and filter options. We really liked some of the additional features of the camera, especially the ‘multi-exposure’ setting.

Camera Screen

During our test we found the camera quick to take photos, with the autofocus responding rapidly. The 5MP front camera provided us with good enough quality for a quick Hangouts call, as well as acceptable-quality selfies, although the serial selfie-taker might need something a bit sharper.

Front facing camera:

Front facing camera
Front facing camera

Rear camera test shots below:

Conclusion

For just £125 on Vodafone pay-as-you-go, you’re getting a flagship-rivalling smartphone with features you’d expect to pay two or three times the price for. In fact, we couldn’t find fault with the Smart ultra 6. Sure, it looks like a seven-year-old iPhone, but that really is the only flaw we could find with it. The screen is superb, the camera is responsive and takes fantastic photos, and its 4G capability makes internet browsing incredibly fast on Vodafone 4G. Its Snapdragon processor and 2GB RAM makes it nippy to use, the Android experience is clean and fluid, and Vodafone’s built-in apps are actually useful. The large battery will see you comfortable through a day of heavy use and its Micro SD card slot means you won’t have to worry about using up all of its 16GB internal storage.

Available on pay-as-you-go as well as Vodafone’s contract packages (with no upfront cost on plans from £17 a month), the Smart ultra 6 is the budget smartphone to beat. Impressive stuff.

Find out more about the Smart ultra 6 and buy over on the Vodafone website.

Vodafone Smart ultra 6

8.1

Hardware

8.0/10

Software

8.0/10

Performance

7.5/10

Camera

7.0/10

Value

10.0/10

Pros

  • Price
  • Screen
  • Camera
  • Battery life

Cons

  • Appearance
  • Still on Android 5.0.2

About Matt Walker

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