Hands-on with Vodafone’s super-cheap, yet surprisingly capable, Smart Prime 7
If there’s anyone capable of making a _phone_ that can easily punch above its weight, it’s the mobile networks themselves. They have the ability to subsidise the cost of the _phone_ by making sure you use their network, alongside the features that go with it.
EE has done this with success in the past with its Harrier line of phones and Vodafone impressed last year with both its Smart Prime 6 and Smart Ultra 6.
Now Vodafone returns with the Smart Prime 7. Offering up a 5-inch 720p display, quad-core processor, removable storage and a pretty clean build of Android Marshmallow all for £75, it appears like a rather good deal, if you ask me.
You'll be please to discover that first impressions are quite good.
Video: Hands-on with the Vodafone Smart Prime 7
Pick up the Smart Prime 7 and it feels sturdy in the hand. It’s a plastic-clad device, with a patterned rear that at first glance looks like a textured finish. The back of the device is ever so slightly curved, and pops off easily to reveal the battery and a slot for a microSD card.
The front is clean and simple. There’s no branding and no buttons, just a 5-megapixel selfie camera and the microphone. There’s a notification light, too, which I consider a bonus. Along the sides of the phone are a couple of flimsy-feeling power and volume buttons that have a slight texture to them.
It’s a basic-looking phone, but it’s sleek enough and certainly surpasses expectations at its price. It’s light, thin (7.9mm) and compact enough to slip in your pocket.
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Around the front of the Smart Prime 7 is a 720p, 5-inch LCD screen, which – from my initial impressions – seems bright and colourful. It lacks some oomph, as you’d expect with a lower-resolution panel, and pixels can be identified too, but it looks good nonetheless.
Powering the Smart Prime 7 is a quad-core Snapdragon 212 CPU with 1GB of RAM. Swiping and scrolling around the operating system is smooth, and apps suffer only minor lag before they swing into action. I did notice that opening multiple tabs in Chrome causes some slow-down, but I'll have to use it for longer to determine if this is a real issue.
The Adreno 304 GPU inside the device pretty much limits you to basic games. Think Dots, Monument Valley and the like, rather than Lara Croft Go and Hitman: Sniper. A quick Geekbench 3 test saw the Smart Prime 7 score 334 and 1,115 in the single-core and multi-core test respectively.
This phone's greatest potential selling point is likely to be its software. Vodafone has stuck to a fairly clean build of Android Marshmallow, and it’s all the better for it. There’s no ugly skin here, just Android the way Google intended.
As a result, you'll benefit from Now on Tap functionality, as well as improved privacy settings. Vodafone has bundled in a few of its own apps – a dialler, texting app, tips and so on – and rather annoyingly, these can’t be deleted. However, since it's Android, it's easy enough to set your default app to something different.
One handy addition here is a bunch of lockscreen shortcuts. You can add your own, and drag up from the bottom to quickly enable the torch or add an alarm.
On the rear you'll find an 8-megapixel camera paired with an LED flash. Quite surprisingly, the camera app has a decent-looking manual mode plus a couple of other options, such as multi-exposure and panorama.
There is a noticeable delay in opening up the app, though, and pictures are slow to focus. I’ll need more time to really put the camera through its paces, but the first couple of snaps I took look perfectly serviceable for a phone of this price, and will be perfect for sharing on Facebook and Twitter.
There’s also a 5-megapixel sensor on the front; this clearly shows the demographic for which Vodafone is aiming with the Smart Prime 7, making sure the selfie camera is of better quality.
Keeping everything powered up is a 2,540mAh battery that should make it through the day. It charges via micro-USB; there's no USB Type-C here. It’s 4G-enabled too, which is another boon for a phone at this price.
Considering the £75 asking price, there’s plenty to like about the Vodafone Smart Prime 7. It looks good, feels sturdy and has an adequate selection of specs to get the job done. Things are certainly made better by the fairly clean build of Android.
The inclusion of only 4GB of internal storage on the model I'm testing (even though the box states it comes with 8GB) is limiting, but a spokesman told me this could be because it's a marketing sample and the final consumer version "should" have the right amount. of course. Either way, you have the option to add further storage using a microSD card.
You also need to take into consideration that this is locked device, exclusive to Vodafone. So if you're a loving Three customer then you should look elsewhere.