You have to wonder how far Android can go in the low-cost handset world. It’s a mobile operating system designed to work best on large screens and in phones with competent specifications. Compromises in both areas deplete the value of Android. So can a £60 Android handset really offer enough?
Rock bottom price
The Vodafone Smart is the least expensive Android handset we’ve seen. At just £60 on Vodafone pay-as-you-go, it seems almost too good a price to be true. But if we start by looking at the positives, there does seem to be a lot of goodness here.
HSDPA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, 130MB of memory, a 2GB microSD card, and a fairly solid build are all positive attributes of the 106x56x12mm, 100g handset. So is the presence of Android 2.2. On the face of it, then, just listing key specifications, things seem OK.
One thing Android really benefits from is a large screen. The 2.8in display on offer here is really too small to do Android justice. And its 240×320-pixel resolution means you can’t see a great deal on screen at any one time. Web browsing and video viewing suffer in particular, but so does general interaction. If you’ve really small hands the on-screen keyboard might be usable, but most adults are likely to find it difficult to hit the keys with precision.
And while the capacitive display is responsive to the finger, it’s not very good at all outdoors in bright sunlight. There were times during our testing when it was literally unviewable. To add another woe to screen usability, there’s no pinch-to-zoom. Its absence is a real blow, since pinching the screen is a key usability feature, and especially comes into play with web browsing.
To help lure you in, Vodafone is offering the ability to design your own custom backplates for the Smart. There’s a web site through which you do this, and you can import your own images if you want to. For £10 you can produce a backplate that nobody else has got.
While this is a neat feature, there’s just too much that’s not right here. The 2-megapixel camera is way below par in pixel terms and shoots poor photos. The 528MHz processor does an OK job in general, but is not up to supporting Flash, so there’s no in-web video viewing. Even the battery life is poor – though, to be fair, you ought to get through a day if you are quite frugal.
Contact: Vodafone on 08080 408408
- An Android 2.2 smartphone for just £60.
- Slow processor, lack of Flash support and no pinch-to-zoom.
We find it hard to recommend the Vodafone Smart. If it proves anything, it is that there is a point beyond which compromises with Android handsets just become silly. We don't think the Smart offers a good Andrioid experience.