Vodafone Smart mini

The Smart mini is Vodafone’s most entry-level Android smartphone, at NZ$99 with a prepay SIM pack.

  • Review
  • Specs
  • Images
  • User Reviews
  • Buy Now
Vodafone Smart mini
  • Vodafone Smart mini
  • Vodafone Smart mini
  • Vodafone Smart mini
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Solid construction
  • Light and fairly thin
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • Excellent value for money

Cons

  • Low screen resolution
  • Limited performance in demanding apps/games
  • Limited-quality 2MP camera
  • Pathetically quiet speaker

Bottom Line

The Vodafone Smart mini is a basic smartphone with numerous limitations, but it does offer impressive value for the NZ$99 price. Highly recommended for kids, or for those unconvinced on the ‘smartphone’ question and unwilling to spend big in search of an answer.

Would you buy this?

Vodafone’s Smart mini, otherwise known as the Vodafone 875, is the company’s ultrabudget smartphone offering to the New Zealand market. At just NZ$99 with a prepay SIM pack, this little Android handset comes in black or an utterly fabulous purplish-pink. We received the latter to review, which became the PC World NZ editor’s phone for a week.

The Smart mini has a 3.5-inch screen, and measures 115 x 62 x 12mm. Its shape and proportions are markedly similar to the iPhone 3G, though its three Android soft buttons and different camera positioning on the rear keep it from appearing a budget clone.

The face of both coloured versions is black, whilst the edges sides and removable back panel are black or purplish-pink respectively. The phone feels exceptionally solid despite is plastic construction, with no audible creaking or visible deformation even when the body is forcibly gripped and twisted. We didn’t perform a drop test (even an accidental one), but the slightly raised edge around the screen offers some measure of protection from shattering on impact.

There are a couple of disappointments in regard to the screen, though neither are surprising when you consider the price bracket. The resolution is a meagre 320 x 480 pixels, which gives a very blocky 165 pixels-per-inch. For comparison, the iPhone 5’s ‘Retina Display’ is almost double that at 326ppi. The limited resolution is most obvious when looking at small text, such as application titles on the homescreen and apps menu.

Resolution aside, colours seem a little ‘off’ – undersaturated or slightly shifted in hue. It’s not enough to ruin Angry Birds or make those photos of your cat unrecognisable, but it did make watching movies and high-quality YouTube videos a bit of a so-so experience. Then again, I’ve always found it hard to get into the 3.5-inch video experience, even with the best of screens.

The design is reminiscent of the Apple iPhone 3G, only with a little more plastic and the option of fabulous purplish-pink.
The design is reminiscent of the Apple iPhone 3G, only with a little more plastic and the option of fabulous purplish-pink.

More disappointing if you’re hitting the YouTubes is the Smart mini’s dreadfully inadequate sound output. Watching a selection of YouTube videos we commonly test with, I could barely make out sounds throughout most of the volume range. At the upper couple of volume levels there was a noticeable increase and sounds became audible, but at around half the volume we’d expect from any smartphone. If you want to share a high-larious YouTube video at your next social engagement, or force your colleagues to watch your kid’s latest soccer game, that limited volume will have everyone craning their necks toward your phone, or wandering off to make an appointment with their local audiologist.

The Smart mini is an Alcatel rebrand, and is based on the 1GHz MT6575 CPU from MediaTek – an ARMv7 chip also known as the MTK 6575M, and commonly found in low-end smartphones. The phone has 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of internal storage – just over half of which is user-accessible. A microSD card slot allows for expansion (the maximum supported card size is not listed in any specifications we were able to locate).

That little single-core 1GHz CPU may be gutless in modern smartphone terms, but it’s a market where things move quickly. A year or two ago, similar chipsets were powering far more high-end devices. You’re not going to play the Android port of Grand Theft Auto on the Smart mini, but popular 2D games such as Angry Birds and Cut The Rope run beautifully. Loading times in both were a bit slower than we’re used to, but gameplay was as smooth as we’d expect of a thousand-dollar phone. Similarly, high-definition YouTube playback ran just fine – as high-definition as the phone’s low-resolution screen allows, anyway.

Connectivity is 2G/3G, no dual-carrier, on 850/900/1800/1900MHz GSM. If you were hoping for 4G world-band in this price range, just keep hoping. You want faster internet? It’s got Wi-Fi, buy a 4G phone as well, and you can tether it to that.

A 2.0-megapixel rear-facing camera allows video and still capture, though the resolution and quality make it inadequate as a stand-in camera. You won’t get iPhone quality photos out of the Smart mini – you’ll get the sort of shots you’d get from the webcam built into your laptop. In other words, it’s the sort of smartphone camera Instagram was designed for. Be glad that found its way onto Android, because you’ll need it to turn ‘bad’ photos into ‘charmingly retro-bad’.

Okay, perhaps I’m a little harsh on the camera, but I’ve been well spoilt by smartphones like the HTC One or Nokia’s umpteen-megapixel monsters. As with the rest of this phone, for $99, you’re getting what you paid for – perhaps a little more.

There’s no front-facing camera for video-calling or well-aimed selfies, so keep that in mind.

The battery is user-removeable, and covers a full-sized SIM slot and microSD card slot.
The battery is user-removeable, and covers a full-sized SIM slot and microSD card slot.

Impressively, the Smart mini sports the recent Android 4.1 Jelly Bean – we’re used to entry-level smartphones shipping with painfully outdated versions of Android, leaving any upgrade to the mobile carrier or end user.

The recent OS and reasonable performance make the Vodafone Smart mini a great ‘training phone’ for feature-phone users first considering a smartphone, but unwilling to spend big bucks to see if it’s worth it. It’s good enough to show you what you can do with an Android smartphone, and its limitations aren’t painful enough to ruin your first impression of the platform.

This is also a great phone for kids and cash-strapped teenagers – solid enough to survive in a schoolbag, flexible enough to do most of what you could with a much higher-end model, and cheap enough that it’s not the end of the world if it’s lost or destroyed-in-action.

Altogether, the Vodafone Smart mini is the best smartphone I’ve tested in this price range. It’s a 3.5-star phone, at a 4-star price. Given that price is clearly the spec Vodafone are aiming to optimise here, the Smart mini can have its 4 stars, and might as well have your NZ$99. You won’t get a miracle-phone for it, but you’ll get more than you expect.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Read more on these topics: smartphone, Android, phone, Android 4.1
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?