Ratings in depth

Vodafone Smart 4 Mini

Vodafone Smart 4 Mini

Vodafone Smart 4 Mini

Vodafone Smart 4 Mini

Vodafone Smart 4 Mini

Not too long ago smartphones were the preserve of the gadget elite with browsing, email and push notifications on the go requiring a hefty upfront cost.

That has all disappeared now: handsets such as the Motorola Moto G and Nokia Lumia 520 have given us smart functionality for as little as £150.

The Vodafone Smart 4 Mini takes this idea to the extreme, offering you a full smartphone experience for only £50 up front. We're down in territory belonging to the £40 Nokia Asha 503 and the £70 Samsung Galaxy Young.

We've seen the competition at the lower end of the market heat up dramatically over the last couple of years and it's now eminently possible to get a handset for less than the price of a tank of petrol.

The PAYG Vodafone Smart 4 Mini is about as far from the premium HTC One M8 or Samsung Galaxy S5 as it's possible to get. It may not be up to the task of being your primary handset, but as a secondary device for emergencies or holidays, it has everything you'll need.

Of course, the Vodafone Smart 4 Mini is locked to Vodafone - so if you're in a poor reception area for the red network you might want to give it a miss.

Vodafone Smart 4 Mini review

This isn't Vodafone's first Smart handset and in terms of design, it's almost identical to last year's Vodafone Smart Mini.

The boxy black chassis means it's far from the best-looking budget mobile out there and with dimensions of 122 x 64 x 12mm it can't claim to be thin either.

However, the handset is light at 111g. Build quality is middling - there's a bit of flex on the chassis when you push down on it - but it seems robust enough to survive drops and bumps without undue damage.

Vodafone Smart 4 Mini review

There are two physical buttons on the phone. The first is the power switch located on the top of the handset next to the 3.5mm headphone jack, and the second is the volume rocker on the right hand side.

Both have a reassuringly deep click to them and, as with many Android handsets, the volume down part of the rocker can be used as a dedicated shutter button when in camera mode.

The Back, Home and Settings buttons are soft-touch keys at the bottom of the 800 x 480, 4-inch WVGA screen which is, unfortunately, surrounded by a chunky black bezel that does nothing for the aesthetic of the Smart 4 Mini.

Vodafone Smart 4 Mini review

Don't expect any high-definition visuals here, and the colour contrast is quite weak - but the welcome upshot of those limitations is that battery life remains strong.

Turn the Vodafone Smart 4 Mini over and the removable plastic back has been given a smart, light grey colour. It features the Vodafone logo as well as the camera lens and the speaker.

There's also Google's logo to denote that the phone is Google-certified and has access to the full range of Google Play apps.

Vodafone Smart 4 Mini review

It's undoubtedly a cheap plastic construction, but to give the Vodafone Smart 4 Mini its due, it sits comfortably in the palm and the 4-inch screen means you can operate it comfortably with just one hand.

As you'd expect for £50, the internal specifications are about as inspiring as the design. You're only given 4GB of internal storage to play with although Vodafone has included a microSD card slot underneath the 1400mAh battery for boosting storage.

A 1.3GHz dual-core processor is under the hood, backed with 512MB of RAM. This doesn't make for blistering performance and there's no option for 4G on this handset.

However, as I said earlier, if you're looking at this as an option for a secondary phone then the lack of muscle is a standard trade-off for the rock bottom price tag.