Inexpensive 4G LTE connectivity, quad-core performance and a surprisingly good screen make the Vodafone Smart Speed 6 a clever buy, for smartphone newbies in particular.
4G LTE connectivity
Super low price
Stock Android Lollipop
Plain design and colours
Limited on-board storage
Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.
Network own-brand phones have long since stopped being the compromise they once were. Like a supermarket's own flaked corn cereal or beans baked in tomato sauce, they're the acceptable face of smart shopping.
The new Vodafone Smart Speed 6 continues in this vein, offering a substantial set of tasty smartphone features at a price that's far easier to stomach than the big-name brands' own efforts.
Vodafone, smartly recognising an opportunity in the market, has also realised that people who are spending relatively so little on a smartphone might be buying their first – particularly if they're, ahem, older – and accordingly have added some clever features to appeal to the silver shopper.
Let's get this out the way early on: there's more than a touch of the plastic fantastic about the Vodafone Smart Speed 6 – but for £50 you can hardly expect Gorilla Glass and brushed aluminium. Available with black or silver (seen here) rear covers, it's not going to have the neighbourhood nerd wandering over for a fondle.
But beauty is fleeting – and the Vodafone Smart Speed 6 feels tough and dependable, and like a phone that will endure being stuffed in a pocket (or handbag, nestled next to the Fisherman's Friend and bus pass) without complaint.
The rear cover wraps around the sides of the phone, up to just under the edge of the screen, and it's a good, tight fit – I nearly lost a fingernail trying to prize it off. It'll keep the dust out, and the phone in one piece when it invariably hits the deck.
There's no creaking, no big panel gaps between the rear cover and the rest of the phone, and it feels like it'll do that tyke Tommy, the kid down the lane who's been bothering poor Mr Tiddles, a right mischief if he ever shows his face 'round 'ere again. But I digress.
The large-print trio of buttons at the bottom of the screen are easy to see, even if your peepers aren't what they used to be, and the Vodafone branding is pretty discreet, limited to a black logo the size of a five pence piece in the centre of the rear cover and a minuscule 'Designed by Vodafone' at the bottom.
All in all it's pretty inoffensive stuff – and that's the genius. It doesn't scream budget smartphone, and you wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen with it amongst your more design-conscious friends toting HTCs or Sonys. And for the price, that's all you can ask for.
A certain demographic – those who'll find the bigger buttons a boon – will appreciate one of the features of the Vodafone Smart Speed 6 that you're offered upon first starting the phone: the chance to opt for a more simplified home screen that offers larger icons and a less cluttered interface.
It's just the thing for getting to grips with all this new-fangled technology, and enables you to quickly access your favourite contacts or apps by swiping right and left respectively.
It's the Android equivalent of a large print book.
Combined with all the helpful little pop-up tips and hints that Vodafone has peppered the entire interface with, you begin to realise just how intimidating a device like a smartphone can be to someone who grew up using a phone with a dial rather than a touchscreen.
And Big Red, bless it, has done a great job – the tips aren't too intrusive, and are easily dismissed if you don't need the helping hand that's offered. To be honest, if you're more of a talker and texter than an app user, you'll probably find this home screen mode far more convenient than the standard one.
But if you're starting to think that you need to be a paid-up member of your local bowls club to find anything to get excited about in the Vodafone Smart Speed 6, bear with me…
It sports 4G LTE connectivity, Wi-Fi b/g/n and Bluetooth 4 ADSP, too, so if you've decided to splash your cash on wireless headphones, rather than a swish smartphone, you're catered for.
The 4.5-inch screen might offer a resolution of just 854 x 480, but it presents a clear, crisp and vibrant image with a wide viewing angle. It's bit of a fingerprint magnet, mind.
The main camera is a Facebook-friendly 5-megapixel number with a flash, support for geo-tagging and an HDR mode. The front-facing camera might only offer two megapixels, but again the Vodafone Smart Speed 6 does the best with what it's got.
The 8GB internal memory is enough for basic use, and there's support for microSD cards up to 32GB if you need more space.
What might be one of the Vodafone Smart Speed 6's trump cards is it's unsullied take on Android 5.1 – aside from the mature mode and a handful of Vodafone apps, it's basically stock. As a result, it's clean, responsive and free from needless frippery.