Vodafone Smart N8 review

Great specs for under £100, but is it too cheap?

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.

Making any good budget phone, let alone one that costs less than £100, is a daunting prospect for any manufacturer, and Vodafone has had a damn good crack.

In many ways, the Vodafone Smart N8 bats out of its price range. With an accurate fingerprint scanner, NFC, a good-enough screen and respectable performance, day to day use is great.

No other competitor offers the same package for a similar outlay, and yet sacrifices have been made. The speaker may be front-facing, but it’s poor. Battery life is mediocre, and the camera verges on being unusable.

In all, this is a solid handset but nothing more. While at times it comes close to greatness, it simply has too many drawbacks to make it worthy of the big leagues, but definitely fits in as one of the most impressive double-digit priced phones available today.

Who’s this for

If you are a Vodafone customer looking for a backup phone to take to gigs or in case yours goes kaput, then the Vodafone Smart N8 is a solid bet. Those looking for their first smartphone will also be tempted by the low price point.

People looking for the best performance, or the most powerful camera on a smartphone, should look elsewhere, and at spending a little more money.

Should you buy it?

Any phone costing less than £100 is often difficult to recommend. By spending a little more, consumers can get a hold of far more features, executed more competently.

And yet, the Vodafone Smart N8 is an odd beast. It has features that no other phone at this price point has, and there is a relatively rare level of thought and care in its design.

Ultimately, this phone will serve someone well who is willing to settle for a little less. The basics of a smartphone are here, and mostly done well, but other budget options are available for not vastly more, and are leagues ahead in almost every regard. This phone is recommendable, but only if you're really set on spending under £100.

The Vodafone Smart N8 is remarkably cheap, but spend a little more and in some cases you can get a lot more, as the alternatives below demonstrate.

Honor 5C

Released in 2016, and now going for as low as £120 on Amazon, the Honor 5C has a 5.2 inch 1080p screen, 2GB of RAM, an octa-core chipset, a 3,000mAh battery and a 13MP rear-facing camera.

For just a little more than the Smart N8, you get a better screen, a more powerful chip, a bigger battery and a better camera. What’s more, the handset also has a part metal design, trumping the Vodafone in almost every regard.

Moto G5

The Moto G5 is more expensive than the Vodafone Smart N8, however it offers so much more. It comes packing a 1080p screen, a Snapdragon 430 chipset, a 2,800mAh battery and a capable 13MP camera.

This, like the Honor 5C, also benefits from a metal design, as well as various 'Moto Actions' - gestures such as chopping with the phone to activate the torch. This is one of the most complete budget packages in mobile at the moment.

Wileyfox Spark Plus

From upstart British brand Wileyfox, the Spark Plus retails for only slightly more than the Vodafone Smart N8. But on the whole the Smart N8 is a better phone, despite its lower price.

The Spark Plus has a 720p screen, a 2,200mAh battery, a MediaTek 6735 chipset and 2GB of RAM, but suffers from poor cameras, buggy software and weak speakers. In all, the Vodafone is the better buy.

First reviewed: July 2017

Sean is a Scottish technology journalist who's written for the likes of T3, Trusted Reviews, TechAdvisor and Expert Reviews.