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Vodafone has produced another competent entry-level smartphone in the Vodafone Smart N9, and this time it’s a lot easier on the eye.
With a sharp, modern design and an appealingly punchy display, this is a step forward for the range in a number of ways.
Unfortunately its performance is distractingly sluggish, while the 13MP main camera isn’t really good for anything. That might be understandable in a £110 phone, but you only need to spend a little extra to get a lot better.
Who’s this for?
This being a Vodafone handset, the Vodafone Smart N9 is obviously well-suited to Vodafone customers looking for a cheap new phone.
It’s also a great pick if you have a strictly limited £100 budget, but don’t want to have to carry around a cheap-feeling chunk of plastic.
Should you buy it?
Vodafone has emerged as one of the best providers of budget smartphones in the UK, and the Vodafone Smart N9 is a stylish new contender. The way it looks and feels in the hand is quite uncommon for a £100 phone.
Also commendable is the phone’s 5.5-inch display, which stretches out to fill most of the front of the phone. It really does feel a lot classier than its price tag would suggest.
Unfortunately, poor performance and a terrible camera bring those expectations back down to Earth. Add in a price bump from last year’s model and some strong alternatives a little further up the price scale, and it’s a case of two steps forward, two steps back for Vodafone.
There are other cheap phones that offer more, such as the following three:
Motorola’s popular entry-level smartphone has been superseded by the Moto G6, but it’s still available to buy online for a price just slightly north of the Smart N9.
For just a little more you’re getting superior performance, a sharper display, a better camera, and none of the operator bloatware.
On the downside, the Moto G5 doesn’t have NFC. Unlike the Vodafone Smart N9, then, you won’t be able to use Google Pay on it.
- Read our full Moto G5 review
For just a little more money you can pick up the Honor 7A, which has a similar display to the Vodafone Smart N9, an inferior plastic design and a slightly dodgy custom UI.
Conversely, the Huawei-built phone boasts superior performance and a better camera, which are the two key areas in which the N9 suffers.
It’s an uglier, less elegant phone in many ways, but the Honor 7A is arguably the more functional pick of the two.
- Read our hands on Honor 7A review
Pricing for the Alcatel 3V is all over the place, but if you shop around you’ll be able to find it for a similar price to the Vodafone Smart N9.
If you do, you’ll be getting a much better-spec'd machine, with a faster MediaTek CPU and a bigger and sharper 6-inch 1080p display.
The Alcatel 3V’s dual 12MP and 2MP camera is also much better than its Vodafone rival. It’s a lot less desirable in the hand, mind you, and its custom UI isn’t great.
- Read our full Alcatel 3V review
First reviewed: June 2018