Working with, or even owning a network branded smartphone used to be a woeful task. But Vodacom has slowly been putting this imperfect conception to place over the past few years. Take for example their Smart Tab, the sub R1000 champion that has rivaled greats and introduced the not-so great technology inclined user to the tablet world. With that, Vodacom recently launched their Smart Ultra 7, we had to get a hands-on for ourselves.
First Impressions Count
At first glance, the Smart Ultra 7 is quite possibly one of the most elegant and gorgeously designed smartphones I’ve ever seen for under R4000. It has a slim, 7.9mm profile and classy, carbon fibre-like honeycomb textured back.
Admittedly, the Smart Ultra 7’s vibrant, charcoal and silver looks aren’t quite as fun as the Sony Xperia Z3’s glossy cases, but its understated design definitely works in its favour. You wouldn’t even know it was a Vodacom phone at first glance, as the small, stainless Vodacom logo blends in subtly with the rest of the handset. Its textured volume and power keys are another great touch, as they not only feel great under your thumb, but are also very easy to find by touch alone. It’s small details like this that really elevate the Smart Ultra 7 above other cut-price smartphones, and makes it feel more upmarket than it really is.
The Ultra 7 features a big 5.5-inch screen that will please phablet fans. Problems emerge via its poor touchscreen responsiveness which isn’t entirely unexpected as it comes equipped with a MediaTek MT6755 processor. MediaTek-equipped phones have a reputation for sluggish touchscreen controllers, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. The good news is that the screen has surprisingly good contrast, although brightness is a bit on the low side and colour accuracy is merely good rather than excellent.
Image quality outdoors in bright sunlight on its 13MP sensor was decent with well-judged exposure and reasonable amounts of detail. Image quality in even modestly dim lighting was a mess though. We did not even attempt to use the front facing camera.
All the said might be acceptable if the trade-off was for better battery life, but the Smart Ultra 7 fell behind here too. It just scraped in a time of 20 hours when connected to Vodacom’s 4G network and used for a range of everyday tasks (apart from gaming).
The Smart Ultra 7 It’s a significant step up over Vodacom’s other related offerings, and even if it doesn’t quite topple the mighty Xperia Z3. To make up, Vodacom was kind enough bundle the device with screen insurance, free data and Deezer subscriptions. But still, these don’t seem to justify its R3199 retail price.