When mobile providers make own-brand devices, they stick to a pretty strict set of unwritten principles. While many customers will want the best that Apple, Samsung, HTC and other big names have to offer, homegrown handsets are for everyone else. They typically represent an agreeable balance between performance and cost, sometimes hitting the sweet spot, and sometimes not. After a couple of recent, somewhat disappointing releases, Vodacom has thrown the rulebook out the window with the new Smart Platinum 7: A network flagship with many of the bells and whistles you’d expect from a major manufacturer’s top-end device.
Launched at their headquarters in Midrand, Vodacom affirmed that they’re certainly not messing about, with what’s effectively a reskinned Alcatel Idol 4S. For starters, we’re looking at 5.5-inch, Wide Quad HD AMOLED display (2,560 x 1,440) wrapped in an attractive blend of “aircraft-grade” aluminium and glass. No polycarbonate unibody here, and by using quality materials while keeping the weight at a comfortable 155g, it’s by far the most premium own-brand handset I’ve seen from a local carrier. In fact, it has something of a Samsung Galaxy vibe about it, without approaching shameless, carbon copy territory.
The Platinum 7’s octa-core Snapdragon 652 chip (four 1.8GHz and four 1.2GHz cores) is paired with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Only 22 gigs of that is available out of the box, but a microSD slot supporting cards of up to 128GB makes that shortfall a non-issue. You’ve also got a 16-megapixel main camera to work with — there’s a dedicated shutter button on the device’s edge, too — and an 8MP front-facer for selfies and the like.
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A Cat 6 LTE radio (which Vodacom calls 4G+) and the latest Android Marshmallow build (6.0.1) — which is basically stock apart from a couple of preinstalled, Voda-branded apps — round out the rest of the key specs. Where the Platinum 7 really stands out, though, is in the value-added features. The front-facing camera has a small, dedicated flash, for example, and the 3,000mAh battery supports quick charging that’ll take you from 0-50 percent in half an hour.
The Smart Platinum 7 sports front-facing stereo speakers, and tucked away on the back you’ll find a small fingerprint sensor, too. But if you needed any further proof of its flagship status, the device comes with a free, virtual reality headset dock, similar to Samsung’s Gear VR. We’re told this has support for both Oculus and Jaunt VR services.
These trimmings obviously come at a price, though, and the Smart Platinum 7 launches from about next week Monday, July 11th, for R7999 on pay-as-you-go. That might seem pretty steep, but considering Huawei’s P9 is R3000 more at Vodacom, there’s definitely space for it in the roster. The own-brand device will also be available for free on contracts from R399 per month easily making it, on paper, the network’s most attractive option in and around that price range.
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