Truth be told, I’m a bit skeptical when it comes to this here reviewing entry-level smartphones. for one is so used to the premium handsets, that it gets hard having to score the middleweight guys but somehow, when Vodacom sent over their Smart 4 Mini I knew there was something about this bad boy. Does it match up though?
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This isn’t Vodafone’s first Smart handset and in terms of design, it’s almost identical to last year’s Vodafone Smart Mini. The boxy black chassis means it’s far from the best-looking budget handset out there and with dimensions of 122 x 64 x 12mm it can’t claim to be thin either. However, the handset is light at 111g. Build quality is middling – there’s a bit of flex on the chassis when you push down on it – but it seems robust enough to survive drops and bumps without undue damage. There are two physical buttons on the phone. The first is the power switch located on the top of the handset next to the 3.5mm headphone jack, and the second is the volume rocker on the right hand side. Both have a reassuringly deep click to them and, as with many Android handsets, the volume down part of the rocker can be used as a dedicated shutter button when in camera mode.
The Back, Home and Settings buttons are soft-touch keys at the bottom of the 800 x 480, 4-inch WVGA screen which is, unfortunately, surrounded by a chunky black bezel that does nothing for the aesthetic of the Smart 4 Mini.
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The key feature of the Vodafone Smart 4 Mini clearly is the price. Everything about the phone, from its specifications to its design have been engineered around keeping the cost down. As such, screen quality, speed and storage space aren’t particularly impressive. Noticeably, the battery life is excellent.
As wth all things; A low price naturally means a lack of certain features and chief among that is a front-facing camera. If you count selfies as a big part of your smartphone usage then this isn’t the handset for you. The rear-facing 3.2MP camera is adequate at best, but similarly, there’s no flash. Likewise, Vodafone has left out NFC and 4G in order to keep the price down, however you will find Bluetooth and GPS here.Considering this is a R999 handset, I don’t feel too aggrieved at the lack of these features. Even the fact it runs a slightly older version of Google’s OS – Android 4.2 Jelly Bean – isn’t a huge issue considering the cost. That said, the recently launched Moto E comes with KitKat out of the box. Then again, sourcing the Moto E in South Africa might just cost you a little extra. (cheaper on Orange.) The small amount of storage could prove an issue, given that games and large apps from the Google Play store will take up a lot of space. Thankfully, if you invest in a decent MicroSD card, this problem can be kept at bay.
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To conclude, the Vodafone Smart 4 makes a few improvements to last year’s Smart 3 with a more impressive processor and bigger screen, but it’s still very much a budget handset designed to be a first step into the smartphone world, or perhaps a secondary back-up device. It is a phone of limited ambition, and as such it does the basics reasonably well — just outperforming the ultra-basic Smart 4 mini. THe Vodafone Smart 4 Mini is available from Vodacom at R899