Theand might pack the biggest, brightest screens and the mightiest processors, but they also come with sky-high price tags. If you just want an Android phone for the everyday essentials of calls, texts and maybe a bit of social networking, there's absolutely no need to spend £500.
With a pay as you go price tag of only £90, the Vodafone Smart 3 is much more suited to those of you with more modest smart phone needs. It's cheap enough too that it might even be worth considering as an emergency phone to take away on a rough and tumble weekend where your precious iPhone 5 might well get damaged.
The Smart 3 has a 4-inch display, a 1GHz single-core processor and a 5-megapixel camera. It's available now from Vodafone.
Should I buy the Vodafone Smart 3?
The Smart 3 has a fairly decent 4-inch screen and a camera that will at the very least let you get a snap of your morning latte for Instagram.
And like the Nokias of old, you're also able to insert your own patterns under the back cover for the ultimate personalisation. A lovely touch, but it's ruined by the plastic cover that's almost too dark to see through.
Best of all though, it's available for only £90 from Vodafone. An excellent budget choice? Not quite. It's powered by a 1GHz single-core processor that struggled with even basic Android navigation. Screen swipes were stuttery and playing anything more demanding than Solitaire isn't enjoyable. It also only gives you a measly 2GB of storage for apps, and its battery life is pretty pathetic.
If you want to be able to personalise the look of your phone more than your mate's Galaxy S4, it's worth a look. For less money though, Huawei's Ascend Y300 has a similar display but its dual-core processor makes things run more smoothly. Alternatively, splash a tad more cash and snap up the . It has one of the best screens for its price range and the Windows Phone software is fun and less demanding on the processor.
Design and build quality
Look at it from the front and the Smart 3 is a little reminiscent of some of some of, with the extended chin sticking out at the bottom. It's an inoffensive extrusion and it houses a small LED light that alerts you to notifications.
The own-brand phone is actually made by Alcatel, which generally makes perfectly serviceable budget blowers. Those of you looking for a stylish metal case will be left wanting -- but for £90, what did you expect?
Around the back you'll find a very plasticky panel. It's removable, as is the surround that holds it down, letting you put different patterned inserts underneath. There are a few provided or you can do what we did and print out your own.
This kind of personalisation is brilliant in theory, harking back to the days of phones like the Nokia 3200. Alcatel has ruined that almost completely though by using an extremely dark plastic cover that's almost impossible to see through, making the patterns underneath redundant. If it was totally transparent, I could craft a picture of my cat to live beneath it, turning an otherwise plain phone into a thing of unimaginable beauty.
It really needs something to improve the design, too -- as it stands, the phone is far from pretty. The plastic back is very glossy and easily picks up grease. There's no escaping that it's a budget phone, but you really can't expect too much time and money to have been lavished on premium materials and elegant design with such a piffling price.
It feels pretty solid when it's all put together though. The back panel didn't pop off when dropped and there's no unpleasant rattly bits. The standard 3.5mm headphone jack and micro-USB ports are scattered around the edges, along with a power button and volume rocker.
You only have a piddly 2GB of storage available, which will be a problem for app addicts. You can save your photos and music to an external card, but you can't do the same for apps. N.O.V.A 3, for example, is by itself too big to fit on the phone. Still, this phone really isn't designed for heavy app work or cutting-edge gaming. If you only want Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, it'll be fine.
The phone sports a 4-inch display with an 800x480-pixel resolution. That's fair for a phone of this price. Sure, it'll look rubbish next to the Full HD beasts but -- again -- it's a fraction of the cost. LG's Optimus L3 II is another ultra-budget phone, but its 3.2-inch screen has a resolution of only 320x240 pixels, which made even big icons looks miserable.