Theutterly bowled me over -- its strong lineup of specs has never before been on offer for so little. Even £100 might be a bit of a stretch though, if you're taking your first tentative steps into the Android world, or you don't care about a good camera or what version of Android you're using.
The Vodafone Smart 4 Mini can be yours for only £50 on pay as you go, making it great for Android newbies or even as a temporary phone you might not mind losing as much as your £500-- particularly with the music festival season right around the corner.
You'll have to make a lot of sacrifices of course -- the screen isn't great, the camera isn't worth bothering with and there's no 4G -- but for £50, it handles the everyday essentials adequately.
Design and build quality
Given its rock-bottom price, the Smart 4 Mini isn't too hideous. The white plastic back is inoffensive and the slit for the speaker that merges with the camera lens adds some interest. Its curve also means it's comfortable to hold in one hand and you won't struggle to stretch your thumb across its 4-inch display. Sure, the black front with its wide bezels looks as miserably dull as every other budget phone, but for £50, you can't complain.
The actual screen lies below a plastic covering that flexes unpleasantly when you press it. There's flex in the back panel too, so there's really no escaping this phone's cheapness. If you're hoping for the slick luxury of the HTC One M8, only for less money, you'll be heartily disappointed. It feels like it can take a few knocks and bumps and at £50, you can just buy three or four if you're particularly clumsy -- or enjoy skimming smooth objects across ponds.
A power button and 3.5mm headphone jack sit on top of the phone, with the volume rocker on the side and micro-USB port on the bottom. Peel off the back cover and you'll be able to swap out the battery, pop in your SIM card (a regular SIM, not micro or nano) and insert a microSD card. You'll really need to use a microSD card as the phone only comes with 2GB of usable storage, which you'll blow through in no time at all.
The 4-inch display has an 800x480-pixel resolution. While falling far short of the Full HD of the flagship phones, it's hardly to be sniffed at. Icons and text are sharp enough to be read comfortably and Netflix shows are easily watchable. Its colours aren't too bad either, but from there things rather go downhill.
For one thing, it's not very bright. Coupled with the high reflectivity of the plastic cover on the screen, the phone manages to reflect back a lot of overhead lights, meaning you're often left staring at your own face, rather than a thrilling episode of Spongebob. Even at max brightness it didn't do much to counter the reflections. Lastly, its viewing angles are very poor. If you're not looking at the screen from directly in front of it you can expect to see a mess of distorted colours.
Software and processor
The phone runs the now rather old Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, but I'm happy to forgive that of such a cheap phone -- if the Galaxy S5 arrived with Jelly Bean on board it would be a major problem. Vodafone has done very little to the interface so if you're familiar at all with Android, you'll feel right at home.
It's powered by a 1.3GHz dual-core processor which, unsurprisingly, didn't provide much in the way of speed. It scored 715 on the Geekbench 2 benchmark test, putting it among the bottom rank of phones. By comparison, the superb value Moto G achieved 1,315. If you're curious, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 hit a whopping 4,139.