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Vodafone Smart 4 Mini review: Cheap smart phone good for the basics

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Making your way around Android is pretty sluggish, but it's still capable of dealing with the absolute basics -- calls, texts, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook -- without much trouble. Photo editing is possible, although you'll notice a slowdown.

3D games such as Riptide GP 2 won't play at an enjoyable frame rate, however, so don't even bother. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was quite capable of playing movies on Netflix.

Camera

On the back of the phone is a 3-megapixel camera. Only three? Yes, but you didn't expect the Galaxy S5's 16-megapixel sensor did you? I took it for a spin in the office and the results are about what you'd expect.

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It's really not a very good camera, but you pay your money and you take your choice. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The image isn't particularly bright, it has very poor colours and an overall lack of detail and clarity. There are a lot of fuzzy edges and a noticeable level of image noise in the shadowy areas. You can probably get a shot good enough for Facebook when in the park on a bright summer's day. But if photography is important to you, I'd suggest expanding your budget for a better phone -- or always carry a compact digital camera instead.

There's no front-facing camera on the phone either, so you won't be able to take any inappropriate selfies and you won't be able to make video calls over Skype or Google Hangouts.

Battery life

The Smart 4 Mini's battery didn't put up much of a fight in my tests. After just over 2 hours of video looping at half screen brightness, the battery had dropped from full to just 42 percent remaining. It's certainly not an all-day phone, unless you're very careful with how you use it.

If you need it to last as long as possible -- a full day out at a festival, perhaps -- make sure to keep the screen brightness down and turn off all non-essential services. GPS will be a big drain, as will Wi-Fi and Bluetooth so shut them all off. Mobile data will drain it too, so unless you really need WhatsApp you might want to consider turning that off until you're within dashing distance of a plug.

As a general rule with nearly all smartphones, you'll want to charge it every night. The battery is replaceable though so you can always hunt down a couple of spares to take away with you if you're planning a weekend trip.

Conclusion

The Vodafone Smart 4 Mini doesn't have the best screen, the most powerful processor or the best camera, but it does have an extremely cheap price tag. This makes its low specs much more palatable. It's capable of handling the essentials without too much hassle, making it a decent option for Android beginners, or even as an emergency phone you don't mind losing at a festival.

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