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Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 is a 5.5-inch 4G phone for £125

Just when you thought smartphones couldn't get cheaper -- Vodafone's latest own-brand mobile also packs a 13-megapixel camera and Android 5.0.

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If smartphones get much cheaper, or much bigger, we'll be using them as tea trays at kids' birthday parties. The latest mobile to push the boundaries of wallet-friendly super-size is the Smart Ultra 6, a new own-brand phone from UK operator Vodafone. With a 5.5-inch display, plenty of high-powered hardware and a £125 pay as you go price tag, it has our interest well and truly piqued. Read on for everything you need to know.

Pixel-packing

The Ultra 6 boasts a 5.5-inch full HD display, which means a resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels. There are smartphones out there with higher resolutions, but you'd be hard pressed to find fault with the Ultra 6's screen, especially considering its price. Text and icons are rendered without any blurriness, while the panel itself is bright and colourful, so your photos and videos should look pleasing to the eye.

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The Smart Ultra 6 has a big screen that makes a good first impression. Luke Westaway/CNET

Cheap but cheerful

The 5.5-inch display means this is a very big phone, so if you've got a penchant for tight jeans or a tiny handbag, expect to wrestle with the Ultra 6's bulk. At 8.35mm thick it's not an especially slender mobile, but rounded edges and lightweight plastic mean it doesn't feel too unwieldy. That plastic exterior isn't too luxurious, but that's something you may be happy to compromise on for the price.

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It's not the slimmest phone we've ever seen, but the Ultra 6 doesn't feel too unwieldy. Luke Westaway/CNET

In terms of colour, the Ultra 6 is available in anthracite, by which Vodafone means 'grey'. A silver version will be on sale in July however.

High-falutin' hardware

The Ultra 6 punches above its weight when it comes to its on-board components. It's powered by an octa-core processor, has a 13-megapixel rear camera that did a satisfactory job in our brief first tests, and a 5-megapixel front-facing snapper for selfies and video chat. It's also 4G capable, so if you're willing to pay more for Vodafone's speedier downloads and web browsing, that's an option. None of those features will rock the technology world, but for the low price of £125 on pay as you go, that's a solid specification line-up.

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There's an octa-core processor humming away inside this phone. Luke Westaway/CNET

Meanwhile, the Ultra 6 is powered by Android 5.0, also known as Lollipop. Android is Google's mobile operating system, and while the Ultra 6's interface differs slightly from the Android default, this phone will grant you access to a wealth of apps (including on-demand video from Netflix or BBC iPlayer), and is highly customisable to boot.

I was pleased to see a brief tutorial during start-up that can walk Android first-timers through some of the phone's important buttons and features, and there's a Vodafone 'Smart Tips' app on the home screen too, for more instructions. Android is powerful and flexible, but its range of features can be intimidating, so any step to mitigate this is a smart move in my book.

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Vodafone's Smart Tips app could help make Android less intimidating for first-time users. Luke Westaway/CNET

Outlook

Vodafone's Smart Ultra 6 makes a good first impression, with a big, colourful display and promising hardware, for a relatively low price. Vodafone says its latest toy will cost £125 on pay as you go, while an example contract deal costs £17 per month for 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of data, with nothing to pay for the phone up front. I'll be interested to see if the Smart Ultra 6 holds up to more rigorous testing in our full review -- in the meantime, if you're looking for other options when it comes to cheap smartphones, it's worth considering the more compact Motorola Moto E 4G LTE .

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