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Vodafone Smart 4G is leaked, could offer 4G on the cheap

Vodafone is set to launch a 4G version of its budget own-brand Android phone, according to the US telecom regulator the FCC.

Nick Hide Managing copy editor
Nick manages CNET's advice copy desk from Springfield, Virginia. He's worked at CNET since 2005.
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Nick Hide
2 min read
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Vodafone is set to launch a 4G version of its budget own-brand Android phone, the Vodafone Smart 3. That's according to a cache of documents on the US FCC website, spotted by Engadget, which shows a Vodafone Smart 4G seeking approval to use the American airwaves.

Quite why it's bothering is not clear -- Vodafone doesn't operate in the US (it's selling its stake in American network Verizon for £84bn), so why would it need to obtain approval for a new phone there? Nevertheless, it appears to confirm it's a real phone that could well appear here in the UK very soon.

Whether it'll be worth buying is another matter. Its latest in-house blower, the Smart 3, is a super-cheap generic Android phone with a bog-standard 4-inch screen and a 1GHz processor that creaks under the load of its branded software. Here's Andy to tell you more about it:

Watch this: Vodafone Smart 3

It's cheap though: £85 on pay as you go, or free on a £13 per month contract. 4G, on the other hand, is really expensive on Vodafone.

Its cheapest SIM-only deal, with a pretty mediocre 2GB of data, is a whopping £26 per month -- twice as much. Granted, that includes 6 months of Sky Sports or Spotify, worth up to £60. But Voda -- just like EE and O2 -- reckons people are willing to pay through the nose for faster Internet.

Now, it might well introduce a cheaper way of getting 4G that's specific to the Smart 4G phone. But I wouldn't bet on it -- Vodafone won't want to devalue the rest of its 4G deals just to flog a few cheap phones.

This is the problem we saw earlier this year with the HTC One SV, a perfectly reasonable mid-range Android with 4G that was hamstrung by EE's astonishingly expensive data deals.

Right now, if you want 4G on your phone, you'll get much better value from a top of the range Android like the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One or Sony Xperia Z1 -- or a new iPhone. Both the 5C and the 5S are 4G-compatible and out this Friday, and the first reviews are generally very positive.

Would you go for a budget 4G phone if data prices came down? Or are other factors more important in your mobile? Zip down to the comments and let me know, or zoom to our superfast Facebook page.