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Vodafone Smart Prime 7 review: The best budget phone under £50

Vodafone Smart Prime 7
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £75
inc VAT (PAYG, as of 15th May)

It's not very fast, but the Vodafone Smart Prime 7 is a beautifully designed smartphone with a gorgeous screen and great battery life


  • Beautifully designed
  • Impressive display
  • Excellent battery life


  • Lacks grunt

Reviewed back in 2016 at £75, the Vodafone Smart Prime 7 was an excellent budget phone. Now the stylish phone that sports a great screen and battery life can be found for just £50 – a real bargain for anyone who wants a cheap smartphone.

If you’re open to any network provider, this Vodafone-locked phone might just be the best budget phone on the market. Read our original review to see how it compares to its rivals.

Vodafone Smart Prime 7 review

Network-branded smartphones used to be a pretty pitiful bunch, but Vodafone’s slowly been putting this notion to rights. Last year’s Smart Ultra 6, for example, almost knocked the 3rd Gen Moto G off its throne with its price-defying specs, but its huge size meant it wasn’t an ideal fit for everyone’s pockets.

The Smart Prime 7, however, could be just the ticket. At just £75 on Vodafone’s PAYG, the Smart Prime 7 is quite possibly one of the most elegant and gorgeously designed smartphones I’ve ever seen for under £100. With its slim, 7.9mm profile and classy, carbon fibre-like rear panel, the Smart Prime 7 is a whole world away from even our favourite top sub-£100 smartphone to date, the comparatively chunky 2nd Gen Moto E.

Vodafone Smart Prime 7 rear

Admittedly, the Smart Prime 7’s plain, charcoal looks aren’t quite as fun as the Moto E’s coloured swappable frames and cases, but its understated design definitely works in its favour. You wouldn’t even know it was a Vodafone phone at first glance, as the small, dark Vodafone logo blends in subtly with the rest of the handset.

Its textured volume and power keys are another great touch, as they not only feel great under your thumb, but are also very easy to find by touch alone. It’s small details like this that really elevate the Smart Prime 7 above other cut-price smartphones, and makes it feel more upmarket than it really is.

Vodafone Smart Prime 7 review: Display

An even greater rarity at this kind of price is its 5in, 1,280×720 resolution display. Normally, sub-£100 smartphones are consigned to rather pitiful resolutions of 800×480 or less – even the Moto E only has a 960×540 resolution display – so to see a display of this calibre on such a cheap phone is an absolute marvel.

As a result, there’s very little separating the Smart Prime 7’s screen from the 3rd Gen Moto G, as both phones look equally sharp with identical pixel densities of 294ppi, and their nigh-on identical sRGB colour gamut coverage means they reproduce colours fairly well too. Measuring the screen with our colourimeter, the Smart Prime 7 can display 86.7% of the sRGB gamut, which is a fraction larger than the Moto G’s 85.4%. It was only missing a sliver of red and green coverage, too, so images still looked pretty rich and accurate.

Its contrast was also respectable at 1,060:1, and its max brightness of 478.71cd/m2 meant I didn’t have to squint and lean over it in the sunshine just to make out what was onscreen. A black level of 0.45cd/m2 at max brightness was a little underwhelming, but it’s a small complaint given the rest of the screen’s strengths.

Vodafone Smart Prime 7 review: Android 6.0 & Vodafone apps

The Smart Prime 7 is brilliantly set up for first-time users, too. It not only has an optional tutorial explaining how it works, but its My Vodafone app is a one-stop shop for monitoring your bill, data usage and finding BT Wi-Fi hotspots. The Vodafone Start app also lists various Vodafone services and current offers, as well as some recommended Vodafone apps to download. Otherwise, the number of Vodafone widgets is kept to a minimum, allowing you to get on using the phone without feeling like you’re being bombarded with network-related promotions.

Its Call+ and Message+ apps are particularly handy, as these also let you make and receive calls and text messages from any web browser by logging in to on your PC or laptop. This is particularly handy if you live or visit somewhere with bad reception, as it means you won’t miss out on important calls and texts. It also means you can pick up messages and make calls on holiday without racking up a big bill, presuming you have access to an internet connection.

You don’t have to worry about missing a call either, as you can opt to receive incoming call notifications in your browser as well as use the web interface to share photos, locations, stickers and emoticons via text while you’re on the phone. This is extremely handy if you don’t feel particularly confident typing on a phone keyboard, and it was very easy to set up when I tried it out for myself.

Vodafone Smart Prime 7 battery

Vodafone uses vanilla Android, as Google intended so to speak, which is arguably the most user-friendly form today. It comes pre-installed with the latest version – Android 6.0.1 – and it only has a handful of apps installed, too. Admittedly, that’s partly because the phone has just 8GB of storage, only 3.98GB of which is actually available to the user. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for anything else, particularly once you’ve downloaded a game or two, so adding a microSD card is an absolute must. The slot for this is found underneath the rear panel above its huge, fixed battery.

Vodafone Smart Prime 7 review: Battery Life

Speaking of which, the Smart Prime 7 has excellent battery life. In our continuous video playback test, it lasted an impressive 12h 55m when the screen brightness was set to our standard measurement of 170cd/m2, which is almost two hours more than the Moto G. It doesn’t quite surpass the 2nd Gen Moto E, which managed 13h 30m, but this is still an excellent score for such a cheap smartphone.

Vodafone Smart Prime 7 review: Performance

Admittedly, the Smart Prime 7’s quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 chip and 1GB of RAM can’t quite match the same speeds of Motorola’s pair of Moto phones, both of which come with a more powerful Snapdragon 410 chip. It put in pretty good innings in our benchmark tests for the money, though.

In Geekbench 3, it scored 330 in the single core test and 1,046 in the multicore test, putting it on a level playing field with the HTC Desire 530. This can make using the phone feel a little sluggish at times, but I wasn’t left waiting when loading up new apps and navigating Android felt reasonably smooth and responsive. CPU-Z was reporting the clock speed at up to 1.27GHz, rather than the usual 1.1Ghz for this chipset. We can’t say whether it’s the version of Android used or the overclocked processor, but the Prime 7 felt quicker than the Desire 530 – which also costs more at around £120. Either way, but this still isn’t a phone intended for intensive use.

Web browsing can prove taxing if you tend to visit lots of media-heavy web pages, for example. With a Peacekeeper score of just 384, trying to browse websites like The Guardian with any degree of urgency can often be quite frustrating, as even scrolling up and down the main homepage can be rather stop and start. Articles with fewer images fared better in daily use, but it still stumbled over adverts, particularly when pages were still loading.

It’s gaming where you’re likely to run into trouble, as it managed just 102 frames (or 1.6fps) in the offscreen Manhattan 3.0 test in GFX Bench GL. Admittedly, this isn’t any worse than the 3rd Gen Moto G and 2nd Gen Moto E‘s scores, but it does mean it will struggle with more demanding 3D titles. Trying to play a game of Hearthstone, for instance, was rather jittery, but simpler games like Threes! and Alphabear ran perfectly fine.

Vodafone Smart Prime 7 review: Camera

Still, this is to be expected on a cheap phone, and it’s really my only main sticking point about the entire phone, as even its 8-megapixel rear camera was surprisingly decent. Pictures can be rather soft on detail, but overall our outdoor images looked fantastic. Colours were bright and clear, there was an excellent level of contrast and exposures were well judged.

Vodafone Smart Prime 7 camera test^ There’s not a lot of crisp detail, but the Smart Prime 7 can still produce surprisingly good shots

The Smart Prime 7’s camera coped well indoors as well. Again, images could be a tad soft here and there, with noise starting to become prevalent when I switched off our bright studio lights, but there was still plenty of highs and lows on show and colours looked rich and vibrant throughout.

Vodafone Smart Prime 7 camera test indoors^ Indoors, there was quite a lot of noise in low light, but colours still looked rich and vibrant

However, I did tend to notice that it can be quite slow to focus at times, particularly when you tap the screen. This sometimes resulted in some rather odd photos where certain parts of the picture would be in focus, such as one half of a street lamp, but the rest of it would be all blurred and soft. HDR mode tended to make things worse, too, so just be careful the camera’s finished focusing properly before you hit the shutter button. In this sense, the Moto E’s camera is arguably the better choice, as despite only having a 5-megapixel sensor, you can always count on it delivering sharp-looking snaps.

Vodafone Smart Prime 7 camera test HDR mode^ The Smart Prime 7 can be quite slow to focus, so pressing the shutter button before it’s finished can result in some rather odd shots

Vodafone Smart Prime 7 review: Verdict

The Prime 7 has a good display and with its slimline design, it goes head to head with the more expensive Motorola rival, which makes the Smart Prime 7 my choice of handset for anyone looking for an ultra-cheap smartphone. It’s a significant step up over Vodafone’s Smart Speed 6, and even if it doesn’t quite topple the mighty 2nd Gen Moto E overall, Vodafone’s latest pre-pay handset still comes highly recommended.

ProcessorQuad-core 1.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 210
Screen size5in
Screen resolution1,280×720
Screen typeLCD
Front camera5 megapixels
Rear camera8 megapixels
Storage (free)8GB (3.98GB)
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
BluetoothBluetooth 4.0
Wireless data3G, 4G
Operating systemAndroid 6.0.1
Battery size2,540mAh
Buying information
WarrantyOne year RTB
Price on contract (inc VAT)Free on £16-per-month contract
Prepay price (inc VAT)£75
Part codeVFD 600

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