Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 review

The network own-brand phone that looks surprisingly luscious

IT Pro Recommended
Price
£250
  • Surprisingly sleek and sturdy; Lengthy battery life; Fast and accurate fingerprint reader; Top quality screen
  • Even better phones are available at around the same price or less; Bundled nagware

Almost all of the UK's major mobile networks sell their own-brand smartphones, but previous efforts have been patchy at best. We've seen a lot of own-brand phones that have been unbalanced or just plain bad. The Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 shows that this doesn't have to be the case. Made by TCL/Alcatel, it breaks the mould in more ways than one.

Pricing and casing

Unlike most network own-brand phones, the Smart Platinum 7 isn't an aggressively cheap budget phone its costs 300 (inc VAT) on Vodafone pay as you go or 28 per month with no upfront cost on a two year Vodafone contract.

The Smart Platinum 7 may cost 300, but at least it looks the part. It's a surprisingly classy and sophisticated look phone with a metal rim around the edges and ribbed, textured buttons. Under the glass back is a subtle repeating diamond pattern that glistens attractively in the right light an aesthetically pleasing effect that our photos can't quite capture. Despite the glass back, it didn't feel as slippery in hand as the similarly built Galaxy S6.

The nano SIM tray can also hold a micro SD card, but the bigger surprise is the presence of a fingerprint reader on the back of the phone just underneath the main camera. It worked quickly and effectively, with very few false negatives. Just tapping the fingerprint reader with our registered digit was enough to speedily wake and unlock the Smart Platinum 7.

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Another pleasant surprise was the front facing speakers. Although dedicated music fans are still better off with some good quality headphones or earphones, the speakers here are loud and clear enough for conference calls and Ted video clips alike. Plus, the sensibly compact speaker grills don't add too much extra height to what is an already sizeable 5.5in phablet.

Performance and battery life

Vodafone hasn't skimped on performance. While there are even faster processors in more expensive phones, the eight core Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 and 3GB of RAM held their own in our benchmarks. It only fell behind when grappling with 3D graphics, which is unsurprising. Just as importantly, the responsiveness of the touchscreen was very smooth with only an occasional lag of inertia when scrolling letting the side down.

The battery is, unsurprisingly for a modern smartphone, sealed, but that shouldn't be a problem until the battery gets old and degraded enough to need replacing. It lasted over 13 hours when playing video on a loop. When connected to Vodafone's 4G network in London's West End and used for a variety of everyday tasks, with the exception of 3D gaming, it lasted a very respectable 37 hours. When doing nothing but playing MP3s and browsing the web on WiFi, it ran for nine and a half hours before depleting. In short, battery life is lengthy.

Screen and camera

The 2560x1440 pixel resolution of the screen isn't really necessary to ensure smooth, crisp text as 1080p 5.5in screens are just as good. Although the screen isn't quite as bright as displays on competing phones, it's far from dim. In any case, we're not going to complain given the high levels of colour accuracy and contrast. It's a surprisingly great screen.

On paper, the main 16 megapixel rear facing camera should be on a par with the best flagship phone cameras it has a wide f2 aperture, phase detect autofocus and big pixels on the sensor. In broad daylight, photos were sharp with plenty of detail. It struggled in dimmer conditions even a cloudy, overcast day was enough to make the resulting photos look a little under exposed.

More challenging conditions at night and in dimly lit indoor conditions revealed a lot of noise and blurriness. It's far from ideal, but at least photos don't suffer from the aggressive over-sharpening and blocky artefacts of older Android phone cameras.

Android

Android 6.0 Marshmallow comes pre-installed on the Smart Platinum 7 and, for the most part, it's surprisingly fuss-free and sticks closely to Google's original Material Design. Even Google Now is in its rightful place to the left of the first home screen.

The only exceptions to this are Vodafone's bundled apps and the periodic notifications nagging you to set them up. Some of these are of questionable utility, such as the contactless payments wallet, McAfee-powered security and bandwidth measuring apps. There are few compelling reasons to use these over the existing apps you probably use already.

More useful are the customised phone and SMS apps which allow you to take care of all your calls and texts on your PC using a web interface. These are useful whether you have restricted eyesight and dexterity, if you're a bad touchscreen typist or if you need an easier way to log communications for corporate compliance purposes.

Conclusions

The Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 is an unexpectedly good smartphone that excels in almost every way it's certainly far, far superior to its budget sibling. The catch is that the OnePlus 3 is even faster and has a better camera, yet costs only a few pounds more and is sold unlocked too. Then there's the 32GB Nexus 5X which has a superlative camera as well as speedy Android updates, albeit without a microSD slot, and which can currently be bought unlocked for as little as 226 inc VAT from Amazon.

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Still, if you have a business contract with Vodafone then the Smart Platinum 7 should be high up on your shopping list.

Verdict

A surprisingly excellent own-brand phone that holds its own against big name smartphones

ProcessorOcta-core 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 652
Screen size5.5in
Screen resolution2,560x1,440
Rear camera16 megapixels
Storage (free)32GB (23.5GB)
Wireless data3G, 4G
Size154x76x6.9mm
Weight155g
Operating systemAndroid 6.0.1
WarrantyOne year RTB
Detailswww.vodafone.co.uk
Part codeVFD-900
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