Network branded mobiles have always had a bit of a stench to them. Back in the day T-Mobile and Orange produced an almost endless line of MDAs and SPVs manufactured by good companies like HTC or ZTE yet hampered by Network tinkering. Removing buttons, bands, features and tinkering with the software to make the OS a Network experience rather than a Microsft or Google experience. In short, they are days best forgotten. However, if the Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 is anything to go by they could be resurrected but for the better!
The Smart Platinum 7 is a £300 smartphone built by Alcatel. Don’t let that put you off, Alcatel is making some top notch devices! Just ask Blackberry. Whilst it might be £300 Vodafone is going for a premium user experience.
Looking around the device there is a generous 5.5” display with 1440 x 2560 pixels. A pair of front facing speakers are positioned at either end and a front facing 8-megapixel camera is hidden in the inky black bezel. The screen is thankfully built of 2.5D Gorilla Glass front and the sides of impressively metal with chamfered edging that really makes the phone feel luxuriant in the hand. A deeply impressive build!
On the top are a 3.5mm headphone socket and a small hole for a microphone. At either end is a visible antenna.
The bottom also has a small hole for a microphone and two notable antenna points however off centre is a MircoUSB socket. This phone is over 6 months old and therefore launched before the USB Type-C revolution.
On the one side, there is a rough textured volume rocker and a power button. These buttons are of not as they give a satisfying click when pressed and you are centre you have pressed one. The rough texture is especially useful to guide your thumb to ensure you are pressing the right button. A great addition.
On the other side is the SIM card tray. The device takes a Nano-SIM and a MicrsoSD card. Unfortunately, there is not dual SIM setup up. The microSD allows for an additional 256GB of storage to expand the phone’s built-in 32GB. Above this is a dedicated camera button, configurable in the settings. From the standby mode, two taps of this button bring you straight into the camera and you are good to go, press the button to take a snap. The button is small and not as easily pressed as the volume and power on the other side. There is a lower grain texture on the camera button.
On the rear of the device, there is a circular fingerprint scanner, just below the camera lens. Given the level of effort put into the side buttons, I was surprised to find the fingerprint reader is a little bit difficult to find as the ring around the sensor is quite subtle and does not protrude from the rear. The scanner is perfectly acceptable, no issues with misreading fingerprints or slow operation. Above this is a larger protrusion for the 16 Megapixel camera and there is a small LED flash to the side. The back has a glass surface again that is rather slippery, especially on a cold day, without a case, you will drop this. Under the glass is a light pattern and a Vodafone logo has been added.
The instant you pick up your Smart Platinum 7 you will know this is a premium phone, however, is materials used are a cause for concern and whilst if feel fragile due to the slippery feel it also shows all kinds of fingerprints and grease. So have a case and a cloth at the ready.
The 5.5-inch, QHD AMOLED screen is gorgeous. At 1440×2560 the resolution is outstanding as the PPI hits 534. Icons, wallpapers and media pop on this screen with exceptional clarity and sharpness. The rest of the colour palette is bright and vibrant, reds standing out, in particular, making Vodafone logos striking and impressive.
The phone operates as one would expect, and thankfully there isn’t too much bloat from Vodafone. Certainly, there are some tutorials for how to use certain features and whilst they are incredibly basic there is no doubt someone, somewhere will find something of use. At any rate, you are given a skip option anytime a new tutorial appears.
Unfortunately, the Smart Platinum 7 is still running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. Whilst Nougat obviously hasn’t’ reached the majority of recent phones Marshmallow is better than what we could have seen. A little digging suggests Vodafone may update the firmware, but then again, maybe not. Marshmallow is still rock solid and only time will tell if the phone will get an update.
A non-removable Lithium-ion 3,000mAh battery keeps things going through the day. Thanks to the lower powered processor this will see the average user through the day, easily. Power users will notice that they can get through more than before, or, if you like, a power user will probably put this on charge later in the afternoon than an S7 or 6P.
The Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 has an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 with 3GB of RAM. This arrangement keeps things skipping along nicely. The Snapdragon 652 is the updated version of the 620 and whilst not as powerful as an 820 in some other devices around this price point users will notice a big power saving.
Things run smoothly from games to serious multitasking, flipping through a bunch of different apps, copying and pasting from Outlook to the browser and vice verse. I didn’t notice any particular slow down and never felt I need to close a few background apps for a little boost. I noticed a drop in performance only during my synthetic benchmark tests. In the generalist
Both AnTuTu and Geekbench captured some decent scores. Of course this will not mirror the S7s out there, however, the Smart Platinum 7 can hold it’s on
The camera is simply average. In idyllic conditions, shots are perfectly acceptable however if you try outside of that the optics try, but just can’t manage to deliver to goods. It tries but fails. One big plus is that the camera is astonishingly fast to take a picture. You press the button and the picture is taken, in Auto mode. No fiddling around with focusing and lighting. If just happens and the results (in idyllic conditions) are good.
The front camera is capable of shooting usable selfies in decent light. Club rats will be sad to hear it’s not stellar in low light, even with the front LED flash. With the flash off shots are pixelated and close to unusable in low light. With it on, while usable, people and objects are too bright and lack detail. Being fair to Vodafone this is an issue I see on close to all phones’ front cameras.
Video recording is a little odd, the camera app doesn’t have any manual controls for video recording, meaning the phone will shoot at 2160p resolutions at 30fps. A steady hand is required as there does not appear to be stabilisation. The microphones prove to work quite well and pick up wind, conversations and unhappy children.
In all the Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 is a serious contender. Like most phones it’s almost perfect, marred by a handful of flaws.Even at this, some of those flaws are easily overcome or may not apply the user. For £300 this is a terrific offering and Vodafone have really put together a superb package. Whilst the camera might be a weak outside of its comfort zone the vast majority will make the most of what this phone has to offer. An excellent phone, just buy a case!