Vodafone Smart V10 review – Tech Advisor


Despite being locked to its network, Vodafone’s smartphones are notable for undercutting the price of many rivals.

The Smart V10 is one of the cheapest smartphones you can buy with the latest version of Android, and for its meagre price tag you get a fully fledged experience which warrants a higher price.

While no feature in particular stands out, Vodafone has prioritised the everyday use of the phone, and made compromises in areas the average consumer will rarely notice.

Phone enthusiasts may become frustrated by its limitations, but for many people the Smart V10 will provide everything they’re looking for.

Price and availability

Vodafone has consistently targeted the budget market ever since it began manufacturing smartphones, aiming to provide a compelling package for less than £200.

The Smart V10, its latest effort, is one of the cheapest smartphones running Android Pie that you can buy in the UK, at just £105 for pay-as-you-go customers.

The phone is unsurprisingly locked to Vodafone, but if you are already on its network or open to changing service provider, the Smart V10 provides excellent value for money.

Design and Build

Vodafone has redesigned the Smart V10 to look and feel like a modern smartphone. Gone are the thick bezels from its predecessors, replaced by a beautiful 5.9in edge-to-edge display.

The 720p LCD panel itself is pleasing to the eye, providing good detail and surprisingly impressive viewing angles. The screen gets plenty bright indoors, but in direct sunlight we found it difficult to see at times.

The screen includes a small teardrop notch to house the 8Mp front-facing camera. While in keeping with the current trend of notches in phones, it seems a little unnecessary considering it also has a large chin housing nothing more than an LED notification light, which doubles as a charging indicator.

Nonetheless, Vodafone claims the Smart V10 has an 81% screen to body ratio, a hugely impressive figure for a £105 phone. The 19:9 aspect ratio produces a tall, thin chassis that we have become accustomed to with modern phones, making it just too tall for one-handed usage.

On the back, the device borrows another design feature from its more expensive counterparts: dual cameras. The primary 13Mp sensor with autofocus is supported by a secondary 5Mp lens for depth sensing as opposed to a telephoto or wide-angle camera, but the Smart V10 does still offer a software-based portrait mode.

The camera module is slightly raised from the rear of the device, which is 8.2mm thick. Any wobble when resting on a table is very minimal.

The glass casing stretches around halfway down the rear of the device, yet features a Vodafone logo where you might expect a fingerprint sensor on pricier models.

In such an affordable smartphone, corners have clearly been cut, but in some cases this is to its benefit. Despite a plastic backing the device does not feel cheap, and this design choice in fact aids durability and grip.

We would have no hesitation in using this phone case-free, something which cannot be said for the vast majority of modern handsets. The power and volume keys are satisfyingly responsive and tactile, and the statement red power button reminds us of recent Pixel devices and provides a striking splash of colour.

The Smart V10 is only available in the Chrome Pewter colour, which looks sleek and polished, once again defying its price tag. The headset included in the box is among the most basic available, but luckily there are a number of very impressive and affordable headphones which still utilise the included 3.5mm jack.

The phone features two speaker grilles, but don’t let that mislead you: the right side houses the single mono speaker while the left is simply used as an echo chamber. As a result, it is extremely easy to block the sound while you use the device, but that is far from a problem exclusive to this or any phone.

The sound is in keeping with many single downward firing speakers; it’s fine for watching the occasional video or playing podcasts, but don’t expect room-filling audio.

The Smart V10 is charged via micro USB as opposed to industry standard USB-C. The 3400mAh battery does not support any form of fast charging, and in our testing it charged just 22% in 30 mins from empty.

There is also no wireless charging or IP rating for water and dust resistance, but the few drops we got on the device in rainy weather had no adverse effect. No NFC also means this phone can’t do contactless payments.

These are minor inconveniences as opposed to deal breakers for many people, and their omissions are more than acceptable in this price bracket. The only variant of this phone is the 32GB model, but this is expandable up to an additional 128GB through the use of a micro SD card, which we would recommend to the majority of people.

We found the internal storage was quickly filled by a few large applications and offline downloads from video and music streaming services.

Hardware and Performance

The Smart V10 is equipped with a 2GHz Snapdragon 429 processor, described by manufacturer Qualcomm as “the entry-point of mid-tier platforms”. Combined with the Adreno 504 GPU, this phone has slightly lower specs than mid-range models, but is most similar to the Nokia 3.2.

As with most aspects of this phone, the performance must be taken in the context of its price. The 3GB of RAM is plenty for the Smart V10 to deal with basic tasks without a hitch, so you will have no problems surfing the web, browsing social media or checking your email, with scrolling and on-screen gestures all fluid and satisfying.

However, we wouldn’t recommend this phone for anything beyond the most basic games. Candy Crush runs fine, but while playing higher-intensity games such as Asphalt 9 the frame rate drops horrendously, to the point where it becomes very frustrating to play.

The most significant disparity between the Smart V10 and more expensive handsets is its performance in benchmarks. The T-Rex and Manhattan tests on GFXBench recorded results of 17fps and 9fps respectively, a far cry from flagships which regularly maintain 60fps on both tests.

The benchmarks below compare the phone to the older Vodafone Smart N9 and the Moto E5, a phone with similar specs and price.

While this clearly demonstrates the V10’s unsuitability to high-intensity tasks, those figures can be misleading. There will be few everyday tasks which put a strain on the internals like these tests do.

The phone comes with 3400mAh battery, more than enough for a full day’s usage considering its lower resolution LCD screen.

Indeed, in Geekbench 4’s battery test we recorded a hugely impressive 10 hours and 29 minutes, which at the time of writing is comfortably in the top 10 for best battery life we’ve ever tested on a phone at Tech Advisor. It charts behind only a handful of smartphones, including the OnePlus 7 and industry-leader Moto G7 Power.

We experienced no issues in connectivity with Wi-Fi 802.11 built-in, while 4G performance worked perfectly fine when the signal was strong. Despite Vodafone supposedly having at least 99% 4G coverage in the UK, we found the service to regularly drop out, particularly outside of London. However, if you do find somewhere with a strong signal, you can easily use the device as a personal hotspot.

The Bluetooth connection worked consistently well, but it doesn’t support the simultaneous playback of audio from two different sources, as is available on Bluetooth 5.0.

Our experience with the GPS was unreliable. Navigating an unfamiliar environment using Google Maps became frustrating, leading to wrong turns on a number of occasions. This is something you should bear in mind if you plan on regularly using your phone as a sat nav, although this may have been as much to do with the software as the hardware.

Software and Features

The Smart V10 comes with Android 9.0 Pie out of the box, and we were prompted with an immediate security update after setting up the phone. This is impressive on such a cheap phone, but it remains to be seen how long the device will be supported or if it will get the upgrade to Android Q when it is released later this year.

Vodafone typically sticks with ‘stock’ Android for the most part, keeping bloatware to a bare minimum. There are a few apps you will be encouraged to download, but they are non-disruptive and can easily be uninstalled.

As with many Vodafone handsets, the Smart V10 includes parental control options, making it easy to monitor and restrict children’s usage, particularly if it is their first smartphone. This is a welcome addition, but it unfortunately doesn’t include the Digital Wellbeing functionality that was made available for the first time on Pie.

But the Smart V10 includes Google features that aren’t available on some more expensive Android phones, such as smart notifications and access to Google cards to the left of the home screen.

Core Android features such as a blue light filter, quick launching of the camera and easy triggering of Google Assistant are all here. Split screen worked surprisingly well, even with video playback and web surfing taking place simultaneously.

The phone even comes with an FM radio, reminiscent of feature phones of the past as it requires you to plug in headphones to act as a receiver. It is a nice touch and a useful feature in a budget phone.

As mentioned there is no fingerprint sensor, but the Smart V10 features face unlock as well as the traditional password, PIN or pattern-based security options. In our testing this worked well, but it’s a little slow and not secure enough to be used for biometrics.

Cameras & Photography

We were pleasantly surprised by the cameras on this phone. The dual set-up includes a primary 13Mp shooter supported by a secondary 5Mp sensor for depth detection. More than ever the quality of smartphone photos is dependent on software, as has been shown by Google’s Pixel phones in recent years.

The Smart V10 includes a simple, clean camera UI with all the features you’d expect in a modern smartphone camera, such as panorama, slow-mo and manual toggles. The AI camera features smart scene detection, but we didn’t see significant differences between when it was turned on and off.

If you temper your expectations and remember that this is a £105 phone, shots from the Smart V10 have an impressive level of detail and dynamic range. They would be serviceable for use on social media, but you might want to step up to a more capable camera if you plan on printing or even framing your shots.

You might need to click on the slideshow below to view all the sample images:

Vodafone Smart V10 camera test

Despite being purely software-based, the portrait photos were remarkable for a phone at this price point. The subject and background were nicely exposed, and edge detection was generally good. However, the absence of a telephoto lens means image quality declines sharply when using the digital zoom in all modes.

The front-facing camera is useful for the face unlock but little else. The 8Mp sensor produces washed-out selfies with unnatural colours and the portrait effect is significantly less impressive, so step up to something like the Google Pixel 3a if this is important to you.

On the video side, the Smart V10 supports 1080p video at 30fps. While the quality is decent, it is badly let down by the lack of image stabilisation of any kind, meaning footage remains jittery unless you maintain an incredibly steady hand. The microphone on the device is usable, but don’t expect audio quality rivalling the likes of the LG V40.

Verdict

On the face of it, a low resolution screen with a notch and chin, micro-USB slow charging, plastic back and no image stabilisation signals a phone that should be avoided.

Yet, despite those potential drawbacks, the Smart V10 more than makes up for it with a smooth user experience and impressive cameras for the price.

Considering where it is positioned in the crowded smartphone market, it provides a more complete experience than expected, and could easily have been mistaken for a more expensive handset.

Being able to stand out from the crowd of other phones vying for your attention is especially difficult in 2019, yet the Vodafone Smart V10 manages to do so for all the right reasons.



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