Voda­fone Smart N8

£79 inc VAT from fave.co/2F8JBpr

Android Advisor - - Contents -

The Voda­fone web list­ing for the Smart N8 says: “Ac­cess your mes­sages, apps and con­tacts via the Smart N8’s fin­ger­print sen­sor.” This doesn’t ac­tu­ally make sense, but hints at the lim­i­ta­tions of an in­cred­i­bly cheap smart­phone.

If all you need is a phone to call, text, dab­ble with email, Face­book and on­line bank­ing, then the Smart N8 will suf­fice. But you’ll find a whole host of frus­tra­tions if you want it for any­thing more than that.

De­sign

The plas­tic Smart N8 is sur­pris­ingly sturdy con­sid­er­ing its £79 price tag. There’s hardly any flex or bend in

the frame de­spite the re­mov­able back panel that gives ac­cess to the nano-SIM card and SD card slot. It’s an odd de­sign choice given that the bat­tery is not re­mov­able, but it keeps the phone slick and slim with the only ex­te­rior ports be­ing head­phone jack and Mi­cro-USB.

You have a choice of graphite or gold, and the back panel is sub­tly textured to help with grip. Our gold and white re­view unit looks a lot like a first gen­er­a­tion Google Pixel from the front, and has a fin­ger­print sen­sor on the back just un­der the cam­era.

It’s a very ba­sic de­sign, but it’s qui­etly un­der­stated and not an en­cum­brance to any pocket thanks to its slight size. It won’t turn any heads, but for a bud­get phone it’s per­fectly func­tional and has above av­er­age build qual­ity.

Hard­ware

The Voda­fone Smart N8 is, un­sur­pris­ingly, locked to the Voda­fone net­work.

More im­por­tant when buy­ing a bud­get phone is ask­ing if the specs are good enough for your par­tic­u­lar needs. The Smart N8 is pow­ered by a very low-end Me­di­aTek MT6737 chip with 1.5GB RAM. These spec­i­fi­ca­tions re­ally are the bare min­i­mum on a mod­ern smart­phone and won’t power you any­where near high end gam­ing, for ex­am­ple.

But it’s enough to text, call, take a few pho­tos, use Face­book over the 4G con­nec­tion and play ba­sic games. We did all of this on the Smart N8 and all we had to deal with was fre­quent lag and dropped frames. This is not a phone up for much be­yond ca­sual use. We tried to in­stall As­phalt 8: Air­borne to see how bad the lag was, and the phone couldn’t even han­dle down­load­ing the full game file.

You won’t want to use it as a main phone for busi­ness un­less you’re very pa­tient, as switch­ing be­tween email and text apps is quite slow and us­ing Gmail it­self as part of the pre­in­stalled Google apps can of­ten drag thanks to the lack of mem­ory. These are ba­sic apps, and they work here, just very slowly.

In com­par­i­son to sim­i­lar phones, its per­for­mance is not as good. The EE Hawk, for ex­am­ple, runs bet­ter, but is nearly dou­ble the price. The Nokia 3 has the same Me­di­aTek chip as the Smart N8 and runs with just as much lag as the N8 does. You can use In­sta­gram, but it chugs along in its own sweet time.

The dis­play is a 1280x720 IPS LCD with a low 294ppi. That doesn’t mat­ter too much on this small

5in screen (and re­mem­ber the price), so it’s fine for all ba­sic use. Even Net­flix doesn’t look too bad, but this is a big video view­ing down­grade if you usu­ally watch on an iPad, for ex­am­ple.

There’s only 16GB stor­age on board but the mi­croSD slot lets you ex­pand up to another 32GB. Such a card is avail­able very cheap on Ama­zon.

The cam­era is pass­able, and in good day­light pho­tos are ac­cept­able for use on so­cial me­dia, though ob­vi­ously very far off the qual­ity of high end phones. The 13Mp sen­sor strug­gles in low light, de­spite the LED flash but for a point and shoot it’s not bad. Zoom­ing in re­veals a lack of de­tail cap­tured.

It can also record video at 720p at 30fps – a low bar, but still nice to have for the oc­ca­sional shoot.

While not un­ac­cept­able, the cam­era even in day­light can­not cap­ture much de­tail

The front-fac­ing cam­era is just fine for self­ies, and its 5Mp are enough for Skype calls, even if a lit­tle grainy. You’re also not go­ing to watch to lis­ten to mu­sic or watch video for long us­ing the sin­gle speaker but it’s fine for these video calls. The head­phone jack lets you plug in when you want to use Spo­tify or have a YouTube ses­sion.

Blue­tooth 4.0 al­lows for con­nec­tion to speak­ers and head­phones, and this worked fine in test­ing. Call qual­ity is also loud and crisp over the Voda­fone net­work. The 2,400mAh bat­tery is ad­e­quate for the specs, and charges pleas­ingly quickly via the in­cluded charger. It’ll eas­ily last you a full day of use but you’ll need to charge ev­ery night with above av­er­age use.

There’s also NFC for mo­bile pay­ments, but no sign of any wa­ter­proof­ing.

Per­for­mance

Bench­mark­ing a phone this cheap is some­what re­dun­dant, but we’ve done it any­way. The EE Hawk

is no­tice­ably faster in all tests, so if you aren’t fussy about which net­work you’ll be on it might be a bet­ter bet if you want less lag when us­ing a few apps.

Geek­bench mea­sures the pro­cess­ing power, GFXBench looks at graph­ics and Jetstream is for brows­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

It’s very sim­i­lar to the Nokia 3 as the specs are ba­si­cally the same. What these num­bers tell you is that yes, the Smart N8 is not an overly ca­pa­ble phone, de­spite func­tion­ing per­fectly well in ba­sic tasks.

Soft­ware

The Smart N8 ships with An­droid 7.0 Nougat. As it’s a low-end phone, you are un­likely to ever re­ceive a soft­ware up­date to An­droid Oreo or, in­deed, any up­dates at all. Our re­view unit is still on the March

2017 se­cu­rity patch. This isn’t the end of the world, but man­u­fac­tur­ers will only work with Google to up­date the most pop­u­lar hand­sets, so this is a down­side to buy­ing a bud­get phone.

You aren’t nec­es­sar­ily at a data se­cu­rity risk in this case, but it’s good house­keep­ing to keep your phone soft­ware up to date, and buy­ing the Smart N8 will stop you for do­ing this.

Voda­fone is us­ing very close to stock An­droid, but with some telling changes. Swip­ing right on the home screen opens a whole screen called ‘Be­gin­ner tips’, show­ing that Voda­fone con­sid­ers this a phone for chil­dren or per­haps the less tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced. The tips are use­ful, though, if you are not used to how smart­phones work.

You can also look at ‘Ex­pert tips’ to get even more out of the Smart N8. You also have to use Voda­fone’s own Calls+ app for calls, but you can in­stall Google’s An­droid Mes­sages app if you don’t like the pre­in­stalled Mes­sages+ app. Other than that, the phone is low on op­er­a­tor bloat­ware, which is nice.

Ver­dict

If you are okay with be­ing stuck on Voda­fone, the Smart N8 is pretty much the least you should spend on a func­tion­ing smart­phone. You won’t see much of an im­prove­ment in per­for­mance un­less you spend dou­ble the £79 ask­ing price, so for teenagers or as a sim­ple In­ter­net tool it will suf­fice. But be­yond sim­ple apps like Face­book and In­sta­gram, the N8 strug­gles. Run­ning sev­eral apps at once grinds it to a halt, and any form of graph­i­cal gam­ing is a no. But it’s not

built for that, and if your needs are sim­ple, then the N8 will suf­fice. Henry Bur­rell

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 5in (1280x720, 294ppi) IPS LCD ca­pac­i­tive dis­play • An­droid 7.0 Nougat • Me­di­aTek MT6737 pro­ces­sor • Quad-core 1.3GHz Cor­tex-A53 CPU • Mali-T720MP2 GPU • 1.5GB RAM • 16GB stor­age, mi­croSD up to 32GB • Fin­ger­print scan­ner • 13Mp rear-fac­ing cam­era: aut­o­fo­cus, LED flash • 5Mp front-fac­ing cam­era • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi • Blue­tooth 4.0 • A-GPS • Mi­cro-USB 2.0 • Non-re­mov­able lithium-ion 2,400mAh bat­tery • 144.5x71.9x8.6mm • 115g

The Smart N8 comes with An­droid Nougat

Low light

Land­scape

The textured rear helps with grip

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