- Excellent value for money
- Clean user experience
- Premium design
- Stunning display
- Fast performance
- Speaker grilles trap dirt
- Camera could be better
- Fingerprint magnet
- Carrier locked
- Low grip body
Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 review: Vodafone’s amassed a respectable roster of affordable own-brand handsets with premium touches, but the new Smart Platinum 7 is more flagship material than anything that’s come before it.
If you’re at all familiar with the carrier’s existing Smart lineup you’ll notice that the Platinum sticks out for all the right reasons. Handsets like the Prime 7 feature a plastic build with metal hardware controls, whilst the Platinum 7 boasts a full metal frame, sandwiched between two layers of Gorilla Glass.
It boasts more aggressive styling than the rest of the Vodafone family too, likely to embody the jump in grunt it’s packing under the hood, whilst at the same time offering a more premium overall look and a more sturdy feel in the hand.
There’s the standard fare of power and volume keys on the right side, as well as a dedicated camera key high up on the top left that can be reprogrammed to launch any application you fancy with a quick double-press. On the back, the phone’s primary camera comes with a slight bump under which sits a flush fingerprint sensor, which looks great, but can be tricky to feel out from time to time.
That all-glass finish is also a bit of a fingerprint magnet, at least as much as the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are, but the phone still looks good, even when smudged up. Despite packing a large display, it’s an impeccably thin phone at 7mm and weighs in at a decent 155 grams too.
The front-facing speaker grilles are also a nice touch, but the micro-drilled holes do have a tendency to pick up detritus and fluff if the phone’s been sitting in a bag or pocket for too long.
One of the biggest surprises for us was the phone’s gorgeous 5.5-inch WQHD AMOLED display, which packs vibrant colours and great viewing angles. It’s not quite as bright overall as the Super AMOLEDs of Samsung’s top handsets, but it should provide more than enough performance for most users hoping to enjoy videos with inky blacks and plenty of ‘pop’.
The phone also comes with wafer thin bezels along the sides and paired to those front-facing speakers it lends itself perfectly to enjoying multimedia. On the flip side, a complete lack of any form of one-handed mode on a phone this big is a touch frustrating as it forces you to adjust your grip constantly. That said, it’s still easier to reach content higher up than on the likes of an iPhone 6S Plus, thanks to those narrow sides.
Vodafone as ever has treated the stock Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow experience with respect, adding small, considered tweaks that are almost always useful. As with any of the carrier’s handsets you can expect a level of bloatware, but there’s no obligation to install the full suite of services and you can uninstall some of the preloaded options too.
Call+ and Message+ are always standout inclusions, letting you access your texts and call logs from a desktop browser, not unlike WhatsApp Web, whilst the accessories app is less welcome, serving as little more than a dedicated Vodafone storefront that just takes up space.
Lack of one-handed mode aside, usability is pretty good, thanks to tweaks like a close all tasks button, the aforementioned programmable camera key and the reconfigurable on-screen navigation keys.
The Snapdragon 652 powering the Platinum 7, backed up by 3GB of RAM, gives it more than enough oomph to take on the likes of the Sony Xperia X, OnePlus 3 and Samsung Galaxy S7 in everyday scenarios and it has no trouble driving all those pixels for media playback, 3D gaming and even VR.
Internal storage is a respectable 32GB and most of that is user accessible, but should you wish to throw more content on there, the SIM tray also accommodates microSD cards up to 128GB.
One of the benefits of rocking one of Qualcomm’s latest processors is that you also get Quick Charge 3.0 technology, which should restore the sizeable 3000mAh battery to full in under an hour and a half – not bad for a phone that lasts between a day and a half to two general use.
The other big draw for the Platinum is that it supports Cat 6 LTE, so it feels blazingly fast on Vodafone’s 4G network compared to the rest of carrier's 2016 lineup, most of which only support Cat 4 speeds.
As well as decent internals, the Platinum 7 also packs a pair of respectable snappers too. The 8-megapixel front facer can capture tons of detail, features an on/off beauty mode toggle and there’s a front-facing LED flash to brighten up those club toilets selfies.
The main attraction is the phone’s 16-megapixel primary camera, which again takes still with loads of nice detail and great bokeh in macro scenarios. It’s clear that colour and contrast is heavily pushed, so it’s far from a natural camera in that respect, but if you want shots with punch, this phone provides.
It falls down in a couple of places, though, most obviously with low light scenarios, but its Full HD video quality feels sub-par too, with heavy contrast and a complete lack of fine detail. On the upside, you have the option to push the video quality all the way up to 4K and the image stabilisation system is on-hand to smooth things out as well.
Whether you know it as the Vodafone Smart Platinum 7, the Pro 7 or the Alcatel Idol 4S (which shares almost all of the same DNA), this is a great smartphone, and undoubtedly Vodafone’s best effort to date.
Whilst it’s over double the cost (£295 on Pay As You Go) of the next capable offering in Vodafone’s 2016 lineup (£135), you can see where those extra pennies have gone and it makes for a great alternative to the likes of the OnePlus 3 (£309), Xperia X (£470) and even pricier handsets like the HTC 10 (£570).