Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 Review
Released at the middle part of 2016 the Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 (pretty much the same spec as the Alcatel idol 4s) was perhaps one of the most surprising handset’s I tested last year, as I did not expect it to have as many great features for the contract price! Granted you will need to switch over to Vodafone to take advantage of the product, but for those looking for a quality handset - that won’t break the bank - this phone could deliver...
It took me a while to appreciate the design of the Platinum 7, which for the most part Vodafone have done a pretty good job with, in terms of the overall aesthetics and button placements adorned on the handset.
The first thing you will notice is the front of the handset, as it looks like it has been placed inside a protective case until you realise this double layer effect is down to the front facing stereo speakers; which sit at the top and bottom of the screen, a feature I will talk about later.
At the front you will also find the front facing 8MP camera and at the base of the handset a solitary microUSB port.
Unfortunately for me the supplied USB cable that comes with the handset is too short and it does not fit the port correctly, as it is a tad loose and this had an adverse affect on charging.
At the top of the handset you have a 3.5mm headphone port, but if you switch the handset over you will also notice a glass backing which does give the handset a more premium feel. I suppose the only draw-backs with the glass is it can be a little slippery to hold and it can also attract finger prints, but on the whole I still think it looks pretty cool!
For me the main negative comes from the finger print scanner at the back of the phone because it sits just below the camera lens (which is also placed in the middle of the handset). I lost count of the times I placed my finger on the camera lens instead of the sensor. On a positive note the camera lens position at least prevents your hand from getting in the way during shots.
What do I like is that Vodafone have supplied a dedicated physical camera shutter button, so for those who want a more tactical feel you will get it. I also liked that the buttons on the whole, such as the right sided volume and power buttons are ridged so this makes them a lot easier to press and to grip.
Finally you have a removable sim draw (that you need to open with the supplied tool or a paper clip) which also houses the microSD card slot (supports up to 256GB cards). The downside is when you pull the draw out to change the microSD card it will also deactivate the sim, so not so ideal.
Yet for me taking the niggles aside it’s a handset that I am slowly starting to adjust to and like. The 5.5” AMOLED 1440P screen is a great combination, but with the black finish the handset seems smaller than it is.
Out of the box the device can take a little bit of time to go through the initial setup routine because you have the optional finger print sensor to setup and for me I had the choice to restore from a previous handset associated with my Google Account.
However out-the-box the default OS is sporting Android 6.0 and I recommend you do a quick check of the Settings About > Software update section to upgrade this to 6.0.1; mainly because it fixes a few niggles including the camera’s interface and the option to record video footage up to 4K (without Android 6.0.1 you can only shoot at QHD 1440P.
I’ll talk more about this in a moment. For now I’ll just mention that for the most part Vodafone have left a vanilla Android experience in place, with the option to install a few of their own apps if needs be, thus you won’t be overloaded with bloatware which is good to see.
Like the LG G5 I reviewed a few months back you can also lock the handset with a pass-code so even before you get into the OS (like a BIOS entry in the PC motherboards) you will require a password to gain access to the phone.
You only seem to get the one default Home interface (split into 5 screens for shortcuts etc) but this provides access to the familiar App draw and a few more simple-but-effective options for improving the functionality of your experience. Such as being able to swipe right from the main Home screen to launch a favourite App.
You can also set various shortcuts on the lock screen for quick access to your camera, composition of emails or access to your contacts.
Additionally you can re-arrange the on-screen Home, Back and Recently used App keys to a different order or use the camera button I spoke of in the Design section to launch the camera with a double press or disable this option and assign the button to something else i.e. launch a favourite app, take a screenshot or clear all notifications on the lock screen.
Finally you can also add multiple profiles to the phone so each person in your household could have their own Google Account setup and their own individual Apps.
So there are a fair few touches that I found really helped me enjoy the Android experience and the latter actually runs pretty well given the 3GB RAM and Octa-core CPU (4x1.8 GHz Cortex-A72 & 4x1.2 GHz Cortex-A53).
I also found the on-screen icons were vibrant thanks to the AMOLED screen and 1440P resolution 2160 x 1440.
Before I forget the phone even comes with a few built-in apps that allow you to tap into Google’s Cardboard VR implementation, which is a cheap way to get into Virtual Reality. You have the option to setup the device with the Google Cardboard viewer (which is an optional extra) to view VR content or create your own VR clips with the supporting Cardboard Camera App; basically it captures 3D panoramas that you can experience in VR.
Speakers are top draw!
However one of the stand out features for me was the Vodafone Smart Platinum 7’s Stereo speakers which as I mentioned earlier are front facing. This means when you place the handset down on the desk the sound does not get muffled. Likewise they also sit slightly apart so your hands don’t hinder the experience either when playing games.
However the quality of the speakers is perhaps the most immersive I have ever heard from a smartphone, to the point I was completely taken by surprise when running the 3D Mark Benchmark test and I heard the musical score come through the speakers. To me at first it sounded like the audio had engulfed the entire room! It’s really impressive in my opinion and I have to admit that I did not expect it to be this good.
This of course also translates well into YouTube streaming, movie playback and games, with movies especially standing out. Plus with plenty of storage to tap into, not to mention the larger battery and colourful AMOLED screen, you have a great partnership for those who like to watch movies on the fly!
Despite its Octa-core CPU and its ample performance for the OS/streaming side of things, the device only features an Adreno 510 GPU which produces just enough grunt to handle current HD gaming. Although, in terms of comparison the combination is only marginally better performance than my older iPhone 5s and is far behind the likes of the LG G5 or iPhone 7; but then the latter costs a fortune whereas the Vodafone option can be had for free on £24 a month contracts.
In the real-world the handset did cope amicable with Angry Birds 2 and Dead Trigger 2, the latter was set to High Quality mode. You get the occasional frame dip with the latter but the overall gaming side was still enjoyable, especially on the AMOLED screen as it is a joy to witness.
This again was helped with the excellent speakers which produced ample grunt and quality to enhance your experience further!
Camera App & Quality
The Camera App doesn’t have a vast amount of options under the settings button, so you can only adjust things like GPS tagging, the MP size/ratio for photos i.e. 16MP at 4:3 or 12MP at 16:9. Likewise you can adjust the video resolution up to 2160P (as long as you have the latest Android 6.0.1 update on the handset).
A similar story goes for the primary interface which has a manual option for adjusting ISO (Auto to 100-1200), Shutter Speed (Auto, 1/8000 to 1/2), White Balance (Auto to 8500k) and finally manual focus.
My problem with adjusting the above is that you need to use a slider system, so for example you move your finger up or down to adjust things and sometimes this can switch on the other options of the camera such as Panoramic, Auto or Slo-mo. This is because screen swipes, as well as finger taps can be used to select the latter modes, so if your finger sways past the default slider line when changing manual functions, you end having to switch back in order to continue with your selection and the interface becomes more frustrating to use as a result.
For the most part the camera is OK for general use, the images that you can view below were shot in overcast conditions and I’ve put the best batch on display. For me the main issue with the camera is the autofocus, especially for HDR photos, as I found it was out a touch.
The camera App actually tells you to keep a steady hand when shooting HDR and this is difficult to do most times, so a lot of the shots don’t quite get the focus they require.
In Auto mode the camera performs better and it takes care of most aspects and you can quickly tap on options to the left to adjust the aforementioned HDR, or to switch to a timer, night mode or flash. However the camera is still not on par with the LG G5 or iPhone series by any means.
Videos captured in slow-mo, QHD (1440p) or UHD were also a little grainy at the lower HD resolutions. Most of the problems seemed to be with the sky with plenty of artefacts visible when viewing back the footage on my computer.
The auto-focus in the video mode also struggles if you are quickly moving from one object to another at close range, so you need to manually re-adjust the focus to compensate. At least there is 32GB of on-board storage and this can be boosted with 256GB microSD cards, so you may get something out of the camera.
Before I forget there is a selfie feature with the front-facing camera which is something I’ve seen on other handsets. It works by using the on-screen face slider and with this toggled on it will remove blemishes from your face. However in reality it makes you look like a plastic doll, so it’s another feature that may prove less useful than it could be.
Battery life is certainly boosted by the 3000mAh battery and power saving AMOLED screen. You also have a few battery saving options included with the phone and a dedicated Optimiser App to improve its life - this basically allows you to adjust what Apps can work in the background.
However I found that the smartphone can easily handle a day’s heavy use i.e. streaming, browsing, gaming, calls etc. and give you something left at the end of the day!
For me the handset does have a few niggles but on the whole it performs well for general OS tasks, streaming and even gaming. However its speakers are the true highlight and this makes the handset a dream to use for movie playback, especially as it’s coupled with a high-res 1440P AMOLED screen and plenty of storage potential.
I would grab this handset for this task alone, but I’m not sure how future proof the handset is from a gaming point of view as the performance, compared to the other devices I reviewed in the past, is not nearly as good.
Yet for the price on-contract I can’t complain too much as you do get a lot of quality features for your money and for this reason it could be worth a punt if you wanted to switch to Vodafone. There are certainly far worse options out there for your money, that’s for sure!
8Overall8Design8Features8Ease of use7Performance9Price
Product sourced from Vodafone prices vary depending on the chosen contract.