Noel Campion says most people will like the affordable Vodafone Smart N9, a phone you’ll find fairly pleasant on the eye and very easy on your wallet
In recent years, Vodafone has been releasing their own brand of phones, and with great success.
The Vodafone Smart N9 is a budget-friendly device, priced at €130, with a large 5.5-inch screen, and with a fingerprint reader for improved convenience and security.
The Vodafone Smart N9 is stylish and I love the overall feel and look. It feels great in the hand and easy to use single handed.
The model I received for the purposes of this review was the Black Titanium, but there’s also a Silver Aluminium variant.
Being an inexpensive phone, you don’t get an all glass finish, but instead a rounded, polished plastic back that’s reminiscent of the iPhone 3G.
I love the look, but not surprisingly, being plastic means the back picks up scratches easily unless you use a case. That being said, and although I didn’t test it, I’m sure it won’t break as easily as most current flagships.
On the back, you’ll find the 13MP camera top and centre, which has a distinctive metallic circle surrounding it.
Beneath that is the flash and then the easy-to-reach fingerprint reader, which also has a matching metal border. The fingerprint reader itself has a matte finish that makes it easier to feel and use.
When the phone is off all you see on the front is the 8MP front selfie camera, a speaker grille and the notifications LED/flash on the top.
The Smart N9 has an impressive 5.5-inch HD+ (1440 x 720) LCD display in a 18:9 aspect ratio, but thanks to a less bezel’ design it’s way smaller than the iPhone 8 Plus, which also features a 5.5-inch screen.
The Smart N9 comes with a decent 16GB of storage, but that can be increased via a mcroSD card up to 32GB.
You also get a 3.5mm headphone jack located on the top edge and cheap and cheerful headphones that don’t sound all that great.
On the bottom is two speaker grilles, left and right but like so many other phones, only one side has an actual speaker. Sound quality is fine though, but nothing special.
The Vodafone Smart N9 comes with the latest Android 8.1 Oreo operating system, and is powered by a Quad-core MediaTek processor.
Overall performance isn’t super fast, but it wouldn’t be fair to compare the Smart N9 to much more expensive phones.
Apps switch and even some launch apps like the camera feel sluggish — so don’t buy this phone for serious gaming.
For the intended customers, however, performance will be fine and battery life is good enough to get medium users through a day easily, maybe even two days with light use.
The cameras are pretty decent for a phone in this price category and in good light I was able to get excellent results.
The front-facing camera even has a built-in flash, which works surprisingly well. The display doesn’t get super bright, but has good viewing angles and is more than adequate for everything except really sunny days outside where it can be difficult to see.
Thankfully, apart from some pre-installed apps and of course Vodafone’s own suite of apps, this is a stock version of Android including the launcher. For peace of mind, the Vodafone Smart N9 comes with a suite of safety solutions including the ability to share real-time locations with family and friends.
One of the key features, especially for those who intend to purchase this phone for their children, is the Parental Restrictions options. During the setup of this feature you assign a name and contact number of the guardian/parent. This is protected on the phone with a six digit pin.
Here you can disable or restrict access to the internet, Google Play store or installed apps, as well as setting daily time limits or weekend-only access to games and social media.
My favourite feature is Force Ring, which gives parents the ability to call their children at full ring volume — even if the child’s phone is on silent.
A feature that others will find useful is the Emergency Mode.
This lets users in need quickly contact friends or family in an emergency — or even call the emergency services.
This mode is easily accessible even in lock screen via the power key quick access menu.
Customised SOS messages can be sent to up to five of your pre-selected emergency contacts and, to aid discovery, users can also activate an alarm and flashlight strobe.
ICE emergency contact and medical information is also provided for first responders from the device lock screen.
Overall, the Vodafone Smart N9 offers smart features at an affordable price. It looks and feels great and despite such a big display it isn’t big and bulky.
Also now available is the Smart N9 Lite which features a lot of the same features as the N9 but for €40 less. It features an easy-to-grip but slim exterior and the latest technology with a slightly smaller 5.3-inch display with a tactile anti-slip grip and is available in satin-touch
White Pearl and suede-feel Black Ice variants.
The Smart N9 lite comes with Android 8.1 Oreo (Go Edition), 16GB of internal storage, an 8MP rear-facing camera with flash, and a front-facing 5MP camera.