Vodafone Smart platinum 7 – Someone’s getting ambitious

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Vodacom only releases cheap, low-cost and probably plastic smartphones, right? Right? Yeah, not any more. Vodacom has been building up to the moment when they are able to release their own branded hardware across a range of price points.

We’ve previously seen what Vodacom can do with a smartphone that costs under R600 (with the Smart Kicka) and there’s also a sequel to that handset out now. Keep your eyes peeled for that review soon but we’re starting at the other end of the spectrum instead. Permit us to introduce the Vodafone Smart platinum 7, a premium handset from Vodacom. How premium, we hear you ask? Well, about that…

Pretty Premium

Voda Plat 2You can tell by the word ‘platinum’ in Vodafone Smart platinum 7 (the lowercase ‘p’ is intentional) that something special is going on here. Open up the unassuming box and extract the 5.5-inch smartphone and you’ll have some idea what that is – Vodacom has been taking lessons from Samsung when it comes to design.

It’s glass, front and back, and there’s a metal border travelling around the edge of the handset. Small speaker grilles sit on top of and below the 5.5-inch QHD display. The Vodafone Smart platinum 7 boasts solid-feeling textured buttons, for volume control, on-and-off functions (on the upper right), and a dedicated camera button on the upper left. Exactly where we wouldn’t expect it to be. Ah, well…

The SIM slot is recessed into the metal frame and there’s space either for two SIM cards or you can give one of them up to add another 256GB of storage (or less) to the 32GB built-in space – on that note, the review model arrived with 21.3GB of storage available. The design and material overall feel like a premium handset, which goes a long way towards justifying an R8,000 Vodacom-branded smartphone. But it’s not always what’s on the outside that counts.

The Gang’s All Here

Voda Plat 3Vodacom’s platinum 7 has the looks going for it but a glance inside will tell us whether you’re buying a shiny lemon or not. Happily, yellow tequila-distractions are not involved here. The 5.5-inch display is a 1,440 x 2,560 affair, the same as you’ll find on flagship smartphones everywhere these days. In practise the screen is ferociously clear, with bright colours popping out at you. Given the red and white Vodacom branding (more on that later), you’re going to notice how much of an overachiever the display is.

Further inside, the spec-sheet won’t leave you feeling flat. There’s an octa-core processor, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 running at 1.4GHz for all eight Cortex A-72 cores. That’s a slight dip on the overseas specs, which indicate a MSM8976 Snapdragon 652 (1.8GHz Cortex-A72 quad and 1.2GHz Cortex A-53 quad) but it still pumps out some great results. There’s 3GB of RAM backing the processor and the whole lot is running on Android 6.0.1. Nearly stock Android 6, that is, except for… oh, that rant’s coming later.

Also in place is a very speedy fingerprint sensor, found at the back underneath the 16MP rear camera. The front cam is an 8MP effort and the Vodafone Smart platinum 7 packs a 3,000mAh battery that lasts a respectable amount of time.

In practise, how does all of this do together?

Pencils Down

Voda Plat 4The simplest way to find out how all the bits and pieces fit together is our usual battery of tests. Subjecting Vodacom’s front-runner to Geekbench 3 ground out scores of 1,524 for single-core performance and 5,425 for multi-core. Both are respectable enough totals but the eight cores in unison are the thing you’re looking for.

AnTuTu was the next stop, with the platinum 7’s Adreno 510 standing it in good stead there. Eventual score? That’s be another respectable 83,078, which puts Vodacom’s handset a little below the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 in terms of overall performance. That’s an achievement but the newest crop of handsets does have Voda’s phone beat. Even so, nigh-on Note 5 performance for R8k? That’s not bad.

The Glass Eye

Voda Plat 5Seemingly the only hurdle left to clear for Vodacom’s premium handset is that of the camera test. The 16MP/8MP combo certainly sounds powerful but a practical demonstration is always a good plan.

In ideal, brightly-lit conditions users will find that the platinum 7’s camera snaps clear, detailed shots. Zooming will eventually bring out some grain, as zoom is wont to do, but the 16MP f/2.0 sensor with phase detection autofocus likes the bright lights. Especially the daylight.

Take it inside or into gloomier environs and the Vodafone Smart platinum 7’s camera breaks down pretty quick. It still handles itself but there’s a lot more noise in your shots when the lights dim. The darker it gets, the worse your photos will look and if you happen to be moving. At all. Let’s just say that Samsung’s 12MP sensor doesn’t have anything to worry about.

No. Bad Vodacom

Voda Plat 1The camera, despite its impressive on-paper specs, isn’t up to snuff but there’s one thing about Vodacom’s handset that bothers us a whole lot more. Ahem… rant on. Custom apps. Custom Vodaphone/Vodacom apps that we don’t care about and don’t want. Which, unfortunately, the Vodafone Smart platinum 7 will attempt to nag you into installing.

Odds are that you’re never going to use these pointless Voda-branded additions, especially if you’re already using a full suite of applications of your own. It’s an ugly addition to an otherwise clean handset and one that we definitely could have done without. It detracts from what is a largely premium experience. Stop doing that, Vodacom. We just ignored it anyway, but you should stop it regardless. Okay, rant off.

Verdict

Vodacom’s first truly high-end phone is actually surprisingly great. Yes, you can get better phones with the addition of an extra chunk of change but if you want something from Vodacom specifically, this is the best option you’re going to get. And we’re glad to see it. If company-branded handsets are getting this good then Samsung, LG and the like are going to have to up their game that much more. At the end of the day we’re the winners in that deal.

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