Not everyone’s looking for a thousand-dollar mobile with all the latest features. In fact, one of our members recently asked us to “stop looking at these gee whiz phones and look more at the middle range”.

So, with that in mind, I put the economically priced Vodafone Smart Prime 6 ($149) through its paces, and was pleasantly surprised: it excelled as an everyday workhorse.

When I first fired it up, I was amazed at its $149 price tag – I thought it was far too responsive and easy-to-use for a budget smartphone, and wondered if I’d been sent the wrong model. It has a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, quick enough to handle most applications, but be prepared to wait a while for an app to start up. If you’re doing more than one thing at a time, like streaming music while scrolling Facebook, it’s going to get clunky.

Front-on, the Smart Prime 6 bears an uncanny likeness to an old Samsung Galaxy S2, and the back has a smooth silvery plastic finish. It’s 142mm tall and 72mm wide, similar in size to the iPhone 6, and features a 5-inch screen. It’s noticeably thicker (8mm) than its more expensive counterparts, and a little heavier.

Perhaps the most impressive feature is its high-definition (1280 x 720) display. While it can’t compete with the stunning screens most top-of-the-line phones offer, it’s capable of delivering vibrant colours, and makes typing and navigating apps easy.

The Smart Prime 6 has 8GB of storage – not overly generous, but enough room for a good number of apps, and some music and photos. However, you can expand the memory with a micro SD card.

This phone is “operator-branded”, meaning Vodafone commissioned a manufacturer to build them affordable handset which mimics pricier name-brand models. Telcos don’t want their reputation tarnished by a dodgy product, so these partnerships generally result in good quality phones.

Vodafone says the battery (2500mAh) delivers 16 hours of talk time. I think that’s a bit optimistic as I found it still needed to be charged every night. The rear-facing camera (8MP) is good enough for a bit of casual photography but won’t take any masterpieces. There’s also a 2MP selfie camera.

The Vodafone Smart Prime 6 does the basics well, but if you’re looking to run three apps at a time or play the latest graphics-intensive games, this probably isn’t the phone for you. All up, I think it’s a great option if you’re buying someone their first smartphone, or you’re after a robust work phone that won’t break the bank.

Essential specs

  • Price: $149 (on a prepay plan – note that this phone is locked to the Vodafone network. It costs an additional $30 to use with other service providers).
  • Storage: 8GB (expandable with micro SD card)
  • Screen size: 5-inch
  • Weight: 155g
  • Display resolution: 1280 x 720
  • Processor: Quad-core, 1.2Ghz
  • Memory (RAM): 1GB DDR3
  • Cameras: 8MP rear, 2MP front
  • Operating system: Android 5.0 Lollipop

First Looks are trials of new or interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.

By George Block.