Smart Netphone 701 Review
I’ve been playing around with the Smart Netphone for the last week and I think I’ve spent enough time with it to come up with a balanced and comprehensive review. During the testing period I used the Smart Netphone as my primary phone. I loaded it up with prepaid credits and my postpaid iPhone 4 took a backseat. This is to make sure that I get the full experience of the phone as it was intended to be by the makers.
Like what I said during the unboxing post, one of the nice things about the Smart Netphone is that it looks nice. The gray, black, and metallic silver accents really give it a sleek, modern, and classy appearance. In fact it it weren’t for the Netphone branding you’d probably think that this was something made by HTC.
The body of the phone is primarily made from some sort of hard plastic. It’s definitely durable as I’ve tested dropping this unit bare from different heights of 3 ft. – 4 ft and the worst I got was a small scratch on the lower part of the phone (I strongly recommend you don’t test this for yourself though, hehe). Here’s a photo of the Netphone side-by-side with an iPhone 4:
At the top of the Smart Netphone you’ll find the usual audio jack for listening to your favorite songs. It also has a lock/unlock button. At the sides are the controls for volume and the micro-USB charging port. You’ll find the buttons for Home, Menu, and Back at the lower portion of the front display. For the SIM card and micro-SD ports, pop-out the back casing and remove the battery.
The Smart Netphone also has a rear-facing 3.2MP camera with no flash. Don’t bother with this one because it can’t take a decent photo.
When I heard that the Netphone was a “budget” phone, I was worried about the quality of the screen and the display. The Netphone has a 3.5″ capacitive touchscreen with 800×480 pixels display. The display is no where near the iPhone 4’s Retina Display, Samsung’s Super AMOLED, or Sony’s Reality Display. However it’s actually decent given the price that you’re paying for this unit.
Software – SmartNet
The biggest key feature of the Smart Netphone is SmartNet. It’s a custom built-in application into the Android 2.2 Froyo OS that marries the telco (in this case Smart) to the hardware of the phone. It provides fascinating and useful services for those who don’t have enough budget to afford data plans. The main features of SmartNet are: Social Stream, Real-time Balance, Global Directory, and the Smart Messenger. You’re probably thinking “well what’s so special about those features?” Well, you can use them for free as long as you have Php1.00 balance. Rawr! Let me zero in on some of them.
Real-time Running Prepaid Balance: This is a winner feature. I commend Smart 100% for implementing this because it totally rocks especially if you’re a prepaid user. All you have to do is swipe at your profile to reveal your real-time prepaid balance. You don’t need to SMS, go to portal, or even open an app. Just look at the home screen!
Smart Chat: Sadly I wasn’t able to try this as much since there were only a few people I know of that actually have Netphones right now. However this definitely has a lot of potential especially if Smart delivers on their promise to release the SmartNet application to other Android, iOS, Symbian, and QNX devices. The only thing that can trump BBM is probably a telco fueled messenger. Note that Smart Chat also can do YM and FB chat (cool).
Social Stream: You get to read updates of your friends from Facebook and Twitter. This is a pretty nifty service especially when you just want to quickly share something with your friends and you no longer have to think about spending money to post that Tweet. Note though that you don’t get the full experience of social networking with this. You can just update and read updates. Nothing more than that. Think of this as “Social Networking Lite”.
Global Directory: You can look up anybody who’s signed up on SmartNet and try to add them (via approval). This is cool but this is prone to abuse. I can already foresee tons of complaints and problems with this. I hope Smart has something for their Customer Service Department.
Software – Android 2.2 Froyo
What impressed me the most about the Smart NetPhone isn’t SmartNet. As most of you probably know I’m a die-hard Apple fan. I’ve never used anything outside of iOS except from BlackBerry. However it looks like I’ve been missing out on a lot of fun with the Android OS. Android offers a lot of fun and useful features. The one I appreciated the most was their Notifications system. It’s a good thing Apple is releasing something similar with iOS 5 because if they didn’t I probably would have jumped over to the Android ecosystem for good.
Android 2.2 Froyo wasn’t being maximized because the Smart Netphone only packs a 600MHz processor. The phone will slow down considerably if you load memory hogging applications like games. I tried playing Angry Birds and it took a while to load the game and the actual playing experience was a bit sluggish. One last rant — the Smart Netphone 701 will be stuck with the Android 2.2 Froyo OS. It won’t be able to update to Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS because of the memory required for Android 2.3. Hopefully future versions of the Netphone will have 2.3 on board.
Recommendations to Smart
Here are some recommendations to Smart on how to improve their service:
- Include a 3G Data Consumption Monitor in SmartNet similar to 3G Watchdog App. Sadly SmartNet isn’t enough to get the full Android experience. People will really have to get Data Plans to be able to enjoy what Android has to offer. Right now Smart is offering Smart On Data Plans (based on data consumption).
- Offer better Smart Netphones that have better specs so that it can run Android Gingerbread 2.3 OS. The Netphone can be like the “Generic” brand of medicines. No need to buy a Samsung Galaxy S2 if there’s a more affordable Netphone that has almost the same features.
- Automatically turn off that annoying TouchPal virtual keypad and make the Android keypad the default.
- Make sure that Smart Browsing is properly explained. The last thing people want is for them to think that they can access the full internet world for free because of SmartNet.
The Smart Netphone is a great entry-level smartphone. The 800 postpaid and 9,900 prepaid price tag combined with the SmartNet feature is a very good product offering. I won’t be surprised if a lot of Filipinos decide to buy the Smart Netphone once it becomes officially available and it gets rolled out nationwide.
To those who already have higher end smartphones like the iPhone 4, HTC Sensation, Samsung Galaxy S2, or the BlackBerry Torch, the Smart Netphone is a great back-up or secondary unit. It can’t be your primary phone because you’ve been spoiled already with the features and power of whatever phone you’re already using.
And that’s a wrap! I’m personally looking forward to seeing how the SmartNet feature will evolve and grow. Congratulations Smart!