Vodafone's new Android-powered own-brand Vodafone 858 Smart is a pay as you go way of jumping on the app-happy bandwagon. Officially shortened to 'Smart' -- but not to be confused with last year's HTC Smart -- it's an attempt to bring the luxuries of owning an advanced phone to those who don't want to pay out hundreds of pounds up front.
For a handset with an expected retail price of around £80, the feature set is a mixed bag. The 2.8-inch touchscreen is a tad smaller than you may wish for, while the camera is a fairly lacklustre 2-megapixel affair.
Smart comes loaded with Android 2.2. There's no mention as to whether this will be upgradeable to the latest 2.3 software, but you get everything you'd expect -- Android Market, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Talk and the like. The home screen also features prominent access to social apps such as Facebook and Twitter.
The 3G phone also has Wi-Fi built in, so you can surf the Web from a wireless network at home without worrying about eating into that precious pre-pay balance. There's also Bluetooth and easy access to Vodafone's pre-pay manager service.
The phone comes in standard black or white colours with more to come. An online customisation option is also available, letting you modify the colour and add a photo to the back cover.
The Vodafone Smart looks to be a decent enough budget phone. If you don't mind tying yourself up to a contract and have fairly similar month-to-month usage patterns, you'll probably land a better phone by signing on the dotted line for 18 or 24 months. You could argue that, being Vodafone-branded, you're as good as tied to the network until you ditch the Smart. Then again, if you don't want or can't get a contract or your data usage isn't constant, pre-pay may be the way to go.
Vodafone says the Smart will be available this summer on a number of "fantastic pay as you go data plans". That's as much as we currently know, but we'll be sure to get our hands on one soon. Check out the video for a quick glimpse of the handset.