The Netphone 701 is Smart’s very first own Android phone offering that is targeted towards people who wants to take on a smartphone without investing a lot. With the Smartnet platform built-in, users can enjoy free access to a lot of things they can’t do with other phones.
For somebody who already owns an Android phone though, like me, the only way you would probably consider getting a Netphone 701 is if you lost your phone or if you need a secondary phone on the Smart network. Smart is planning on releasing different Netphones in the future though for different market segments.
Having said that, read on our review to see whether the Smart Netphone 701 should be your first Android phone or not.
The Netphone 701 is medium-sized which is good because you don’t want your first Android phone to look intimidating. It feels just right on the average Filipino hand and is based on the ZTE Blade phone which is quite popular in China.
The 3.5″ screen is bigger than most phones in its class and below that are three Android buttons for Home, Menu and Back, which are a bit stiff to press.
On the left side of the phone is the microUSB port for data and charging and also a chrome lining to give the phone a bit of style. Right side you will see the same chrome lining with the volume control slightly protruding from it as well as the speaker near the bottom. On top you’ll find the Power/Sleep button beside the 3.5mm audio port. At the back you’ll see lens of the 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera and the Smart logo.
Display and UI
The 3.5″ display on the Netphone 701 sports an 800 x 480 resolution which gives it a higher pixel density for better sharpness. Although 16 million colors is preferred, 256k doesn’t look bad at all for a phone of this price.
It carries a stock Android 2.2 (Froyo) UI which should not be intimidating for new users. It has four homescreens for you to add widgets and app shortcuts. Pretty basic but if you want more usability out of it, you might want to download another UI from the Market. Launcher perhaps?
Due to the not-so-wide display, typing on the built-in onscreen keyboard can be a challenge. I’m not fond of the keyboard at all but downloading a different one from the Market solved that problem.
The Netphone 701 runs on a 600Mhz processor which is what you should expect from a sub-Php10k phone. Navigating is a hit and miss. At times it will be smooth but then again, sometimes you’ll get a clumsy and sluggish response especially when SmartNet is doing something in the background.
Here’s the Quadrant score (394) of the Smart Netphone 701 for reference.
I tried playing Angry Birds and Tap Zoo on it and although they’re somewhat playable, you would find it annoying when the game stutters too often. I tried playing when the game is in its 150MB internal storage and when it was moved to the SD card but had the same results.
Battery life on the Netphone 701 lasted me 3 days on standby but you don’t want the phone to be on standby. You want it to be connected on 3G always because of SmartNet (more on that later) and with mobile data always on, you need to charge this phone daily!
Multimedia and Web Browsing
The speakers on the Netphone 701 is strong although it gets clanky at the loudest setting. It has the native music player which automatically scans for MP3s on your microSD card including its tags, album arts, and your playlists.
It won’t detect or play my downloaded AVI files but it has no problem with MP4s converted for phones. You might want to download AVI players from the Market but don’t expect smooth playback.
Web browsing is pretty much ok thanks to its respectable 3.5″ display. It’s not as fast or smooth as I would prefer but if you need to check the news quickly then it will certainly suffice.
The 3.2 megapixel camera can give you some basic shooting options: auto-balance, geo-tagging, exposure control, and a small bit of zoom. The shots aren’t that fantastic but should be ok for your Facebook mobile uploads.
Here are a few sample shots:
What I would always suggest for phones with poor camera is get apps to turn your low-quality shots into creative masterpiece. If you heard of Hipstamatic or Instagram for the iPhone, here are some Android alternatives.
SmartNet and Smart features
The selling point of the Netphone 701 is what Smart calls SmartNet. For simplicity sake, SmartNet is like your Facebook at the most basic level. You can add friends who are also Netphone users, or those who just signed up for a SmartNet account. As long as you’re on the Smart network, you can access your SmartNet account for free as long as you have a peso load.
So why would you want to sign up on SmartNet? Well for one is you can’t use the NetPhone without logging in to your SmartNet account. Secondly, SmartNet will be the bridge so you can post and get updates from your Twitter and Facebook.
The Netphone has this Net Setting by the way that prevents your phone from accidentally accessing the internet. Android phones does that a lot in the background. When you switch it to SmartNet mode, it will only access the internet based on what the SmartNet allows so you don’t have to spend a cent.
In order to access Facebook on your phone, you need to spend for mobile data (or have WiFi access). What SmartNet does is take your Facebook and Twitter updates and display it on your SmartNet wall. And if you post a status on your SmartNet, you will also have the option to post the same status on your Facebook and Twitter. That’s how their free Facebook and Twitter works. It may sound crude but it works for that quick status update. This is limited only to text-based status updates, no photos, no messages, no profile. SmartNet also won’t display photos and links on your wall and you need a real internet access to view them.
Another cool thing with SmartNet is the Chat feature. You can chat with other Netphone users for free, like BlackBerry’s BBM without the monthly fees and only when in the Smart network. You can also link your Facebook and Yahoo! account to the Chat feature for free chatting although you can only see friends who are online and visible.
There’s a lot more to tell and explain about SmartNet to fit in this review so if you want to learn more about it, feel free to read my post here.
As a mobile phone, the Netphone 701 is quite decent for an entry-level phone if you don’t mind the manufacturer, the seemingly stiff front buttons and the not-so quality feel. The specs are somewhat above average for the price you’re getting it for though.
However, the main reason why you would be getting this phone is its free access to SmartNet which in turn gives you free access to your current Facebook and Twitter feeds. You can also chat for free with other Netphone users so it’s quite handy for families or for loved ones.
Again access to SmartNet is free as long as you have at least a peso load. Even if the posters say that it’s until December 31, I’m sure Smart will still continue it next year.
The Netphone 701 is available for Php9,990 as a prepaid unit but you can get this at Data Lite Plan 800 for free. Here are the other postpaid plans involving the Smart Netphone 701. My recommendation? If you really want the SmartNet features and can wait, Smart is going to release another SmartNet-capable phone soon. Unless of course you can score a free cell phone.
|Smart Netphone 701 (ZTE Blade) Specs:|
|600 MHz ARM 11 processor, Qualcomm MSM7227 chipset|
|Android OS, v2.2 Froyo (not upgradeable)|
|3.5 inch screen (480 x 800 pixels), 256K colors|
|512 MB RAM, 512 MB ROM|
|150 MB storage, 2GB microSD card included|
|HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps|
|Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, Wi-Fi hotspot (Android 2.2)|
|3.15 MP autofocus camera|
|SmartNet (Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo!)|
|Li-Ion 1250 mAh battery|