It's been a great year for Vodafone branded devices. We've launched top notch products at really affordable prices. But where do we go from here?

smart tab 4g 2

With Christmas just around the corner, it’s time to take stock of the year in tech, and to look forward to what’s coming in 2015. We’ve been speaking to manufacturers about their biggest wins and trends of 2014, and will be publishing retrospectives over the next few weeks, but we thought there’d be no better way to kick off these roundups than with a look at Vodafone’s own branded devices.

 

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To tell us the story of how our Smart range has grown in 2014, and to give us an idea of where it’ll go next, we’ve been speaking to Vodafone’s phone guru and resident futurologist, Patrick Harrison-Harvey. Read on for a sneaky peek at how we’ll be pushing the high performance, low cost envelope over the next 12 months…

2014 at Vodafone: 4G, better products and lower prices

“It’s been a real breakthrough year for us,” Patrick says. “Last year we had great success with the Smart Mini, which sold in good volumes. So this year we thought we’d do alright, but we’ve done three times what we did last year, easily. And that’s been helped because a lot of our partners in retail have really got behind our products. We’re working with more manufacturers too, which is good for our customers as it helps bring the cost down.”

As Patrick explains, our success this year can be attributed to venturing into new areas, and refining things at every turn:

“We’ve ventured into new categories by bringing more premium features to entry point products. So the Smart 4 Turbo has been a really big device for us; it’s allowed us to get the entry 4G price lower than anything else on the market. We got there by working hard with our manufacturing suppliers to bring down the costs, and that really helped us to produce a decent 4G phone at a very affordable price.”

smart 4 power

“We’ve also got the Smart 4 Power, and we’ve moved into 4G tablets, bringing those to an excellent price point in the market, too. I think that the spread of these devices has given us more credibility as a device brand in 2014. I’ve been involved in Vodafone devices for a long time – since before the first Smart device appeared – and the improvement in the quality has been quite substantial. They’re as good as anything we get from the main manufacturers now,” Patrick says.

With all that being so, how does he think we’ve stacked up against our aims for 2014? “I think we’re on track with where we wanted to be,” he says. Which means there’s only one thing left to do: look forward to 2015…

2015 and beyond: The future of Vodafone phones

As with any new project, planning a new set of own-brand Vodafone devices means first sitting down to figure out what we’ve learned from ones before. And, as Patrick reveals, we’ve learned a lot this year:

“What we’ve learned is that you need to have a clearer customer benefit between products to justify the difference in price. If you look at the Smart 4 Turbo and the Smart 4 Power, one is slightly larger but a lot of the other specs are similar. Next year we want to have a better differentiation between our Vodafone branded devices.”

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As well as that, Patrick explains that we’re also learning more than ever from our work with our manufacturing partners. And that’s having an impact across all our phones:

“We’ll always try to bring entry level spec down a tier,” Patrick says. “That entry price point hasn’t really changed at Vodafone for a few years, but we get newer and better tech each time. Vodafone phones exist to bring new technology and really good features down in price and this trend will continue in 2015.

“We’re in the middle of our next year’s planning process,” he adds. “We’re working on various new devices for the UK, continuously aiming to improve on things like camera and screen quality as well as better content experiences for 4G. If we can bring that really high-end screen and graphics quality down to a lower end device, then that’s what we’re going to do.”

smart tab 4g main

“On everything we do it’s down to quality; building things cheap isn’t what we’re about; we’re about building things as cost effectively as possible while maintaining a super high quality level. If it’s not a reliable bit of technology then we won’t do it. In the end it’s our very own product, wearing the Vodafone brand. We want to be proud of them and ensure that customers have the best possible Vodafone network experience on our own branded devices. ”

“Vodafone devices have always been about trying to get the best spec possible to customers within their price tiers,” Patrick says in closing. “Where they exist, they need to be the best devices for the money.”

More on Vodafone devices… You can read up all about the Vodafone Smart 4 Turbo here, the Smart 4 Power here, and the Smart Tab 4G here.