The world is an easy place to live if you’re after a budget smartphone these days. Top-tier devices are capable of having amazing features and performance, but in 2014, you don’t have to splash your cash to get your hands on a quality phone. Most manufacturers provide budget models, and many of them use the Android operating system from Google. Fast, customisable and very intuitive, budget Android smartphones provide an excellent alternative to paying out your life savings on expensive flagship models.
Nokia X – £100
The Nokia X is Nokia’s initial foray into the world of Android. The Nokia X range (Nokia X, X+ and XL) was announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February. "The Nokia X is built on Android open source software. We have differentiated and added our own experience," Nokia head Stephen Elop said.
These are good looking phones, with a unibody design that comes in a range of bright colours like green, red and yellow. You can also opt for black or white if your tastes are not that vibrant. The Nokia X measures in at 115.5 x 63 x 10.4mm and weighs just 128g.
The Nokia X has a good-enough 1GHz Snapdragon S4 processor, with 4GB storage and 512MB of RAM. The 4GB of storage isn’t too big, but there’s a microSD card slot for expanding that.
Moto E – £90
Motorola’s 2014 follow-up to the Moto G, the Moto E is just £90 and has a slightly smaller screen at 4.3 inches. This is definitely one of the cheapest Android smartphones on the market today and Motorla’s consistent quality also makes it one of the best.
The Moto E comes with a dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor, 1GB of RAM and 4GB of storage.
Moto G 4G- £150
Motorola just upgraded its hit Moto G phone with 4G capabilities. In some aspects, the Moto G just wipes the floor with its competitors. A 4.5-inch, 1280 x 720 display sporting 329ppi pixel density boosts the Moto G’s display quality up there in the mid to premium-range market, but unfortunately the 5MP camera lets the phone down slightly.
The 1GB of RAM handles most of the apps and the fluidity of Android KitKat well enough, which is a nice surprise and the hungry Google Apps normally slows budget devices right down. All in all, this is one of the best budget smartphones out there today, and a sterling come back for Motorola after being acquired by Google.
Samsung Galaxy Core Advance – TBC, sub £200
The Core Advance, due to be launched in June, will feature a 4.7-inch screen, 8GB of storage, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and a 5MP camera.
It is expected to cost around £150, and is an improved version of last year’s Galaxy Core.
The Galaxy Core Advance weighs 145g, the original Core is 124g, and has a 2,000 mAh battery.
The Advance will run on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, and probably won’t ever get 4.4 KitKat. There’s no 4G unfortunately, but Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS are of course still all on offer here.
ZTE Blade V – SIM-free £100
The Blade V from ZTE isn’t the newest phone on this list by any means, but it still packs a reasonable punch for the sub-£100 smartphone market.
With a 4-inch screen, the viewing real estate about meets the price range, but the resolution leaves a little to be desired – 480 x 800.
The 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU and 1GB RAM coupling makes for decent budget performance; however, there has been some reports of it lagging on occasion.
Only 4GB or memory is available, like the Nokia X, but a microSD card slot is on offer so expansion is an option.
The 5MP camera on the back has an LED flash and there is a so-so photo editor, but it doesn’t produce the highest level of detail. It’s worth bearing in mind that for this price range, cameras aren’t going to be top-quality.
Motorola Moto X – £250
Motorola’s 2013 flagship still comes with a reasonable price tag. With a 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and a 4.7 inch screen, the Moto X can boast up to 32GB memory and a 10MP camera. An all round excellent Android experience.
Sony Xperia L – £120
The Xperia L boasts a Snapdragon S4 processor and 1GB of RAM, with a 8GB of interal storage. A microSD slot is present in case you want to upgrade that, though.
Again, this isn’t the most recent phone on the list but is still a solid and powerful choic for those looking for a smartphone on a shoestring.
Huawei Ascend Y530 – £120
One of Huawei’s latest budget offerings, released at Mobile World Congress, is the Ascend Y530. It runs on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and for £150 you’ll be getting a really decent budget handset with a 4.5-inch screen and a 1.2GHz dual-core processor.
The simple Emotion UI which is stuck over Android on this smartphone could make all the difference for first time smartphone users, and is much more attractive than Huawei’s other offerings.
Sony Xperia M – £100
Sony’s answer to the Moto G, the Xperia M is the baby sibling of Sony’s new Xperia Z1 and Xperia Z and only costs around £150. Gone is the glass and premium feel of the premium-counterparts though, the plastic’s back like most other budget smartphones.
The Xperia M has a 4-inch screen at a resolution of 854 x 480 and could be seen to equal the two-year-old Samsung Galaxy S2, but the screen falls far behind the quality seen on the Moto G.
The 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB RAM offer similar performance to other budget smartphones. The only feature that reall seems to be going for the Xperia is the price, it’s the lowest of all Xperia models, but you can definitely go elsewhere for better deals unless you are a Sony loyalist.
HTC Desire 500 – £180
A great looking phone, the HTC Desire 500 has a clear 4.3-inch 480 x 800 screen, an 8MP camera with flash and 4GB of internal storage. It doesn’t run on latest version of Android, but Android 4.1.2 does go under HTC’s Sense UI on the Desire so it’s still pretty slick. 1GB of RAM is enough to keep the phone running well, and it definitely looks impressive for the price.