Not all of us have that extra £500 lying around to pick up the latest flagship from Google, Sony, or Samsung, or even pay upwards of £40 a month to keep that phone on contract.
Yes, premium smartphones can do amazing things these days. The latest Galaxy from Samsung, the S5, has a fingerprint sensor, a heart rate monitor and one of the best cameras ever seen on a smartphone so far. But at the end of the day, most of the reasons you use a smartphone (web browsing, emails, social, and navigation) can be found on a far cheaper smartphone.
The cost of standard smartphone technology is ever decreasing, meaning for £200 or less you can get a really decent smartphone. There’s even a $25 Firefox smartphone due out soon! So let’s kick off this list of the top 10 budget smartphones for 2014…
Nokia X – £75
Nokia’s first foray into the world of Android, the Nokia X range (Nokia X, X+ and XL) was announced at Mobile World Congress. "The Nokia X is built on Android open source software. We have differentiated and added our own experience," Nokia head Stephen Elop said.
The Nokia X boasts a modest 1GHz Snapdragon S4 processor, with 4GB storage and 512MB of RAM. The 4GB of storage isn’t massive, but there’s a microSD card slot for expanding that.
The battery is 1500mAh, which is enough for decent day to day use.
These Nokia’s look sexy, with a unibody design that comes in a range of bright and personal 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 price? Well the standard Nokia X will cost just £75 on release. That’s a huge bargain from Nokia, considering the quality of its devices.
ZTE Blade V – SIM-free £100
A few months old now, the Blade V from ZTE still packs a reasonable punch for the sub-£100 smartphone market. It doesn’t look like anything special though, with a rather plain fascia, but the brushed aluminum effect on the back perks it up slightly.
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.
SIM free Blade Vs can be found for around £100-£130 online.
BlackBerry 9720 – £130
It’s not special, it’s not flashy, it’s a little dated, and it doesn’t even run on BlackBerry’s latest OS, but rather BlackBerry 7. So why would you buy this phone? Well, it’s one of the cheapest ways of getting hold of a QWERTY keyboard, and is a brilliant first time smartphone from those users migrating over from older mobile devices or even if this is their first mobile phone.
It’s got a 2.8-inch touchscreen, sporting 480 x 260 pixels, and of course the all-important physical keyboard that has its very own niche, enthusiastic, and loyal market. At 120g, it’s a solid phone that feels good for one handed use at 114 x 66 x 12 mm.
There’s only an 806MHz processor inside, coupled with 512MB of RAM. The 5MP camera is not too shoddy, but the price is obviously where it’s at for this phone. For around £130, this can be had PAYG, and the price will be worth it for BlackBerry fans looking to upgrade on a budget. There’s even a white model!
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, BLuethooth and GPS are of course still all on offer here.
Moto G – £135
The Moto G has got to be the king of all budget smartphones on offer at the moment. For £135, you’re getting Androiud Kit Kat, 8GB or 16GB (£159) storage options, and features like water repellency and a mid-range attractive design.
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.
Sony Xperia M – £150
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.
Nokia Lumia 620 – £100
The phone that has certainly helped with Nokia’s mobile turnaround, the 620 is a fantastic budget Windows Phone that offers a very different operating system to Android. Some people love it, some people hate it – we say, go into a phone shop and try it out!
The 620 looks great, colourful and comes loaded with a 1GHz dual-core processor, 512MB RAM, a 3.8-inch screen and 8GB of memory. The camera (with LED flash) performs well enough and at around £100, this is serious Nokia power on a budget.
Huawei Ascend Y530 – £150
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.
Mozilla Firefox Phone – £15
Mozilla, most famous for its Firefox web browser, announced a surprisingly cheap ($25) smartphone at Mobile World Congress this year. Aimed at developing markets, the cheap handset only houses a basic processor and a 3.5-inch screen, but with Wi-Fi, a camera, and Bluetooth functionality, the Firefox OS powered budget smartphone will go down a storm in its targets countries.
Nokia Asha 503 – £100
The latest in Nokia’s cheap, budget Asha devices, the 503 will only set you back about £100 SIM-free.
A 5MP camera with LED flash is a bargain on a phone this cheap, but the 3-inch screen might not suit everyone used to larger models. A strong battery life and a good-looking design more than makes up for this though, and the phone comes with 4GB of memory which can actually be upgraded to 32GB. Wi-FI, Bluetooth and a 1200mAh battery are all features on the Asha and you can get over a month’s standby time on the device! However, no GPS support unfortunately!