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Best Android phone: £150-£200

Mobile phones can be expensive, but you don’t always need to pay above the odds for the one that fits your needs. That’s why we’ve put together a list of phones that cost £150-£200 and compared them against one another.

Want an ICS phone in budget, check out the HTC Desire C. If you’re thinking about a rugged phone that can handle a dunk in the ocean, then the Motorola DEFY MINI could be right up your street. If bright yellow is your thing then the Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 comes in just under budget and finally, if you want pure power coupled with customisation options and a competent camera, then Sony’s Xperia U will be your £200er of choice.

Sony Xperia U, HTC Desire C, Samsung Galaxy Mini, Motorola DEFY MINI all side by side; Sony Xperia U, HTC Desire C, Samsung Galaxy Mini, Motorola DEFY MINI all turned over to reveal their backings, Sony Xperia U, HTC Desire C, Samsung Galaxy Mini, Motorola DEFY MINI stacked on top of one anotherSony Xperia U, Motorola DEFY MINI screens side by side; HTC Desire C, Samsung Galaxy Mini screens side by side, Sony Xperia U, HTC Desire C, Samsung Galaxy Mini, Motorola DEFY MINI screens close-up

HTC Desire C – £180 – The Ice Cream Sandwich

The HTC Desire C is the only reputable phone costing under £200 that packs Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box. What’s more, it also runs with HTC’s Sense 4.0, the latest version of HTCs OS found on the HTC One X, One S and One V.

The user interface is smooth and the design is great, looking like a matte black pebble with red accenting. It sits well in the hand and feels comfortable in the pocket. Packing a 3.5-inch screen, the HTC Desire C offers HVGA resolution, so isn’t the sharpest screened phone out there but does a decent job nonetheless.

Where the HTC Desire C falls down somewhat is in its 600MHz processor and 3-megapixel camera. While we didn’t see any considerable slowdown, 40 apps in and a year of usage will no doubt test the CPU more than you’d hope for a phone intended to last you 24 months. The camera also lacks autofocus so can’t snap pictures close up.

All in all, the HTC Desire C is amongst our favourite handset in terms of design. It’s a real shame about the processor, though if you plan on only using your phone for texts, calls, occasional web browsing and email, it should hold up just fine.

Motorola DEFY MINI – £150 – The desert storm trooper

Motorola’s DEFY MINI is cheap as chips and packs much of the same goodness that makes the HTC Desire C what it is. That said, it sacrifices on Ice Cream Sandwich and interface polish and compensates with weather sealing and larger battery.

The DEFY MINI also rocks pretty decent design, feels solid and offers good weighting in the hand and pocket. It’s cold to the touch and feels more expensive than its price suggests but what really sets it apart is that you can dunk it in water, take on a jolly in the desert and maybe even subject it to the odd knock or two.

Its weather sealed self isn’t just designed to handle knocks, but it’s also geared to last thanks to its 1630mAh battery. With more mAh than an HTC One S, you’ll get a good few days out of the DEFY MINI. It will even make a competent MP3 player, helped along nicely by the 3.5mm headphone jack and expandable storage.

In much the same way as the HTC Desire C, the Motorola DEFY MINI suffers at the hand of its 600MHz processor and underwhelming camera. The lack of ICS doesn’t help and with Motorola’s UI not being quite as on-point as HTC’s, that’s where the experience falls slightly short.

That said, for the price, you’re not going to do any better if you want a rugged phone that will go the distance.

Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 – £180 – Little but loud

Probably the weakest handset of the bunch standalone, the Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 isn’t however without its merit. Packing a sharp design and a characteristic bright yellow back cover, it offers a slightly smaller 3.27-inch screen than the DEFY MINI or the HTC Desire C with the same resolution making it a little sharper. This also makes it a bit smaller in the hand and pocket which could be just what you’re looking for.

With its slightly faster 800MHz processor, the Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 won’t be subject to the slowdown worries of the HTC Desire C or the Motorola DEFY MINI, however it isn’t exactly going to rip roar through 3D worlds or play back full HD content either.

There’s WI-FI direct and NFC on board, so while the asking price is a little high, the Galaxy Mini 2 is well connected. It packs Gingerbread and Samsung’s Touchwiz 4.0, so feels a little dated, plus the camera is amongst the weakest of the bunch.

If you can snap one up for lower than its current asking price (anything in the £140-150 region), you’ll get a reasonable, stylish smartphone connected to the nines.

Sony Xperia U – £200 – Packing some oomph

The power house of the bunch is the Sony Xperia U. Dual-cores for under £200 is in itself impressive, but couple that with a super sharp WVGA screen, 5-megapixel autofocus camera and and edgy design means you get a shed load of bang for your buck in the Sony Xperia U.

Sharing the same sharp corners and curved backing as the NXT Xperia S and Xperia P, what differentiates it beyond the smaller screen is its transparent strip at the bottom which lights up with colours, as opposed to nondescript white light. Also, the bottom portion is replaceable. This makes for amongst the most customisable of handsets, coupling style, substance and sheer power.

In addition, offering the only auto-focus camera of the bunch, the Xperia U has a 5-megapixel sensor with a decent lens and a physical camera button, not to mention a nifty user interface that’s lifted straight from its bigger brother. This creates a camera experience that’s premium and rounds off the phone incredibly when considering the price.

Easily the most competent mobile in the group, while there’s no ICS or NFC and it isn’t expandable with only 8GB of memory on board, the Xperia U is a great value, slick and fun proposition for £200.

There you have it, proof that in the £150-£200 price range there are some great Android smartphones out there and chances are, at least one that will meet your needs. If there are any current generation Android handsets you feel we’ve left out, or if you have any questions about those we’ve featured, just fire us a comment below.