For less than £150 you can get a lot of mobile for your money. These phones may not have 4.8-inch screens, HDMI outs, or HD video recording or the latest OS, but what they do offer in abundance is value for money.
We’ve compiled our top ten budget phones list with a feature phone, a Windows Phone, a BlackBerry and range of Android phones to suit your needs. It's in ascending price order, starting with the cheapest and we’ll keep this list updated when new phones come out, so keep checking back.
Nokia Asha 201 - £30 - “Teenage dream”
Not fussed about your phone being a ‘smartphone’? Want a physical QWERTY? Don’t need full blow 3G data speeds on the go? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the Nokia Asha 201 could be the phone for you.
It’s one of only two QWERTY devices in our list and is about the best you’ll find at the price point. While there isn’t any app support per se, you have access to Whatsapp and MSN messenger to stay connected. There’s a basic music player and a microSD card slot, so it can double up as an MP3 player too.
On the downside, with the lack of 3G, surfing the web, checking Facebook and Twitter is a slow process on the Nokia Asha 201. All in all though, solid battery life, a range of colour variants and WhatApp messenger help make the Nokia Asha 201 a teenage dream.n, the Vivacity cleans up in every other department making it a budget no brainer if you're on T-Mobile.
ZTE Kis - £60 - “Dinky, solid and cheap”
We recently reviewed the ZTE Kis and were mightily impressed by both Virgin Media (which has exclusivity) and ZTE for the value this dinky and solid handset injects into the market. It looks like a less refined HTC One V, but costs just £60, which when you consider the performance and smartphone app support, is great value.
The humble HVGA 3.5-inch display doesn’t have the best viewing angles and the Kis is loaded with some Virgin bloatware, so it isn't faultless by any means.
£60 will however buy you access to most of the Android apps on the market, expandable storage, a 3.2-megapixel camera with autofocus and a highly customisable operating system that you can tweak to make it look fresher with ease.
Sony Xperia Tipo - £70 - “One cheap Ice Cream Sandwich”
The Sony Xperia line has taken a turn for the better since the Japanese company split from Ericsson, with a range of attractive, aggressively priced phones such as the Sony Xperia U and Xperia Go. At the bottom end of the price point spectrum is the Sony Xperia Tipo.
The Tipo packs an 800MHz processor and a HVGA screen, so is in good company in our top ten, but the Tipo has something none of our other top 10 have - Ice Cream Sandwich. For the uninitiated, this is Android 4.0, amongst the latest release of the operating system with improved functionality and a better look and feel.
Looking good, packing expandable storage via a micro SD card slot and your usual array of Android connectivity options and the Sony Xperia Tipo is easily one of the most attractive phones in our top ten.
Motorola Defy Mini - £85 - “Life proof, smart and excellent value”
When we first reviewed the Motorola DEFY Mini, we didn’t love it, but we appreciated its combination of rugged and affordable. It’s now considerably more affordable at £85, making it the cheapest rugged phone out there and a perfect festival or life-proof phone.
The 600MHz processor under performs and the camera is lacklustre. But the reality is you won’t find a better built £80 phone with decent-looking hardware and tough credentials. The addition of Android Gingerbread means you have full access to the Play Store and all its apps, making the Motorola DEFY Mini life proof, smart and excellent value.
HTC Desire C - £100 - "Sense on the cheap"
Replacing the HTC Wildfire S is the HTC Desire C - the cheapest HTC Android phone in the company’s current line-up, it’s a testament to how quickly technology moves that a phone bearing the Desire branding could be considered entry-level. Launching at £200, the phone is now available for just £99 on PAYG, yet bears all the design elements of pricier phones, looks more expensive with red accents and soft-touch back.
The HTC Desire C runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, which is overlayed with Sense 4.0, which includes some great widgets and there’s even an NFC chip and Beats Audio music profiles.
With a HVGA resolution the 3.5-inch screen isn’t amazingly sharp, there’s no flash on the (otherwise decent) 5-megapixel camera and we’re not sure how the 600MHz processor will run mid-way through a 24-month contract - but accept this and go for it on PAYG and the Desire C is a great buy.
Huawei Ascend G300 - £100 - “Best £100 phone out there”
In much the same way the Orange San Francisco was a landmark handset for 2010, the Huawei Ascend G300 is a landmark for 2012, only this time it’s on Vodafone. What’s so good about it? It’s relatively cheap, powerful and looks pretty attractive.
Thanks to its 1GHz processor, it’s the most powerful Android Gingerbread phone in our roundup and shouldn’t struggle streaming video and with light 3D gaming. That the Ascend G300 runs Android means it’s both competent and highly customisable, with the generous 4-inch WVGA screen showing everything off brilliantly. Add to that a 5-megapixel autofocus camera and you’re onto a winner.
In fact, there's nothing else on the market that competes across the board quite so competitively, easily making it the best £100 phone out there.
Orange San Francisco 2 - £100 - “Tied to Orange? here is one affordable knot.”
With the same internals as the T-Mobile Vivacity, the Orange San Francisco 2 is the update to Orange's hugely popular San Francisco. It bumps up the camera and processor over the original and also delivers a glossy new body to update the line.
What this translates to is a 3.5-inch screened device offering WVGA resolution. You still get the 3.5mm headphone jack and micro SD card slot, but everything looks slicker thanks to the refined styling.
The San Fransisco 2 represents decent value so if you don't want to be unlocking an Ascend G300 and are tied to Orange, here is one affordable knot and a worthy update to the San Francisco line.
BlackBerry Curve 9320 - £120 - “More messaging for your money”
At the upper end of the scale is our second QWERTY handset and our only Blackberry. The BlackBerry Curve 9320 is a great choice for anyone attracted to a physical keyboard and in need of something more comprehensive than the Nokia Asha 201.
While RIM’s BlackBerry OS sometimes gets a bad rep for being dated, when it comes to QWERTY messaging devices, RIM make the best, with the tightest email integration and most comfortable hardware. There’s support for BlackBerry Messenger, WhatsApp and MSN Messenger to name a few and what’s more, it has the 3G and Wi-Fi radios missing from the Asha on board.
The screen has a mediocre resolution and it isn’t touch screen, so web browsing is a pain. The camera lacks an autofocus lens and the Curve's app support is more limited than rivals, however anyone in need of an easy to type on organiser and excellent email integration could do a lot worse.
Acer Liquid Glow - "Best Android experience under £130"
The Acer Liquid Glow. Great design, wonderfully stock Ice Cream Sandwich UI, ok camera and fantastic connectivity options. It really does pack a glowing spec sheet considering the price with its 1GHz processor and up to date version of Android and we're overjoyed to report that the user experience is pretty top notch too. Add to that a very attractive chassis and a stirling screen and there's little room to complain.
Admitedly, it doesn't have the best battery life and it's low on internal memory out of the box, but it is expandable and thanks to its price tag, we’d call it the best Android experience under £130. All in all, the Acer Liquid Glow really is a great all rounder at an affordable price and if it’s the shape of things to come from Acer, then we await the future with baited breath.
Nokia Lumia 800 - £150 "Welcome to Windows Phone"
Last time we compiled our Best Budget Phones list we included the Nokia Lumia 710, since then the latest version of Microsoft’s OS Windows Phone 8 has launched, so prices on phones running the older Windows Phone 7.5 are dropping and the Nokia Lumia 800 is available for just £150.
The Lumia 800 is a stunningly designed phone, made from a single piece of polycarbonate in blue or black, it’s tough yet light, with better build than pricier phones and a great 3.7-inch AMOLED screen.
The 1GHz processor ensures it feels quick and Windows Phone UI with its snaking stream of icons is intuitive for novices. Unfortunately it won’t get a full upgrade to Windows Phone 8, Windows Phone 7.8 will bring adjustable homescreen icons. Nokia’s full sat nav Nokia Drive is on board, along with Nokia Maps and Nokia Music, although the 8-megapixel camera is no match for newer Nokia phones. Overall a good choice for anyone looking for a simple phone with outstanding build.