Smartphone are traditionally expensive purchase, but now it’s possible to get a well-featured mobile with apps, a touchscreen and a camera for a relatively small outlay, either on pay as you go, or for a small monthly line-rental cost.
What option you choose depends, taking out a mobile phone contract requires a credit check, which might not appeal to everyone. With PAYG there’s just one up-front cost and the pre-pay nature means you can cap monthly expenditure, which is really useful if you are buying the phone for a child.
PAYG might not be suitable for everyone though. If you use your phone for browsing or push email, you’ll need to make sure data is either included, alternatively it can work out cheaper to buy the phone-up front them opt for a sim-only plan with data.
Here’s we’ve selected out best Pay as You Go phones for under £100.
BlackBerry Curve 8520
The BlackBerry Curve 8520 just creeps onto our list of best PAYG handsets because it’s now possible to get this entry-level phone from RIM for less than £100. The baby of the Blackberry families offers a full QWERTY keyboard, apps from the ever improving BlackBerry App World and a neat new feature is
BlackBerry Music, where you can listen to 50 songs to organise into playlists and share with friends. The compromise is connectivity – there’s just WiFi, not 3G.
If you do select this phone make sure BlackBerry services – such as email and BBM – are included or you get a data allowance.
Who is Huawei, you might be wondering. In fact this Chinese manufacturer has been in the smartphone game for years making handsets including: the Vodafone Smart and Orange Stockholm.
The Blaze is its first own-brand entry into the UK smartphone market and a pretty convincing one too, offering a good selection of features for an amazing price.
With a rubberised back, it doesn’t feel cheap at all – in fact it feels comfortable to hold, matched by a 3.2-inch 480×320 screen and respectable 3.2-megapixel camera.
You get all the goodness of Android 2.3.4, but with some neat extras like Huawei Social Club, and All Back-up. The Blaze is the perfect handset for anyone looking for their first smartphone and a great introduction to Android.
This compact candy bar is a minor design classic now; the C2-01 is light and portable with solid keyboard and Symbian OS.
The 2-inch 320×240 screen isn’t conducive to browsing for long periods and although 3G does speed things up nicely, there’s no WiFi.
A highlight is the Facebook app, which is very easy to use and great for posting snaps using the respectable 3.2-megapixel camera.
This isn’t a phone for browsing, but the Nokia C2-01 is a reliable handset that’s great for calls, Facebook and photos.
Orange San Francisco / II
The San Francisco has been a huge success for Orange, namely because it was the first Android smartphone to offer a 3.7-inch touchscreen, 3G and WiFi for a very favourable £100 price. It runs the now ancient Android 2.1 Eclair, which may put many people off.
If you are looking for something more up to date. Orange has recently announced its successor – the San Francisco II, with a 3.5-inch screen. We’ve yet to try this out, but clad in a more sophisticated black, with redesigned controls. Version II brings a processor boost to 800Mhz, an camera upgrade to 5-megapixels, along with Orange’s own HD Voice. For many people the highlight will be Android Gingerbread 2.3.5.
Winner of the best value handset at the inaugural Recombu Awards, the Orange Barcolona combines a full QWERTY keyboard with a 2.6-inch touchscreen. A great combination if you want a solid keyboard for emailing and texting, along with the speed and convenience of browsing the web using multitouch.
Running Android 2.2 Froyo (no Gingerbread here unfortunately) there’s WiFi, 3G and aGPS, while neat extras include Signal Boost and email.
Gesture control means you can activate commands (such as launching the browser) by drawing a gesture on the touchscreen, shaving seconds off operation.
The Orange Barcelona, isn’t particularly quick or powerful and the screen resolution is a little low, but with a 2-day battery, respectable 3.2-megapixel camera and a solid keyboard, it’s a an affordable alternative to a BlackBerry, with a lot more apps.
Samsung Soild Immerse
The Samsung Solid Immerse is something a bit different. This old-fashioned style candybar phone doesn’t tick the boxes for style. However, instead you get something designed to be dropped, dunked and generally rough treated, thanks too its water resistant, super-tough body.
Features are thin on the ground, so while you get Twitter and Facebook icons and 3G, but no 3.5mm jack and the screen is tiny and low-res.
However, for anyone visiting a festival during 2012, the Solid Immerse is the perfect handset.
Sony Ericsson Mix Walkman
Sony Ericsson is still making its Walkman handsets, and the latest budget offering is the Mix Walkman,
Music features are what this phone is about and you get dedicated music controls, a respectable pair of earbuds and the new Zap feature, which plays the chorus.
At just 88g, the Mix is almost as light as an mp3 player, with a 3-inch screen, which is great for YouTube.
The negatives include the lack of 3G and the native (dated) interface means no Android apps. However, for a music fan looking for a cheap feature phone with better than average music capabilty, it’s worth a look.
Vodafone introduced the Smart 858 earlier this month.
At 13mm deep and at first glance it looks like a slim if fairly standard, budget handset, you can customise the back, choosing an alternative colour, pattern.
Running Android 2.2, you get access to the Android Market, along with 3G and WiFi. The compromise is the 2.8-inches, which doesn’t support multitouch, so browsing isn’t as smooth as we’d like.
But the 2-megapixel camera isn’t bad and ultimately with Android and connectivity options, the Vodafone Smart offers a lot for very little money.
T-Mobile Zest 2
The T-Mobile has just released the Zest 2, a candybar handset, with a striking gloss finish.
At less than £15, you don’t get an amazing array of features, but there’s a VGA camera, with a great selection of settings, including: White Balance, scene modes and filters.
Along with an FM radio and mp3 player, the Zest 2 can also play videos, and comes with a couple of very basic games.
Bluetooth is a useful addition is for sharing photos between mobile phones or connecting to wireless headset, but there’s no WiFi, 3G or browser.
With a surprising array of features the T-Mobile Zest 2 is certainly one of the better feature phones we’ve seen and it’s very, very cheap.