Following on from our post a couple of weeks ago on the best mid-range phones comes our round up of ten of the best budget smartphones on the market right now. These are phones that can be had for around (or in most cases under) £100 and can do the basics. Perfect if you’re after a cheap phone primarily for calling and texting but wouldn’t mind seeing what other features and functions you can get on a shoestring. With giffgaff goodbags starting at £10 a month it’s never been cheaper to start using a smartphone.
1: Texter’s Lab
Talk is cheap - texting is cheaper. For those who prefer to tap away on their phones rather than be constantly answering calls to friends, family members, loved ones and colleagues, then you need a Texter. Phones that make composing and sending an SMS as easy as ABC.
The Samsung E1150i (£10-£20) is more feature than smartphone and is very basic feature-wise, not having a web browser, camera, memory card slot or an MP3 player. But for the asking price it’s perfect if you’re just after a simple phone for calling and texting. Featuring an old school flip design and a long lasting battery, the Samsung E1150i is ideal for those who want a seriously no-frills phone.
Android phones that come with Qwerty keyboards are few and far between but the HTC ChaCha (£120-£135) is one of those. Coming with a 2.6-inch touchscreen and a full four-row Qwerty pad, the ChaCha gives you the best of both worlds; a screen you can scroll, swipe and tap through and a solid physical keypad for that dedicated typing and texting experience.
The BlackBerry Curve 8520 (£80-£110) packs the full email and Qwerty typing experience for which BlackBerry phones are renowned. As well as this you get access to Facebook and Twitter as well as BBM. The lack of 3G means that any net-based services could be a little on the slow side. The giffgaff BlackBerry Add-on offers BBM and email for £3 extra a month.
The Nokia C1-01 (£25-£40) is even more retro than either of these phones. Coming with a 1.8-inch non-touchscreen and an old-school keypad, this is for those who prefer writing their TXT MSGS the old-fashioned way. For those of you who never had a problem with predictive text, we salute you - we could never get the hang of it.
2: Network-Specific phones
Back in the day we used to see more phones that were ‘network specific’, phones that were locked to a network, like the O2 XDA.
There aren’t so many network specific phones going these days but there are a few that are worth your consideration if you’re after a phone on a shoestring. Obviously to use these phones with a giffgaff SIM you’ll need to be wise to the ways of phone unlocking.
Running Android Gingerbread the Orange Monte Carlo (£110-£120) has a big 4.3-inch screen (WVGA 480x800) that makes for easy, roomy web browsing and a 5-megapixel camera with a single LED flash. Internal memory isn’t up to much (160MB-odd) but there’s a microSD card slot so you can expand it.
Though not the fastest phone out there (it has an 800MHz processor) it’s fine for the basics and the large screen comes into its own for web browsing, checking Google Maps and viewing pictures in the gallery.
The Orange San Francisco II (£70-£120) also runs Android Gingebread comes with many of the same specs and features as the Monte Carlo, but it has a smaller 3.5-inch screen and a sleeker design. There’s a 5-megapixel (LED flash) so you get a similar picture taking quality and there’s a VGA camera on the front for self-portrait shots as well.
The T-Mobile Vivacity (£90-£120) also rocks a 5-megapixel camera with a flash, a VGA front-facing camera and a 3.5-inch screen. Despite running Android Gingerbread, physically it also bears a striking similarity to the iPhone 4/4S. So for a fraction of the price of an iPhone, you could perhaps fool your less tech-savvy friends with the T-Mobile Vivacity...
3: General all rounders
These phones do the basics and are easy to use. No powerful, flashy cameras or big touchscreens for these unassuming phones. For those who want something inexpensive to handle the every day phone functions then one of these general all rounders will be for you.
The recent HTC Explorer (£99-£130) is a perfect example of this. It’s got a 3.2-inch touchscreen which is very responsive. Despite its relatively small size, texting, checking Google Maps and browsing the web is effortless on the Explorer - its name is particularly apt in this respect.
The Huawei Blaze (£60-£115) similarly has a 3.2-inch screen but is easy to operate, responding well to the touch. Running Google’s Android OS it has a solid, chunky feel in the hand and is excellent value for its price. Internal storage is a paltry 256MB, but you can expand this with a microSD card up to 32GB. Huawei might not be as well known in the UK, but don’t let that put you off, the Blaze offers a lot of features for the money.
Same goes for the Android Samsung Galaxy Mini (£80-£100). It has a slightly bigger 3.14-inch screen and despite the low resolution (QVGA 320x240) the phone is easy to use thanks in part of the responsiveness of the screen and the simple layout. The virtual keyboard perhaps isn’t the easiest to text on, but Swype, the next-gen predictive text keyboard, comes pre-installed, which makes up for this.
Have we missed any handsets that should have made our top 10 budget phones? Let us know in the comments below.