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Top 10 budget phones for 2012

handy giff-staffer

A few months ago we brought you our ten best budget smartphones. The mobile phone market is incredibly fast paced, with new phones being released and prices dropping on a monthly basis, so we’ve updated our list. 


It’s now possible to get some fantastic phones priced £100 and less, for texting and general use. giffgaff goodbags (our SIM only deals) start from £5 a month for calls and texts, or £10 a month if you want data - so using a mobile phone is cheaper than ever. These handsets are all available on PAYG so you’ll need to factor in an additional top up cost.



1: Keyboard all the way


In modern smartphones the screen is usually a headline feature - do you opt for a bigger screen for watching movies comfortably or something smaller to fit in your pocket? Not everyone is a fan of using a touchscreen though, for some physical keyboards are a must for sending messages.


The Nokia Asha 201 (£40-£60) is the perfect phone for talking and texting, with space for 1000 contacts and IM services like Google Talk and Facebook Chat. There’s a basic browser, mp3 player and 2-megapixel camera for taking snaps.  The 2.4-inch screen is a bit small for movies, it’s not touch responsive and there’s no WiFi, but overall the Nokia Asha 201 is an affordable phone for messaging fans


An Android phone with a full QWERTY keyboard? Try the Alcatel OneTouch 916 (£60) the keys are a good size and there’s an optical touch-pad for navigating. Don’t be fooled by the low price - the phone feels solid and well connected with 3G and WiFi. A nice bonus at this price is the inclusion of a burst mode on the 3.2-megapixel camera.


Just scraping into our top 10 is the £110-£120 BlackBerry Curve 9320, with 3G, WiFi and 2.4-inch screen. The keyboard is excellent whether firing quick texts or longer emails, you get BBM, RIM’s secure email and access to the BlackBerry App Store. If the white or black chassis is too dull, you’ve got the choice of Vivid Violet, Classic Blue, Velvet Purple, Hot Pink or Pure Red instead.



2: Network specific


Very often the networks will pair up with a phone manufacturer to release a phone under their own brand, complete with a customer skin and apps. To use these on giffgaff you’ll need to get them unlocked.


Vodafone’s second installment in the Smart range - the Vodafone Smart 2 (£70) is a respectable all-rounder, with a 3.2-inch touchscreen which is passable for playing games and watching movies. Running Android 2.3 Gingerbread, you can download apps from the Google Play store over WiFi or 3G and store them on the supplied 2GB memory card. The 3-megapixel camera isn’t great, but the Smart 2 is a solid, great-value choice.


You might have deja vu now - the Orange San Francisco 2 made our previous list  but at £69 it’s now even cheaper. Running Android 2.3 Gingerbread, there’s a 3.5-inch screen you can customise with apps, and a respectable 5-megapixel camera with a flash. Orange supplies a 2GB memory card, but be warned the phone has a lot of Orange bloatware - features you might not use, which can slow the phone down.


3: All-rounders


If you want a smartphone with a decent web browser, touchscreen, camera, music player and access to an app store for downloading games, try one of these phones.


With a PAYG price tag of just £59.99 the ZTE Kis is ludicrously cheap for a phone that runs Android. The 3.5-inch touchscreen is adequate for playing games and browsing the web - tasks ably handled by the 800MHz processor.  The 3.2-megapixel camera has autofocus (but no flash) and photos can be stored on the supplied 2GB card.  Available from Virgin Mobile, the ZTE Kis might have a low price point, but offers more features than phones three times as expensive.


If you’re not a fan of the ZTE Kis’s looks, fellow Chinese manufacturer Huawei offers the Huawei G300. This Android-powered smartphone has looks to match its impressive spec sheet, which includes a decent 4-inch IPS display, 5-megapixel camera, 1GHz processor and 2.5GB of usable storage. And the price? £100 from Vodafone - making the G300 a very attractive package indeed.


The Sony Xperia Tipo (£89.99) is the cheapest smartphone we've seen that runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, overlayed with some Sony’s custom skin which has excellent widgets and a great keyboard. Results from the 3.2-megapixel camera are a little soft, but fine for casual photographs and movies and there’s a 3.2-inch screen. Overall an enticing combination of stylish design and up-to-date UI.


The Nokia Lumia 610  (£100) runs Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system. With a simple, yet customisable tiled UI and just two screens, it’s a great choice for those looking for their first smartphone.  Highlights include sat nav Nokia Drive, 25GB Skydrive cloud storage and metallic colour choices, although photographs taken using the 5-megapixel are disappointing and the 600MHz processor can’t handle some games like Angry Birds.


The LG Optimus L3 (£89-£100) is the smallest member of LG’s L-Series handsets: a range of Android smartphones with top-notch design in mind. The L3 is nippy, compact and stylish, featuring Android Gingerbread, a 3.2-megapixel camera (there’s no flash though), 800MHz single-core processor and 1GB internal memory. Looks are the Optimus L3’s forté with a ‘floating display’ design and a distinctive diamond motif all weighing in at just 110 grams.


So there's an updated top 10 from us, which budget handsets would get your vote?  Tell us in the comments below.


Great post!
ace of spades
Also the lg 400 optimus only £49 at the carphone warehouse, it does everything an I phone does and its also on android which is great for free games.ive tried every phone out there and lg at the moment for budget use,games,facebook and twitter its exellent,i also have a 32gig sd in place and now have 2 hr long videos installed also 2.500 tracks and full albums and over 1000 family pics.its the future.
Sister recently bought a brand new white Samsung Galaxy Ace running on Android 2.2 for £89.95 at Carphone Warehouse Smiley Happy or they did black too, I thought that was good value. 5MP camera too

I bought a Huawei G300 for £99 last month. Read my article about upgrading the G300 to Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) by the official Vodafone method. And how to roll it back to Android 2.3.6 (Gingerbread) for those who may want to.



I have to say, for the budget end - you can't beat lumia 610, absolutely a great phone for the price paid ... definitely my christmas buy...


The Huawei looks great for the price.

I'm right...

Very informative.The Huawei is a fantastic phone-I've had one for about 6 months and I'm really happy with it.


The xperia U was left out of this, I don't own one, but it seems to be a powerful budget phone.


Great roundup thanks.  Also a growining trend to direct import phones from China now - more risky than UK purchase but for those on a budget can be a good deal...