Dilemma - you want a new phone that’s half decent but you’re not prepared to fork out £500 odd for the privilege. You aren’t fussed about what’s currently the cutting edge. But by the same token you don’t want something awful that you’ll hate within a few months, if not immediately.
You just want a phone that a) works b) has a couple of decent features/doesn’t look terrible and c) doesn't cost the earth.
Luckily there’s a number of phones that fall into this nebulous remit that can be snapped up right now. Many high-end phones from last year have dropped in price and there are some some excellent ‘mid-range’ phone. Here’s ten of the best we’ve seen recently that will cost between £150 and £300.
1. General, all-rounders
If you’re in the market for a phone that does bit of everything - checks emails, has a web browser, takes semi-decent pictures - then a general all-rounder is probably what you want.
HTC’s Wildfire S (£150 - 200) is a good choice; running Android the 5-megapixel camera comes with a single LED flash and is fine for occasional pictures in most environments. As it runs on Android you get the super-slick Gmail app built in and the web browser is easy to use. Coming in a range of colours and boasting a smart design, it’s easy on the eye as well.
The same goes for the Samsung Galaxy Ace (£150 - 200); you get a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash, Google services like Search and Gmail built in plus an easy to use browser. Design-wise it’s cut from similar cloth to the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, albeit with a reflective plastic trim running around the edge instead of metal.
The HTC Rhyme (£290-£350) is a bit pricier than the others but that’s because there’s more of an emphasis on style and design here, but if you look carefully you can get it for under £300. In terms of function you get a similar camera (again, 5-megapixels, LED flash) but a big 3.7-inch screen and the latest version of HTC Sense - HTC’s custom interface that makes customising and getting about the phone’s menus and settings a piece of cake.
Phones which have powerful cameras that are on par with higher-end smartphones, but otherwise a little lacking elsewhere in the specs department. If you want a new phone mainly for taking high-quality pictures on, then a cameraphone is what you need.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S (£280-£350) is notable for having a 4.2-inch screen and a concave design, but the real standout feature is the 8-megapixel camera. Coming with a low-light sensor that absorbs more ambient light, you can take clear pictures in dark and low-lit areas without necessarily using the LED flash.
The Nokia N8 (£200-£350) features a bigger 12-megapixel camera with a more powerful xenon flash. Running Symbian it can record 720p HD video with continuous auto focus at 30fps and has an HDMI out socket. It’s generally regarded as one of the best camera phones out there. Very highly priced on its launch back in 2010 it can now be had up for a fraction of its former cost.
3. The Work Phone
Unfussy in terms of style but functional and practical - the work phone gets the job done.
The BlackBerry Curve 9380 (£250-£280) boasts solid battery life (5.5 hours talk time, 15 hours standby time) a responsive touchscreen and access to BlackBerry services - BlackBerry Email and BBM. Best of all it’s significantly cheaper than higher-end phones like the BlackBerry Bold 9900 while retaining the core work functionality.
Samsung’s Omnia W (£280-£300) is one of the more recent phones to come to the Windows Phone 7 platform. As with all phones that run on Microsoft’s new mobile OS, Office Mobile comes built in, allowing you to open and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, as well as documents stored on SharePoint Online folders. Using the 25GB of SkyDrive storage space you can easily make, save and share notes with colleagues. For your money you also get a 3.7-inch screen, a 5-megapixel camera and 8GB of internal memory.
4. The Gaming Phone
Pretty much every phone these days can play Angry Birds and/or has access to a library of casual puzzlers. We’ve come a long way since the days of Snake.
With this is mind there are phones out there aimed more squarely at those who want a bit more out of mobile gaming.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play (£150 - £200), aka the ‘PSP Phone’, features a slide-out gamepad with touch pads that mimic the old DualShock-style touch analogue sticks. There’s also a healthy cast of games that are designed specifically for this phone, including Minecraft: Pocket Edition and FIFA 12 as well as full ports of old-school PS1 classics.
Motorola’s Atrix (£250-£300) doesn’t have quite the same gaming credentials as the Xperia Play, but it features Nvidia’s Tegra 2 dual-core chip. This means it’s able to handle graphically advanced games like Grand Theft Auto III, Sprinkle and Dungeon Defenders.
LG’s Optimus Black (£225-£300) might seem like a strange choice given that it’s got no overt gaming credentials or a dual-core chip. But it does have a 4-inch screen that utilises LG’s NOVA technology. This provides great levels of contrast and good legibility in direct sunlight, making it ideal for gaming on a lazy summer’s day.
When choosing a SIM-only deal, make sure you choose a goodybag that suits your requirements; there’s no point paying for texts or calls you aren’t going to use. If you're using your phone for business phone, you may require a £25 goodybag with unlimited data for push email, along with 1500 minutes for conversations.
For gaming, a goodybag with unlimited data is essential if you’re downloading on the go, but you may not require as many minutes. Many people are facing tight financial circumstances at the moment, if this is you opt for a SIM with a low monthly cost, giffgaff's propositions start at £5 without data or £10 with data. Unlimited data is essential if you are a photographer who likes sharing your pictures on Facebook and Twitter, unlimited data is a must and you can choose between goodybags with from 250 to 1500 minutes.