Best cheap smartphones: PAYG mobiles compared £175

1st Aug 2014 | 11:20

Best cheap smartphones: PAYG mobiles compared

We compare the best budget blowers on the market

TechRadar rating:

3.5 stars

Featuring a simple back-to-basics approach by LG, the Optimus One is a sturdy and affordable way to get into Android – especially since it's the first really cheap phone to come with Android 2.2.

Like:

Solidly built; Uncluttered Android 2.2 OS; Great battery life; Some clever custom LG widgets;

Dislike:

Bland design; Processor struggles when asked to perform; Low-res screen makes web reading a chore; No Flash Player 10.1 support;

Best budget phones: 10-6

With the mobile marketplace teeming with a multitude of highly priced smartphones, one might wonder whether cheap phones still have a place in the mobile infrastructure.

With massive innovation in both hardware and operating systems, phones now do a lot more than just let you talk and text, with handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One M8 and iPhone 5S stealing headlines around the world these days.

Sadly all this innovation isn't cheap – and most of it is reserved for high-end contract handsets. So, is there such a thing as the 'best phone on a budget'?

We've been through our extensive mobile phone reviews to find the best cheap phones at the moment, so if you're looking to pick up a decent handset for not much wonga (under £200 in fact), these are the best budget phones going.

10. Sony Xperia SP

Sony Xperia SP

The Sony Xperia SP is a phone that's flown a little under the radar, but one of the main draws is the 8MP camera.

There are a range of settings and the quality of the images it produces were well beyond what we would expect from a smartphone at this price.

There are other things we really dig on the SP too: the inclusion of a microSD slot is always welcome, and the Walkman app makes a mid-range handset really shine for the music lover.

It's also packing 4G connectivity for speedy data on the go, which again is really rather nice for the price - in short, it's a handset that outperforms its price tag.

9. BlackBerry Z10

BlackBerry Z10

What's this... a BlackBerry in the list? Well yes, the BlackBerry Z10 has seen one of the most dramatic price drops in smartphone history which actually now makes it a rather attractive proposition.

For not much money at all, you get a 4.2-inch HD display, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 8MP rear facing camera plus a 2MP front snapper - not bad at all.

Of course there are questions about BlackBerry's stability, but it's not going to disappear overnight so you won't be left high and dry if you plump for the Z10.

You'll need to get to grips with the new BlackBerry 10 platform, but any business users out there looking for a messaging machine the Z10 is now an excellent choice.

8. Samsung Galaxy Ace 3

Samsung Galaxy Ace 3

With a bright display, decent battery and 4G data speeds the Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 packages up a respectable feature set in an affordable parcel.

It is a little on the heavy side, and we weren't huge fans of the keyboard or camera, but an easy to use UI and the ability to download third party keyboards keeps this minor issues at bay.

In true Samsung fashion you can take the rear cover off the Galaxy Ace 3, giving you access to the removable battery and microSD slot - two features which are key for some smartphone buyers.

In short, it brings the latest in mobile technology to the masses, and that alone will help the Ace 3 sell well.

7. Sony Xperia M2

Sony Xperia M2

Fancy a smartphone which has taken its design cues from one of the hottest handsets of 2014? Then look no further than the Sony Xperia M2 which borrows its style from the Xperia Z2.

Add an attractive interface, impressive battery life and a sub-£200 PAYG price tag into the mix and you'll be laughing all the way to the bank with the Xperia M2.

There are a few compromises to be had, as there is with every budget blower, so don't expect the camera to sparkle and the low resolution screen means you'll probably want to avoid watches movies on the M2.

On the plus side the screen is 4.8 inches in size, giving you a whole lot of real estate for all your apps and games that can take advantage of the quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM.

6. Nokia Lumia 635

Nokia Lumia 635

The similarities between the Nokia Lumia 635 and Lumia 630 are plentiful - there are just three differences between the two.

Firstly, the Lumia 635 comes with a glossy, removable rear cover, while the Lumia 630 is finished in a matte finish - although both are identical in size so you can swap covers between them.

The second difference is more important - the Lumia 635 is 4G enabled, giving you access to faster data speeds for rapid app downloads and smooth video streaming. This addition also brings us to the third difference - the price.

The extra cost for 4G means the 635 isn't as great value for money as its 3G brother, hence the rankings here. Still, if you want 4G speeds then the 635 will still deliver and smooth, fluid experience.

Best budget phones: 5-1

5. Motorola Moto E

Motorola Moto E

The Moto E is the baby of Motorola's current range of smartphones and with a super-low price tag comes a solid handset which gives you all the key parts of Android with minimum fuss.

There's a 4.3-inch display, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 5MP rear camera, 1980mAh battery and Android 4.4 KitKat packed into this dinky dialler and while those specs won't set the world alight they're good enough at this low price point.

It does lack the zip of the Moto G, internal storage is low at 4GB and the rear camera is poor, but stick a microSD card into the handset and it'll cope with most general apps and games.

For £90 or less there are very few compelling options and when it comes to Android handsets at that price we'd argue that there's nothing else out there as good as the Moto E.

4. EE Kestrel

EE Kestrel

If you're really keen on getting a 4G smartphone, but your budget is small, then the EE Kestrel is certainly worth considering.

It touts itself as the cheapest 4G smartphone on the market with a PAYG price tag of just £99, and that gets you a 4.5-inch display, 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 5MP rear camera, 1MP front camera, 8GB of internal storage, microSD slot and a 2000mAh battery.

The Android 4.3 Jelly Bean operating system is getting on a bit now, and the Huawei user interface isn't one of the best overlays we've used, but it's not terrible.

If you must have 4G on your budget smartphone then the Kestrel is a decent shout, but there are better options around.

3. Nokia Lumia 520

Nokia Lumia 520

The Nokia Lumia 520 is a jack of all trades and a master of none - although it really manages to make a good fist of everything it tries, for the price.

It looks good, it's got a decent screen both in terms of size and resolution, it rarely stutters or slows down, it's great for calls and messaging, reasonable for media and okay for photos.

To achieve a lower price point the 520 has had to strip away a few things - there's no NFC, compass, camera flash or front facing camera here.

The Nokia Lumia 520 certainly isn't an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy beater - but it's a superb Windows Phone 8 device that you can pick up for under £100.

If you're a fan of a simple interface with some quality add-ons, then you should definitely look at Nokia's latest attempt to win over the smartphone naysayers.

2. Nokia Lumia 630

Nokia Lumia 630

The Nokia Lumia 630 finds itself several places above its brother the Lumia 635 in the rankings - why you may ask - well let us tell you.

It has the same screen, processor, camera and battery as the Lumia 635, yet costs less because it's only 3G and not 4G. At the low-cost price point 4G isn't too much of a big deal, and thus the lower price of the 630 makes it a better proposition.

You get a 4.5-inch display, 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 512MB of RAM, 5MP rear camera, 1830mAh battery and the new Windows Phone 8.1 operating system.

The Nokia Lumia 630 is one of the very best affordable smartphones currently on the market, and it only narrowly misses out on top spot due to the slightly better speced Moto G.

1. Motorola Moto G

Moto G

Moto G - Best budget smartphone

What's this, a Motorola topping a "best of" list? Your eyes do not deceive you, Motorola is back and the Moto G is a cracking handset.

In fact the Moto G is the best budget handset currently on the market, and if you're looking for maximum bang for your buck look no further.

Take a gander at the spec list and the Moto G simply blows the rest of the phones here out of the water. It's rocking an excellent 4.5-inch, 720 x 1280 HD display, 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 5MP rear camera and 1.3MP front snapper.

If you're willing to splash a little bit of extra cash you can also pick up the Motorola Moto 4G which adds a microSD slot and 4G connectivity into the mix while still keeping the price under £150.

The camera isn't particularly brilliant and there's no NFC, but those are minor concessions in what is otherwise a top notch smartphone.

Looking to pick up a new mobile? Check out our mobile buying guide first:

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