The top 10 cheap smartphones

ByDuncan Heaney

Want a decent smartphone, but don’t want to pay top whack? Take a look at these handsets...

Smartphones are amazing. A whole computer, sitting right there in your pocket, giving you access to the internet, music, movies, games, books, photos - you name it. It's just a shame they're so expensive, right?

Well, no. You don't need to splash hundreds of pounds on Apple or Samsung's latest wonderslab to get a decent handset these days. There are plenty of budget and mid-range handsets that give you a great experience for a fraction of the cost of the iPhones and Galaxy S3s of the world. Here are just ten of them:

Sony Xperia U 

XperiaU

The appeal of the Sony Xperia U isn't immediately obvious. It's small, blocky and uses a disappointingly outdated version of Google Android. Despite that, we love it.

That's because the Xperia U is glowing proof that good things can come in small packages. And when we say glowing we mean it - a light strip circling the phone lights up and changes colour dynamically to match what you're doing on your handset. It's a small touch, but one that lends the Xperia U an undeniable quirky charm. There's substance to match the style too, including some useful included apps, such as McAfee mobile security, and great music playback - even through the speakers.

For more about the Sony Xperia U, take a look at our review.

Vodafone Smart II

Vodafone Smart II

The Vodafone Smart II isn't for everyone. If you want to use your phone as a handy music player, watch movies, play the latest high-performance mobile games or be on a mobile network that isn't Vodafone (www.Vodafone.co.uk), you're probably better off looking elsewhere. However, if you want to browse the web, check Facebook, pick up your emails or even - gasp - make a phone call, the Smart II will let you do it with minimal impact on your bank balance. The battery's pretty impressive too.

For more information, check out our review.

Nokia Lumia 710 

Nokia Lumia 710

Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 operating system doesn't have the biggest audience. Many phone fans seem reluctant to take a punt on the platform, preferring to go with the more established options of Android and Apple iOS. We think that's a shame, because handsets like the Nokia Lumia 710 make a convincing case for Windows Phone.

The Lumia 710 isn't the most feature-rich device out there, but it's easy to use, responsive, has a decent screen and offers high-quality music and video playback. It also comes bundled with some convenient apps, such as Nokia Drive - a useful and easy to use navigation tool.

Add the strengths of Windows Phone, such as the ability to see all your social media messages in one place, and Xbox Live integration for gamers, and you have a mobile phone with a lot to offer.

For a more detailed look at the Lumia 710, check out our review.

HTC Desire C

HTC Desire C

The attraction of the HTC Desire C is plain to see - it looks good, it's easy to use, and runs on Android 4.0 - often referred to as Ice Cream Sandwich - offering compatibility with a wider range of apps than many other handsets on this list. It's also very easy to use, and makes for a particularly great music player.

The trade off is that it's a little underpowered, meaning it can struggle with more demanding apps, such as graphically sophisticated games. However, even with that taken into account, the Desire C is a solid, well made phone that's worth every penny.

Blackberry Curve 9320

BlackBerry Curve 9320

Touchscreens are all well and good, but some people just prefer the feel of physical buttons. Hooray then for BlackBerrys, which have remained reassuringly committed to the good ol' Qwerty keyboard.

The BlackBerry Curve 9320 is a cheap and sturdy option, offering great messaging capabilities and a battery that seems to last forever. It doesn't offer much in the way of media capabilities, but it does sport an intuitive interface, access to a wide range of useful apps and, of course, that keyboard, which makes writing things like emails, social media posts and notes a breeze.

Robust, easy to use and uncomplicated, the BlackBerry Curve 9320 is a serious phone, for serious users, but without the seriously high price tag.

To find out more, take a look at our review.

Samsung Galaxy Fit

Samsung Galaxy Fit

The all-powerful Samsung Galaxy S3 may hog the headlines, but there are other Galaxy handsets available that are more suitable for people who don't want to pay a stratospheric amount. The oddly-named - considering it isn't designed with athletic use specifically in mind - Galaxy Fit offers most of the major features you'd expect from a smartphone, and does many of them just as well as devices with triple the price tag.

It's not the most powerful phone in the world, and the battery life isn't great either, but for a small cache of cash, you get a decent camera, a reasonable web browsing experience and an easy way to keep track of your social media accounts from one place, thanks to the Social Hub app.

In short, the Samsung Galaxy Fit may not be out of this world, but it's more than fit for purpose. Check our review to learn more.

Motorola Motoluxe

Motorola Motoluxe

Want the high-end smartphone experience without having to pay for a high-end smartphone? Enter the Motorola Motoluxe.

Considering its modest price, the Motoluxe does a good job of emulating the look and feel of a much more expensive device. It has a decent-sized screen, is comfortable to hold, and easy to use. It even manages to eke out its own identity, thanks to a light in the corner of the handset that alerts you to messages and notifications.

It's not the fastest smartphone in the world, but if looks and comfort matter to you, it's a decent choice.

To learn more about the Motorola Motoluxe, take a look at our review.

ZTE Blade III

ZTE Blade III

The ZTE Blade III is one of the most interesting phones you can get for its price. For relatively little money, you get a solid Android phone with a 4inch touchscreen, a 1Ghz processor, 2GB of onboard memory - expandable up to 32GB with a microSD card - and a decent, if unspectacular, 5Mp camera.

It runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream sandwich - you're essentially getting a mid-range smartphone for a budget price. It's available in the UK now, initially from Virgin Media. If you're already a Virgin Media (www.VirginMedia.co.uk) phone, broadband or TV subscriber, the ZTE Blade III may be a good choice as you'll pay £5 a month less for contracts than new customers.

Huawei Ascend G300

Huawei Ascend G300

We'll be honest - the Huawei Ascend G300 isn't particularly slick; while it looks the part, the moment you turn it on things get a little scrappy, with poorly translated text and unclear instructions. However, it's responsive, powerful enough to run movies, music and games without too much difficulty, and the screen is rather lovely. It all adds up to give the Huawei Ascend G300 the feel of a solid mid-range phone, despite its distinctly low-end price.

Google Nexus 4

Google Nexus 4

Made by LG, the mid-range device Google Nexus 4 is one of the most expensive phones on this list, but it certainly gives you value for money.

It's impressively fast, with a 1.5Ghz quad core processor and 2GB of RAM. It boasts a large 4.7inch screen, an 8MP camera on the rear, and it runs on the latest version of Android - commonly known as  Jellybean.

If you're thinking that makes sounds more like a rival to the Samsung Galaxy S3 or Apple iPhone than a 'cheap smartphone', you're not far off, but the Nexus 4 is half the price of those flagship devices.

It's not a perfect device - storage is a little tight on both the 8GB and 16GB models - and there's no expandable storage to improve matters. It's also proved to be surprisingly hard to get your hands on one - it's been consistently sold out since it launched.

But niggles aside, the Google Nexus 4 remains a great way to get the high-end smartphone experience at a fraction of the price.

So, what do you think? Are our affordable smartphones spot on, or is there some glaring omissions? Let us know - after all, arguing about lists is what the internet is all about!

Last updated: Monday, February 18, 2013