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budget mobile phones

Sound the alarm people; I’m finally getting a new phone.

I’ve been putting off this leap into the advanced technological world for some time. Being still of youth I have no real excuse, and so with the January sales on I’m looking for the ideal gizmo that won’t snap at the heels of my finances.

I’m not tech savvy at all. Calls and texting is all I’ve ever really known and understood, but now I have to admit that without the latest sparkly features and software I’m living in the Stone Age.

I’ve been relying on a phone that would be better used as a door stopper. It’s an old LG handset that even when newly bought was disappointing.

The other reason for not cashing in for a new piece of kit lies with the financial corner I’ve had myself penned in over recent years. Since leaving university in 2012 and thereafter I haven’t taken the time to really consider my options.

I assumed I couldn’t afford upgrading to the world of handheld super-tech, when the truth is I can’t afford to keep the method of PAYG top-ups (Pay As You Go).

I’ve worked out I spend around £15 per month on top-ups, mostly for texting, when there are much better solutions that can allow me to do a whole lot more. There are budget mobile phones that go way beyond my desires that would cost me a similar amount to what I already pay, and others I’ve found for less that could prove to be even better deals.

Technology and Me

If I’m to be honest I do have a slight phobia of gadgets and devices. I’m the sort of person that can crash your computer just by looking at it.

My father is a maths and science wizard and some of my closest friends are able to build and repair computers, so I’ve been surrounded by tech-enthusiasts. So, I do know something about technology; it kind of rubs off…

What I want is decent phone of adequate speed and at a price I can afford. The question is: what exactly do I need my phone to do?

Here are the specific requirements I have to budget mobile phones:

3-4 inch display touch screen.  The bigger is assumed the better, although I don’t want to be carrying around a sizable lump in my coat pocket. I’m not a gamer either so I won’t require a huge screen, but a decent size would be better for viewing pleasure.

A solid construction. I’m often adamant that I’m not clumsy or awkward, but as soon as I think that I knock something over (sod’s law). No one wants to see their phone smash into a dozen pieces, so a good construction should prevent any shrieks of horror if it falls to the floor. Samsung are said to have the most brittle models, but surely they will all be fine so long as you’re not throwing it around the room.

Acceptable battery life (48+ hours). I used to think that a single day’s battery life was a decent performance, now I’m aware that a mobile phone should really work for days on end without dying. This is a grey area since it’s more vital to save money and have a decent kit, but I’d like a good battery as well.

A camera. Between 5 and 8MP (megapixel) seems to be the going resolution for phone cameras if you’re on a budget. I’m not too fussed on the highest possible quality, but there’s no point in getting a phone that mocks me by freezing or crashing as I as you try to take a picture. That would be almost as bad as my current camera phone, which I don’t use as it’s so poor.

Storage space. Like everything except for price this can be compromised. I can’t imagine I’m going to need tons of space, and considering 4GB (Gigabyte) generally holds something like 2000 images plus 2000 songs, anything around the 2GB margin will more than suffice. I’ll mostly want to back up data such as my old written pieces and recent documents to review on the go, so storage is almost a non-issue.

Price. It’s hard to put an exact figure in place when so many different devices offer so many different pros and cons. If I had to draw a line I would say that I cannot afford to pay for a phone that is over £80. However, I’d much to prefer paying monthly to break up expenses, and that stands at no more than £15 per month.

The iPhone Debate

After asking friends and reading up online the argument is, at a landslide, to keep away from the fashion statement of Apple’s iPhone.

The operating system and software used is no longer as efficient as the current android phones that I’m looking at (the latest Android ‘Jelly Bean’ and the soon to be available Android ‘KitKat’).

The central issue remains budgeting, and iPhones are not within my range at all. There is a deal available that is under £20 a month, but there are several reasons why I shouldn’t fall for this:

Reason 1: I don’t want to be paying for a tacky piece of kit that is already struggling to keep up with the times. Other devices are already ahead in speed and features.

Reason 2: Apple insist on locking their customers into 24 month contracts. This is no good if you want freedom to change networks, the handset or how much you spend on your tariff.

Reason 3: There is also the issue of the single button function that is assigned to all the iPhone’s uses and navigation. For me this is a highly annoying act of stubbornness. I’ve tried using a friend’s once and was immediately turned off and confused by the singular button. Perhaps it is me that is stubborn but I don’t like it.

Compromises to Make

From what I’ve found online there are some good options but the key word is compromise. This shouldn’t be a problem since I’m already well behind the pace of technological advances.  A twelve or eighteen month old Samsung or HTC phone would be as much as I’ve ever seen. In fact, the most up to date and expensive phones would seem more science fiction to me.

I’m obviously not up to date myself so the fastest speeds and very latest features are not crucial. The main thing is not to be insistent of having the very best camera or a quad core processor, but consider single or dual core CPU’s. The difference between them mostly lies with media qualities like the colour levels and vibrancy. I genuinely don’t need a great camera, especially as I’m someone who more so appreciates traditional film cameras for proper photography and don’t take an abundance of ‘selfies’, or other pointless photos.

Options Available to Me

Let’s get down to it then and see what are the best budget mobile phones.

I’ve narrowed it down to 6 Android phones. Android is the latest software engineered by Google and I’ve only heard good things about it, especially how you are able to easily customise your phone with Android.

It’s not straightforward to distinguish between the phones themselves from a novice’s perspective, so what I’ve done is considered how each one would benefit me and if anything is of no use or interest. Then I only had to match them against the cheapest available price.

Option 1: ZTE Blade V – £82

Not extensively well known but has decent reviews. It has a large 4 inch display screen and 5MP (megapixel) rear camera, but is currently only available on Virgin. Apparently not the slickest out there but it does have a quad-core processor. At £82 it’s at the peak of what I’d consider paying if I bought a phone outright. There isn’t a PAYG option to my knowledge, which doesn’t bode well for its chances as a purchase.

Option 2: Nokia Lumia 620 – £100 or £11 a month

Not only is this device available in a range of striking colours but its exterior is tough. As well as a strong construction it’s said to be versatile. It also runs on a quad-core processor. The down sides are its poor battery life and an average sized display screen. The latter I can compensate for but as we’ve all experienced with older phone models a good battery is essential when travelling. A dead phone is no use at all when out and about, but for £11 a month I might be willing to give it a try.

Option 3: Sony Xperia U – £80 or £14 a month

A fancier option with its sleek and refined look. It has a 3.5 inch display touch screen and dual-core processor too. Like most recent android phones there are two cameras; the main one on the front is said to be good for video calls, whilst a second one at the back is good for quick ‘snaps’.  It’s said to be reliable for day to day use, with a modest 4GB storage space, and at £14 a month it is something I can afford.

Option 4: Huawei Ascend Y300 – £100 or £7.50 a month

An intriguing phone as it’s not produced by one of the huge companies, though I struggle to pronounce its name. The camera is said to be average if not below par but with some unique picture editing features this touch screen device ticks all the important boxes. The main of two cameras it has is also 5MP and it has the quad-core processor, but its best selling point is in its value. It should be ideal being on a tight budget and at £7.50 a month I’m struggling to see a good reason why not to go for this phone.

Option 5: Sony Xperia SP – £180 or £15.50 a month

In terms of specs and speeds this is the best of all the phones I’ve been considering. I can’t deny it would be an exciting gadget with its 8MP camera and 4G connectivity (fast internet connection). It’s said to outperform any other phone in this price margin, and no doubt tramples all over the iPhone. However, I’m not sure how much I really need this fast and fancy phone. Even at the great price of £15 or so a month I’d rather go for something that’s a little more modest and several pounds cheaper.

Option 6: Moto G – £120 or £11 a month

Several technical websites have it down as the best budget handset around.  With a large 4.5 inch display screen it’s equip with a quad-core processor and a 5MP camera. Like most handsets it also has another front camera, yet this one is the best I’ve seen at 1.3MP. Apart from the very reasonable asking price of £11 a month the best benefit of this phone is the guaranteed update to the Android KitKat operating system in the New Year. I’m not at all sure how tempted I am by this.

What’s my decision?

My favourite is the Huawei Ascend Y300 simply due to the price at £7.50 per month. I’ve considered at length the Moto G at £11 per month since experts say it is the best reward for your money. But I have to consider my very modest requirements, and so I’d do better to save £3.50 each month until I feel I need to upgrade to anything of so called excellence. I’m also keen to give a less well known company a try, but really it’s all down to that amazingly low price.

Preferably I’d like to speak to a salesman who may be able to back up or disregard any of my findings before sealing any deal, and so I will. At least now I know half a dozen phones that would be suitable and enjoyable for much less money as I originally thought.

In the future I intend to see what laptop I can get for a good price, as this one is as also getting as tired of me as I am of it.


photo credit: lyk3_0n3_tym3 via photopin cc