Best cheap mobile phones for 2013
There’s more choice than ever at the budget end of the smartphone market, with most of the big players now serving up entire ranges designed for those who don’t want to spend a fortune on the latest flagship devices.
We’ve rounded up five of the best affordable smartphones for those who don’t want to forgo the experience of Windows Phone 8 or Android as they have less money to spend.
Nokia Lumia 520
The Nokia Lumia 520 is a Windows 8 phone that could really push Microsoft’s fledgling mobile OS into the spotlight. The reason? It’s incredibly cheap, even undercutting the Nokia Lumia 620 (see below) on price, and yet it’s still a highly competent smartphone, with a dual-core 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, and a 4in IPS display that’s so sensitive you can operate it with gloves on.
There’s also GPS, a 5-megapixel camera, a microSD slot for expanding the memory and the full range of Nokia apps. These include Nokia Music and the superb Nokia satnav application, which allows you to download maps of any country in the world (for free) and store them locally.
The only sign of serious cost-cutting is the screen’s low 480 x 800 resolution, which is also noticeably less vibrant than the 620’s, and the lack of a flash to go with the camera. Otherwise it’s a superb value handset – a sign Nokia is returning to its former glories.
Nokia Lumia 620
The Nokia Lumia 620 is the firm’s budget Windows Phone 8 device, but as with the 520, there’s little sign of cost-cutting on the outside. Build quality is on a par with Nokia’s more expensive handsets, and we love the distinctive curved design and replaceable case.
There’s enough power under the hood to make Windows Phone 8 feel snappy, and Nokia’s maps, satnav and music apps are included for free.
The Lumia’s battery life and camera are average. Its 3.8in 480 x 800 resolution screen is what we’d expect from a cheaper handset, but it doesn’t disappoint, serving up bold colours. All this combines to make this Lumia a great value smartphone, one only just pipped to the post as our favourite budget phone by the Lumia 520.
Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini
The Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini is an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the standard S3, and the two phones share key design elements: the off-white colour, chrome border and gently curving shape are present here, alongside the plasticky build quality we’ve come to associate with Samsung phones.
The Mini’s AMOLED screen has a 480 x 800 resolution and serves up reasonable quality. Samsung has loaded the S3 Mini with many of the TouchWiz enhancements we liked on the full-fat S3, with S Voice, lockscreen apps and headphone-specific homescreens.
The camera is good, and battery life is impressive. The Nokia is the better budget smartphone, but this is a worthwhile alternative if you prefer Android to Windows Phone 8.
HTC Windows Phone 8S
The HTC Windows Phone 8S squares up to the Nokia Lumia 620 at the budget end of the Windows Phone market. It’s available in several different colours – so you don’t have to stick with our ugly grey and yellow review sample.
The screen’s 480 x 800 resolution matches the Nokia, and its 4in diagonal is a little larger than the 3.8in Lumia. The Snapdragon S4 processor is more than enough to power the OS and demanding 3D games, and battery life is reasonable.
The HTC makes a statement with its range of two-tone designs, but the curved Lumia is just as striking – and with NFC, dual-band wireless and additional storage, the Nokia is a more versatile proposition.