Pay as you go doesn't mean shoddy any more. This year saw the release of a host of great Android mobiles at affordable price points as well as some stellar music mobiles. And that's not to mention some fantastic messaging focussed business phones that you don't need to be on a banker's salary to afford. But only ten phones could make our top ten. And here they are:
1 Samsung Galaxy Europa
Choose the Europa and you get onboard with great Android applications and modern smartphone functions for a fraction of the outlay of the likes of the Galaxy S and HTC Desire.
The Europa runs the 2.1 version of Android out of the box and there’s a smart two-megapixel camera and responsive 2.8-inch touchscreen onboard. And with seven customisable homescreens for you to fill with widgets and shortcuts, you can really have your phone just the way you want it.
With microSD card support up to 16GB, there’s plenty of room for the welter of great apps you’ll be downloading, as well as all your favourite music and movies to enjoy on the stock media player.
2 Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini
Weighing in at just 86g and not much bigger than a credit card, the Xperia X10 Mini is the lightest Android phone so far. But it’s still got room for a 2.6-inch touchscreen, a five-megapixel camera with LED flash and autofocus.
It also comes with great apps pre-installed, including Gmail, YouTube and Facebook. And because it’s an Android phone, you get to choose from tens of thousands more from the Android Market online software store too.
3 Sony Ericsson Zylo
One for music fans. This Walkman-branded mobile harnesses all the stereo knowhow you’ve come to expect from Sony, with near lossless playback and rich stereo sound. And you get access to Sony’s PlayNow download service, so you can grab the latest tunes while you’re on the go, and the built-in TrackID feature that lets you record a bit of unfamiliar and find out its title and the artist in a matter of seconds.
Elsewhere, you’ll find a 2.6-inch screen, which is just fine for viewing YouTube clips, expandable memory, easy access to social networking sites and a 3.2 megapixel camera.
Our favourite feature, however, is the option to set sound affects, such as office sounds, to play in the background while you’re making or taking a call. Trust us, it’s brilliant for when you need to pretend to be somewhere when you’re really sinking a few jars at a hostelry.
4 Orange San Francisco
For just £99, this Orange exclusive is another brilliantly priced Android phone that puts paid to the idea that you’ve to get to spend an arm and a leg to get a great mobile.
Standout features include the 2.1 version of Android, sat-nav with the built-in free Orange Maps, an MP3 player and a three-megapixel camera. You can also customise your homescreen to give it a twist that’s unique to you and, of course, you get access to all the great apps on sale at the Android Market as well.
And last but not least, if you choose the San Francisco you also benefit from Orange Wednesdays. That gets you two-for-one cinema entry every Wednesday and cheap eats at Pizza Express.
What’s more for a limited period, all San Francisco buyers who buy through Top10.com get a goodie box worth £70, including an LCD watch, a Christmas phone stocking, to keep your new phone cosy this Christmas, a yoyo, rubik’s cube key chain, playing cards and free downloads to get you started on your new phone, such as a free wallpaper, ringtone, calling tune, game and video.
5 BlackBerry Curve 8520
BlackBerrys are brilliant business tools and outright great phones too. But until recently they’ve been very expensive to buy outright, putting them beyond the reach of enterprise users.
That’s not the case any more, though. And the great BlackBerry Curve 8520 is proof positive. For just £109 you get a phone that’s fantastic for messaging on the go, with the physical QWERTY keyboard and advanced email capabilities that BlackBerrys are famed for.
And it’s no slouch elsewhere either. Not when it’s got a two-megapixel camera, easy-to-use trackpad for navigating your way around the phone, great social networking apps pre-installed, plus loads more to get your hands on from the BlackBerry App World.
6 HTC Wildfire
Android has dominated the smartphone market this year. And part of the reason for that was great pay as you phones. Not least among them the HTC Wildfire, which is to all intents and purposes the HTC Desire’s younger – and much more affordable – little brother.
To make it easy to navigate your way around the handset, HTC has included a handy optical trackpad that works a bit like a mouse. Or, depending on your preference, you can just use the touch-operated display interface to active and use those great Android apps you’ll be downloading.
There’s a sweet feature set here, too – especially given the price. Not least the five-megapixel camera with LED flash. Plus, because it runs the latest version of Android 2.1 out of the box and is eligible for the 2.2 edition too, it offers the very latest functions that the platform offers. That includes everything from 720p video recording, plus Flash Player support and USB tethering. The update also makes the handset faster to use and improves battery life.
Finally, weighing in at just 118g, this is one of the lightest Android mobiles around – bested only in the compact and bijou stakes by the X10 Mini.
7 Nokia X3 Touch & Type
Nokia’s X3 Touch & Type is so called because it combines a traditional alpha numeric keypad with an up to the minute touchscreen. That means you can use the keypad for fiddly tasks like composing text messages and emails and making calls. Meanwhile, the touchscreen is there for fun functions such as playing games and surfing the web.
Other features of the compact X3 – weighing in at just 86g - include a five-megapixel camera with video recording, 3G, Bluetooth and WiFi. Plus, there’s an MP3 player onboard to keep you entertained and a 3.5mm headphone jack to allow you to use it with the best stereo equipment and 50Mb of capacity for storing tracks. This can be boosted by up to 32GB by adding a microSD card.
8 Nokia 1800
At just £4.95, the Nokia 1800 is a fantastically priced PAYG phone. What’s more, it makes mobile phones as easy as can be. With its traditional layout, easy to use menus, it’s perfect for novice mobile users and anyone who doesn’t need a phone with all the bells and whistles. And it’s ideal too for people who want a second phone as a spare or to take out when you don’t want to risk loss or damage to your more expensive, multi-functional smartphone.
The 1800 also offers great call clarity, impressive talk time of up to 8hrs 30 minutes and a handy onboard FM radio for catching up with news and sports and listening to music.
9 Samsung Tocco Lite
Don’t be fooled by the fact that this phone features the word ‘lite’ in its name. It’s far from light on features. Onboard it’s got a 3.2-megapixel camera with smile detection for happier snapping and video recording. The Tocco Lite also offers plenty of scope to customise your phone with widgets and offers quick access to all your favourite social networking sites. A responsive 3.2-inch touchscreen that makes it easy to find your way around is the icing on the cake of a very attractive mobile at a very attractive price.
10 LG Cookie Lite
Phone’s don’t come much sweeter than the Cookie range. This lite edition is another cute-as-a-button phone with a cartoony user interface and appealing 2.2-inch touchscreen is a mobile that really puts the fun in functionality. Features include a 1.3-megapixel camera with video recording, handwriting recognition for easy text input, an MP3 player and built-in games.