At uSwitch we know it can be difficult choosing a new smartphone, especially if you’re a first-time buyer or are on a budget. To save you the trouble of sifting through the plethora of options out there, we’ve picked the ten cheap handsets that give you the best bang for your buck.
N.B. Prices are estimates. Contract prices selected from those that offer a free handset.
1. Samsung Galaxy Ace 2
The sequel to Samsung’s best-selling budget Android phone ups the ante on its predecessor with a 3.8-inch WVGA TFT display, a dual core 800MHz processor with 768MB of RAM and a none-too-shabby five-megapixel camera with video capture skills at 720p HD.
Android 2.3 Gingerbread is installed out of the box, as are a range of key Samsung apps. You’ll also find all the essential connectivity options on board (think: Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, HSDPA support, etc), plus 4GB of internal storage and a microSD slot to expand that even further.
Price: From £175 on Pay as you go, £15 on contracts
2. HTC Explorer
HTC’s latest tilt at a budget Android smartie won’t win any awards for high-end bells and whistles, but it’s cheap as chips and sports a respectable 3.2-inch display in a slick, pocket-friendly design (available in a range of colours) that deserves any new smartfan’s serious consideration.
The 600Mhz processor might seem underpowered, but is more than capable of handling day-to-day activities such as checking emails and accessing social networks. And it comes with Android Gingerbread, too. What’s not to like?
Price: From £120 on PAYG, £7 on contracts
3. Orange San Francisco II
The Orange San Francisco II improves on its forbear in every respect – boasting a faster 800MHz processor, a brighter screen and a slicker, smarter design. The camera, too, has been upgraded, to five megapixels, with autofocus and LED flash to boot.
Where it stands out from other budget Android phones, though, are its Signal Boost and HD Voice capabilities that offer improved call quality when you’re indoors or can’t get a great reception. Smart, eh?
Price: £99 on PAYG, £10.50 on 12-month contracts
4. Samsung Galaxy W
The Samsung Galaxy W, also known as the Galaxy Wonder, is indeed nothing short of wonderful. That's courtesy of a 3.7-inch display, a five-megapixel camera with LED flash and 720p HD recording, and a brawny 1.4GHz Scorpion processor - all rolled into a svelte, stylish package.
It also comes with Samsung’s ChatON app on board that lets you communicate via a range of instant messaging services, as well as Facebook and Twitter – making it brilliant for teens and chatty types alike.
Price: From £230 on PAYG, £15.50 on contracts
5. Nokia Lumia 710
The Nokia Lumia 710 takes everything makes the Lumia 800 great and offers it at a much more affordable price point. This includes the tasty Windows Phone 7.5 – aka – Mango preinstalled, a 3.7-inch LCD TFT display and a 1.4GHz Scorpion processor that keeps everything ticking over buttery smooth.
A five-megapixel autofocus camera is also on board with LED flash and 720p HD video recording. And unlike its older brother, it comes with interchangeable battery covers and six snazzy colour options that make it as much of a fun fashion accessory as it is serious communication device.
Price: £200 on PAYG
6. BlackBerry Curve 9360
The Curve range has always been the weapon of choice for fans of the ever-popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service.
The Curve 9360 retains the winning formula, thanks to its impressive QWERTY keyboard that is brilliant for communicating with your chums quickly and effortlessly. Navigating around menus is a breeze too, care of the optical trackpad that’s become something of a fixture on BlackBerrys.
Price: From £230 on PAYG, £12 on contracts
7. Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
Sony Ericsson’s Xperia ray is as smart as it is pocket-friendly, sporting a 3.3-inch display that’s deliciously sharp and powered by 1GHz processor with Android Gingerbread for good measure.
Where it perhaps outstrips most other cheap mobile contenders, though, is its 8.1-megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash and Exmor R sensor that’s brilliant for snapping even in low-light conditions.
Price: £200 on PAYG
8. HTC Wildfire S
Like its predecessor the original Wildfire, the Wildfire S brings Android to the masses on a budget. It’s one of the most compact handsets on this list, with standout specs that include a 3.2-inch touchscreen, a five-megapixel camera with LED flash and up to 32GB of storage (via microSD slot).
And all this is dressed in a sturdy unibody package that’s keeps rocking even when it takes a knockin’.
Price: £150 on PAYG, £10.50 on contracts
9. Apple iPhone 3GS
Despite being two years old 3GS is simply one of the best cheap smartphones you can pick up right now.
Not only is it a brilliantly made handset with minimalist aesthetics that’s made Apple’s kits so phenomenally popular worldwide, it’s an excellent choice for first time buyers who aren’t yet ready to shell out for a newer, more expensive model.
You also get access to hundreds of thousands of apps, a simple but powerful mobile operating system and a user experience that’s premium through and through.
Price: £320 on PAYG, £13.50 on contracts
10. HTC EVO 3D
HTC’s debut 3D smartie may not have set the world alight, but is currently one of the cheapest high-end handsets out there.
Featuring a glasses-free 4.3-inch 3D LCD display, a dual core 1.2GHz processor with 1GB of RAM and a five-megapixel camera that snaps and shoots in 3D and 720p HD, this is a bargain you simply won’t want to miss.
Better yet, it’s due for an upgrade to the latest Android Ice Cream Sandwich. What are you waiting for?
Price: From £207 on PAYG, £21.50 on contracts