It’s hard to believe that not so long ago, a £15 per month pay-monthly contract would only get you an LG Cookie, Samsung Tocco or another entry-level touchscreen handset.
Shop around and these days that kind of outlay nabs you a phone with super-fast 4G connectivity, an up-to-the-minute version of Android and a suite of slick, free-to-use services.
Of course, there are compromises you’ll have to make, though.
Pick up a cheap smartphone and you shouldn’t expect the sort of power or storage that you get with top-end models. And you’ll likely get a much smaller, lower-res screen too.
But if can live with that and you're canny, you can still get a huge amount of smartphone for your money.
Here’s our pick of the newest and best budget handsets around.
1 Motorola Moto G 2014
This second-generation take on the Moto G improves on its predecessor with a larger five-inch screen, better camera and dual SIM slots while retaining its £150 asking price.
Impressively, it also runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat out of the box. And even more winningly, Motorola has pledged to upgrade the handset to the newest Lollipop version of Google’s software next year.
Add to that Motorola’s Lost Phone Web Portal, which lets you locate your phone and wipe it if it gets lost or stolen, and always-on voice commands and you’ve got a shoo-in for the year’s best budget handset.
2 Nokia Lumia 630
Last year’s best-selling Nokia phone on uSwitch by some distance, the Nokia Lumia 630 stands out with its colourful shell – it comes in orange or green – that’s a million miles away from the more conservative colour schemes favoured by most Android smartphone-makers.
Instead of Android or IOS, the Lumia 630 is powered by the 8.1 version of Windows Phone operating system.
That means instead of rows of apps you get a homescreen based on tiles that constantly flash up fresh news and social networking updates.
Under the bonnet, you’ll find a five-megapixel camera, a 4.5-inch screen, the Cortana voice commands service and a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon S4 chip that provides plenty of zip.
Sure, there’s no 4G. But for £90, the Lumia 630 is a steal.
3 iPhone 5C
This is cheating a bit, given that the iPhone 5C was actually released in 2013.
But we’re justifying its inclusion in the 2014 cheap phones countdown on the grounds that it’s only this year that price cuts means the handset finally lived up to its pre-release billing as the ‘cheap iPhone’.
Last time we looked the iPhone 5C was the biggest smartphone on uSwitch, outselling the much newer iPhone 6 and iPhone Plus.
That’s quite a turnaround for a handset that was badly reviewed and branded a flop after it was outsold by three to one by the pricier iPhone 5S for months after its release.
But a lot’s changed since then. Now available for free on contracts starting at £28 per month, the 5C looks like pretty good value.
Spec-sheet highlights are an eight-megapixel camera that we think outshines the iPhone 5S, 16GB of on board storage and 4G connectivity. You also get the newest version of Apple’s software, iOS 8.
So what’s the catch? Well, instead of the premium materials that Apple normally favours, the iPhone 5C features a polycarbonate outer.
For our part, we liked that it was lightweight and the fun, POP feel it gave the handset.
But some Apple fans found it plasticky and rubbished the handset for that reason.
So if a weighty kit with a feeling of heft is what you’re looking for, the iPhone 5C may not be the smartphone for you.
4 Sony Xperia M2
Available on pay as you go for £170 or so from value specialists giffgaff, the Xperia M2 is negligably different from the higher-end Xperia Z2 and Z3 in the looks stakes.
And it doesn’t come off badly in a head to head comparison under the hood either.
With a 4.8-inch display, runs on a 1.2GHz quad-core processor and an eight-megapixel camera around the back, there's plenty to recommend it. And it's waterproof too.
5 EE Kestrel
Network-branded smartphones don't have a great reputation. Happily, the Kestrel from EE goes some way to changing that.
Essentially, a rebadged version of the Huawei Ascend G6, it features Android 4.3, a quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor and a servicable 4.5-inch 960x540 display.
But its real sell as far as we're concerned is that for under £100 you get the use of EE's best-in-class 4G network.