If you're looking for a cheap mobile phone or the best budget smartphone, you've come to the right place. Our round-up features only the top examples, so you can choose in confidence.
Long gone are the dark days when 'cheap' was a byword for mediocrity. These days the very best affordable smartphones can mix it with handsets that are over twice their price. We've picked five of our favourites for you to choose from.
Headline-grabbing phones like the HTC One M9, the Samsung Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 are great, but they aren’t the be-all and end-all of the mobile world. Budget smartphones have improved dramatically over the past year. So much so that you no longer have to pay over £500 for a good mobile – not even half of that, in fact.
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Our latest update brings forward the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 and Moto G 3 (2015). Available from £125 and £139 respectively, they're ridiculously cheap. Vodafone's model squeezes in an excellent 5.5-inch display, 4G connectivity and a 13-megapixel main camera, while Motorola's matches it in the photography stakes, and adds water resistance to the mix.
All of the featured phones are well-made, look good and deliver in every important department. All but one supports faster 4G connections, and the one that doesn't compensates with superior cameras that take photos anyone will be happy with. These phones are often faster and more accomplished than top-end phones from two years ago. You can't go wrong here.
Click the ‘Next’ arrow above to browse our round-up of the best cheap smartphones or read on for more buying guidance.
Best Under £100 – Motorola Moto E 2 (2015) – A 4.5-inch phone with 4G and great battery life
Best Under £125 – Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 – A feature-packed 5.5-inch smartphone with 4G and an excellent display
Best Under £150 – Motorola Moto G 2 (2014) – A 5-inch phone that performs brilliantly and has 4G
Best Cheap Windows Phone – Microsoft Lumia 640 – A 5-inch 4G mobile with an impressive camera
Best Cheap Water-resistant Phone – Motorola Moto G 3 (2015) – An IPX7-rated phone that's customisable and 4G-enabled
Best Under £200 – EE Harrier – A 5.2-inch 4G phone that's a great all-rounder
Best Cheap Phablet – Huawei Ascend G7 – A 5.5-inch smartphone with a great camera and class-leading battery life
Flagship smartphones are becoming more expensive by the year, but finding a good mobile is actually cheaper than ever. What’s more, cheap phones aren’t anywhere near as basic as they used to be. That said, what are the real differences?
Design isn't necessarily one of them. Thanks to design and build quality improvements, you won’t feel like you’re carrying a brick around with you. Manufacturers such as Huawei, Motorola, Asus and ZTE have really raised the bar in this regard. What’s more, you don’t have to sacrifice features like 4G and NFC if you don’t want to.
There’s a lot to smile about in the photography department, too. Several of the smartphones in this list are equipped with HDR-enabled cameras, which could previously only be found on more expensive models. The Nokia Lumia 735 goes a step further, featuring a wide-angle front-facing camera for excellent selfies. Cheap mobile phones tend to struggle more in challenging conditions, such as low light and in action scenes, but the ones in our round-up are all good general-purpose camera phones.
However, there are certain things you'll have to make do without, like a QHD display, for instance. Instead, 720p or 480p screens are the order of the day. They're not as sharp as what you’ll find on the LG G3 or similar, but they’re still clearer than most laptop screens and more than good enough for basic smartphone duties.
Processing power is another department that usually takes a hit, but several of the smartphones in this round-up are still great for playing high-end games on.
Read more: Mobile Phone Buyer's Guide
Crucially, cheap smartphones get access to the same Google Play and Windows Phone stores as their more expensive counterparts, so you can download as many apps and games as your hardware can handle. If you do plan to download lots of apps, though, make sure you get a phone with a microSD card slot as many cheap phones have limited built-in storage.
The one thing you won't find, however, is a cheap iPhone – not unless you buy second-hand. If you must have an iPhone, we'd recommend getting an iPhone 5C at a minimum.
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