Best PAYG phone - budget mobiles compared

Written By technotheory on Wednesday, June 8, 2011 | 11:05 PM

Buying Guide: We compare the best cheap phones on the market - With the mobile marketplace teeming with a multitude of smartphones, one might wonder whether cheap pay and go phones still have a place in the mobile infrastructure.

With massive innovation in both hardware and operating systems, phones now do a lot more than just let you talk and text.

With the introduction of devices like the Apple iPhone, HTC Desire and the Nexus range we are opened to a world of apps and uses.

Sadly all this innovation isn't cheap – and most of it is reserved for high-end contract handsets. So, is there such a thing as the 'best pay as you go phone on a budget'?

Below you will find what we think are the best cheap mobile phones available right now and all for under £200.

Sony Ericsson Spiro
Price: £29.95

The Sony Ericsson Spiro is a stripped down Walkman branded handset, packing a 2-megapixel camera, Edge connectivity and a 2.2-inch, 240x320 (QVGA) screen.

It's a well-made, sturdy handset – and it weighs a mere 90g, meaning it is super portable. The keypad is well laid out, and the keys are slightly raised to aid typing

The OS is a simple Symbian variant, which is clean and fast – if not incredibly feature packed. You do however get a great MP3 player and radio included.

At the end of the day – there is not much to shout about, however the simple handset will suit those on a lower budget, just fine.

Orange San Francisco
Price: £99.97

The Orange San Francisco is a feature rich Android handset the goes against the grain of other handsets at this price.

The San Francisco has some amazing assets. It packs a 3.5 inch 480 x 800 pixel touch screen, WiFi, GPS and 3G connectivity.

The chassis feels very solid, its slate grey main colour is appealing, and the sliver highlights on the long edges look reasonably cool too.

In our opinion, this is one of the best handsets about in this price range.

Samsung Monte
Price: £69.99

If social is your thing, the Samsung Monte could be the perfect phone for you.

The Monte is pre-loaded with widgets for several social networks, YouTube and BBC iPlayer access, and shortcuts to phone functions and apps.

You won't find a physical keyboard on this handset, however the touchscreen interface is responsive, even offering haptic feedback.

For mobile internet lovers, there's speedy 3G mobile broadband for browsing when out and about, and Wi-Fi connectivity means you can get even faster connections from hotspots.

Nokia X2
Price: £59.95

The Nokia X2 is a simple phone that harks back to the traditional form of Nokia 5 years ago. It is a simple candy bar form handset, featuring amazing battery life, a 5 mega-pixel camera and more.

Calls are clear, the loudspeaker is loud and texting is really easy.

You won't find many connectivity options on the X2. There is no sign of Wi-Fi or GPS – in fact you won't even find a 3g network on this Nokia, however if simplicity is key for you then the Nokia X2 could be just what you are after.

Nokia X3 Touch and Type
Price: £109.95

The Nokia X3 Touch and Type is a Symbian, touch screen handset featuring a great keyboard, super battery life and a solid build quality.

The handset uses the Symbian S40 operating system, which is no where near as feature rich as some of the other Android sporting offerings available, but it does cram a good number of attributes into a diminutive form.

You'll find an FM Radio, HSDPA and Wi-Fi connectivity for super fast browsing, expandable storage as well as a decent number of third party apps from the Ovi Store.

If you are a textaholic, then the Touch and Type could be the handset you are after.

HTC Wildfire
Price: £139.95

A smartphone for those on a tight budget, the HTC Wildfire doesn't skimp on the specs; the touchscreen handset runs Android 2.1 with the user-friendly HTC Sense UI and is rocking the same processing power as 2009's phone of choice, the HTC Hero.

The HTC Wildfire offers a 3.2-inch QVGA capacitive screen, Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, a 5-megapixel camera and allows access to the full Android experience the 2.1 Android OS.

The screen isn't the best we've seen, but the features make this handset one to watch.

Samsung Galaxy Europa
Price: £99.95

The Galaxy Europa i5500 is another small format Android handset, running Android 2.1 that comes in at the pocket-friendly price of £100. The i5500 features Wi-Fi, 3G and GPS and allows for media expandability through the Micro-SD card slot.

The handset is well built and features a unique asymmetrical design that allows for comfortable handling, and its 102g weight is not going to tear a hole in your pocket either.

Samsung gives you access to nicely integrated versions of Facebook and Twitter – meaning that your friends will always be with you.

If you are looking for a compact Android device for under a £100, you can't go wrong with the Galaxy Europa.

LG Optimus One
Price: £175

The LG Optimus One is a stripped down version of their higher priced siblings. The phone features Android OS, a 2.2-inch capacitive touch screen, decent battery life and a pleasing array of media apps.

With upgraded storage, the Optimus One can become a great partner for both music and video, and though the screen isn't the largest – images and movies are crisp and clear and sound is passable.

We put this phone in the same camp as the Orange San Francisco, but personal choice will define which is the better handset.

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini
Price: £129.95

The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini is one of the tiniest phones on the market and appeals to the fashion conscious and tech aficionado alike.

Featuring Android 2.1, a credit card sized form, a decently powered 600Mhz processor as well as all the usual perks of camera, Wi-Fi and 3G.

This phone zips along, and at no point does it feel underpowered. We really enjoyed how quickly apps open and screens update – for a phone of it's size, you expect to sacrifice power, but that simply is not the case.

If you are after stellar looks and high power to boot, the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini could be the phone for you.

Blackberry Curve 8520
Price: £119.95

The Blackberry Curve 8520 is RIM's cheapest handset in their vast range. If you are a business user on a budget, the Curve is a great way to get Blackberry features without breaking the bank.

Featuring a decent processor, Wi-Fi built in and a passable camera, this phone doesn't feel budget by any means. You won't find 3G/HSDPA connectivity or incredible media attributes, but if email and text is your thing, this could be exactly what the doctor ordered.

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