The best budget phones [Updated]

budget smartphones

Which? rounds-up the top five budget smartphones you can get for under £200.

Smartphones are all more popular than ever but the top models can come with an eye watering price tag. So here’s our round-up of the best smartphones that you can buy for less than £200.

What is a budget smartphone?

Budget smartphones can connect to the internet, run apps and perform basic feature phone tasks such as playing media and taking photos. You can now pick up a decent model for under £200, or free on a contract for under £15 a month (with a free handset).

Thanks to this wallet-friendly price tag there’s plenty of competition in the budget phones market, so cast your eyes below for our guide to the best cheap phones worth owning.

For more information read our guide to choosing the best smartphone.

The best cheap smartphones

Nokia Lumia 620

Nokia_Lumia_620

This is the best budget Windows Phone (WP) that we’ve seen. While the WP operating system might not be as well known as Android or iOS, it’s easy to use with large tiles that display live information, such as incoming messages.

The Lumia 620’s 3.8-inch display is a reasonable size for its price (around £160 or £13/month) and because it’s pretty compact the phone is easy to use one-handed. The screen resolution can’t match that of premium models, but videos and webpages still look sharp.

WP doesn’t have the same choice of apps as Android or iPhone but the Lumia 620 is compatible with Microsoft Office and comes with Nokia Drive, a sat nav app that offers turn-by-turn voice navigation and lets you download maps so you can use them offline.

For more information read our Nokia Lumia 620 review.

Nokia Lumia 520

Nokia-Lumia-520

The Nokia Lumia 520 costs just £100 on a pay as you go deal or £7/month on a contract. Its four inch display is among the best we’ve seen for a phone at this price, making it a good choice for watching movies or browsing the web on the go. Sound quality is above average and the sensitive touchscreen can be controlled even when wearing gloves.

Like the Lumia 620, the Lumia 520 available in a range of bright colours and you can buy swappable cases for around £20.

For more information read our Nokia Lumia 520 review.

HTC Windows Phone 8S

HTC Windows Phone 8S

The 8S is another brightly coloured Windows Phone device with a four-inch display – the same size as the iPhone 5’s screen. It costs around £180 on on a pay as you go deal or £11/month on a contract.

The phone is easy to use and its battery life online is pretty good, though the battery is sealed into the phone so you can’t buy a replacement if it develops a fault. Like other WP smartphones, the 8S has a battery save mode that turns off some power hungry features, and can access Nokia’s Drive sat nav app.

For more information read our HTC Windows Phone 8S review.

LG Optimus L5 II

LG Optimus L5 II

This reasonably-priced Android smartphone is a replacement for the LG Optimus L5, with a better screen and slightly more powerful battery and processor.

The phone costs around £150 on on a pay as you go deal or £14/month on a contract. Its 4-inch touchscreen isn’t the largest but is still a good size and is easier to hold than devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S4.

The LG Optimus L5 II runs on one of the latest versions of the Android operating system (4.1 a.k.a. Jelly Bean) and so comes with multiple home pages and access to thousands of downloadable apps. However it only has a tiny memory.

For more information read our LG Optimus L5 II review.

Samsung Galaxy Fame

Samsung Galaxy Fame

This compact smartphone is easy to slip in your pocket, although its 3.5-inch display feels small and the low resolution (320×480 pixels) means that text and icons look fuzzy.

Like the LG Optimus L5 II, the Galaxy Fame runs on one of the latest versions of the Android Jelly Bean and comes with multiple home pages and access to thousands of downloadable apps through Google Play. However, it also has a very small internal memory.

The phone costs around £110 on on a pay as you go deal or £10/month on a contract.

For more information read our Samsung Galaxy Fame review.

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43 replies

  1. I just recently upgraded to the HTC wildfire and I love it. It has all the features of most of the more expensive handsets on the market, such as a 5mp camera with flash, 3g and wifi, Android market etc, for a fraction of the price. And it fits in your pocket – unlike some of the bigger smartphones on the market. A good all round phone.

    1. I agreed 100% the HTC Wildfire is a great phone. Mine is a couple of years old now but I have had no problems at all. I really love the mouse button for moving the cursor around, very few smartphones seem to have this feature I don’t know why.

  2. My eldest grandson started work about 2 months ago and with his first wages treated himself to a Samsung Galaxy from Carphone Warehouse with unlimited internet access at a monthly cost of, I believe, £12.50. He placed a monthly cut off limit of £50 on the contract. However his phone was disconnected when charges reached £80 within about 3 weeks. It appears that the phone was connected permanently to the internet and email, the following being switched on – Auto synch, running background data applications, Send or received data at anytime. The phone is now back on and the pain reduced by contributions from his parents and my wife and self but it would have been unnecessary if the Carphone Warehouse assistant had pointed this out in the first place.

    1. All modern smartphones use data nearly continuously. I always stress to people that not having a data package with their contract is a false saving, but it is easy to end up without one. The scandalous cost of per-MB data from providers means that even a small amount of data can be very expensive.

      However, I’m puzzled because you say it had unlimited internet access; this would mean that internet, synchronisation, emails, etc would cost nothing. I’m also amazed that any unlimited internet package would be as cheap as £12.50pm. My feeling is that the original package DID NOT have internet access and that the cost resulted from data charges?

  3. I upgraded my T-mobile contract nearly 2 weeks ago – I was told it was the best deal available for £10 – 300 minutes to any network and 300 texts per month with flexible booster – free internet or free local calls or free T-mobile to T-mobile calls. I actually wanted more minutes to all networks and local calls and possibly more texts. Any advice of who to switch to?

    1. Hi BTF,

      You can use Which? Mobile to tailor your deals results to the specifications you’re after by using the sliders on the right side of the page. Just click on the contract/sim only/payg/ tabs at the top of this page and take a look.

      From what I can see in our sim-only section (http://www.which.co.uk/mobile/deals/simonly/) – 3 do a deal that gives you 300 mins, 3000 texts, and 1GB internet for £10. So that’s more texts than you currently have.

      However, I would say that for £10 per month 300 mins/300 texts and ‘unlimited internet’ is actually pretty good :).

  4. I upgraded my Nokia phone to the Samsung Galaxy last November. Last week I put it down on the table cloth of a restaurant which was a little damp. From there on my phone refused to acknowledge my SIM card. I returned it to Vodaphone who sent it back to me with a note that some damp has partly destroyed the SIM card slot and they were unable to repair it. I was never warned when I purchased the phone that it was so fragile and sensitive it could easily be damaged beyond repair. It does say on ‘page 121′ of the manual in extremely small print, keep away from water. The phone is hardly three months old, there is no warranty and Vodaphone never suggested Insurance cover. So well done Samsung, I now have a useless phone that I will have to continuing paying for over the next 16 months until the termination of my agreement.

    1. Hi Katie,

      You should try again to get your phone replaced by Vodafone. You can argue that the phone was not fit for purpose/of satisfactory quality, and so you have a right to get it repaired or replaced under the Sales of Goods Act.

      However, this depends on the details – i.e. how damp was the cloth, how long was it left for. It’s reasonable to expect a phone to be able to cope with a few drops of rain, less reasonable that it should be survive in a glass of water.

      Your situation seems to be somewhere in-between. But based on what you’ve told us, it is worth arguing with Vodafone to get a replacement (if you can someone from a local mobile phone repair shop, or someone from Samsung, to tell you that the phone should be able to cope with the level of water exposure that took place, then it could make all the difference).

      You weren’t shown the manual before you bought the phone, so the warning about water contact wasn’t an express term of the contract with the retailer – so that shouldn’t affect your complaint.

      Hope that helps.

    2. Think you will find its vodaphone who are also at fault with this one. I had been with them for 4 years and my latest phone was only 3 months old. It stopped working whilst I was on holiday (refused to turn on at all) when sent back via vodaphone shop I was told that it had been subject to dampness and this could have been caused if I used it when I had wet hair. I pointed out that it was the seal that had obviously been faulty (I used to work for a company that applied the seals to phone chassis). Refused to leave the shop until they had given me a replacement phone (amazing how generous they can be when customers are walking out of the shop because of an unhappy existing customer).

  5. Sorry to hear about Kattie B problem with the damp tablecloth. Mr husband has a Nokia KF300 which went through a full wash cycle in our washing machine in the pocket of he trousers.The phone was on and in the process received 2 text messages ! It suffered no ill effects at all and is still working 18mth later. So full marks to LG.

  6. Samsung Jet – Cracking little phone. Camera is absolutel superb used outdoors but not good indoors. I dont like their PC Studio software and just drag n drop which works okay.

    The screen is very good and I have several movies on it all the time and playback is excellent. Battery life is not good & needs charging every day. It supports Java apps so some available but not many.

    Best feature is its size. Small enough to keep in trouser pocket with being obtrusive. I’m getting a tab soon but will keep the phone anyway.

    1. I have a Samsung Jet for some time, the touchscreen is awful, but while I wouldn’t recommend the phone there is a good MP3 player and radio and phone reception volume is good, but for texting it’s rubbbish due to poor touchscreen. Hopeing the Galaxy S is better.

  7. I bought the Samsung S Gallaxy and it started haemoraging money then one day it just wouldn’t work and I brought it to the shop and they said moisture problems!!!! My Samsung Toco has fallen down a loo, a swimming pool, I blowed it dry with a hair dryer and it worked perfectly. It cost me nearly €500 and Vodafones attitude is tough but I am very glad to see other people had the same problem and they will do a re call. Fingers croxxed!!

  8. I think Samsung phones are really durable. My old one was a Samsung and I had it for 6 years. I found a site that recycles phones and I am happy I traded it to them. I even got extra . Thanks for sharing!

    1. It is certainly possible (if you haver a tethering-enabled OS, such as Android), but beware of the usage. Few packages are unlimited – most are 500MB/month, which can be used up in hours on a laptop.

    2. Oops – I should have said “recent android”, e.g. ICS/4.0+ Old versions did not have it, which includes some of the phones above. (Check reviews)

  9. The besy way to find the right smartphone to suit your needs is to do side by side reviews. Every mobile phone has its pros and cons. You will find everything you are looking for to buy the right smartphone’s here.

  10. Bricked my Android starter phone LG Optimus Me and brought a Huawei Ascend G300 from Vodafone for £100 plus £10 pay as you go credit. Cost £6 to unlock for use on the Three network.

    Comes with Android 2.3 (but an upgrade to 4.0 (ICS) is due shortly), a 1 GHz cpu and a 4” screen, for the money I doubt if you can get better. I have seen it compared to 2011 HTC models

  11. I went fir the HTC Wildfire a couple of years ago (not the wildfire S) and I loved it! Then it started to get horrifically slow to the point where it was quicker to switch my desktop on to search for something. I had to hard-reset it every few months to keep fast enough for me. After a year i ditched it for a Samsung Omnia 7 when they were selling them off and love it. I would recommend windows phone to anyone looking fir a budget phone, they just don’t slow down and work as expected with very little Basle and no need fir app killers etc :-)

  12. Another staggeringly bad review from which, the orange monte carlo is the standout audriid smartphone for under 150 quid, 119.99 actually, but not even mentioned in the review, what am I ( we) paying for?

  13. I am slightly disappointed to see you recommend HTC phones. I bought a top flight HTC Desire HD two years ago at considerable cost, and have been eagerly awaiting the promised Android ICS upgrade. (ICS was released over a year ago!) After repeatedly telling customers that the upgrade was imminent, (most recently at the end of May 2012), HTC finally admitted last week that the upgrade was being cancelled. And this was only a few DAYS after denying a report from a Canadian network that the upgrade was cancelled.

    HTC argue that the upgrade would not provide the best experience for users, but technical publications argue that the processor speed and memory size of the Desire HD is more than adequate for ICS.

    This failure of HTC to be honest with its customers regarding the ICS upgrade in my view reflects an appalling contempt for their customers. I have sent HTC a message informing them that I will never buy one of their products again as a consequence of their actions over the ICS upgrade for the Desire HD phone.

    So if you are considering buying an HTC phone, you may want to take this cautionary tale into consideration.

    S

    1. They have done you a favour! I have an HTC Incredible S and it was updated to ICS about a month ago. That changed it from a pleasure to use to a pain in @ss, it’s now lagggy and sluggish and several of my app no longer work properly.

  14. Some basic advice needed please: I’d like to buy a simple sim-free smartphone – just to last me until my contract is renewed in April and I can get an upgrade. Any idea where to start? Refurbished is fine. Never owned a smartphone before! thanks

  15. I am looking at a HTC Desire C or Samsung Ace on a contract with 100 minutes, 5000 texts and ” All you can eat data ”
    First venture into smart phones. I am not a big mobile user but looking to access emails on the go.
    Any comment on the ” All you can eat data “

  16. I bought a Nokia Lumia 800, £149 PAYG. It’s just been updated to windows phone 7.8 and it’s a fast very usable phone, not as many apps as android, but none of the rogue apps/ viruses either. My daughter has the Lumia 610 and she loves it.

  17. I just upgraded to a Samsung galaxy Ace and am having real trouble answering calls. I am trying to find out if this is a common fault (poor screen sensitivity) and whether I should just exchange for the same phone or get a different one. Would appreciate some advice.

  18. It is all very well having 3G or 4G, but there are places where you can’t even get 2G!
    I have an HTC Wildfire (Don’t buy one – it keeps running out of memory with only one mail app loaded). In a residential area 15 miles from London, there is no signal on O2 95% of the time, but someone else with Orange and the same phone gets a signal. The signal map for O2 says it is ok for that postcode – it isn’t, they are telling porkies! However down in Dorset O2 is ok almost everywhere, but Orange struggles in some places.

    I say forget rolling out 4G until 2G has been sorted out!

  19. I have the LG Prada. its cheap, fast, loks good, has an ok camera, android, and hardly ever freezez. the only thing i can say bad about it is the short battery life but other then that im really. impressed. also no one knows it hardly so no one knows how cheap it is :p go check it out!

  20. What is going on Which?
    This updated review (5 April 2013) still has ( or should I say ‘had’) no W8 Phone.
    We know that you prefer expensive iPhones but surely this is taking the bias somewhat too far!!
    If you do not have the resources to review these phones properly and to keep the reviews updated perhaps it would be best to admit the fact and stick to more slow moving technology such as irons and kettles.

    1. I agree. The Nokia 520 is available from TalkTalk for £7.50 per month with zero upfront.
      It’s good to see that Which have updated the review to include the two Nokia at the top of the list.

  21. I bought a Samsung Galaxy Ace 6 month ago on a 24 mth contract. Its rubish and certainly cant be called a smart phone. Internal storage is nigh on nothing. everything is saved to sim or SD and it still doesnt work and comes up with critical storage errors. It has been sent back twice for repair and come back no different. Sold as a smart phone but may as well be a PAYG cheapie as itonly txts and calls. How can I get out of this contract????? This phone is doing my head in.

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