Tech Monthly: Playtime: Tried and tested: Best sub-pounds 150 smartphones: If you're searching for a new phone that has all the apps and web features, but without the price, here is our guide to the latest top five on offer.
(Observer (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Flagship smartphones like the iPhone might get all the attention but something exciting is happening with more affordable smartphones. Companies like Nokia and Motorola are now releasing some very good phones for less than pounds 150 for the handset - bargains that pose the question as to why anyone would pay more, and something that certainly wasn't the case even a year ago. So which is the best, and will it really do everything you want?
1 ZTE BLADE V
pounds 130 sim-free, 4" display, 5MP camera, 130g
ZTE of China is known for making affordable phones and the Blade V is just the latest. Costing as little as pounds 80 on a pay-as-you-go scheme, it is one of the cheapest here, and has a powerful quad-core processor, its main advantage over rivals. The phone has an acceptable five-megapixel rear camera, and a front camera for video chats and selfies. The screen is relatively low resolution - a factor that helps to keep the price down, but it should be fine for surfing the web or watching YouTube.
Built-in storage is limited to 4GB, but a micro SD card slot means more can be added for photos, videos and music. The Blade V runs an older version of Android than both of the Motorola phones reviewed here, which can make it feel dated. The powerful processor also takes its toll on battery life, compared to some of the other budget phones, but it will last for about a day on one charge.
Verdict Fast quad-core processor, but at the price of too many cost savings
2 NOKIA LUMIA 630
pounds 129 sim-free, 4.5" display, 5MP camera, 134g
Microsoft's cheapest new Windows phone can cost as little as pounds 100 with a pay-as-you-go scheme and brings the latest Windows Phone 8.1 software to the budget market. It has Nokia's customary solid build quality, a removable coloured back shell, and is light and comfortable.
The Lumia 630 feels like it could take a knock or two, and has a five-megapixel camera without a flash that can capture slightly more detail and has a better colour-balance than similarly priced rivals like the Moto G. Microsoft hasn't included a front cameras, so selfies will be difficult.
The biggest drawback of this model is the screen, which is low resolution compared to the Moto G, and can appear blocky. It doesn't have adaptive brightness, so manual adjustment is required, or the screen may appear too bright indoors or unreadable outside.
The Windows Phone software also lacks the large catalogue of apps available on Android, but does have snappy performance.
Verdict A solid and cheap phone, but there are better options available.
3 MOTOROLA MOTO G
pounds 149 sim-free, 4.5" display, 5MP camera, 143g
Arguably one of the first smartphones to shake up the budget market, the Moto G offers more features than any other currently available. Priced at less than pounds 100 with 3G only and about pounds 150 with the faster 4G mobile broadband connection, it is a mid-range phone costing the same as a budget version.
The Moto G has a sharp 4.5in screen, the latest Android software, a snappy experience and a solid build quality. Like the Moto E, the G has Corning's toughened "Gorilla Glass" on the screen to resist scratches, and is also coated with water-resistant nano coating made by P2i.
The five-megapixel camera is good enough for basic pictures, while a front camera allows for selfies and video chats. Two 3G versions are available, it is worth buying the one with 16GB of storage over the 8GB.
Verdict At under pounds 100 the Moto G is the best value smartphone.
4 EE KESTREL
pounds 99 PAYG, 4.5" display, 5MP camera, 145g
The cheapest smartphone with faster 4G capability, the EE Kestrel is built by Huawei of China for the UK's largest 4G network, EE. Available for pounds 99, the design is a little drab - another black rectangle - but it is light and thin, especially compared to some chubby competition. The odd placement of the headphones socket on the side may cause issues
The Kestrel feels a little cheap, while the 4.5in screen is not particularly crisp; good enough for the odd YouTube video or browsing, while the 4G makes downloading and playing videos faster than most 3G phones.
The phone has a powerful quad-core processor, which makes it snappy.
A micro SD slot allows addition to the 8GB storage, while a decent-sized battery keeps it going for a good day without activating its battery-saving modes. A five-megapixel camera and one-megapixel front cam produce serviceable photos, but struggle in low light. The Kestrel also has the option of a simplified software look, ideal for the non-tech savvy.
Verdict The cheapest 4G phone available, with solid performance.
5 MOTOROLA MOTO E
pounds 95 sim-free, 5MP camera, 4.3" display, 142g
One of the cheapest phones in this group, the Moto E costs about pounds 80 with a pre-pay plan, and gets the basics right. It does a good job balancing price and quality, with a good feeling frame, decent screen and a responsive, snappy experience - leagues apart from most of its competition for the same price.
The Moto E has the latest version of Android with a guaranteed update to the next version from Motorola - something that most other budget smartphones don't offer.
Features like toughened Gorilla Glass to prevent scratches to the screen, a water resistant P2i nano coating and all-day battery life are good for the price. But some concessions have been made to keep the price down: the five-megapixel camera is poor, there is no front camera and storage is just 4GB (2GB user accessible), but there is a micro SD slot for adding more space for music, movies and photos.
Verdict A very cheap phone that does the basics right.
NOKIA LUMIA 630 A well-priced and solid phone, but there are better options available.
MOTOROLA MOTO G
Packed with more features than its competitors.
Fast quad-core processor, but at the price of too many cost savings.
The cheapest 4G phone available, and with solid performance.
MOTOROLA MOTO E
Photograph by Katherine Rose for the Observer
(c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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