Today’s high-end smartphones are brilliantly powerful mini-computers packed with more functions than most of us could ever use. But if you have no need for 5G, six cameras (on one phone!), augmented reality tech or 512 GB of storage, there’s no need to pay £1000+ for a phone.

For a fraction of the price of the latest models, you can pick up a decent phone with everything you need for day to day use. Which is why, if you just need a quality device without all the bells and whistles, a budget phone might be your best bet.

What’s considered ‘budget’?

With the latest high-end phones costing anything up to £1,499, a ‘budget’ smartphone is anything that comes in under £250. Many budget smartphones are significantly less than £250 but it’s important to note that the lower you go the more features you sacrifice.

Any smartphone coming in at £100 or less will likely be slow, have poor battery life and be very short on storage. But phones in the £150 to £250 range boast sleek hardware design and similar performance quality to higher-end devices.

You can buy budget smartphones from some of the world’s best known manufacturers, including Microsoft, Sony, HTC and Samsung. The ways in which budget phones differ from their high-end friends is in specification. They won’t have 5G capability, high-tech features and the camera quality may be poorer. But where a phone really matters is in phone quality and web browsing, and you’ll find budget and high-end phones can be like for like here.

What can I expect from a cheap phone?

Many cheap smartphones perform well in all areas. Build quality is generally pretty good as is screen resolution and call quality, and budget smartphones are usually stacked with all the features you’ll need on a day to day basis.

You can expect to find a camera, web browser, music player, personal organisation apps (such as a calendar and email), and your usual range of communication options. Some include 4G connectivity, so if web browsing on the go is important to you, choose a phone with that capability. In most cases you’ll be able to download and connect to social networking apps. And many budget smartphones will even have enough storage for games.

The quality of budget smartphones varies, but you can check out review sites to find the devices that currently perform the best. Tech Radar frequently reviews the latest budget smartphones, as do Tech Advisor. Look for a phone with a high resolution screen, long battery life and a microSD slot to boost storage capabilities.

How to find a cheap phone AND a cheap contract

It’s well and good taking the time to find a high quality budget smartphone but your effort is wasted if you end up with an extortionate contract.

The majority of networks will offer budget phones on very cheap contracts of less than £20 a month. As well as checking the specifications of the device and reading reviews, make sure you check what the tariff includes in terms of data, texts and minutes. Don’t sign up to any contract that doesn’t provide enough for your typical usage. If you like to browse the internet on the go, choose a tariff with lots of data. If you’re a heavy text-sender, choose one with unlimited texts. Don’t be swayed by price but by what’s actually on offer.

To quickly find a range of tariffs for the particular device you want, use a comparison site like billmonitor.com or TigerMobiles.com. Comparison sites are useful because they show you deals you might never have found on your own, which offers lots of opportunity for saving even more money.

Go SIM-Only Instead

Of course you can always buy the handset outright and choose a SIM-only deal instead. SIM-only contracts are available for as little as £3.99 a month and are often much more flexible than pay monthly contracts.

For £3.99 a month you can get unlimited texts, 150 minutes and 500MB of data with ID Mobile. This deal includes data rollover and the contract length is only 30 days so you can switch at any time. On the higher end of the scale, you can get an allowance of 8GB of data and unlimited texts and minutes for £15 a month with GiffGaff. Again this is on a month-long contract, so you’re never tied in.

SIM-only is a great money saving measure, especially when combined with a second hand or budget smartphone. Just be sure to buy an unlocked phone so you can use a SIM from any network of your choosing.  

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