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The Best Budget Smartphones for Under £100

Thanks largely to the fragmentation of Android, the price of smartphones has tumbled dramatically in recent years. These days you’ll have no problem landing yourself a touchscreen device for under £100. The question is can £100 get you good smartphone?

There’s a lot of rubbish out there, but there are some real bargains too. The issue has always been separating the wheat from the chaff. Dozens of devices look the part when it’s a dummy phone sat on a shelf. What really matters is what the handset is like when it’s switched on, when it’s in your hand and required to perform to the standards required of an average smartphone user. Compromises are par for the course, but you don’t want to feel like throwing your phone under a bus every time you try to run an app or take a photo.

To ensure you’re getting true value for money, we’ve rounded up the 10 best budget smartphones on the market right now, all of which offer decent specs and performance without exceeding your budget.*

10. HTC Desire 510

Price: £79.99 

htc-desire-510

Image: HTC

Pros:

  • Decent performance
  • Good battery life

Cons:

  • Camera isn’t great
  • Average display
  • Doesn’t have the latest Android operating system

Key Specs:

  • Size: 139.9mm x 69.8mm x 10mm; Weight 158g
  • 4.7-inch, 480 x 854 display (208ppi)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 1.2GHz quad-core processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 5MP rear-facing camera, with LED flash; 1.3MP front-facing camera
  • 8GB internal storage with microSD support
  • 4G support
  • Android 4.4
  • 2100mAh battery

When you buy a HTC, you buy a reliable handset. The Taiwanese company has a reputation for solid performing smartphones and the Desire 510 is no different.

To look at, the Desire 510 won’t blow anyone away. It’s chunky and quite weighty too, but the plastic chassis doesn’t look cheap and the device will feel comfortable in the hand.

The 4.7-inch display can’t compete with other phones in this list. There is a definite fuzziness there, but text is sharp enough and good brightness ensures you won’t have problems browsing webpages and reading social media updates.

Android 5.0 is a big miss, especially as it is virtually a standard out-of-the-box featutre these days, but Android 4.4 KitKat is still a very capable operating system, even when skimmed with HTC’s Sense user interface. A quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM are strong enough to keeping things moving smoothly. Apps and videos run fine, and you’ll even be able to enjoy some light gaming without lag.

The 5MP rear camera isn’t great. You’ll get away with sharing pictures and short videos on social media, but it’s definitely not one for photography enthusiasts. The same goes for the front-facing camera.

The lack of a decent camera is made up for with a good battery. It’s removable, which is always a good thing, and there are some good features to prolong life for well over a day – almost two days, if usage is limited.

The HTC Desire won’t dazzle you, but at this price, for a brand name phone with 4G support, it’s worthy of consideration.

9. EE Harrier Mini

Price: £79.99

ee-harrier-mini

Image: EE

Pros:

  • Good specs
  • Sharp screen
  • Lightweight design

Cons:

  • Cheap design
  • Laggy performance when multitasking

Key specs:

  • Size: 138mm x 68mm x 9.5mm; Weight: 124g
  • 4.7-inch, 1280 x 720 LCD display (312ppi)
  • Mediatek 1.2GHz quad-core processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8MP rear-facing camera, with LED flash and full HD video recording; 2MP front-facing camera
  • 8GB internal storage with microSD support
  • 4G support
  • Android 5.0
  • 2000mAh battery

Another carrier-made handset and the smaller sibling to the 5.2-inch EE Harrier, the Harrier Mini is smartphone that offers great bang for your buck.

If you’re buying a phone on looks alone, this device would be dismissed early. It’s not totally horrible, just bland, with overly large bezels. Things do improve when you switch on the phone, though, and the 720p display is bright and sharp. Viewing angles aren’t great, but you’ll typically be looking at your phone head on, so that’s not really an issue.

The quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM don’t perform as well here as they do in Motorola’s Moto E. Standard web and social media browsing is fine, but the Harrier Mini isn’t built for running several apps at once. 8GB of storage (less than 4GB of which is available) doesn’t help performance and means the assistance of a microSD card is required.

What EE has done well, however, is keep closely to stock Android, so no annoying manufacturer user interface and no pointless tweaks.

The 8MP camera benefits from almost-stock Android and has simple touch shoot and touch focus features. Low light shots are a struggle, but if you persist you can take share-worthy pictures.

The battery is smaller than those found in similarly priced devices, but you should have no trouble getting a day from moderate use.

All in all, a good phone for £80.

8. Vodafone Smart Prime 6

Price: £70.00

vodafone-smart-prime-6

Image: Vodafone

Pros:

  • Sharp screen
  • Good battery life
  • Excellent specs for the price

Cons:

  • Sluggish performance
  • Locked to Vodafone
  • Vodafone apps cannot be uninstalled

Key specs:

  • Size: 141.7mm x 71.9mm x 9mm; Weight 155g
  • 5.0-inch, 1280 x 720 IPS LCD display (294ppi)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad-core processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8MP rear-facing camera, with LED flash and full HD video recording; 2MP front-facing camera
  • 8GB internal storage with microSD support
  • 4G support
  • Android 5.0

The Vodafone Smart series has really shaken up the cheap smartphone market. The Smart Prime 6 sits in the upper mid-range and, for £70, packs in some very pleasing specs. The design is basic and uninspiring, but the phone is comfortable in the hand, despite its 5-inch screen and sizeable bezel. A pixel count of 294ppi is good for the price and the 720p display is sharp enough for watching videos and viewing web pages. Colours could be more vibrant, but, for £70 that’s not something to grumble about.

Almost native Android 5.0 Lollipop is great; Vodafone’s native apps, not so much. The processor is the same 1.2GHz quad-core chip that’s found in both the Moto E and LG Spirit and comes backed by 1GB RAM. The CPU doesn’t perform as well here as it does in rival phones and things can get sluggish real quick when multitasking. 8GB of RAM is also annoying but can quickly be rectified with a microSD card.

The 8MP camera is fine for social media snaps – colours are accurate enough and pictures can be taken very quickly. A 2MP front camera is better than most other budget phones, but don’t expect flawless selfies.

There is much more to like than dislike about the Vodafone Smart Prime 6 and you’ll not regret the £70 spend.

7. LG Spirit

Price: £89.99

lg-spirit

Pros:

  • Good camera
  • Crisp speaker
  • Stylish design
  • 720p HD display

Cons:

  • Some performance issues
  • Lack of internal storage makes microSD card a must
  • Slightly disappointing colour reproduction

Key specs:

  • Size: 133.3mm x 66.1mm x 10 mm; Weight: 124.4g
  • 4.7-inch, 1280 x 720 IPS LCD display (312ppi)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad-core processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8MP rear-facing camera, with LED flash and full HD video recording; 1MP front-facing camera
  • 8GB internal storage with microSD support
  • 4G support
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Android 5.0
  • 2,100mAh battery

LG’s budget smartphones of the past were amongst the worst you’d find – in looks and performance. Its modern fleet, however, are befitting of the brands recent stellar reputation for producing quality, high-end devices.

The LG Spirit is takes design cues from the LG G4, which means a curved rear and glossy bezel – it’s a lovely device to look at. The 4.7-inch 720p display only enhances the aesthetic appeal and performs well for the price. It’s not as vivid as it might first appear and colours can seem washed out, but viewing angles and brightness are good enough to satisfy most users.

Android 5.0.1 is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM, which provide enough power for everyday tasks, although there are some issues when multitasking and lag creeps in when attempting to run several apps alongside those in the background. 8GB of internal storage is advertised, but you’ll only 3.45GB of that, so you’ll need to invest in a microSD card.

The 8MP camera is a solid performer, if not spectacular. Tinker around with the settings and you’ll be able to churn out some decent shots. The ability to shoot video in HD is a definite bonus.

While the size of the battery is nothing to write home about, it performs admirably. It’s not quite on the level of the Motorola Moto E, but moderate use should leave you with around a third of your juice left at bedtime. 

A good all-round phone that’s preferred to its sibling, the LG Leon.

6. Huawei P8 Lite

Price: £89.99

huawei-p8-lite

Image: Huawei

Pros:

  • Great design
  • Solid build
  • Capable performance
  • Responsive camera

Cons:

  • Low contrast and brightness      
  • Poor video performance
  • A few software bugs to iron out

Key specs:

  • Size: 143mm x 70.6mm x 7.7 mm; Weight: 131g
  • 5-inch, 1280 x 720 IPS LCD display (294ppi)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 1.2GHz octa-core processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 13MP rear-facing camera, with LED flash; 5MP front-facing camera
  • 16GB internal storage with microSD support
  • 4G support
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Android 5.0
  • 2200mAh battery

The Huawei P8 Lite is a stripped back version of the hugely impressive Huawei P8 and packs in specs that only the Vodafone Smart Ultra can match at this price.

The P8’s metal chassis has been replaced by an all-plastic shell here, but aesthetically the design doesn’t suffer. Brushed faux-aluminium gives a premium look and the build remains solid. The phone feels great in the hand too, although it could have been a little more compact.

On bare specs, the 720p, 294ppi display of the P8 Lite should be impressive. These numbers are the same as the Microsoft Lumia 640 and Vodafone Smart Prime 6, but the results aren’t as pleasing. Colours are true but contrast and brightness are too low, which causes issues outdoors. It’s a decent display that could be better.

Under the hood, there is an octa-core processor and 2GB of RAM to keep things running seamlessly. There is no lag in general use and the low resolution screen means you can enjoy a bit of gaming as well. Android 5.0 is paired with Huawei’s iOS-like skin, which looks great, but is a niggly.

Stock Android would have been much better. 10.2GB of the 16GB internal storage is available for use and there’s a microSD card slot with support for up to 128GB – so no worries there.

A 13MP camera is huge for a cheap smartphone, but megapixels aren’t everything. As a snapper the camera performs okay in good light conditions with HDR mode on, but is found wanting in low-light. Colours are true, but soft. The app itself is good and the front-facing camera can be put to good use for selfies and video calls. While they can be shot in full HD, videos don’t have great picture quality. They’re not totally awful, but a lack of sharpness is clear.

Battery life is arguably the biggest weakness of the P8 Lite. It will just about see out the day under moderate use and there is no Quick Charging support for a swift juice boost.

If looks and specs are your thing, the Huawei P8 Lite should make your shortlist.

5. ASUS ZenFone 5

Price: £99.99

asus-zenfone-5

Image: ASUS

Pros:

  • Neat design
  • Great display
  • Nippy performance

Cons:

  • Average battery life
  • Underwhelming camera

Key specs:

  • Size: 148.2mm x 72.8mm x 10.3mm; Weight: 145g
  • 5-inch, 1280 x 720 IPS display (294ppi)
  • Intel Atom 1.6GHz dual-core processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 8MP rear-facing camera, with LED flash; 2MP front-facing camera
  • 8GB/16GB internal storage with microSD support
  • 4G support
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Android 4.3 (upgradeable to Android 5.0)
  • 2110mAh battery

The middle offering in ASUS’s smartphone series, the ZenFone 5 is a solid budget phone that brings a lot to the table.

The device is a little bit clunky and bezels could be smaller, but the curved back and metal lip beneath the screen give it a neat look that’s enhanced by ASUS’s trademark vibrant colour choices. It’s a large phone, but you’ll have no trouble holding and operating it with one hand.

The 5-inch, 720p screen is sharp and contrast is strong. It holds up well in sunlight too, putting up there with the Motorola Moto G2 in terms of quality.

Unlike most of other phones in this list, the ZenFone 5 is powered by an Intel processor – the dual-core 1.6GHz Atom chip. This is backed by an impressive 2GB of RAM. Performance wise, this device is on par with the Moto G2. Day-to-day tasks can be carried out with ease and 3D games can be enjoyed with only a slight drop in framerate. The Android KitKat operating system isn’t bad, especially as ZenUI is one of the better manufacturer skins out there. You’ll still want to upgrade to Android 5.0 as soon as possible, though.

The 8MP camera is decent, but slightly let down by not being stock Android. Having said that, there are some nice features to help you deal with changing light conditions.

Performance is solid for the price and HDR mode is excellent. Unfortunately, it lets itself down with disappointing video recording, where 1080p continually stutters. On the front, the 2MP shooter is respectable enough for vanity snaps.

The ZenFone 5 would benefit from a larger battery than the 2110mAh unit ASUS has gone with. Stamina is okay – you’ll get a day on moderate use – but heavy use will leave you reaching for the microUSB cable before bedtime.

Keep the price in mind when using the ASUS ZenFone 5 and you’ll be satisfied with your purchase.

4. Motorola Moto G 4G

Price: £98.99

motorola-g2

Image: Motorola

Pros:

  • Solid design
  • Good camera performance
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Stock Android 5.0

Cons:

  • Underwhelming speakers
  • Aging processor

Key specs:

  • Size: 141.5mm x 70.7mm x 11mm; Weight: 149g
  • 5.0-inch, 1280 x 720 IPS LCD display (294ppi)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 1.2GHz quad-core processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8MP rear-facing camera, with LED flash; 2MP front-facing camera
  • 8GB/16GB internal storage with microSD support
  • 4G support
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Android 5.0
  • 2070mAh battery

Despite being originally released in 2014, the Motorola Moto G is still a wonderful piece of kit. Only price and slightly better processing power keep it from being recommended ahead of its smaller sibling.

The Moto G is very similar to many budget phones: solid rather than spectacular. It’s a plain device, but the matte plastic, curved rear panel makes it nice to hold. The display is wonderfully clear and crisp. 294ppi is lower than the original Moto G, but you won’t see any pixels unless you look really close. Webpages, games and videos all look great on this 5-inch screen.

The quad-core processor here is beginning to show its age and the Moto G doesn’t perform quite as well as the Moto E. Don’t worry, though, there is still more than enough power for everyday tasks and 1GB of RAM keeps things ticking along nicely. 8GB of internal storage for the lower priced device means, once again, you’ll need the assistance of a microSD card.

Stock Android 5.0 (the device ships with Android 4.4 but can be upgraded immediately) benefits the phone’s performance, but the camera app isn’t the same one you’ll find on Nexus devices. It’s still simple, though. Tweak the settings to shoot in 8MP and snaps are nicely detailed in all but low-light conditions. The 2MP front-facing camera is one of the best around.

Under heavy use, the battery in the Moto G should last 8-9 hours. In general use, with the battery saving switched on, you can easily enjoy a day and a half off one charge.

3. Microsoft Lumia 640

Price: £95.00

microsoft-lumia-640

Image: Microsoft

Pros:

  • Good battery life
  • Excellent camera
  • Impressive display

Cons:

  • Poor app store
  • Aging processor

Key specs:

  • Size: 141mm x 72mm x 8.8mm; Weight: 145g
  • 5-inch, 1280 x 720 IPS LCD display (294ppi)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 1.2GHz quad-core processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8MP rear-facing camera, with LED flash; 0.9MP front-facing camera
  • 8GB internal storage with microSD support
  • 4G support
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Windows 8.1 (upgradable to Windows 10)
  • 2500mAh battery

There are some real bargains to be had with Windows Phone devices. Unfortunately, apps are a huge factor when buying a smartphone and the Windows Store doesn’t come close to competing with Google Play or the Apple App Store.

However, if you’re a Windows fan or are willing to sacrifice some key Android apps, the Microsoft Lumia 640 is a cracking device.

Microsoft has kept up Nokia’s reputation for building quality handsets and the 640 has a real premium feel to it. The smooth, plastic shell looks fantastic and is great to hold, despite the slippery feel of the glossy back panel.

Powered up, the 640 sports a display that’s more impressive than its price suggests; the 720p HD screen represents colours well and the brightness holds up amicably in differing light conditions. The screen is made all the better by the slick tile-centric interface.

Under the hood are a 1.2GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM. This is older than the Snapdragon chip found in the Motorola Moto E and LG Spirit which is a bit disappointing, but the less intensive Windows OS means you can get away with less power. Speaking of Windows, this comes with version 8.1, but can be upgraded to the all-round better Windows 10. Both will take a little bit of getting used to.

The 1MP camera on the front is functional, but nothing more. The rear camera, however, is a very impressive performer. With a fantastic range of apps, such as Rich Camera and Lumia Cinemagraph, it is possible to take some detailed snaps.

The battery is also great, reaching a day and a half, even under heavy use.

2. Moto E – 2nd Generation

Price: £59.00

Motorola-Moto-E

Image: Motorola

Pros:                                                         

  • Solid build
  • Great battery life
  • 4G support
  • Good performance

Cons

  • Average camera
  • Moto apps could be easier to set up

Key specs:

  • Size: 129.9mm x 66.8mm x 12.3mm; Weight 145g
  • 4.5-inch, 960 x 540 IPS display (245ppi)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad-core processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 5MP rear-facing camera; 0.3MP front-facing camera
  • 8GB internal storage with microSD support
  • 4G support
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Android 5.0
  • 2,390mAh battery

With the release of the original Moto G and E handsets, Motorola changed the game in terms of what it was possible to achieve with a budget phone. This device, the 2nd generation Moto E, improves upon its predecessor with a slightly larger display (4.5-inches up from 4.3-inches), front-facing camera and overall better performance.

The majority of things in the new device are the same as the older model: Snapdragon 410 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 5MP rear-facing camera, microSD card slot (with support for up to 32GB). And that’s no bad thing – the first Moto E was a mightily impressive budget phone. The design hasn’t changed either, but the plastic shell looks attractive and feels solid in the hand.

Performance when browsing the web and running common apps is excellent, with the Snapdragon quad-core processor ensuring virtually no lag whatsoever. 3D games are too much handle, but everything else is effortless. The Moto E runs stock Android 5.0, which really enhances performance; however, Moto apps could be more user-friendly.

It’s not all good – the cameras aren’t great, especially in low-light conditions. However, if all you’re planning to do is snap on the move and upload the results to social media, you won’t be too put off by the results. Videos aren’t outstanding either, but bearing the price in mind, you really can’t grumble.

Battery life has increased from the original Moto E, lasting around 30% longer than the 1st gen Moto E, and internal storage has been bumped up to 8GB from 4GB; although, even with that you’ll still need to utilise the microSD card slot.

At the price, you’ll not find anything better.

1. Vodafone Smart Ultra 6

Price: £99.00

vodafone-smart-ultra-6

Image: Vodafone

Pros:

  • Fantastic screen
  • Excellent performance
  • Good camera

Cons:

  • Locked to Vodafone
  • Vodafone apps cannot be uninstalled

Key specs:

  • Size: 154mm x 77mm x 8.4mm; Weight: 159g
  • 5.5-inch, 1920 x 1080 display (401ppi)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 1.7GHz octa-core processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 13MP rear-facing camera, with LED flash and full HD video recording; 5MP front-facing camera
  • 16GB internal storage with microSD support
  • 4G support
  • Android 5.0
  • 3000mAh battery

The big brother to the Smart Prime 6 is the best budget smartphone on the market. The fact that you can pick up a Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 for £100 is astonishing given its specs and quality of performance.

The design of the Ultra 6, like its smaller sibling, is nothing to shout home about, but the brushed metal plastic is far from horrible and feels comfortable in the hand despite its size and light chassis.

A 5.5-inch display might be too large for some, but those willing to embrace it are rewarded with a stunning full HD screen that’s every bit as good those found on devices five-times the price. Colours are vibrant and contrasts are strong.

An octa-core processor is backed by 2GB of RAM, meaning you’ll have no trouble getting things done. A stock-version of Android Lollipop – save for a few pointless Vodafone apps – only enhances performance. You’ll get 11GB of the 16GB storage to play with, which can be bumped up with the help of a microSD card.

The 13MP rear camera, while not quite Samsung Galaxy S6 quality, is better than anything in the budget or mid-range. Photos are bright, crisp and detailed, with a range of Android features allowing you to capture the perfect shot. The 5MP front camera is pleasing too – arguably better than the primary camera on many other budget devices. Taking selfies and video calling are both enjoyable.

A 3000mAh battery performs impressively, easily lasting a day under moderate to heavy use, even with such a high-res screen.

If you’re not put off by Vodafone as a network, this is the best budget smartphone you’ll find.

*Prices correct at time of writing

Thanks largely to the fragmentation of Android, the price of smartphones has tumbled dramatically in recent years. These days you’ll have no problem landing yourself a touchscreen device for under £100. The question is can £100 get you good smartphone?

There’s a lot of rubbish out there, but there are some real bargains too. The issue has always been separating the wheat from the chaff. Dozens of devices look the part when it’s a dummy phone sat on a shelf. What really matters is what the handset


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