back to article Ten Androids for under 100 quid

It feels like yesterday smartphones were a luxury only afforded to those with sexy salaries, but as high-end devices push their predecessors down a peg – these yesterday's men are there for the taking for those on a shoestring. There's a fairly wide choice of attractive handset for less than £100 but you'll not find an iPhone …


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  1. Khaptain Silver badge


    Most of them seem to have been based on a rounded rectangle shape. Are they really iPhones in disguise ?

    1. LarsG

      T-mobile Vivacity

      Double take, thought it was the iPhone then saw the branding.

      In answer to why Apple have not come knocking, easy answer.

      It is crap, won't sell much and will have no detrimental effect on profits, unlike the S3 which does everything as well, if not better.

      1. Mr Fuzzy

        Re: T-mobile Vivacity

        Crap? Only if you're taking the same standpoint as someone who drives a high end car and looks down on those in hatchbacks. Given the difference in price versus the difference in performance/features a budget smartphone is an eminently sensible choice for those with a slimmer discretionary wad.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: T-mobile Vivacity

          He specifically meant crap as compared to a £500 iPhone, which was pretty clear from his post. Untwist your panties...

          1. ThomH

            Re: T-mobile Vivacity

            If I dare venture a quite separate opinion then Apple hasn't come knocking because neither ZTE nor Orange are in the Apple supply chain. The lawsuits against Samsung are probably as much a negotiating pawn in next year's parts order as anything else.

      2. auburnman
        Thumb Up

        Re: T-mobile Vivacity

        I wouldn't call it crap, it's obviously one of the better phones in its price range from the review. Apple obviously haven't come knocking because they don't care about people who want to spend £100 or less on a phone. Thumbs up for the review btw, been looking at cheapo smartphones for the parents and I had my eye on the Galaxy Y until I saw the lacklustre praise here.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: T-mobile Vivacity

          Re the Galaxy Y , I just bought one for my son - he's 17 so not a nipper. I'm really impressed by it and think the review is unfair as far as the display is concerned. People choose to buy a phone with a larger of small screen according to whether they want to lug something large around or not. The 3 inch screen is perfectly readable and the resolution is not up there with my Nokia, but I use mine as mobile office and frequent replacement for camera, etc. For 80 quid the Galaxy Y is very decent. If you want a bigger screen and higher resolution one then sure, an extra 20 quid for the Huwai seems hard to beat, but for some the brand will be an issue.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: T-mobile Vivacity

        "In answer to why Apple have not come knocking, easy answer. It is crap ..."

        Though from what I remember about trademarks was that unless you took action against all infringements then you had the possibility of losing the trademark ... doesn't the same apply to design patents?

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: T-mobile Vivacity

          Trademark != design patent.

          You can tell as they are spelt differently.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    SanFrancisco is pretty good

    And it would have been a lot better if it wasn't stuffed with Orange crudware, Orange branding/skinning and usless trial software, none of which is removable - even the sodding trial stuff.

    Got shot of that (and Orange) and it's a pretty good phone.

    1. Bassey

      Re: SanFrancisco is pretty good

      "would have been a lot better if it wasn't stuffed with Orange crudwar.... none of which is removable"

      Unlock it, stick ROM Manager on and then flash a new ROM. Takes all of 20 minutes and completely transforms the phone. There are LOADS of step-by-step guides including YouTube videos to hold your hand through the process. It really is as simple as installing a couple of bits of software and then following the on-screen instructions.

      1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser

        Re: SanFrancisco is pretty good

        Precisely, that's why I said "Got shot of that (and Orange) and it's a pretty good phone."

        Its just a shame Orange's opinion of its customers is so low that they make it necesary to jump through hoops to get a decent product.

      2. netean
        Thumb Up

        Re: SanFrancisco is pretty good

        I bought an original San Francisco about 18 months ago. Of course it kept the orange crapware infeste OS on it for all of 10 minutes. But I have to say it's the best £100 I've ever spent. I've nuked it and put on custom Rom and custom Rom so many times now, I've installed app after app, Of course the camera on it is all but useless but I have a real camera for taking pictures. I had a working version Android 4.0 on my ZTE way before my fellow HTC Desire loving colleagues as well. Ok, like for like, it's not a patch on a Desire HD or later, but it's been the most fun, the most flexible, the most well use bit of electronics I've ever owned. Currently it's doubling up as my phone, my skype phone, my wireless router, my firewall, my wireless proxy, in conjunction with my Google Music account it's also my wireless music DLNA server and it's running my two of my php driven, mysql development test sites too. Despite me throwing on some of the ropiest custom bleeding edge ROMs I could find, it's not let me down, not even once. For any price I think it's been great fun, but for <£100 at the time it was a bargain IMO.

        WHen it comes to replacing it, I'd have no hesitation about buying another cheap as chips ZTE

        1. plrndl

          Re: SanFrancisco is pretty good


          I bought a San Fran the day it was released, having read about it in El Reg. My experimentation has been a little less extreme, but I couldn't have had a better intro to the world of smart phones. A penguin in the pocket, with CLI!. I'm now looking for the next step. A300 perhaps, since it even looks like OSF's big brother.

        2. mickey mouse the fith
          Thumb Up

          Re: SanFrancisco is pretty good

          I also got an original sanfran just after it was released. Had it rooted, unlocked and sporting a custom rom as soon as i got it. It never missed a beat right up till i replaced it for a arm7 phone a few months ago.

          The amoled screen is still a thing of vibrent beauty, the colours and resolution are fantastic for the £110 I paid for it. The screen was so good that it made the pictures the woeful camera(the only bad thing about it) took look suprisingly good. It was only when viewing them on a pc that their lack of quality became apparent.

          The other thing I liked was the fact it was small enough to fit in a pocket without discomfort, unlike most smartphones around.

          Im still amazed at what the guys at modaco are squeezing out of the old girl, theres even a jellybean port.

    2. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: SanFrancisco is pretty good

      The phone would be more expensive if it weren't for Orange expecting to make cash from the crudware. There's a reason a phone of this quality is offered at such a price. Barring flashing the ROM etc that 99.9% of buyers won't do, it's a compromise people will have to take.

    3. wowfood

      Re: SanFrancisco is pretty good

      Keep an eye on that useless trial ware which you can't remove.

      I looked at my online bills and I'd started getting charged for some crap called Traffic TV. Preinstalled on my phone, no way to remove it. Had to call up orange to cancel it and get my money back. Right now I'm looking at rooting my phone just so I can get rid of this shite.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spend a little more.

    extra £40 for an Xperia U will get you a sim-free dual core, front facing camera (for Google Talk/Skype), and a ICS upgrade.

    1. Bassey

      Re: Spend a little more.

      And I would agree with you 100% if it weren't for the lack of MicroSD card suppport in the U. That just kills it for me. How can you really use it as a smartphone with only around 6GB? Most of the uses that define a smartphone require large amounts of storage.

  4. a1exh

    Vivacity is now £39.99

    The T-Mobile Vivacity is now £49.99 plus £10 cash back with Quidco or TopCashback so £39.99 in total.

    I think that makes it the best value for money Android phone on the market today.

    1. Caleb Cox (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Vivacity is now £39.99

      Wow, if you can get the Vivacity for £40 it certainly is crazy value for money.

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Re: Vivacity is now £39.99

        And if it can be had for that much, and flashed with ICS, does it make a better bet as a portable wifi hotspot than investing in a MiFi? Very tempting alternative

    2. auburnman
      Thumb Up

      Re: Vivacity is now £39.99

      Bloody Oath that's decent. Anyone know if you can unlock it from T-Mobile with the Rooting kits you get online, or if you need to bung a note to one of those guys down the market?

      1. dotslash

        Re: Vivacity is now £39.99

        according to this it's possible

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Vivacity is now £39.99

          Tempting - shame they only have the white version on PAYG:

  5. smalga

    ARMv6/11 chips

    The thing to watch with a lot of these budget phones is that they use CPUs based on ARMv6 aka ARM11 which some apps don't support - much to my wife's annoyance!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ARMv6/11 chips

      Yes ... and to confuse matters Qualcomm have migrated their low end chip from ARM11 (ARMv6 architecture) to CortexA5 (ARM v7 architecture) while keeping the chipset name the same apart from a different final suffix letter. (And also, think they have them all in the same "snapdragon" family with the much more powerful devices thtat are powered by their Scorpion processor which is more on a par with CortexA8/A9)

    2. A J Stiles

      Re: ARMv6/11 chips

      I thought Android apps were fully-interpreted and independent of the underlying processor, hence why there is at least one Android phone with an Intel processor?

      1. Steve Todd

        Re: ARMv6/11 chips

        Many Android apps use ARM binary code for performance. The intel based phone has an ARM emulator package to try to compensate but it's still reckoned to be compatible with 90% of Android apps (and that's Intel's number).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ARMv6/11 chips

        Java has interfaces to native code .. JNI and JNA...

        If you want to ship native code you have the choice of shipping an "arm" library that'll work on any ARM based phone that ships with android.. arm-v7a which works on ARMv7a+ (the interesting thing there being NEON) and/or an X86 version.. MIPS is another certified arch IIRC but I don't think it's turned up in the NDK yet.. I seem to remember there being code for SuperH in some of the Android libs so maybe someone tried that too...

        The important part is that the market knows about the native code you ship and filters those apps that only ship with libraries your phone can't use which is why some games etc don't appear for these low budget phones.

  6. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I'm still using the original Orange Sanfran running cyanogenmod 7 Android 2.3, Are any of these budget smart phone worth me trading in my Sanfran or should i wait until better spec'd phones with Android 4 start to appear below £100?

    And with the source code for Android 4 being released nearly a year ago how come companies are still releasing new phones with Android 2.2/2.3, i thought any phone capable of running Android 2.2 was supposed to be able run Android 4?

    1. Wang N Staines

      Huawei Ascend G300

      Get the Huawei Ascend G300 as ICS upgrade is already available.

      Also there are lots of ROM available here:

    2. James Le Cuirot

      Jelly Bean on the original San Fran

      I installed an experimental CM10 (Jelly Bean) ROM on my original San Fran a couple of days ago. It really does run faster than CM7 did but the hardware acceleration is a tiny bit glitchy. I don't mind that on balance and am pleased I made the jump.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Jelly Bean on the original San Fran

        I'm going to try this now... Been using ColdfusionX (CM9 based) with zero issues for ages, and that was faster than CM7 too

  7. Buzzword

    Huawei Ascend G300

    Worth mentioning that you did a review of this one a few months ago, where it was only worthy of an 80% rating. Somehow it's 90% now, despite nothing having changed?

    1. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: Huawei Ascend G300

      The Register ratings system:

      <=50% = bad

      >=80% = good

      anything else = were not really sure about this

    2. Wang N Staines

      Re: Huawei Ascend G300

      80% -> 90% because ICS has just been released by Huawei.

    3. Frumious Bandersnatch

      Re: Huawei Ascend G300

      re: change in ratings, perhaps it's because in this review it's stacked up against other sub-£100 phones. As an android phone it might get 80% overall, but 90% if you're buying on a budget. That's my take on it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Under $100

    Your "Hardware Editors Choice" doesn't fit your own criteria of under £100. cost < 100 is not the same as cost <= 100.

    Pedantic I know ;-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Under $100

      Well, it does, it's actually £99 as Vodaphone PAYG. Though you do need to pay a fiver to get it unlocked by someone from Bulgaria on Ebay... Mine's on Orange.

  9. b166er

    My recent phones are the HTC Desire from the day it launched in the UK until I upgraded to the Samsung Galaxy S2.

    I bought the Vivacity (TMV) last week for £49 + £10 top-up.

    Once I'd unlocked it, put on a clean ROM and put my giffgaff SIM in it, all was well.

    It's actually a great little phone and looks much better than the OSFII IMO. Almost comparable to the HTC Desire, which only 2 years ago cost £450!

    I spent considerable time researching the best phone for the least money and I don't think you can do better than the Vivacity at the moment, even bearing in mind that T-Mobile are currently wanting £69 + £10 top up for the white version.

    It's easy to unlock and equip with a debranded ROM too.

    1. b166er

      Just noticed it's back own to £49 + £10 on T-Mobile, so I'm about to buy another one for my son, who has somehow managed to kill my old Desire within 9 months :/.

      He'll be buying the Vivacity out of his own money!

  10. Dogsauce

    If you want an iPhone, just buy an iPhone. Offer your friend £70 for that old 3GS sat in their kitchen drawer, stick in a pay monthly sim and wait until the next gen falls into that price bracket on the secondary market in about 12 months. You'd still be ahead of most of these.

    1. thesykes

      This may come as a bit of a shock, but, well, not everyone wants a bloody iPhone.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Erm... the 'going rate' for a two year old 3GS is still in the region of £150.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Evvery phone here is better than a 3GS

      Many are even better than a 4.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Evvery phone here is better than a 3GS

        Don't talk crap.

  11. Silverburn

    Galaxy fit/Y

    I got one as an emergency/backup phone. It was alright actually - bit slow, but was it was still a phone, still did email and maps ok. Facebook app was a bit slow (but when is it not). And the battery life was excellent - especially when "off" - it could last for weeks with almost negligible drain.

    For 100 quid, what's not to like!

  12. Big_Ted

    If you don't mind the Vodafone crapware

    Then the Huawei is a great phone.

    ICS is in testing and should be rolled out soon so it can only get better.

    Got one for my sister using a £15 voucher from tesco and used the saving to unlock it.

    If you have any clubcard vouchers then you can double them in value to get one from Tesco now.

    1. Andy ORourke

      Re: If you don't mind the Vodafone crapware

      I really like the look of the Huawei Ascend G300

      I couldn't find it on the Tesco website, is it available as pay & go anywhere,

      Was considering eBaying my iPhone 4, I just something simple with enough "features" (like making / receiving calls, sending text's and tethering the iPad to) that I don't really care about dropping from my pocket!

      1. alpine

        Re: If you don't mind the Vodafone crapware

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. DuncanL

        Re: If you don't mind the Vodafone crapware

        You need to look at Tesco Direct, not the main Tesco site -

        1. alpine

          Re: If you don't mind the Vodafone crapware

          It's Gorilla glass too.

        2. Andy ORourke

          Re: If you don't mind the Vodafone crapware

          Thanks for the input everyone, I am assuming tethering is a feature of the Android system, is it dependent on carrier? are all android phones able to be used as a hotspot?

          1. Big_Ted

            Re: If you don't mind the Vodafone crapware

            Don't bother with tehering myself, just use wifi hotspot

            If you are going to tether then chack out PDANet It hides most tethering from carriers, however it might still be obvious if you use loads of data too often.

      4. Big_Ted

        Re: If you don't mind the Vodafone crapware

        @ Andy ORourke

    2. Soruk

      Re: If you don't mind the Vodafone crapware

      That's exactly what I did - except I used £45 of vouchers to pay for all but the last 9.97. They were out of stock of screen protectors otherwise that phone accessory would have pushed it over the £100 mark (so I could have used another £5 voucher!) still, bought and unlocked for under 60 quid.

  13. matthewjs

    LG Optimus L3

    Just in case there's anyone out there mulling over the purchase of an LG Optimus L3 - it's a great little phone. I don't know whether I'm indicative of the average low-end smartphone user but I use mine to check e-mail, use Facebook, view websites, use Google Maps and watch the occasional clip on YouTube, and the L3 does all those things without any hassle whatsoever. The screen may not be the sharpest out there but it's more than acceptable for reading e-mails and viewing websites, and although the camera is "only" 3MP that's more than adequate for taking impromptu snaps at parties, funny street names while on holiday, dumb pictures of my own face to upload to Facebook... does anyone use a camera phone for much more than this? If I want a genuinely good-quality photo of something I'll use my DSLR.

    It's not helpful when reviews like these simply compare the product to the current market leader, rather than assessing how well or how badly they do the simple jobs they're likely to be bought for.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wha? Pointless...

    A cheap smartphone is like a cheap hooker, a cheap flight or a cheap lunch. You get what you pay for. You many get some of the experience, but it won't likely to be very enjoyable.

    1. Gio Ciampa

      Re: Wha? Pointless...

      Same goes for opinions from ACs...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wha? Pointless...

        Exactly. Anon does cheapen the experience as you don't exactly know who I am. That's the fun of it, but these phones seem like no fun running previous or 2nd previous gen hardware. But it's the same for any Android phone to be fair.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Wha? Pointless...

      What a load of old bollocks.

      Although I suppose it does somewhat depend on your definition of enjoyable...

      My phone is a tool. I don't use it for fun, I have an mp3 player and an iPad for that. The phone's job is to make an hour or 2 of calls a day, keep me in contact, provide email, maps and check the internet if no other method is available. It should also be a WiFi hotspot for the iPad when needed - and take the odd, (at least) mediocre photo.

      I don't 'enjoy' my phone in the sense of giggling while using it, but it is pleasant to use. I also enjoy it in the same sense that the contract on the flat I'm buying says I have the right to enjoy the use of it.

      I'm beginning to come to the opposite conclusion actually. That the top end phones are beginning to be a huge rip-off. Component costs have fallen, but their prices haven't.

      Sure an iPhone4S or a Samsung Galaxy III would be better than my current Nokia Lumia 710, or the HTC Wildfire it replaced. Or any of these. But would they really be 5 times better? Because they're 5 times the more expensive...

      £500 buys you the latest iPhone, but the same cash buys a more than competent phone, and an iPad3. Alternatively instead of a Samsung Galaxy III, you could blow those 500 notes on 2 Google Nexus 7 tablets and 2 pretty decent Huwaei G300s.

      It's only the fact that most people buy their phones on a hire purchase agreement disguised as a comms contract that allows them to get away with charging this massive premium. It'll be interesting to see how long they can keep it up.

  15. Anonymous Coward


    "Running Android 2.3 Gingerbread it's extremely responsive, without a twitch."

    Is the reviewer on crack?!?

    It's got more lag than a central heating boiler!

    The G300 is probably the best of the budget bunch but for all the fandroids claiming it's better than an iPhone, they need to get a grip!

    I bought a G300 for £99 from Sainsburys, no topup needed. I paid £5 to get an unlock code via ebay.

    This is a backup phone but I don't think I could live with it as my only phone. Battery life is crap. It's also very creaky and plasticky especially in the bottom third.

    There's no hardware acceleration for the UI in the ICS roms I've seen either so you may as well leave GB on it.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. hughy

    HTC Explorer for £80

    Can't find it for that much anywhere. Anyone have a link?

  17. b166er

    Just so as you know, that guide on getandroidfree for unlocking the T-Mobile Vivacity, works.

    I also referenced the following:


    There were a couple of tries getting the QPST backup restored, but all in all the process was a doddle.

    I tried a CyanogenMod7 ROM and a 'Fish'n'Chips' ROM that wouldn't boot, and then decided to go for the vanilla debranded ROM as I'm only using the phone for support calls and therefore reliability triumphs over bells'n'whistles.


  18. doveman

    Maybe 7" tablet for £80 instead?

    I want to get something for my Mum that can do the usual, Maps, Facebook Youtube, etc and was thinking of a smartphone but then I saw the Sumvision Astro+ 7" Tablet PC for only £80 and thought that might be better as it's obviously got a bigger screen, which will help as her eyesight's not as good as it was and she probably prefers to keep her simple phone for calls and texts.

    The specs are:

    - ARM Cortex A8 1.2GHz

    - 1GB RAM + 16GB Flash

    - 7 “ LCD Multi-touch capacitive touch screen

    - Resolution: 800 x 480

    - 0.3 MP Webcam

    - Supports WCDMA / CDMA EVDO (external 3G dongle required – sold separately)

    - Wi-Fi: IEEE 802.11b/g compliant

    - Android 4.0.3

    Any thoughts?

    1. Snowy Silver badge

      Re: Maybe 7" tablet for £80 instead?

      My first thought would be where does she get Wi-Fi for internet access, tethered from the simple phone?

      1. doveman

        Re: Maybe 7" tablet for £80 instead?

        At home she'd get it from the upstairs router (works fine from the downstairs living room) and I presume when out she'd use the office Wi-Fi and other public hotspots in pubs, shops, libraries, etc.

        I realise without 3G or GPS it's limited in terms of using maps to get around but there's an app that lets you download google maps so she can use those, albeit without a "You are here" marker. It seems like most Android-based tablets don't have 3G and at least this one has an SD slot and USB slot, which the Nexus 7 doesn't seem to.

        My main concern would be battery life/standby time (particularly as it apparently takes about 45s to boot). The 7" has a 3200ma and quotes 7-5 hours playtime whilst the Astro+9 (9.7" IPS) has a 7800mAh and quotes a runtime of (up to) 6 hours, so perhaps the larger screen cancels out any benefit from the larger battery capacity. Either way, I've seen reports that the 7" only lasts for 2-3 hours, which seems ridiculously short and can I imagine it running out of juice at the most inconvenient moments if that's the case.

  19. Bada Wave Y - Less than £60

    There is an Alternative to Android

    I do not need lots of pointless apps. I'll stick to my Samsung Wave Y, running Bada 2. Only £49.95 (this week) from your local Phones4U, or £59.89 from Dial a Phone. This phone is brilliant, and reliable. Therefore, my best option!

  20. Steve Evans


    A mention of the RAM is almost as important as the CPU speed. Many manufacturers cut corners (and cost) by designing in the lowest possible amount of RAM they can get away with. As soon as you use it for more than a few minutes (and have background apps either running or on idle) the phone can slow to a crawl.

    From my experience I'd say you want a minimum of 768meg for Froyo or Gingerbread... You can get away with 512, but you take a performance hit.

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