back to article Say goodbye to landfill Android: Top 10 cheap 'n' cheerful smartphones

So, you want a smartphone but you don’t want to pay more than £150 (and ideally a whole lot less). You’re going buy a Motorola Moto G, right? Probably. The G is a very safe bet. But are there alternatives? Indeed there are. All the devices poked here with The Reg stick run Android bar one. That device will soon to get an …

  1. James 51

    I have a Q10 but regret not buying the Q5 when carphone warehouse were selling them for £100 sim free. It has the same internals, it's the case that is different. Still a quality phone though. *sigh*

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Didn't realise that, so you can just replaced the outter bits and basically get a Q10

      1. James 51

        The Q5 has a 5mp camera and 8gb storage built in. Q10 has 8mp and 16gb. Those are the only real differences between the specs (the keyboard on the Q10 is very very good though).

  2. Sandy Ritchie

    Wot no Z10?

    I'd have imagined when comparing touch screen only phones you must have at least considered the BB Z10. Same OS as the Q10-5 but touch screen only, making it comparable to the derth of 'Droid phones you compared.

    Personally I think you should have frisbee'd the Archos* one right into the bin and kept the column inches for another BB.

    *no one buys Archos anymore, they suck donkey balls. Its clear they are a Frenchese firm as they don't give 2 sheets about their customers.

    1. durandal

      Re: Wot no Z10?

      Z10 isn't budget territory, though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wot no Z10?

        And Angela Merkel has swapped hers for a Q10, though the ones on sale here don't come with the voice encryption.

    2. ThomH

      Re: Wot no Z10?

      The Z10 can be had unlocked in the US for $210.72 on Amazon which would put it in the league of this article (as £150 is $256.30) except that in the UK Amazon wants... £187.49.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    oh dear

    and my ex-orange San Francisco is going strong. Funny thing, it does exactly what I want of it (and could do lots more than I don't)

    - it makes and receives calls

    - it plays music

    - it comes with a gps and no longer updated offline mapping app (forgot the name). Shows maps.

    - displays text (aka e-book reader). A bit small, true, but not too painful

    - battery lasts a few days (and I can buy a cheap replacement, I bet, as it's removable)

    A true customer from hell. With more people like this, the world of "progress" would collapse and we'd all be doomed. Hell, we'd probably still be dragging our feet undecided whether to step out of the caves to the open world of plain opportunities. Fortunately (?) most other humans are in the over-fucking-whelming majority of "proper" customers.

    1. MrWibble

      Re: oh dear

      Another OSF user here - although it has now been relegated to a bike GPS computer, and MP3 player, rather than a day to day phone. For £100 over three years ago, it was a damn good phone.

      For offline mapping, OSMDroid is good - you can pay for it via google play, or get it free from github, or F-Droid (Open source)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: oh dear

        Used to have an AMOLED san francisco too. It's been donated to the parents. I'm rocking a Moto G now (1st edition, so no 4G or sd-card for me ;_;). I like to think I ride the sweet spot of price/performance.

    2. Chika

      Re: oh dear

      I still have my OSF. I use it for a backup should I need it, and it has come in handy on a few occasions over the time since I stopped using it for day to day duties. The only thing I've done to change it was to ditch Eclair and stick something a little more recent on it courtesy of CyanogenMod. It also gave me the opportunity to get away from the Orange shovelware, possibly the biggest aggravation of the OSF.

    3. KitD

      Re: oh dear

      Also happy ex-OSF customer here. Only gave it up for a Moto G when I wanted a newer Android and my daughter wanted a cheap smartphone. Didn't take much persuading mind.

  4. petur

    LG L90

    I was quite impressed with the LG L90 I bought for a relative recently. Quite a bit of phone for 200 EUR, including microSD slot and a nice >2500mAh battery

  5. Tom 38 Silver badge

    Once upon a time, Alcatel was known for making budget tat.

    Hmmpf. Once upon a time, Alcatel was known for producing the highest quality fiber optic interconnects known to man.

  6. DanX

    As a long time iphone user.

    I had to run some mailserver migration and wanted a test phone that wasn't mine for the testlab, I picked up a Moto E for the job cause it wasn't expensive, and its a really nice device.

    Compared to my iPhone 4, its not as nice (more plastically), but it is a lot better. Do I like nice more than better...

  7. Rallicat

    No Lumia?

    So, I find it pretty surprising that you'd do a review of cheap smartphones, but not include at least one of the cheaper Lumia devices.

    I realise that there are plenty of Reg readers who aren't exactly fans of Microsoft, but plenty of people like WIndows Phone, and plenty of regular consumers have been buying low-end Windows Phone devices. The Lumia 520 easily fits into the £150 and lower price point of this article, as does the recently released 630/635.

    This kind of omission is -frankly- a bit dodgy. I'm not necessarily claiming a bias here, but when you've got 9 Androids, 1 BlackBerry, and not a single Lumia despite there being several Windows Phones that fit into this price category, to not have a single one begs the question - why?

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: No Lumia?

      I was about to say the same thing. El Reg spends a lot of time talking about how well MS is doing in this price bracket, in fact how they're only doing well in this price bracket - and has given lower-end Lumias very favourable reviews against similarly-priced Androids in the past.

    2. Philippe

      Re: No Lumia?

      The Article is about Android Landfill disappearing and being replaced by decent low cost phones.

      Nothing to do with Windows Phones.

      The only reason the BB is in there is its ability to run Android Apps.

      If a low cost Lumia could run Android apps it'd be there too

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: No Lumia?

        Exactly - "low cost phones" not "low cost android phones". Maybe the title was simply ambiguous.

        1. ShadowedOne

          Re: No Lumia?

          *Looks at the URL*



      2. b166er

        Re: No Lumia?

        The article also ironically states they're phones you can afford to lose down the beach.

        What's the exact definition of landfill? Does it have to include an absence of sand?

      3. Rallicat

        Re: No Lumia?

        I'll wait for the register to do a similar top-10 for other devices then.

        I'll probably be waiting a long time.

    3. Lars Silver badge

      Re: No Lumia?

      My dear friend there is no way to mention Lumia with a "landfill" header. Landfill is appropriate regarding WinTel but not allowed there either.

  8. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    75 bucks? WTF?


    For your 75 bucks you get a 4.5-inch FWVGA screen, a webcam, KitKat, a 1.2GHz

    Then you quote the price as being £75....

    So the new ElRef unit of currency is the buck where $1 == £1

    The likes of Adobe etc will be grinning all the way to the Pub today saying 'The Register has caught up with us at last'.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: 75 bucks? WTF?

      Actually, the price of the phone is £75, but some retailers will accept 75 freshly shot adult male rabbits.

      1. Ragarath

        Re: 75 bucks? WTF?

        Or if you're into bigger game, they also except male deer. Preferably with horns still attached.

        1. Richard 45

          Re: 75 bucks? WTF?

          I think you meant "accept".

          1. Phil W

            Re: 75 bucks? WTF?

            "I think you meant "accept"."

            Unless of course he meant that they don't accept them, in which case it would be correct to say they except them as a form of payment.

          2. 's water music

            Re: 75 bucks? WTF?

            I think you meant "accept".

            In my shop I except all animal carcasses from the list of currency I will accept in exchange for consumer electronics. It gets you some bad online reviews but its a hit I am prepared to take.

        2. Phil W

          Re: 75 bucks? WTF?

          Or 75 Gil Gerards

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 75 bucks? WTF?

            Your lack of up-votes in respect of Gil Gerard shows a distressing disconnect between geeks and classic geek shows :(

          2. Shane Sturrock

            Re: 75 bucks? WTF?

            Not sure about the exchange rate on Gil Gerards unfortunately. Back in the day I suspect you could get a lot for your 'Buck' but these days he's looking more like Jabba the Hutt.

            1. Phil W

              Re: 75 bucks? WTF?

              surely if he looks more like Jabba the Hutt you in fact get a lot more Buck?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Avoid these phones

    They are a waste of money.

    1GB is not enough for memory-hungry Android. You will get continual app crashes (esp. with the likes of Firefox).

    No microSD when storage is limited is an epic fail.

    Buy a feature phone and then use that whilst saving up for a proper smartphone.

    1. James 51

      Re: Avoid these phones

      Actually, the Q5 has 2gb of RAM and a micro SD slot.

    2. Eradicate all BB entrants

      Re: Avoid these phones

      Despite being an avid user on Firefox on desktop I won't use it on my phone as no matter how much memory you have it crashes. I find Dolphin runs better.

      I am quite lucky that my son isn't a stuck up little shit, so he is happy with phones at this level. He currently uses my old Xperia Arc, and will get my Z when I upgrade. For parents in a similar position to myself these devices are great for kids as if they do lose/break them its not a major drain on this months pay to replace them.

      1. Paw Bokenfohr

        Re: Avoid these phones

        Firefox runs fine on my Nexus 5.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Avoid these phones

          Your Nexus 5 is a premium smartphone, not a budget item with limited RAM. It's not relevant to the debate.

          My previous advice remains. Avoid budget smartphones, avoid Firefox.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Avoid these phones

      I have a 1GB android phablet running KitKat... It's absolutely fine.

      Of course if you're one of those people who feels the need to have 116 tabs open in your browser at all times you may struggle.

  10. auburnman

    Once you've gone Quad-Core, you'll never go back. For my money the only budget android worth entertaining is the Moto G.

    1. Tim J

      Yep, the Moto G is great.

      1. zanto

        moto G v/s the xperia SP

        or even the xperia ZR

        don't forget the xperia ZR is water proof, has a quad core krait and adreno 320 along with 2GB ram and at current prices, it's a pretty good bargain.

  11. PaulM 1

    Only buy stock Android phones

    Sadly all of these Android phones with the exception of the Moto E are destined for landfill long before they break. The reason is that because they run customized versions of Android they generally only ever support one version of Android. They can not therefore benefit from Google Security fixes such as the many that were introduced with Android 4.4 Kit Kat. I have a Nexus 5 phone and a Nexus 7 tablet which means that they will be supported by Google for at least 4 Years. The thing to look for over the next Year if you can not afford a Nexus phone is a Google One certified phone. In a Years time an Indian designed and manufactured Google One phone with stock Android will be a better investment than the Galaxy 6 or whatever Samsung is trying to sell you then.

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: Only buy stock Android phones

      Sadly all of these Android phones with the exception of the Moto E are destined for landfill long before they break. The reason is that because they run customized versions of Android they generally only ever support one version of Android. They can not therefore benefit from Google Security fixes such as the many that were introduced with Android 4.4 Kit Kat. I have a Nexus 5 phone and a Nexus 7 tablet which means that they will be supported by Google for at least 4 Years. The thing to look for over the next Year if you can not afford a Nexus phone is a Google One certified phone. In a Years time an Indian designed and manufactured Google One phone with stock Android will be a better investment than the Galaxy 6 or whatever Samsung is trying to sell you then.

      Yeah because the People who come to read this Site... Must therefore be to stupid to know how to surf over to the XDA-Developers Site, and run a search on any given Device here, to see if its

      A) Rootable and

      B) Has the ability to run a Third-Party OS ... i.e. AOSP/AOPK, CyanogenMod or OmniROM.

      Face it every Phablet ever from the sub £100, to the brutish £500+ jobs are in the end "Landfill". You sure has hell don't see Samsung supporting anything older then the Galaxy 4 now do you? 'cause I don't! Besides I get the feeling that these aren't exactly what you call long term investments...

      If I could get a modest Phablet year-on-year for this price range I'd for one welcome it. As to what to do with all those old Phablets.... Well thankfully there's Fleabay for that. which would actually hopefully make the new Phablet even more affordable. Assuming that such Devices wouldn't cut into that Market, since they would! And basically make the damned things less then worthless... Landfill filler...

      1. Darryl

        Re: You sure has hell don't see Samsung supporting anything older then the Galaxy 4 now do you?

        Actually, just got the OTA upgrade to KitKat on my S3

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Only buy stock Android phones

        Not all phones can be rooted/upgraded with a custom ROM. Especially at the budget level.

        Most budget phones ate worthless. Most OEMs are useless at providing OS updates.

    2. Paul Shirley

      Re: Only buy stock Android phones

      You make the crucial mistake of believing the ordinary folk that buy these things actually care about updates.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only buy stock Android phones

      Yeah! Like my Asus Fonepad 7, shipped running bleedin' Android 4.1 with *HORROR* some manufacturer written apps and a small amount of customization, Damn Landfill!!!

      Oh wait, it over the air updated to 4.3... And then 2 weeks ago it over the air updated to 4.4

  12. bpfh Silver badge

    I have a Prestigo Rainbow

    Actually called a Wiko Rainbow here, same name, shape and price and coloured backs, but a different name label on the box... .but the specs do not seem to be what I have in mine. 2000 mAh hour battery, 5 inch screen, very average camera, check all that, 4 gb fixed storage, 1 gb RAM, SD card slot, but mine runs a quad core MT6582 chip up to 1.3 Ghz and it does support host USB, as I was watching vids on a usb key on it on a recent trip, without having to install any 3rd party apps à la Nexus 7. I'm quite impressed with it, especially for a 140 euros (120 quid) phone. Battery life could be better, and I do miss the real keyboard that I had on my Blackberry, but all in all, better network reception than the BB, battery life is OK (no Facebook app installed though, just use the much faster mobile site) and seems to digest any app that i throw at it, and seems nippier than my Nexus 7 tablet. Very happy about performance and especially happy about the price!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For those of us, whos pockets are bursting because of too big phones, could you compile a list of the smallest phones? I would highly appreciate it.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge
      1. jelabarre59

        Not an Android phone, but there's this model....

      2. Barry Rueger
    2. dogged

      I would but the Motorola V Dot is not longer even on ebay.

    3. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

      a list of *smaller* phones

      My current phone is 4in, and it is way too big for a phone, IMHO. Are there phones on the market that are less than 4in, say in the general 3.5in area, but with a decent screen resolution?

      Priorities: GSM, call quality and reliability, battery life, texts, contacts + calendar + call reminder, occasional web and email, alarm clock. No need at all for any kind of apps (well, a calculator and a trivial memo app would be useful, but not essential), social networks, games, camera, music, bells or whistles. The only reason to have a smartphone over a "feature phone" is screen resolution adequate for the aforementioned occasional web/email usage.

      Dear Reg, pretty please? A review of a few of those? Are there any?

      1. Bleu

        Re: a list of *smaller* phones

        You are asking for an impractical thing.

        Your ideal is closest to a good clamshell or small brick plus a very small touchscreen device, two things to carry, and charge, but keep the phone handy. Get the other out when needed. Not often.

        Know a few friends doing that. Recent shift to android, because of broken usb in a good brick, with this, much I like, much I dislike, as a phone, I don't like it.

        Off-topic, also don't like how any link for downloading any program takes me to the goorglon, is that depending on provider and place?

  14. Arthur Jackson

    Mmmmm.. Bicycle GPS

    Mr Wibbles comment has got me thinking. I purchased a Garmin Edge Touring Cycle GPS as a birthday present for my wife but it is a bit of a nightmare trying to load Open Cycle Map or similar onto it, she finds it very unintuitive, doesn't like the screen and has basically given up and stuck it in a drawer.

    Any Reg cyclists found a suitable phone?

    1. mayojs

      Re: Mmmmm.. Bicycle GPS

      I just completed a 2500 mile motorcycle trip using MapFactor Navigator. Free application, downloaded 2.5GB offline maps of all the countries I was travelling through. Worked perfectly. Ran on galaxy S4. Headphones in helmet, turn by turn. Cant recommend enough.

  15. Dr_N Silver badge

    What, no Wiko?

    If you want a list of budget Androids there has to be a couple of Wikos on it!

    Dual SIM, no contract. No pre-installed bloat.

    I paid €70 for an Ozzy.

    1. Philippe

      Re: What, no Wiko?

      The Prestigo is the Wiko.

      Different markets, different names.

  16. Hatman

    Moto G

    Just bought myself the 4G version of the Moto G - and I have to say that I am impressed for £150. My only (minor) quibbles are that the buttons on the side don't feel rock solid, and the LED indicator is a bit on the bright side when the phone is in your bedroom. When I saw this article my immediate reaction was one of dread - but having read it I'm still feeling good about my purchase!

    1. Tim J

      Re: Moto G

      Agreed, the side buttons (power + volume up/down rocker button) feel a tad flimsy/loose, hopefully that's just how they feel and they last the course - haven't read any mass complaints of them breaking, which is reassuring.

  17. JaitcH
    Thumb Up

    We have Thirtyfive Dollar Androids here ...

    in Indochina ... imported from China.

    For people earning $150 month it's just right for their pocket books and even their children's school backpacks.

    Since it's an unofficial fork of Android you don't have all that traffic back to California slowing things down, Very basic camera, capacitive low res screen - just the thing if you hard up!

    1. Bleu

      Re: We have Thirtyfive Dollar Androids here ...

      That is interesting, I guess the same ones are sold for about thrice the price here, but only the tablets. I just wonder where things go after people buy them, well I know, they throw them out, recycling is essential!

      Certainly, lithium is abundant thanks to hybrid cars and batteries in portable devices, but it is still rare, I see no care in recycling.

  18. Adam 1

    >Oh, and before you all take to the comments page, each device performed perfectly well telephonically

    Much appreciated :D

  19. Leona A

    Where is page 6, on the bottom of page 4 is says 'Samsung Galaxy Ace 3' and pages 1 to 6, click next and you get the Sony and only 5 pages, somethings up with your CMS!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I cant match a $35 Indian phone

    But my £60, (fake), Octacore Lenovo P780 is pretty good for the money (the Prestigio looks suspiciously like it).

    The only thing it really lacks is GPS (it claims to have it, but it doesnt work).

    1GB RAM

    8GB internal storage

    uSB slot

    Works as USB storage device

    Front and rear cameras (not wonderful quality, but I own a DLSR for taking photos).

    Best of all, unlike many touch screen devices, it actually works for me (I have very dry skin)

  21. slack

    No mention of Nokia X?

    I never had any use for a smartphone until recently and I hate the standard fiddly look of most Androids and even iPhone - I have fat fingers and bad eyes.

    I got a Nokia X and it's been very useful. I think the Windows style UI is better for phones (and I am an avid Slackware and OS X user who normally has no time for anything from MS). Any app I wanted has been available from one of the many stores online and the only software I have had any issue with is Firefox crashing all the time, but the Opera and default browser it came with are good enough. I can ssh into my home servers when away if something goes wrong with them and I got a Midnight Commander-esque file app which is the bee's knees for moving things around.

    The lack of a webcam is a benefit imho as I have no use for them, the built in camera is shit but it'll do in a pinch for insurance photos and the like and I never have much hope for any camera with a focal length of 0.5cm anyway. Music, radio and video playback is fine and the dual-sim management is slick and handy. 60-ish quid here in Thailand and it was money well spent.

    Plus it's bright green.

    1. RyokuMas

      Re: No mention of Nokia X?

      Microsoft, in their "infinite wisdom" are killing off the X. Pity, because it's not a bad bit of kit for the price, and the idea of a version of Android free from Google's poison readily available to the average consumer was a pretty good.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No mention of Nokia X?

        If you want a version of Android free from "Google's Poison" (whatever the f that maybe), I suggest you download the source code and write your own. Then try the same with iOS and then WinPhone. Let us know how you get on.

  22. DF118

    Kestrel connectors

    Sadly, the Kestrel has the same rather odd connector positioning as the G6 - micro USB at the top, 3.5mm audio at bottom left.

    Ha! I've been wanting a phone with exactly that setup for years. Makes so much more sense to me. You can use the phone more easily whilst charging (no wire poking out of the bottom/side) and the headphone connector position makes absolute sense whilst on the move. No fumbling to rotate the phone the right way up when you put it into or take it out of your pocket.

    No, IMHO there's no "sadly" about it - this is how they should be positioned.

  23. Robredz

    Then there is JiaYu

    A JiaYu G4S with 2 Gb RAM, and 16 Gb of storage, 720p Gorilla Glass 2 IPS screen dual sim both 3G, 13 MP main camera with backlight sensor, anmd up to 64Gb Micro SD support but no 4G can be bought from China if you are willing to take the risk. for around £130, Amazon around £150 (some on there are the quad core earlier version) Winning feature with that one is the 3,000Mah battery, that still shows 60% after a hard days use. qith two sSIM cards active Shocked my son by benching similar to his Nexus 5 at "7,000 odd in Antutu, but he is in battery panic and on the charger by lunchtime. There are other cheaper JiaYu phones also, along with otheer good Chinese brands. An option if you need dual sim, as in why carrty two phones when one will do?

  24. mayojs

    MapFactor Navigator. Free, offline gps with turn by turn, tracking etc. Ran on Galaxy S4 on recent 2500 mile motorcycle trip. 2.5 GB of ofline maps stored on SD card for 6 countries. Can't recommend enough.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Edit /etc/hosts?

    Yes but can you edit /etc/hosts to stop all those annoying adverts from appearing?

    If I can't make the root filesystem read/write then I don't want to know, thank you very much. A phone should do what *I* want it to do, not what some multinational wants to.

  26. Bleu

    I want it back

    I want my smart-dumbphone back, only thing this does better is Internet.

    Provider services were also more fun. Still keeping it charged, nice macro-lens, low-fi video, broken USB socket,too much money to fix (induction charger).

    New models on offer are not so good, maybe I should get a serious estimate for repairing the socket.

  27. Delbert

    landfill rumours may be premature

    Having been badly burned buying a Moto Android hampered by Moto/Google first refusing to update the firmware and then the dreadful clunky Google front end which simply ate data allowance by continually 'phoning home' and ignored attempts to block the drain. I put it back in the box and vowed never Motorola again. I found a 3G Windows ME phone - I know a retrograde step but it solved the data issue and I was moderately happy with a interface familiar to my old iPaq (2G).

    I did need an android for a number of applications and now finally I have Chinese droid that works admirably, one which is upgradable, carries eight gig of storage plus a microSD slot and a second simcard slot (though only 2G) it doesn't have a massive megapixel camera (which I don't need) What it does have a slick capacitive multipoint touch response, unfussy interface, 5 inch screen and googleplay. Cost? a lot less than these featured here . Simply it does exactly what I need, it may not be a Starbucks table item of man jewellery (OK it looks a lot like a Samsung Galaxy S5 until you get very close) - but it seems while the big players stampede into specifying more unwanted features the actual Chinese manufacturers are listening to what users want and quietly making their own decisions like including everybody's favourite better battery life - well can you find a phone with a battery that really lasts to the specs? I have now five days standby with a few hours of websurfing and a handful of calls thrown in I'm down to just over 40% battery life? the landfill can wait!

  28. Nick London

    ZTE fan here. ZTE Blade V from Virgin Media

    Bought this last year, dual core, webcam, and good battery life > 24 hours normal use.

    Good enough for me. Rootable I use Link2sd as they split the internal memory in a funny way and the memory for apps is limited. Jelly Bean 4.1.2 and updates downloadable from ZTE so don't need to wait for VM.

    Cost was £70 less VM rewards so really budget level. Seems to have been a short term offer from VM. These things come and go.

    Jealous of my son with the latest iPhone from work of course. But OTT for an old'un like me.

  29. Marcus Aurelius

    Get your Moto G cheap (legally!)

    You can get Moto G 4G LTE (SIM free) for £129 from Tesco Click and Collect.

    However if you have Tesco vouchers, they give double discount on Electronic items, so I got two for about £200 in total. Don't forget to claim your 130 Clubcard points per phone, money off fuel, and luggage vouchers at the same time....

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