How to get a great phone without breaking the bank
Today’s best phones are technological triumphs with price tags to match. But the truth is that for many of us, we simply don’t need all that power. You don’t need £800 of hardware to run WhatsApp, do a bit of online shopping and shoot the odd selfie.
The good news is that budget phones don’t necessarily mean bad phones. You can spend half the price of a flagship, and sometimes even less, and get something perfectly decent. If you buy SIM-free you’ll have to pay the whole cost upfront but in the long term it works out much cheaper, because you can get a separate contract that isn’t subsidising the initial cost of your phone. For example, networks such as Lyca or Lebara can give you unlimited texts and calls and 3GB of monthly data for less than £2 per month – and you’re not tied into a long-term contract. If you’re a big data user, Virgin Media currently offers 15GB for £3.50 per month.
Budget phones come into four main price brackets. The best buys under £100 are feature phones, which tend to be pretty basic but offer great battery life and key apps such as Facebook or WhatsApp. Go over £100 and you’re moving into smartphone territory, and while you won’t get the fastest phones or the best cameras here, you’ll still be able to get a good all-rounder and use apps such as Spotify.
If you go beyond £200 you might be surprised by just how good the phones in this price bracket are. And as you near £400 things get even better, with firms such as Samsung offering very powerful phones with excellent cameras. The only big-name firm that isn’t really represented here is Apple – at the time of writing their cheapest iPhone, the iPhone SE 2022, is £449. But that’s still a lot cheaper than the iPhone 14, which starts at £849.
Whatever you’re buying, keep an eye out for trade-in deals. You won’t get much money trading in a basic phone or one that hasn’t been looked after, but even £20 or £30 off the price can make your new phone that little bit more of a bargain. The best trade-in deals tend to be offered by phone manufacturers themselves rather than retailers. And don’t forget outlets such as eBay, where phones are often sold even more cheaply. As ever with auctions, read the small print and check the seller’s feedback ratings before committing to buy.
iPhone SE 2022
This is still a lot of money, of course, but if you want an iPhone this is the cheapest one Apple currently makes. It looks quite old but inside it has a recent, fast processor and a pretty good camera too.
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
Samsung makes some great phones for photography, and the A53 5G is arguably the best of its more affordable models if you want a Samsung to take lots of snaps with.
Motorola Moto G31
You can get cheaper Android phones, but this Moto manages to keep the price down without also making the camera terrible or the performance sluggish. It’s great value.
OnePlus Nord CE 2
OnePlus isn’t the best-known name but it’s building a good reputation for its affordable but powerful Android smartphones. Shop around and you’ll find it even cheaper.