Smartphones

Let’s be frank with ourselves, simply having a mobile phone just isn’t enough these days. What is instead necessary is to own a smartphone, as the need to surf the net, instant message friends and enjoy social media interaction are all paramount. The problem is that these smartphones often cost bundles, which either seriously limit our relationship with the modern way of life, or leave a huge dent in our pockets. Fortunately however, there are a few – just a few – decent smartphones that are attractively cheap.

Pantech Flex

With a motive of providing consumers with ‘simplicity’, the Pantech Flex is everything it says on the tin and more. One wouldn’t expect a phone costing less than 50 quid to include either 4G LTE or Android 4.0; and so one could imagine my delight upon realising this phone had both.

The perks with the Pantech Flex is that there is little wrong with the phone and so much that is right – at least for the price it’s going at.

Well there are of course some things that aren’t quite right with the Pantech Flex, but what would one expect from a phone that costs a fraction of the price other similarly capable smartphones are worth? The 8-megapixel camera isn’t the most efficient for example, but I’m pretty sure consumers will overlook any of the mistakes in favour of the cheap price.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

What more can be said about the Samsung Galaxy Nexus? Brilliant performance, the sheer power of Ice Cream Sandwich and the speed of Verizon’s LTE network are just a few appraisals that can be afforded to this beast of a machine.

The design is neat, smart and business-like and best of all, the phone’s cheap! Despite the phone’s lack of an expandable memory slot, as well as there being no support for Google Wallet on the phone, and of course the 5-megapixel camera not being too good; the Galaxy Nexus is the kingpin of cheap mobile phones.

Nokia Lumia 900

First and foremost, let’s have it right, Windows phones haven’t got the best of reputation amongst tech consumers at the moment. However, the Nokia Lumia 900 is an exception with the smartphone being pretty fly for a Windows mobile.

LTE speeds, a great 4.3 inched screen along with an 8-megapixel camera are just some of the perks this phone has to offer. Add that to a great 720p video phone camera, along with a quirky design that you may just end up loving, and you’ll understand why the Nokia Lumia 900 made it unto this list.

Available for under £100, this smartphone isn’t quite as cheap as the Galaxy Nexus however and therefore isn’t quite as fantastic. Nonetheless, the Lumia 900’s a good option for a cheap smartphone.

Windows Phone 7 has been on the market long enough for people to form an opinion about it and it looks like the general public doesn’t really care about the newcomer. Handset sales are nothing like the predictions that manufacturers and Microsoft put out, and the OS itself is quite mediocre – there are no extensive customization options and a lot of features present even on the iPhone are missing even in the latest Mango update.

But really, Windows Phone 7 is a pretty good OS if you just need your phone to work – the Metro UI looks simply awesome and there are enough apps to satisfy most of the needs. The handsets themselves were a bit bland, though, but with the Nokia-Microsoft partnership, we’re finally starting to see some good designs. The Nokia Lumia 800 was the first phone released by the partnership, and it really is a great device.

Design

The Lumia 800 has the most unique and attractive design of all Windows Phone 7 smartphones – its unibody polycarbonate housing really stands out from the crowd and makes the phone light and sturdy, while also strengthening the reception signal for the Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS and cellular radios. The front has the 3.7 inch display with a darkened and slightly curved glass covering it, plus the three navigation buttons below – that’s it. The handset is pretty slim as well, at 12.1 mm, but it’s thick enough to sit comfortably in the palm of your hand.

Performance

The performance of the Nokia Lumia 800 is not really comparable to all the newest smartphones when it comes to benchmarks and really intensive applications and games, but it’s good enough in day to day use – opening and closing apps, scrolling through menus and viewing Web pages  – everything is smooth and fast.

The phone is powered by a single core 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, which makes it all the more amazing (although Internet Explorer uses the GPU for acceleration, so that helps). There are 512 MB of RAM onboard the phone, which might seem insufficient, but it’s actually more than enough and will keep the phone running smooth even when you have multiple apps in the background or a lot of Web pages open at the same time.

Hardware features

Aside from the relatively slow processor, the hardware on the Lumia 800 is in line with all the other smartphones on the market – the only notable things that are lacking are a micro HDMI out port and a 4G LTE radio. The 3.7 inch display has a resolution of 480×800 pixels, and is an AMOLED unit with Nokia’s ClearBlack technology. Indeed, the colors, contrast and brightness are all great – better than any LCD out there, that’s for sure.

There’s only one camera on the device, but it’s good – Nokia has always had the best cameras, and the 8 megapixels unit with Carl Zeiss optics is no exception. It can shoot some great photos and it supports 720p HD video recording, as well. The battery is a 1450 mAh unit, which should last about 8 hours of continuous use – pretty standard for a smartphone.

The other hardware specs include the usual Wifi N and Bluetooth adapters, GPS, a micro USB out port, a 3.5 mm audio jack and HSPA+ support for up to 14.4 Mbps download and 5.76 Mbps upload. There’s no micro SD card, so you’ll have to make do with the 16 GB of onboard storage space – it should be plenty enough for almost anything, unless you really like storing HD movies or thousands of songs on your phone.

Software

The Nokia Lumia 800 ships with Windows Phone 7.5, aka Mango, which has most of the issues with the previous version of the OS fixed, so you can enjoy a bug-free experience. If you like the Metro UI, you’ll really love the Lumia 800, but beware that this is not Android and you cannot customize it however you wish (you can’t even set a wallpaper on the home screen!). It’s no worse than the iPhone’s UI, though – I think it’s better, actually.

Price and Availability

The Nokia Lumia 800 is already available on sale, and it is one of the best Windows Phone 7 smartphones you can get – the price is pretty low as well, if you get it on a contract.