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11 best budget smartphones 2015: The best phones available to buy for under £250

Pocket-lint logo Pocket-lint 26-08-2015

The budget smartphone market has really come into its own over the last couple of years, with numerous devices appearing with price tags under £250 and an aim to offer you a good enough smartphone experience that you don't need to splash half a grand on a flagship device.

They might not have the sharpest displays, or beautiful metal designs, but a budget smartphone can still be good looking, offer decent specs, a good battery life and a solid performance, while saving your pennies at the same time.

Whether you are after an impulse replacement or you just can't bear the thought of spending the best part of £500 or more on a device that lets you ring people among a few other things, here are the best budget phones available to buy today for under £250.

11. Nokia Lumia 1320

The Nokia Lumia 1320 started off above the £300 mark when it first launched but it has since seen a price drop to make it a worthy contender in the under £250 budget smartphone category.

For the Windows Phone lover, the Lumia 1320 has it all. There is a large 6-inch display, 4G connectivity, a decent build and a great battery life, along with a good suite of apps. The screen resolution may be low for the size at 1280 x 720 pixels and the camera isn't Nokia's best, but you get a lot for you money with this device.

The Lumia 1320 sits in phablet territory so it might not be everyone's cup of tea if you aren't after a large phone, but as a value prospect, it's a great device that delivers in many areas including design, battery and power.

Buy the Nokia Lumia 1320 if you want Windows Phone on a big screen at a low price.

10. Nokia Lumia 735

The Nokia Lumia 735 was the last device to carry the Nokia name and it was pitched as the "selfie phone" when it was announced during tradeshow IFA back in September 2014, but getting a good new profile picture isn't the only thing this device is useful for.

Offering a nice, solid build, the Lumia 735 also features a lovely OLED display, a strong performing battery that can also be replaced and its rear camera is great, with a good front camera too.

Its performance isn't always flawless, but the Lumia 735 offers a decent size and build, with enough power to hit all the spec essentials. It might not quite elevate itself to excellence, but it's certainly a good mid-range Windows Phone at an attractive price.

Buy this phone if you want a good Windows Phone at a good price.

9. Microsoft Lumia 640 XL

The Microsoft Lumia 640 XL launched alongside a smaller version in the first half of 2015 and it's among the largest devices out there. It sits at about the same specification level as the Lumia 1320 from 2014, but betters it in a number of areas.

The performance isn't the strongest that Windows Phone has to offer, so there's some slowness in places, and the connection isn't always fantastic, but that's offset by battery life that's almost unbeatable: the Lumia 640 XL is a monster when it comes to endurance.

Although the display is large, the resolution is on the low side for this scale. That shouldn't affect the day-to-day business of reading emails and keeping up with social media though, but you sacrifice the punch the best devices out there offer. You do, however, get a good camera experience.

At less than £200, the Lumia 640 XL is a well designed and affordable device that performs pretty well in all areas. It's a great choice if you want to go big and don't want to break the bank.

Buy the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL if you want a phablet but you don't want to splash too much cash.

8. Asus Zenfone 5 LTE

The Zenfone 5 is one of three in Asus's range of budget devices that aim to bridge the gap between entry-level Android phones and top-level flagship smartphones.

It offers a 5-inch screen, with 4-inch and 6-inch models also available, and it has a neat, premium-looking design, despite plastic featuring as the main material. The Zenfone 5 is subtle so you won't be ashamed to take it out of your pocket and although the battery life isn't brilliant and the screen isn't particularly bright, overall it's a good, capable device. There is also an LTE version if you want to add speedy connection to the list of attributes.

The Asus Zenfone 5 offers much of the experience of a phone that, until recently, would have cost twice the price. As a first stab at making a mainstream phone, the Asus Zenfone 5 is a fine effort and one that is a great value prospect.

Buy the Asus Zenfone 5 if you want a good looking, capable phone for £150, or a LTE version for £180.

7. EE Kestrel

The EE Kestrel offers super fast 4G technology for those on a budget and while it may not feel all that premium in terms of build thanks to its plasticky finish, its £99 asking price is worthy of a salute for driving down the cost and expectation of 4G.

The screen resolution is low and although there is microSD storage expansion for your photos and videos, the EE Kestrel only has an 8GB internal memory for all your apps so the specs are pretty average. That said, the IPS display provides great viewing angles and good screen brightness, while the Qualcomm Snapdragon S400 chip ensures everything runs smoothly.

It has some stiff competition in this arena, but the EE Kestrel is plastic and fantastic. It is a no brainer for those who want 4G connectivity but don't want to spend a fortune to get it.

Buy the EE Kestrel if you want 4G connectivity on a budget.

6. Moto G 4G (second-gen)

The Motorola Moto G (2015) model succeeds the Moto G (2014) that launched last year but rather than opt for a design refresh like the 2014 did over the original Moto G, it only adds 4G connectivity to the mix for a £10 bump in price, making the 2014 model pretty much redundant. It carries a few of the same design features as the 2013 model, but like last year's device, it opts for a larger display, improved camera and a chunkier build.

The design isn't as nice as the original, although it is still a good looking device, and the sound isn't as impressive, but with the added 4G capability, you still get a lot of bang for your buck, even if the buck is now the other side of the £150 mark.

We don't love this model as much as the first Moto G, but just like the first, you don't compromise on quality or experience and when you're paying just £160 for a smartphone that can do near enough everything a phone four times the price can, it's difficult to complain.

Buy this phone if you want a large display and you don't want to compromise.

5. OnePlus One

The OnePlus One sits at the higher end of the budget market, but for its £230 price tag, you get a lovely 5.5-inch display, huge amounts of power and a great battery life. It offers a similar experience to the high-end smartphones but it does it without leaving your bank account high and dry.

It may be a little large for some, but for those that are interested in the phablet territory on a budget, the OnePlus One is excellent value. It leaves out a couple of features such as microSD support for storage expansion and 4G won't work on all UK networks, but it has a solid build and great performance.

Overall, the OnePlus One is an amazing device for its price and if you don't mind stepping away from traditional Android into an operating system called CyanogenMod that is based on it instead, then it's a device that won't disappoint. If the One retailed for £450 with a more recognisable brand name stamped onto its rear, it would be snapped up from the shelves. It is worth noting that a successor to this device has been announced, but like this device originally, you need an invite to get your hands on the OnePlus 2.

Buy the OnePlus One if you want a high-end experience without the cost.

4. Motorola Moto E (2015)

The original Moto E was Motorola's play for the even more budget section of the market that its Moto G was too expensive to reach and while it was less spec-savvy, it put on a darn good show for its £89 price tag. That model has since been replaced with the 2015 version and it's not only better looking, but it's a better performer too.

A great design, good display and excellent battery life are all on board the Moto E (2015), along with great sound from the front-facing speakers and microSD support for expanding the internal storage. The new model adds a front-facing camera and a smoother Android experience, as well as the option to add colour from the interchangeable Bands. You don't get brilliant shots from either the front or rear cameras, but overall, it's a brilliant device for the slightly increased £109 price.

Despite its low price point, the Moto E has glimpses of premium about its slightly bulky build, which when you add useful software features, a true Android experience, solid battery life and quality sound output, you're faced with an undeniably decent device that earns its title as one of the budget devices to beat.

Buy the Motorola Moto E if you want a great device for a little over £100.

3. EE Harrier

Cut out the middle man – it's one of the best ways to save money. That's the idea behind the EE Harrier budget 4G smartphone: by getting rid of that Sony, Samsung, or whichever label, carrier-tied phones such as this can get you the most features for the fairest sums of cash.

The EE Harrier is not quite a perfect budget phone, but it's not far from it. Some will probably dislike the style; some of its finishing touches feel a bit, well, unfinished; and day-to-day performance isn't 100 per cent perfect.

However, the great price point and sheer spec wealth in some important areas mean it easily outperforms compared to the bigger name competitors you can get for the cash.

For what works out at just £16.99 a month, you get a phone with a pretty great screen, 4G connectivity, and really quite remarkable scope as a games and apps jukebox.

Buy the EE Harrier if you aren't fussed about brand names and just want a decent, cheap smartphone.

2. Sony Xperia M4 Aqua

Sony introduced the Xperia M4 Aqua at Mobile World Congress in March as a mid-range handset that offered waterproofing, a feature Sony is now known for with its smartphones.

The Xperia M4 Aqua is a lovely looking device that takes many of its design cues from the flagship Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3+. It's not all just about looks though, offering a decent battery and solid performance that outpace its sub-£200 price tag - and much of the competition.

The lack of internal storage, along with an average display and average camera do bring it down a peg or two but the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua is a good mid-range smartphone, made even better by full waterproofing.

The waterproofing is one feature to make it standout in among the madness of the mid-range market, while its design tricks you into thinking its part of the flagship Z series so overall, it's well worthy of consideration.

Buy the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua because you want a fully waterproof device with a good design for less than £200.

1. Motorola Moto G (third-gen)

The original Moto G was a brilliant device when it first launched in 2013, taking many by surprise. It has been updated no less than five times since it first arrived and while we weren't massive fans of model three and four as we mentioned, the fifth version of this handset is a winner.

The design has been redefined and despite still being a little on the chunky side, the third-generation of Moto G is lovely. Water resistance has been added, as has Moto Maker, which means this device can be customised more than the majority on this list.

The third-gen Moto G has a good battery life, an improved camera over its predecessors and an almost raw Android experience with some great software enhancements. The specs aren’t as impressive as some others in this feature, but this phone isn't about numbers, it's all about the experience. And as affordable experiences go, it's a true return to the top.

Motorola has upped the price a little with this model of the Moto G, but you get something for the extra cash and this device is still half, if not a third a price of some flagships.

Buy the Moto G 2015 (third-gen) because you want a great smartphone experience at a more than reasonable price.

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