Ten... budget Android smartphones
Low-cost handsets for the hard up
Product Round-up In barely two years, Google's Android operating system has established itself as a serious contender in the smartphone biz. It's different from Apple's iOS not just in its open source nature, but also in its use for both high-end premium handsets like Samsung’s Galaxy S and HTC’s Desire HD, but also in a raft of budget devices, effectively make the smartphone a handset choice for just about everyone.
There's a feast of social networking, games and other goodies available from the ever-growing Android Market, all of which are compatible with all Android phones, high and low. And better budget versions even come with high-end aspirations, such as HSDPA 3G network connectivity, Wi-Fi and GPS.
If lower end Androids generally seem to be keeping their end up in terms of specs, the corner cutting tends to show in usability issues. Slower processors start to struggle with just a few apps running, casings can feel a bit too cheap in some cases, and screens aren’t of the first water.
Considering that many of these can be half, or even down to a quarter of the price of the high spec Androids, they definitely tend to punch way above their weight. So here, in alphabetical order, are the budget Android smartphones most worthy of your attention.
Acer beTouch e130
Budget computer brand Acer's recent move into smartphones has been honourable if not exactly stellar, covering the basics without really nudging ahead of the pack. The Android 1.6-packing e130 bears a passing resemblance to a BlackBerry or Nokia's E-series with its Qwerty keyboard, though it feels a little clunkier and less classy than either. The 2.6in screen is touch-sensitive but resistive rather than capacitive, so it's not the most fingertip friendly, but it does offer an additional navigation tool, which comes in handy, particularly when browsing.
The keyboard is nicely tactile, made of rubberised plastic and the rounded keys are easy to find under the thumbs, though its budget shows in the use of a trackball rather than the optical trackpad featured on higher end Androids and recent BlackBerrys.
The processor is clocked at 416MHz which means it tends to be on the slow side, though its 3.2Mp camera is one of the better cheapie Android snappers.
Reg Rating 65
More Info Acer
It’s a chunky handful weighing 160g but then it does have a slide-out Qwerty keyboard and bears a passing resemblance to the Blackberry Torch. Its 35 keys feel a wee bit cramped and could have done with a little more definition, but it’s still preferable to using an on-screen keyboard.
The 2.8in touchscreen is resistive, rather than capacitive, which is never good, and it’s a shame you don’t seem to be able to use the navpad to navigate around menus or web pages, which seems like a trick missed.
It’s not missing anything important, sporting Wi-Fi, HSDPA and even GPS. Its Android 2.1 installation is only a shade behind the cutting edge, and while the camera’s only 2Mp with no flash, it’s serviceable enough.
Reg Rating 70
More Info Alcatel
Next page: HTC Wildfire
I find it very surprising that you have rated the HTC Wildfire at £230 above the Orange San Francisco (ZTE Blade) at £100. Having tried both, the ZTE Blade leaves Wildfire distinctly poor. Not only is the OSF 2.3x cheaper than the HTCW, it also has a 600MHz CPU vs. 528MHz, and 512MB of RAM vs 384MB. Most importantly of all, HTCW has a 320x240 screen vs 800x480 on the OSF!
How on earth could you rate the HTCW at 90% and OSF at 85%??? There's just no contest between the two.
The other thing that really should be mentioned is community support. In general, the cheaper the phone is, the more it is community hacked and the more available useful things like custom root roms with extra features are. And given it's high spec and unbelievably low price, the OSF seems set to be the most community-loved Android phone for a long time to come.
Orange San Francisco
But surprised to hear the SF described as it was. All the reviews I've seen so far have descibed the screen as comparable to hansets costing much more,and given the price for 2.1 and OLED ,plus payg availability it's the handset I'm planning to get. In video test it aslo seems pretty nippy.
Come on, 800x480 oled screen with gps as well for 99 quid !
Don't have to use Orange
You can unlock the San Francisco for free - there is a code generator in the public domain. Else you can pay £1 on ebay. So, do what I did and choose another operator which charges sensible prices - e.g. T-mobile - 600 minutes, 500 texts, unlimited landlines and 3GB internet on 12 month SIM only contract for £7.50 per month. Or, if you don't want to use it as phone, and can live with a maximum of 384Kbps and 1 gig per month get a PAYG SIM from T-mobile and buy a six-month internet top-up for £20.
PS San Francisco is so much better than the other phones, so review flawed, particularly in relation to the amount of RAM and the OLED high-res screen. And going to a decent Orange-free ROM is a fifteen-minute job for a Reg reader.
The SanFran is also easily unlockable and rootable with a decent community behind it, which are already working on a 2.2 ver.
Resistive vd capacitive
I really don't understand the continual bashing of resistive screens (beyond the fact that resistive is not the Apple way).
I use both, and I far prefer the resistive.
So far the only con I have found to resistive is it can't do multitouch, fair enough, as the user interface isn't designed to take advantage of such a feature, it's not an issue.
The pros are huge. I can use it wearing gloves. If you have finger nails then you can still use it without having to angle your fingers in a way would would be a bit odd when holding the phone.
When you're not wearing gloves, the benefits starts to really appear - accuracy.
You can click on a 2mm high text link on a web page, amongst a sea of other text links, and get it 99% of the time, because you are using a narrow tapping thing like your finger nail.
Plus you can see what you are tapping right up to the point you hit it, because said fingernail is fine and narrow. Not got fingernails, well pick up anything you like from your desk. Biro lid, matchstick, car keys, anything you like, it'll work (taadaa!).
Take a capacitive one, requiring the contact of a squashy finger tip, and you'll be hard pushed to hit anything smaller than the size of a bus with any accuracy. Is it any wonder that the way to navigate "back" is such an easy gesture?
The iPhone4 might have a seriously impressive number of pixels per inch, but you can't use them to resize a webpage to tiny proportions if it has a lot of links close together, the most you can do with it is enjoy some nice font anti-aliasing.