Budget smartphones

Dr Lobster*
Posts: 2013
Joined: Sat 30 Aug, 2003 20.14


the lady indoors has had a samsung galaxy note 3 for just over 3 years and it has sadly got to the end of it's life, it works, but has become increasingly unstable.

whilst i tried to persuade her to get a galaxy a5 (which she agreed felt very nice in the hand and to use), she didn't want to spend the money, and instead got a huawei honor 5x.

i must say, i am really impressed. it cost about £160, and the feel, screen, responsiveness and, features are all pretty good (it updated to android 6 out of the box)

i've been buying samsung galaxy phones since the s2 (i've had the s2, s4, s5, s7 edge) these of course are top of the android pile and you pay a lot for them when they first come out, yet something which is pretty much a quarter of the price of the s7 edge (sim free, launch price anyway), isn't "that" much worse.

of course it isn't "as" responsive and some corners have been cut (the camera isn't in the same league), but i get the feeling that we've started to hit a ceiling with premium smartphones in that they can't really get much faster or higher res.

when i upgraded from the s5 to the s7 edge, it certainly wasn't the night and day difference i got when i upgraded from an s2 to s4 - the display alone made it worth it back then.

so are you a sucker for the premium smartphone or have you been using hidden gems from the bargain bin?
Posts: 955
Joined: Mon 17 Aug, 2009 10.37
Location: Suffolk

I definitely feel that amongst Android phones, there is a sort of rise of the budget smartphone, because as you say the good ones aren't that much worse. Just look at the oneplus line of the phones - I think they've gotten more expensive over the years but when the first one came out it was half the price of the flagship Samsung yet I seem to remember equipped to pretty much the same standards and just as good. Considering Android is an open platform I imagine this sort of thing was always inevitable, as technology becomes better and cheaper it was never going to remain solely in the hands of the big players.

On the other hand, by virtue of being a closed system I reckon Apple has less to fear from this than Samsung and the likes do - if people want an iPhone and the whole experience, they buy an iPhone. If people want an Android device, they have literally thousands of choices.
Posts: 2975
Joined: Sat 01 Oct, 2005 17.50

Moto G.
Posts: 1159
Joined: Fri 15 Aug, 2003 17.28

I think part of it has to do with the maturity of the technology and it is only natural as any technology evolves. A state of the art phone in 2000 compared to the same in 2010 doesn't compare on any level, but in this decade whilst there has undeniably been progress in terms of what phones can do, we are fast approaching the end of the decade using phones in the same form factor and dominated by the same two operating systems that we were at the start.

And particularly over the past few years, there really doesn't seem to be that much progress. My S4 was a gigantic step forward from my previous Motorola Atrix (which had roughly the same capability as an S2). But the change from S4 to S6 was far less marked. The design of the handset was much better (even if I did lose the SD card slot and removeable battery) but it didn't really do much extra and certainly didn't feel like a 2 year leap forward. Probably the feature I would most miss from going back to an S4 would be fast charging rather than anything the S6 can actually do.

I am now 18 months into the S6's contract and I whilst for the past 2 or 3 contracts I've declared that I will go SIM-only and keep the same handset at the end of it for another year, this time I can finally see it happening. There is nothing I need my phone to do that it can't do, there is no app that won't run on it and it is still very fast. I don't think the change to another flagship will bring enough of an improvement to justify the cost vs ploughing on with it for longer and have my bill reduce to a fraction of what it is now. Realistically, I can't see that situation changing in 6 months.

As for budget handsets, even things decidedly more budget than the examples here are still very capable. Just prior to getting the S6 I manage to smash my S4's screen, literally 3 weeks before the contract ended. After thinking about whether it would be fun to pull out the 3310 for a 3 week stint, I instead went out on a mission to find the cheapest android phone money could buy, for I only needed it for literally a few weeks.

I ended up with a Huawei Y330, which was already a bit old hat and was marked down to £40 (which I promptly sold to CEX for £20 when I was done with it). Yes of course it wasn't too amazing (the camera was only 3MP and had no flash) and I wouldn't have been happy using it long term. But that said it was well built, perfectly stable, had an OKish battery life and could run all the apps I used day to day (even if it was a bit sluggish at times) and did it's job just fine. It felt like something worse than I was used to, yet still perfectly competent at what it was doing and didn't really disadvantage me too much. I would rate it about 70% as capable as a then current flagship, but at more like 7% of the retail cost.

A law of diminishing returns seems to be coming ever more into play here, in that the flagship devices show no sign of falling in price, whilst the budget and midrange devices are getting ever cheaper and ever more impressive for what they can do at a fraction of the cost.
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