Smartphones are now almost an essential part of modern life, whether you like it or not. There’s an app for almost everything, from paying your utility bills to booking a bus ticket, and if you don’t have a smartphone you’re going to be increasingly locked out of the most convenient options. Thankfully, entering the world of smartphones is far from expensive, with some models costing as little as £25 brand new. Today, we’re going to be looking at a selection of cheap SIM-free smartphones that all cost under £100, all of which provide the basic smartphone experience even if they lack the blazing speeds and advanced features of more expensive models. These provide a great teaser of what smartphones are all about, making them a good first phone for anyone that hasn’t used one before, without costing the earth. Let’s get right into the picks.
5. Alcatel U3 2019
Let’s start with that £25 smartphone we mentioned earlier. The Alcatel U3 2019 is the cheapest smartphone on the market, offering a surprisingly good experience despite costing less than some hardback books. The phone has a basic but colourful 4-inch screen, a 2-megapixel camera and storage that can be expanded inexpensively with a Micro SD card. It runs Android 6, so you have access to a wide array of apps on the Google Play Store that run the gamut from niche to popular. It’s far from the fastest phone, but its bite-sized processor is pretty efficient, allowing its 1500mAh battery to last for a good amount of time. For a first smartphone, this is a great choice - and if you lose it or you want to upgrade to something faster down the line, you’ve only plunked down £25.
4. Nokia 1.3
Our next smartphone is significantly more expensive, at £80, but it does deliver a much better experience thanks to a big upgrade to design, hardware and software. Nokia make some of the best budget Android phones, and the Nokia 1.3 is a great example of this. You get a much larger 5.7-inch screen that’s easy to read even with bad eyesight, a much more modern version of Android (version 10!) and another power-efficient processor, the Snapdragon 215. The battery has also gone up in size, to 3000mAh, which compensates for the larger screen and means you still get good battery life. Storage is up to 16GB, too, with the option to add additional Micro SD storage or a second SIM card (handy for roaming!). The camera is also much improved, with an 8-megapixel snapper on the back and a 5-megapixel shooter on the front (that means you can take selfies!). Altogether, this is a great phone for its price, even if it does take up more of our allotted £100 budget.
3. Huawei Y6s
Huawei is another company that makes great budget phones, and the Y6s proves this with the strength of its design. The teardrop-style front-facing camera and super tall 6.9-inch display is a design feature that arrived on flagship phones only within the past couple of years, so to see it on a budget model that costs just £99 is impressive. The specs under the hood are impressive too, with an octa-core MediaTek P35 processor, a 13-megapixel rear camera and a decent 3020mAh battery. Huawei’s flavour of Android 9 is also installed, which takes some design cues from Apple’s iOS, making it a good choice for anyone that doesn’t like the stock Android experience. Altogether it’s an impressively advanced phone for £100.
2. Sony Xperia Z3 Compact (Refurb)
Of course, you’re not limited to brand new models if you’re shopping on a budget. Going for a refurbished phone can be a great choice too, and one that just squeaks in under our £100 limit is the Xperia Z3 Compact. This smartphone is available from giffgaff in “like new” condition and brings a whole new level of performance to this price point. You get a more traditional display with thicker bezels, which some people prefer, but it’s what’s on the inside that makes this phone stand out. There’s a flagship-grade Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, NFC for contactless payments and 16GB of expandable storage. This phone originally retailed for around £500, so getting it a few years later for £100 is a heck of a bargain.
1. Nokia 4.2
We’ll finish with another strong smartphone at the £100 mark: the Nokia 4.2. As the name suggests, this smartphone is a better-equipped version of the Nokia 1.3, with a bigger screen and a higher price tag to match. The Snapdragon 439 octa-core processor is the best we’ve seen in this round-up, making the phone noticeably snappier to use, while the 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM are also class-leading. Android 9 is pre-installed, a relatively recent version of the operating system, and you get 13-megapixel cameras on the back plus an 8-megapixel camera in the tear-drop style up front. Altogether, this is one of the best budget smartphones going, and if you prefer the look and feel of stock Android compared to Huawei’s more Apple-flavoured take, we recommend the Nokia 4.2 above all others.
OK, well that just about does it. I hope you’ve found a few suggestions you like the look of, but remember that if nothing quite scratched that itch you can take a look at our full range of SIM-free smartphones . Thanks for reading and we’ll see you next time!
Thumbnail image credit: Oleg Magni from Pexels