back to article Trousers down for six of the best affordable Androids

Cheap Android smartphones have their place ultimately in a landfill site1 for those on a tight budget or as an extra for convenience abroad or elsewhere. So what if you fall into the middle ground? Bargain basement devices compromises won't do and neither will coughing up the sort of money required for a Nexus 6, Galaxy S5, …

"All in all for £150 it’s a cracking bit of kit. If only there was a 4G version"

There is, it's sold either as the Moto G 4G or the Moto G LTE and from what I've seen goes for £160

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The LTE version isn't a Mk II

It's a variant of the original Moto G - with the addition of SD card support - and, to my mind, better for having a slightly smaller form factor than the new one.

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4G? I've heard of it...

I'm guessing the author lives in one of the big metropolitan areas. For the rest of us complying about a phone not having 4G is a bit like living in a desert whingeing about your lack of gills.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The LTE version isn't a Mk II

If anyone is after real-world reviews I have a Moto G 4G (so as Warm Braw says *not* the MkII) from tesco Mobile and I'm very happy with it.

There's not a lot of bloat from either Motorola or Tesco, the phone is quick, the screen is good, battery life is more than acceptable (within the admittedly pathetic smartphone range), and I've had no problems with signal strength on any radio including Bluetooth which pairs reliably with my Pebble, two sets of headphones, a telly, and a music system - which has been a problem for other phones I have owned and not loved.

Updates have been frequent - although Lollipop has not landed yet via Tesco.

It's the first Android phone I've owned and not rooted & stuck a custom ROM on which says something for the shipped OS (and something about my descent into laziness probably).

Apart from full waterproofing there's nothing on other phones that I'd see as even a half-compelling reason to upgrade.

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Re: The LTE version isn't a Mk II

Even better, you can buy a 4G LTE locked to Tesco Mobile for £20 less than the unlocked version and then pay £1.50 to £3.00 to some eBay guy to unlock it for you.

If you have Tesco Clubcard vouchers, you can get these for a substantial discount as your vouchers are doubled against electronic items. I paid £75 for my last Moto G 4G as a result....

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Re: 4G? I've heard of it...

I've heard of 4G as well, and I do live in a big city, but I almost never have 3G switched on. I'm almost always within range of some wifi or another (big city remember), and the battery lasts loads longer with it switched off.

Exactly what do you need that much bandwidth for on a phone?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 4G? I've heard of it...

Forward planning, I'm guessing you're on Virgin, O2 or Giffgaff right?

I'm on 3, I get 4G.

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Re: 4G? I've heard of it...

"I'm on 3, I get 4G..."

...if I stand still on the magic spot that is found in five UK cities.

FTFY.

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Re: 4G? I've heard of it...

Giffgaff (and presumably O2 also) is in the process of rolling out 4G right now.

I really don't care myself. I've found most downloads occur fast enough on 3G and if I need high speed download I can normally find a wireless link....

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Re: The LTE version isn't a Mk II

Not all the handsets can be unlocked. There are whole swathes of IMEI numbers for which no unlock code is available.

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Small, sturdy phone to fit in my back pocket

It is an indictment of capitalism that it is now impossible to find a small sturdy phone.

Manufacturers are competing for biggest and thinnest, but I ( and many others ) don't care how @#$%ing thin my phone is, I just want a smartphone - like my last smartphone - that does the job, has a recent OS, doesn't break and fits easily in my pocket.

3.5" is a perfectly adequate screen size. 0.5" is a decent thickness.

Now, make that phone !

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Stop

Re: Small, sturdy phone to fit in my back pocket

As opposed to communism, where you'd have a choice of one phone the size of a brick that didn't work properly?

There are plenty of different phones out there in assorted sizes and shapes. Do some research an pick the one closest to your needs.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Small, sturdy phone to fit in my back pocket

BlackBerry Q10.

Mine doesn't have a case, though it does have a screen protector, lives with me in my short pocket all the time and remains 100% functional after 18 months. The back is made of some glass fibre/rubber composite, the frame is stainless steel, the battery is removable, and it has an SD card slot.

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Re: Small, sturdy phone to fit in my back pocket

With the Q20 coming out the Q10 is quite a bargin at the moment. £180 from amazon so not far off the price of the phones here but of a much higher quality and the Z10 is about the same price if you want a full touch screen.

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Re: Small, sturdy phone to fit in my back pocket

The Vodafone smart 4 mini is quite small. I have the smart 4 turbo and its a great piece of kit for the price

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Unhappy

Boring selection

Do you want round corners or square corners? Is this really where we've go to? There was the article recently showing you phones from a few years back - all interesting and varied.

Only people trying to do it differently now are Blackberry, sadly they're losing market share to a bunch who are just making watered down iPhones.

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Re: Boring selection

The form factor is basically dictated by the screen. Basically if you think about it a smartphone is a screen with as little plastic/material around the edge and as little material on the back as possible.

They don't all look alike because they are copying iPhones. They all look alike because that's the nature of a mobile touchscreen device.

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Meh

Re: Boring selection

Well as it was a round up of phones all using the same OS, in the same price bracket, what did you expect?

Next week a round up of sub £250 laptops all running windows 8.1. Look forward to the huge variation in design there.

If they are all to samey, try a Win8.1 phone.

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Re: Boring selection

Perhaps that's the problem - we're not hoping for anything better. Where are the new ideas, not just at this price, across the range.

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Re: Boring selection

They don't all look alike because they are copying iPhones. They all look alike because that's the nature of a mobile touchscreen device,

You, are of course, right.

But you need to go tell that to a certain judge/jury in California. And the ghost of Steve Jobs :-)

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Re: Boring selection

"They all look alike because that's the nature of a mobile touchscreen device."

Alright, then why are they all portrait aspect ratio, then?

Ohhh...............................

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Re: Boring selection

They all look alike because that's the nature of a mobile touchscreen device.

What rubbish. I own a mobile touchscreen device that doesn't possess this "nature". There's no reason for smartphone designs to slavishly follow the "screen with as little plastic/material around the edge and as little material on the back as possible" diktat.

Fortunately, I have no need or desire for a phone that costs £150, and at the real low end there's more variety.

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Not mentioned: Moto G v2 also has Dual SIM

One thing that the review didn't mention about the Moto G is that it is Dual SIM. This is pretty unusual for a UK phone (usually you have to grey import to get this feature) so is worth mentioning.

I find being able to have different lines for business and personal in one phone to be extremely useful. Ever since Orange's Line 2 functionality was phased out, the choice has been to run two phones or to find a Dual SIM phone.

Anyway, I just thought it was worth mentioning in case people weren't aware.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not mentioned: Moto G v2 also has Dual SIM

"One thing ... about the Moto G is that it is Dual SIM"

More detail please.

E.g. how does the user see it work?

Option 1: One phone, pick one of the two SIMs, the other is inactive.

Option 2: One phone, two SIMs, both active, pick which to use for (a) outgoing calls and (separately) (b) data?

Option 3: Other?

Presumably two SIMs with different numbers, right?

Pointers to more info most welcome.

[edit: I'm soon going to be splitting my time between somewhere where O2/giffgaff works and Orange doesn't, and another where the opposite applies. Awkward.]

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Re: Not mentioned: Moto G v2 also has Dual SIM

Dual SIM... I know it's not popular here, but the Nokia 530 and 630 have full dual SIM support, i.e. both active at the same time. You pick which one you want to use for outgoing calls or can set rules depending on what you want to do.

Link: http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/mobile/support/product/lumia630/smartguidance/?action=singleTopic&topic=GUID-1AF29027-8B2D-42C7-8220-BA52917EE9B6-8_10

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Re: Not mentioned: Moto G v2 also has Dual SIM

I have a cheap Cubot android phone which is dual sim.

Both sims are active for incoming calls.

Two signal strength indications are shown in the top bar.

When you use the dailler you have two dial buttons.

If a 3rd party app dials a number you get a pupup asking you which you wish to use.

You can select which sim to use for data however only the first sim is enabled for 3g.

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Boffin

Re: Not mentioned: Moto G v2 also has Dual SIM

Moto G has both SIMs active at the same time. i.e. you are connected to receive calls from both lines. Whilst in a call the other SIM is inactive.

You choose which SIM to use for data

You can change your configuration anytime.

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Re: Not mentioned: Moto G v2 also has Dual SIM

Apparently the Xperia M2 is also dual-SIM.

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re. Footnote 1

Why didn't you patent it or 'register' it? (Ask Apple for advice .... oh....)

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Sony M2

Point of note on the M2 is that the software update to KitKat 4.4.2 has already been rolled out, at least on O2 in the UK. Downside is that Sony has no (current) plans to take it to Lollipop despite it being a 2014 model.

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Happy

Re: Sony M2

Wife's was kitkat straight from the box, so maybe you got an older model....ps it's a nice phone.

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"second only to the HTC Desire 610 and Moto G"

That would technically be third, not second. And let's be honest, third out of six isn't exactly a ringing endorsement.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "second only to the HTC Desire 610 and Moto G"

Slightly OT.

We use the term "second rate" nowadays to mean that something isn't any good. But in the RN ship classification, second rate meant a big, strong battleship that was only inferior to the very biggest ships of all. Even a 6th rate was strong enough to engage in an actual shooting battle. It was when you got past 6th rate that you were down with the little ships and the boats.

Even the captain of a third rate thought of himself as a pretty grand fromage in the general scheme of things; Nelson spent a lot of his career on second and third rates, and a good, rot free second rate was better than an old first rate.

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HTC Desire 610 Plastic Screen

"I’m not sure if it’s [the screen] actually covered in hard plastic or glass..."

If the latter then –hooray for the great leap backwards! A screen which might pick up the odd scratch or two, but which won't smash into a zillion pieces, if it falls off your desk.

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8GB internal memory?

In my experience (HTC Desire 500) 8GB internal memory is barely enough to install a handful of apps. On this device 8GB internal leaves just over 1GB for all apps that have to be installed to internal memory (e.g. any app with a widget whether you use it or not), so it's constantly complaining of low memory despite the huge, empty SD card next door.

If you're seriously considering a budget phone, try to find out how much internal memory is available out of the box before committing.

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Re: 8GB internal memory?

Quite. My other half got the Desire 500, and it was pretty much out of storage from the moment it was switched on. A nice phone, otherwise.

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Gimp

Re: 8GB internal memory?

Exactly ... a few years back I was looking for a budget phone, and read here that androids can have apps on sd card ... no mention that you needed:

1. the sdk to switch the location of saved apps

2. a manufacturer willing to enable it

I got my step son and wife Sony Xperia M's, 2gb internal storage ... with two 16Gb micro sd cards ... found out about the sdk, did the kung-fu, turns out Sony does not allow you to store apps on micro sd card (was lucky the no-name tablet accepted the kung-fu, so there went one 16Gb sd card) - also, Sony are crap at releasing "new" android releases, when they release an update, it is years late/old ... not that in this particular case I would want to upgrade.

Android, the OS for the rest of us.

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Devil

The Reality Distortion Field is Strong with this one ....

OK El Reg nice joke.

I clicked on the Vodafone link for £99 ANDROID Voda Smart and was hyperspaced to an Apple website.

You've heard about the monkey slamming the cork back in; I was pressing back back back at a similar rate...

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Landfill Android

All technology is destined for the landfill*, no matter how expensive it was to begin with. So you might as well buy cheap.

* or recycling centre

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Unhappy

Keypad anyone?

I'm still looking for a phone with a mechanical rather than screen-based keypad but my selection seems to be limited to second-hand clobber on eBay.

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Re: Keypad anyone?

Nokia Asha?

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Re: Keypad anyone?

I looked at a handful of cheap qwerty-keyboard grey-market Android phones last year on Amazon and bought an unlocked, new, in-the-box LG C555 for less than $100. Works fine with my AT&T-based MVNO. No doubt under-spec'd by the standards of the Reg and folks who want to stream video, play games, etc; but it does exactly what I need (phone, text, GPS, calendar, notes). Has an SD slot and replaceable battery. Only one SIM but it's easy to change (I switched to a GiffGaf SIM when I was in England for a week). Slide-out physical keyboard.

I put PuTTY on it and ssh'd into a server just to see how it went. Again, not ideal (no Esc key makes vim hard to use) but probably useful in an emergency.

It's not perfect; for example, Bluetooth support is limited to phone and modem operations, so you need to use USB to transfer pictures and the like. Not a big deal for me.

Apparently the stock has since dried up - Amazon's only showing them at ridiculous prices. But more may show up and there were a number of similar alternatives. You needn't resort to eBay yet.

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Buying a Moto G

was the point at which I realised smartphones had become fully commoditized.

(I'm still a bit jealous of the iPhone fingerprint reader, mind.)

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OT: Six of the best?

I know the title is a reference to Blackadder ("...give Harry Hun a darned good British style thrashing, six of the best, trousers down") but I've never understood what "six of the best" meant in context? Six lashes seems a bit tame as a darned good British thrashing of Harry Hun?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: OT: Six of the best?

@Vociferous

Errr ... have you ever been beaten by a vicious sadistic swine of a Headmaster with a cane? I was at school in England pre-ban and, believe you me, six of the best was enough for massive bruising, not insignificant bleeding and a two day stint in the school infirmary.

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Re: OT: Six of the best?

Well compared to Saudi Arabia or Taiwan canings, that's still pretty soft. But point taken.

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Holmes

No Lenovo candidates? Also, what about gamesmanship?

I was surprised or maybe even disappointed not to see any mention of a Lenovo model. They did mention a Huawei, and Lenovo is doing quite well in direct competition against Huawei in their home market of China. Does this mean Lenovo is that slow in their international marketing for smartphones?

By the way, my own experience with a mid-range Huawei was quite satisfactory, whereas my HTC was a pretty major pain in the behind. Maybe it was just bad timing and the HTC was too early, but I'm not planning to give them another chance anytime soon. I've actually had three Huawei devices over the years, and they've all performed quite well. My main reservation about Huawei is actually security. Not that I think Huawei would include a back door. The damage to their reputation would be too horrendous. It's just that all the Chinese hackers can be presumed to have physical access to any Huawei device made there. If there are any flaws or security weaknesses (and I'm pretty sure there are), then they know about them.

Let me close with a word about gamesmanship. It is possible to get a high end smartphone if you are careful how you play the game and are willing to settle for a slightly older model. A few months ago I actually had the choice between the recently replaced top end Samsung and Sony smartphones, so I went with the Samsung, which has been quite satisfactory so far. I didn't write the rules of the game, but I got the phone for free with a quite inexpensive contract. (The sneaky trick in Japan is to do your data elsewhere...)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No Lenovo candidates? Also, what about gamesmanship?

Shannon Jacobs:

Motorola is now a Lenovo Company.

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