Head to Head: Extreme Budget Phones

by Sandra Henshaw - , Last Updated on December 9, 2015, Buying Guides

Just how low can we go? That’s our question today. There are tons of great, high powered, and expensive smart phones on the market. But we’re interested in just how much you don’t have to spend. Can you get a decent, touch screen smart phone for £50? We’re here to find out. In our latest head to head competition, we’re pitting three phones against each other to find out which is best. And… they all cost £50 or less. Think you can’t afford a new phone? Think again…

Meet the Contenders

The Contenders: Lumia 435, Alcatel Pixi 3 and the Huawei Ascend Y330

The Contenders: Lumia 435, Alcatel Pixi 3 and the Huawei Ascend Y330

The first of our three contenders is the newest of the lot, the new Microsoft Lumia 435, released in January this year. Lumia has become a watchword for Windows phones, and Windows mobiles are getting cheaper by the second. True to form, the 435 comes in at around £50 depending on operator. Next up we’ve got another release from early this year, the Alcatel Pixi 3 (4), a confusing name (the 3 is the model number, whilst the 4 is the screen size), but a nice price at again just £50. Finally, we’ve got a model from Chinese manufacturer Huawei, the Ascend Y330. Huawei have made their name by producing low cost phones, and the Ascend Y330 is one of their cheapest at around £40. So let’s take a look at how they compare…

Under the Hood

Heading the pack when it comes to processing power is the Huawei Ascend, with a dual core 1.3 GHz processor on board, coupled with 512 MB of RAM. But it’s a toss up between the Ascend and the Lumia, which, whilst it only has a 1.2 GHz dual core processor, carries a full 1 GB of RAM. The Alcatel is trailing with a mere 1 GHz dual core processor and 512 MB of RAM. Bottom line when it comes to performance? The extra processing power on the Ascend is nice, but in the end the extra RAM on the Lumia just make it that much faster and more responsive. Are you sacrificing anything to get that low price? Well, you won’t be running high end games, but for day to day tasks you should find that any of these phones is fine.

When it comes to operating systems, both the Huawei and the Alcatel are Android phones, though as a newer model the Alcatel runs Android Kit Kat (upgradeable to Lollipop), whilst the Huawei runs only Android Jellybean. There isn’t a great deal of difference between these versions but it could be a concern. The Lumia runs Windows 8.1 out of the box, but is upgradeable to the latest Windows 10 version. But operating system really does just come down to what you prefer.

On Screen

Moving on to screens, and surprisingly you’re getting absolutely no difference here at all. All three models have a four inch display, and all four displays have 480 x 800 pixel resolution. In terms of size, four inches is pretty good for a budget phone, small enough to be portable but still large enough to type comfortably on screen. As for resolution, these aren’t HD phones, but 480 by 800 isn’t bad, and pictures on all three mobiles are clear and defined, and colour resolution is fine. And for £50 or less? You won’t hear any complaints from us…

Taking Pictures

Most of us like taking the odd snap with our phones, so camera specs can be important. The Alcatel and the Lumia are both equal in this respect. Both have a VGA front camera, a simple cam suitable for video calling. And at the rear, both have a 2 MP camera. That isn’t great, and you won’t be getting high quality pics here, but it’s more or less what we’d expect to see at this price range. The Huawei doesn’t have a front facing camera at all, but makes up for that by having a larger 3.15 MP camera at the back. If the lack of front cam doesn’t bother you, that means that you’ll be getting better, clearer pictures from the Huawei, a point in the older phone’s favour.

Storage and Connectivity

You’ll need some storage space for all those apps, and maybe an album or two. The Huawei and the Alcatel both offer you 4 GB of internal storage, which isn’t huge, but both accept a Micro SD card, giving you up to 32 GB of external storage if you need it. But the Lumia is the clear winner here, with 8 GB of internal storage, and an SD card slot for up to 128 GB of external extra storage. If you’ve got a lot of stuff to store on your phone, then the Lumia is going to be the clear choice.

Connectivity wise, all three models are identical. You get 3G, but you won’t be getting the super fast mobile data speeds of 4G with any of these hand sets, though we don’t really expect 4G in budget phones. You do get Bluetooth 4.0 though, so connecting to a hands free set or speaker is not going to be a problem.

If you hate charging your phone, then the Lumia does have the larger battery, with a 1560 mAh battery, compared to a 1500 mAh model on the Huawei and a 1400 mAh on the Alcatel.

Extreme Budget Phones: The Bottom Line

Is it possible to get a decent smart phone for £50? Absolutely, and frankly, any of these three will do the job if you’re not too picky. If we have to pick a winner though, it’s clearly got to be the Lumia 435. It gets faster performance, has a larger battery, and more memory as well, meaning it’s just a better bet for your cash.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a phone these days. And whether you need a quick replacement for a stolen or broken mobile, want a second phone to take out partying, or are just a bit broke at the moment, these three models all go to prove that you can get the mobile connectivity that you need all for the price of a few pints and a pizza.