With massive innovation in both hardware and operating systems, phones now do a lot more than just let you talk and text, with handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and iPhone 5 stealing headlines around the world these days.
Sadly all this innovation isn't cheap – and most of it is reserved for high-end contract handsets. So, is there such a thing as the 'best phone on a budget'?
We've been through our extensive mobile phone reviews to find the best cheap phones at the moment, so if you're looking to pick up a decent handset for not much wonga, these are the best budget phones going.
Nokia Lumia 520
SIM-free: from £139.95
PAYG: from £99.95
The Nokia Lumia 520, much like its big brother the Lumia 620, is a jack of all trades and a master of none - although it really manages to make a good fist of everything it tries, for the price.
It looks good, it's got a decent screen both in terms of size and resolution, it rarely stutters or slows down, it's great for calls and messaging, reasonable for media and okay for photos.
To achieve a lower price point the 520 has had to strip away a few things - there's no NFC, compass, camera flash or front facing camera here.
The Nokia Lumia 520 certainly isn't an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy beater - but it's a sueprb Windows Phone 8 device that you can pick up for under £100.
If you're a fan of a simple interface with some quality add-ons, then you should definitely look at Nokia's latest attempt to win over the smartphone naysayers.
Orange San Diego
PAYG: from £199
The San Diego may have been around a while but it's still a great little handset which won't cost you the earth or let you down.
It differs from the rest of the phones in this list due to the fact it has an Intel Atom processor housed under the hood instead of an ARM based chip - but this single-core power is not to be sniffed at.
Intel and Orange have done some clever bits behind the scenes to make the San Diego run like the clappers, giving you a great smartphone experience - although this handset is stuck on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
You are limited in the fact that you can only get the San Diego from Orange, but if you're already on the colourful network and are in the market for an inexpensive smartphone this is certainly a good shout.
Huawei Ascend G330
PAYG: from £100
The Ascend G330 is a solid performer. It's smooth in use, has the power to run even the most demanding apps very well, and although not hugely exciting to look at and hold, the display's clear and bright enough to elevate it above some of the tattier budget models.
And it's definitely more capable than the old Ascend G300, with hardly any glitches when downloading/updating apps and navigating the phone at the same time.
It delivers a great smartphone experience for the money with hardly any obvious compromises.
When deciding on a budget phone, it can be a nightmare trying to decide which one to go for. Is it power? Name? Specs? Or just a low price tag attached to a phone that doesn't go bananas when you prod it?
The latter applies to the Huawei - and it delivers well, especially for the £100 sticker whacked on it.
Sony Xperia U
SIM-free: from £149.95
PAYG: from £79.99
The Sony Xperia U oozes style and sophistication. Featuring a well-built form and traditional black Sony style, it will help you get the look on a budget.
As well as it's fashionista tendencies, the Xperia U doesn't disappoint on specs either. A large 3.5 inch touch screen give good access to all your apps, and Ice Cream Sandwich offers plenty of choice when it comes to games and productivity (even though it's starting to feel its age against Jelly Bean) - plus a dual-core 1GHz processor is impressive for the price.
A front facing camera will let you video call at VGA resolution, whilst on the back you will find a decent 5-megapixel camera for your snaps.
The Xperia U doesn't offer any expansion slots, and comes with a slightly meagre 4GB storage. This is plenty for day-to-day use, but you might still need a standalone media player if music or video is your thing.
For £150, this device offers a lot, and is clearly one of the best pay-as-you-go handsets around.
Nokia Lumia 620
SIM-free: from £169.95
PAYG: from £129.99
There's not a whole lot that the Nokia Lumia 620 does wrong. As an all-round, jack of all trades budget handset it does a great job.
We'd love it if the screen was slightly bigger or it had a little bit more RAM, but for the price we can't really complain.
The range of brightly coloured covers will likely attract the youth of today, and their tough plastic construction should keep the Lumia 620 in good nick, even after the occasional drop.
The only real issue is the battery, and that's an issue to some extent with every Windows Phone 8 right now but if you fancy a little more screen real estate and a non-Android experience then this is a decent shout over the smaller Lumia 520.
HTC Desire C
SIM-free: from £139.95
PAYG: from £79.99
The HTC Desire C took over from the Wildfire S last year with an improved camera and integrated Beats audio – giving crisper definition to your MP3s and a solid battery life.
Taking a cue from its Beats Audio partner styling – the Desire C offers an urban rubberized finish with metallic red accents. It's a great-looking device that performs well and is tough enough to take a few bumps.
It is stuck rocking Android Ice Cream Sandwich and won't ever see Jelly Bean grace its screen, but don't let that put you off and the Sense 4.0 overlay makes the Desire C an easy to use handset, especially for those who are new to the smartphone game.
This handset is designed for those who want more from a device than simple phone calls, but still want to keep their budget in check. For under £100, it won't break the bank either.
Samsung Galaxy Ace 2
SIM-free: from £169.95
PAYG: from £129.95
With a sleek, stylish design that is closer to the build quality and appealing feel of the former market leading Samsung Galaxy S2, the Ace 2 impresses from the off with a curvaceous finish that leads the way to an impressive collection of features.
As the 800MHz dual-core processor runs the show with reality ease, the handset's inbuilt 5-megapixel camera is a surprising hit equally capable of producing high-end stills as it is impressive 720p HD video content. On top of this, the device is easy to use and intuitive to master.
The Galaxy Ace 2 makes up for small niggles and limited features by mastering what it offers. Exceeding expectation on multiple fronts, the second-generation would be a wise buy for any first time or returning smartphone owner.
Huawei Ascend W1
PAYG: from £129.99
When you consider the Huawei Ascend W1 will set you back just £130 it's difficult to fault, as you're getting a pretty good deal.
The Ascend W1 comes with a strong set of features allowing you to fully use the handset as a mobile phone, internet portal, handheld gaming device and multimedia station.
It may not excel at any of these things, but that's OK. You're not going to buy the Huawei Ascend W1 for power, you're going to buy it for practicality and value for money - and those are the criteria it absolutely wins out on.
HTC Desire X
SIM-free: from £214.99
PAYG: from £199.95
The HTC Desire X is a decent mid-range phone which offers up a smartphone experience you've come to expect from handsets which cost around £200.
It's doesn't offer anything particularly thrilling, nor does it having any major flaws and while the design is welcoming and the UI intuitive, we can't help but feel HTC hasn't pushed the Desire X to its full potential.
If you're looking for a stylish and affordable Android handset the Desire X is certainly an attractive option - but if you're not taken with its looks you might want to check out other alternatives.
Samsung Galaxy Mini 2
SIM-free: from £139.99
PAYG: from £69.99
The Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 offers up a budget smartphone experience and carries it off with relative ease.
For a cheap handset the Galaxy Mini 2 produces relatively decent performance and while it doesn't have the zip of pricier handsets, it's by no means a slouch which constantly leaves you waiting.
The camera does feel like a bit of an afterthought and it lags behind the competition, but with a well placed microSD slot, removable battery and NFC it's not all bad.
The lower end of the mobile market is getting rather busy, but the Galaxy Mini 2 doesn't disgrace itself and while it doesn't rise head and shoulders above the competition it least gives them something to think about.
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