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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Top 10 Budget Mobile Phones

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Top 10 Budget Mobile Phones
by victoriatagg on 11-02-2012 11:00 - last edited on 09-02-2012 16:25

Following on from our post a couple of weeks ago on the best mid-range phones comes our round up of ten of the best budget smartphones on the market right now. These are phones that can be had for around (or in most cases under) £100 and can do the basics. Perfect if you’re after a cheap phone primarily for calling and texting but wouldn’t mind seeing what other features and functions you can get on a shoestring. With giffgaff goodbags starting at £10 a month it’s never been cheaper to start using a smartphone.

1: Texter’s Lab

Talk is cheap - texting is cheaper. For those who prefer to tap away on their phones rather than be constantly answering calls to friends, family members, loved ones and colleagues, then you need a Texter. Phones that make composing and sending an SMS as easy as ABC.
The Samsung E1150i (£10-£20) is more feature than smartphone and is very basic feature-wise, not having a web browser, camera, memory card slot or an MP3 player. But for the asking price it’s perfect if you’re just after a simple phone for calling and texting. Featuring an old school flip design and a long lasting battery, the Samsung E1150i is ideal for those who want a seriously no-frills phone.

Android phones that come with Qwerty keyboards are few and far between but the HTC ChaCha (£120-£135) is one of those. Coming with a 2.6-inch touchscreen and a full four-row Qwerty pad, the ChaCha gives you the best of both worlds; a screen you can scroll, swipe and tap through and a solid physical keypad for that dedicated typing and texting experience.
The BlackBerry Curve 8520 (£80-£110) packs the full email and Qwerty typing experience for which BlackBerry phones are renowned. As well as this you get access to Facebook and Twitter as well as BBM. The lack of 3G means that any net-based services could be a little on the slow side. The giffgaff BlackBerry Add-on offers BBM and email for £3 extra a month.
The Nokia C1-01 (£25-£40) is even more retro than either of these phones. Coming with a 1.8-inch non-touchscreen and an old-school keypad, this is for those who prefer writing their TXT MSGS the old-fashioned way. For those of you who never had a problem with predictive text, we salute you - we could never get the hang of it.

2: Network-Specific phones

Back in the day we used to see more phones that were ‘network specific’, phones that were locked to a network, like the O2 XDA.
There aren’t so many network specific phones going these days but there are a few that are worth your consideration if you’re after a phone on a shoestring. Obviously to use these phones with a giffgaff SIM you’ll need to be wise to the ways of phone unlocking.
Running Android Gingerbread the Orange Monte Carlo (£110-£120) has a big 4.3-inch screen (WVGA 480x800) that makes for easy, roomy web browsing and a 5-megapixel camera with a single LED flash. Internal memory isn’t up to much (160MB-odd) but there’s a microSD card slot so you can expand it.
Though not the fastest phone out there (it has an 800MHz processor) it’s fine for the basics and the large screen comes into its own for web browsing, checking Google Maps and viewing pictures in the gallery.

The Orange San Francisco II (£70-£120) also runs Android Gingebread comes with many of the same specs and features as the Monte Carlo, but it has a smaller 3.5-inch screen and a sleeker design. There’s a 5-megapixel (LED flash) so you get a similar picture taking quality and there’s a VGA camera on the front for self-portrait shots as well.
The T-Mobile Vivacity (£90-£120) also rocks a 5-megapixel camera with a flash, a VGA front-facing camera and a 3.5-inch screen. Despite running Android Gingerbread, physically it also bears a striking similarity to the iPhone 4/4S. So for a fraction of the price of an iPhone, you could perhaps fool your less tech-savvy friends with the T-Mobile Vivacity...

3: General all rounders

These phones do the basics and are easy to use. No powerful, flashy cameras or big touchscreens for these unassuming phones. For those who want something inexpensive to handle the every day phone functions then one of these general all rounders will be for you.
The recent HTC Explorer (£99-£130) is a perfect example of this. It’s got a 3.2-inch touchscreen which is very responsive. Despite its relatively small size, texting, checking Google Maps and browsing the web is effortless on the Explorer - its name is particularly apt in this respect.

The Huawei Blaze (£60-£115) similarly has a 3.2-inch screen but is easy to operate, responding well to the touch. Running Google’s Android OS it has a solid, chunky feel in the hand and is excellent value for its price. Internal storage is a paltry 256MB, but you can expand this with a microSD card up to 32GB. Huawei might not be as well known in the UK, but don’t let that put you off, the Blaze offers a lot of features for the money.
Same goes for the Android Samsung Galaxy Mini (£80-£100). It has a slightly bigger 3.14-inch screen and despite the low resolution (QVGA 320x240) the phone is easy to use thanks in part of the responsiveness of the screen and the simple layout. The virtual keyboard perhaps isn’t the easiest to text on, but Swype, the next-gen predictive text keyboard, comes pre-installed, which makes up for this.
Have we missed any handsets that should have made our top 10 budget phones? Let us know in the comments below.

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Top 5 Android Productivity Apps

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Top 5 Android Productivity Apps
by wsjudd on 10-02-2012 18:00 - last edited on 09-02-2012 16:10

For anyone that's working, whether as a student or a bona fide professional, your smartphone is your go-to resource for staying organised and getting things done. The easiest way to make sure you're working effectively (apart from uninstalling Angry Birds) is to make sure you've got the right apps for the job, whether it's keeping tabs on the latest headlines in your field, taking notes or checking your shared projects on the go.
For that reason, I've compiled a list of the five best productivity apps for Android. If you want to download any of the apps below, just click on the link in the title (e.g. where it says 'Google Reader' if you want Google Reader). Let's get right into it!

Google Reader

Google Reader is as indispensable on Android as it is on any other platform. If you want to keep up with the latest news from across the web, then there's no better way to do it. Reader makes it simple to add new sites, automatically finding RSS feeds on a given site and subscribing you to them. You can also have Google Alerts sent to your Reader feed, allowing you to know when sites mention things you're interested in - like, for example, your company or products.

Once you're all signed up, it's just a case of swiping through the day's stories, reading the ones you're interested in or starring them for later perusal - perfect for keeping up to date with the headlines on the way to work. There's also an Android widget, making it even quicker to have a quick looksie at the latest news.


Wunderlist is a cloud-based list program for Android (as well as iOS, Windows & Mac) that makes it easy to share lists with your colleagues or just let you access them via any platform. Where other task management apps try to stuff in as much functionality as possible, Wunderlist takes a different approach, focusing on ease of use and style - you can tell that this was originally a Mac application. Wunderlist also looks fantastic, with a choice of 12 well-crafted backgrounds (from simple colours and textures to finely crafted digital art) that mesh nicely with the streamlined interface.

That said, Wunderlist does provide all of the standard features you'd expect - you can organise items into lists, mark them as important, and set up reminders and due dates. The app also comes with an Android widget which shows the tasks due today, allowing you to mark them as completed from the home screen. Wunderlist really takes the humble to-do list app and makes it beautiful.


Evernote is the mother of all note-taking apps, providing unparalled functionality. While it isn't as streamlined as more focused productivity apps like Wunderlist, it compensates by letting you do much more - you can add notes of pretty much any flavour: text, audio, pictures, videos, files or web pages. Evernote also provides cloud storage and multiple platforms, so you can get at your saved content wherever you are.

Evernote excels at being extra storage for your mind - if you need to remember or note down anything from anywhere, Evernote is the way to do it. As with the other apps on this list, Evernote comes with a rather useful widget, allowing you to create that mind-to-Evernote bridge even quicker.


Dropbox is a great program for accessing your work files on the go. I use it to get at my saved articles and pictures, whether I'm on my PC or out with my Android. The program also makes it easy to share files on your phone with your desktop or friends, with a simple interface for uploading your files to the cloud.

Dropbox is also ideal for project work, letting you read and write files that are shared with your team members. Where Google Docs insists on using its own web editor in order to modify your files, Dropbox allows you to edit files using any program installed on your Android. That also opens the door for working on files not supported by Google Docs, including PDFs and source code.
The default storage space is 2 GB, which is plenty for most users, but can also be extended in a number of ways. You can invite other users for an extra 250 MB of space each, and right now you can download a beta version of Dropbox for desktop clients that gives you an extra 500 MB for each 500 MB of photos you upload, up to 5 GB of extra space.
Dropbox is an essential download. If you'd like to sign up, you could do it via this link, which would give you (and me) an extra 250 MB of storage space. You can also sign up, referral free, via the app itself.

Google Docs

Google Docs is the app on this list that I use the most, but is the least polished. As you'd expect, it's an Android interface to Google Docs, allowing you to edit documents, spreadsheets and more. While you can access all of the documents you've got online, the actual editing process could use some improvement, with it being difficult to edit multiple cells in spreadsheets or apply formatting to text, things you think that a rather well-endowed company like Google could work on for one of their premier services.

Still, Google Docs is the go-to application for sharing editable files online, and app is perfectly suited for making that initial share or viewing a file - just stick to the desktop version if you want to get some real editing done.


So that's it then - five of my most-used apps for getting things done. I didn't notice until I was writing the article, but all of the apps on this list are cloud-connected and available for every major platform, letting you access whatever content you add to them on whatever environment you're in. It's a sign of the times, eh?
So what apps do you find essential for productivity on Android? I've gone for some rather well-known applications here, but I'd love to discover some new apps I've never heard of, and share them with the rest of our good readers in a later article. Let me know via the comments below, or you can even hit me up on Twitter @wsjudd. Thanks for reading, and be sure to let me know what you think!
William Judd is a copywriter and technology blogger based in Bristol. If you'd like to hire me or just say hello, feel free to visit my website at or chat with me on Twitter.

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