Friday, November 26, 2010

Best Budget Android Phones

We have an updated budget Android smartphone guide at this link.

When I asked my phone savvy friends what touchscreen Smartphone to get, the advice given is Apple's iPhone 4. When I tell them I want something less expensive, they direct me to the bada-powered Samsung Wave 8500 and the Android-powered HTC Wildfire. Given that I belong to the dwindling number of Windows Mobile holdouts, I have no preference for iOS, bada or Android with reference to familiarity. Between the bada and Android, I prefer Android.

1. HTC Wildfire 

Taking a look at the HTC Wildfire, I am happy with the look and feel of the product. I like that it has a nice compact design with excellent hardware specifications. The suggested retail price of Php17,000 is about how much I am willing to pay for a mobile phone, but it now sells at Php15,000 with an HTC warranty.

It has a 3.2 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen display with a 240 x 320 pixel screen resolution. At first glance, it looks fine as previous mobile phones have the same resolution. But comparing it to some Samsung phones especially with the higher resolution AMOLED screen of the Samsung S8500 Wave, it does not match up well to the best of today's mid-level touchscreen mobile phones (the Wave runs on bada and not Android). A higher resolution screen would also be much nicer for web browsing, but given we are talking budget Android phones, accommodations will have to be made. 

The Wildfire runs on Android 2.1 (Eclair) with the HTC Sense UI. It is powered by a 528 MHz Qualcomm processor and has 384 MB of RAM. Internal storage is 512MB. Internal storage can be increased via a MicroSD slot. It has all the standard connectivity I would need: GPRS, EDGE,  HSDPA, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, a microUSB port and as well as a built in GPS transceiver with A-GPS support. It seems to have a decent camera-- a 5 MP autofocus camera with a LED flash.

2. Samsung Galaxy Spica i5700 

The Samsung Galaxy Spica i5700 has a faster 800 MHz processor than the HTC Wildfire, but only with 128 MB of RAM and only 180MB of internal storage. Internal storage can be increased via a MicroSD slot.  Like the Wildfire, it also has a 3.2 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen display but with a higher resolution 320 x 480 pixel screen. The model I saw was running on Android 1.5 (Cupcake) with TouchWiz UI, but I was told it could be upgraded to Android 2.1 (Eclair). It comes with a 3.2 MP camera with autofocus, but with no flash. Connectivity options are as expected: GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g and Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP as well as a built-in GPS transceiver with A-GPS support. It does support multi-touch. 

I like the higher resolution screen, and the one I saw was priced at Php13,700, which a fair amount less expensive than the HTC Wildfire.

3. Sony Ericsson Xperia X8.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia X8 runs on a Qualcomm 600MHz processor with 168MB of RAM and 128MB of internal storage. The screen is a 3.0 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen display with 320 x 480 pixel resolution. It has a 3.15MP camera, but it is only a fixed focus camera. Connectivity options are as expected: GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g and Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP as well as a built-in GPS transceiver with A-GPS support.

For a newly released phone, the biggest disappointment is that it runs on Android 1.6 (Donut), with no word on updates. The phone does not support multi-touch but has a decent web browser.  For this alone I would have dumped this from consideration, except for one factor. It has a really attractive suggested retail price of only Php11,600.

4. Samsung Galaxy 5 i5503

I am a big fan of Samsung phones, having owned two, but this one I am not too fond of. The i5503 has adequate specifications running on Android 2.1 (Cupcake) backed by a 600 MHz processor and 170MB of internal storage, which can be expanded through a MicroSD slot. It has all the standard connectivity I would need: GPRS, EDGE,  HSDPA, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, a microUSB port and as well as a built-in GPS transceiver with A-GPS support. As a minus, it has a relatively small 2.8 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen display with 240 x 320 pixel resolution. It does support multi-touch. 

The smaller screen really would seem to be too small for a touchscreen phone. My other dislikes are more subjective.  The chrome finish around the case and the textured caseback, all gives it a really budget look. With a retail price of Php10,980 it is the cheapest of the options here though.

5. LG Optimus One P500

This has to be the most controversial phone in the market, after a rather controversial 50% off launching day sale. But never mind that. The phone itself is fairly impressive even at its full Php12,990 retail price. First and foremost, the phone runs the latest Android 2.2 (Froyo). The other phones we looked at run Android 2.1 (Eclair) or 1.6 Android (Donut). It comes with a 3.2 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen display with 320 x 480 pixel resolution, which is as good as you get in a budget Android. It has a 600MHz processor, 512MB of RAM and 170MB of internal storage. For the camera, it has a 3.2MP autofocus camera. Connectivity options are as expected: GPRS, EDGE,  HSDPA, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, a microUSB port and as well as a built in GPS transceiver with A-GPS support. All-in-all not a bad package.

The look and feel of the LG Optimus One P500, is hard to explain. It won't offend anyone and won't impress.

Conclusion

The Sony Ericsson and Samsung Galaxy 5 are the cheapest options, but they do give up a lot against the LG Optimus One P500. The LG Optimus One P500 has the best features set and is priced mid pack. My other favorite is the HTC Wildfire. I really like the HTC Sense interface and is well built, with its biggest weakness being its 240 x 320 pixel resolution screen. This could be a deal breaker for many. Overall, I like the Wildfire, but LG Optimus One P500 with the higher resolution screen and lower price seems like the best deal. 

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