Sunday, February 6, 2011

February 2011 budget Android smartphone buyers guide

We wrote one of these a week ago, but two recent releases merit an update. As before, we don't be considering units that won't be getting at least Android 2.2 (Froyo). 

1. Samsung Galaxy Ace S5830. We our replacing the LG Optimus One as our recommendation for best budget phone, with a qualification. This phone has a suggested retail price of Php16,500, but is available for Php14,700 or less, with an official Samsung warranty. Getting it at the price or lower is a consideration in making it our top choice.

Why the Galaxy Ace. The main reason is the 3.5-inch, 320 x 480 resolution, capacitive screen. When buying a touch screen phone the two things you will notice all the time is the interface, which is a combination of the display of the UI and the physical display itself. The Android 2.2 OS runs under the Samsung TouchWiz interface used in the Galaxy Ace, which is one of the better Android UI implementations and the 3.5-inch screen is the largest available in the budget class and the 320 x 480 resolution is sharp enough. Basically, it the screen is larger than HTC's Hero and Legend, and bigger and as sharp as an Apple iPhone 3GS. 

The other hardware specifications are decent, a 800MHz processor and 384MB of RAM. Internal storage is  only 158MB, but it comes with a 2GB MicroSD card. It has a 35MP autofocus camera with LED flash. Connectivity options are the 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. We would like to stress the you do not get is flash support in the browser and even a operating system upgrade will not change that.

2. LG Optimus One P500

Our previous top choice is still a very good option, and many would consider a better choice than the Galaxy Ace. First, it is significantly less expensive at a Php12,490 retail price. It runs Android 2.2 (Froyo) with a Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) upgrade promised. 

Compared to the Galaxy Ace, it has the same screen resolution but has a smaller comes with a 3.2 screen. It has the same processor as the Galaxy Ace but the one in the Optimus One runs at a slower 600MHz.

It does have several advantages, with a bit more RAM (512MB v. 384MB) and a larger battery (1500mAh v. 1350mAh). Internal storage is a bit higher at 170MB, and can be increased via a MicroSD slot. The other specifications match up with the Galaxy Ace.

The only reason we made it our second choice was the screen size, but with a touchscreen phone, screen size is a very big thing.

3. HTC Wildfire 

Another option is the HTC Wildfire. It now sells for Php14,000 with an HTC warranty. 

It has a 3.2 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen display with a 240 x 320 pixels screen resolution. The lower screen resolution is the main point against it. The Wildfire runs on Android 2.1 (Eclair), but is upgradeable to Android 2.2. 

It is powered by a 528 MHz Qualcomm processor, which is slower than the ones found in the Galaxy Ace and Optimus One, but this is actually a higher class processor. Clock speed is not everything. The 528 MHz Qualcomm supports flash, and this is the only phone in our list which supports flash.

It has a good amount of RAM at  384 MB.. Internal storage is also the highest at 512MB. Internal storage can be increased via a MicroSD slot. Another good reason choose the Wildfire instead is the camera. It has a decent camera, a 5 MP auto focus unit with a LED flash. The led flash plus the casing and building quality makes it look and feel more like a high end phone. 

Finally, there is the HTC Sense UI, which is our favorite interface modification for Android. If this phone has a higher resolution screen, it would be our favorite.

Your going to get very little consensus on which of our first three choices is the best.

4. Samsung Galaxy Mini S5570

The Galaxy Mini S5570 has adequate specifications for a budget Android at a price below 10K. It has a 3.2-inch 240 x 320 screen, runs Android 2.2 (Froyo) powered by 600 MHz processor and 160MB of internal storage, which can be expanded via a MicroSD slot. It had the usual connectivity options. It's camera is a fixed focus model.

Available at Php9,790, it offers good specifications for the price. Suggested retail price though is Php11,500, but at that price you should really be looking at the Optimus One.

5. Samsung Galaxy 5 i5503

The Samsung Galaxy i5503 is still an Option, mainly because it can be had at Php8,800. It runs Android 2.1 (Cupcake) powered by 600 MHz processor and 170MB of internal storage, which can be expanded via a MicroSD slot. It weakest point is it has the smallest screen in the bunch, with a 2.8 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen display with 240 x 320 pixel resolution. It does support multi-touch. It had the usual connectivity options. It's camera is a fixed focus model.

It is far from our favorite option, but it is the cheapest.

6. Samsung Galaxy 551. A good budget option for those wanting to get a physical QWERTY keyboard is the Samsung Galaxy 551, priced at Php13,490 the Galaxy 551 is a budget priced phone as Android smartphones go. It is current though, running Android 2.2 and equipped with a 3.2 inch 400 x 240 resolution screen and powered by a 667MHz processor.


  1. Typo: Samsung "Ace"

    Great article btw. I think it is still the LG O1 is the most popular among the list.

  2. Thanks. Typo corrected.

    I think the LG O1 will remain a contender for top budget Android phone for some time. The Ace is more expensive and is still has pros and cons as against the cheaper O1.

    It is not a O1 killer. Am probably a bit too biased about the larger screen.

  3. Samsung Galaxy Ace S5830

    Primary 5 MP, 2592x1944 pixels, autofocus, LED flash

  4. and sir walang multi touch ang galaxy 5.

  5. @Vince

    The phone supports it but Android 2.1 does not. If it gets the Android 2.2 upgrade, you will be able to use multi touch (caveat: at least the Euro version does, hopefully the one here does also).

  6. @Vince

    Corrected info on Ace camera. Thanks.

  7. Great Article. HTC Wildfire looks promising.

    Just a query, all the phones on your list runs in Google's Androiod. Does that mean Symbian isn't any better? or not even well enough to be a good contender? and Why is there no Windows Phone 7 in the list? It's the best OS in store.

  8. Symbian at this point, even the latest S^3 is really starting to get outdated. If you own one, it should serve you well for another year or so, but if you are buying something, might as well get something which is not nearing end of life. By January 2012, Nokia will be focusing on WP7.

    Why no WP7? I think this OS has plenty of potential, but recommending it at this stage is hard. It is like recommending an Android in the first quarter of 2009. Right now, WP7 is best for someone who realizes that they are buying a high end phone which is surrounded by a limited (11,000 app) ecosystem.

    Our guides are written for the average person. I do not think WP7 is for the average person. Android or iOS are better choices for the regular buyer. But if you are someone who is more of a "techie", and know what you want and can check or the Windows Market place to see if the apps you need are available, than WP7 is an excellent choice.

    If I recommend to the average buyer, they might keep lamenting the fact, that WP7 does not have a Angry Birds app yet.

    That being said, if WP7 progresses at it has, it will be in out list very soon. It's current progress is faster in point of time than either iOS or Android.

    Compare a WP7 and its ecosystem to a first generation iPhone or a G1 in their first 6 months.


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