27 October 2015

Best Value Android Smartphones 2015

If you're in the market for a good, serviceable smartphone and don't want to spend heaps of cash on the most expensive flagship phone, then you're in luck. With the likes of Motorola, OnePlus and Huawei driving down prices, never before has the burgeoning value/budget smartphone market been better with many devices now sporting more high-end builds and features which were only previously found on their more pricey brethen. I've compiled a list of the best Android smartphones for under £200, £300, £400 and £500; read on to see what I think is worthy of your consideration.

Under £200

Motorola Moto G (3rd Gen. 2015)

Reasons to Buy
  • Large 5" display
  • 13MP camera - decent in most situations
  • Uncluttered, clean software experience with added Motorola features
  • Decent performance
  • Numerous customisation options through Motorola's Moto Maker
  • Waterproof design (IPX7)
  • Good battery life (2470 mAh)
  • MicroSD card slot for expandable storage
  • 4G capable
  • Guaranteed update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Things to Consider
  • Choose the 16GB storage/2GB RAM option! 8GB of storage is too small for today's apps and it only has 1GB of RAM meaning processing intense tasks/multitasking will become compromised several months down the line
  • Display is 'only' 720p
  • Camera, although decent, is not amazing
  • Low-range processor not ideal for intensive tasks
  • Not the slimmest of phones (11.6mm at thickest point)
  • No guarantee it'll receive updates after Marshmallow

The 16GB storage/2GB RAM variant is available here through Motorola's Moto Maker for £189.

Under £300

Motorola Moto X Play

Reasons to Buy
  • 5.5" 1080p display (401ppi)
  • Arguably best battery life around (3630 mAh)
  • Clean, uncluttered Android software with added Motorola features
  • Good performance
  • 21MP camera produces good photos in most situations
  • Comfortable to hold with contoured lines and textured, grippy back
  • Turbo charging capability
  • Front-facing stereo speakers
  • Numerous customisation options through Moto Maker
  • Water-repellent
  • MicroSD card slot for expandable storage
  • Guaranteed update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Things to Consider
  • One-handed usability bit difficulty due to large dimensions (148mm x 75mm)
  • Inconsistent camera performance in lowlight (no OIS)
  • Minimalist camera app means no manual controls/RAW support
  • No turbo charger included in box
  • Mid-range processor
  • No fingerprint sensor
  • Bit chunky/weighty (10.9mm at thickest point; 169g)

16GB/32GB options are available through Motorola's Moto Maker here starting at £279
The 16GB is available at Carphone Warehouse for £269.99 but you cannot customise the colours.

Under £400

Google Nexus 5X

Reasons to Buy
  • Pure, stock Android software with no bloatware and duplicate apps
  • Fast, efficient performance
  • 5.2" 1080p display (423ppi)
  • Fingerprint sensor - extremely fast and accurate
  • Decent one-handed usability
  • 12.3MP camera - rated 3rd best smartphone camera by DxOMark
  • Captures 4K and 120fps slow-motion video
  • Good battery life (2700 mAh)
  • Fast charging and data transfers to/from computer via new USB Type-C port
  • Runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow - will be first in line to receive new Android updates

Things to Consider
  • No MicroSD card slot (and 4K video recording) means getting the 32GB option is highly recommended
  • Wholly plastic construction (although does make it light at 136g)
  • No OIS - bigger pixel size and HDR+ largely make up for this in photography but affects video recording, especially in 4K
  • Camera app is basic with no manual controls/RAW support
  • Fast charging only works with USB Type-C to Type-C cable
  • Need to buy a separate USB standard to Type-C cable if you wish to connect to your computer or to standard USB wall charger

The 32GB option ('carbon' colour only) is available at Carphone Warehouse for £349.99. The 'quartz' and 'ice' colour options are only available directly from Google here with the 32GB model being £379.

The 16GB model (in 'carbon') is available from Carphone Warehouse for £299.99 SIM-free but, as mentioned above, I would recommend the 32GB model.

Under £500

Google Nexus 6P

Reasons to Buy
  • Clean, stock Android software for an unadulterated and uncluttered experience
  • Blazing fast performance
  • Top tier 5.7" QHD AMOLED display - rich colours and very sharp (518ppi)
  • Excellent battery life (3450 mAh)
  • Slim, aluminium body makes for sturdy construction and comfortable and 'premium' feel
  • 12.3MP camera is 3rd best camera sensor as tested by DxOMark
  • 4K video recording and slow-motion at 240fps 
  • Fingerprint sensor - super fast and accurate
  • Front-facing stereo speakers
  • Fast charging and data transfers to/from computer via new USB Type-C port (also comes with standard USB to Type-C cable)
  • Runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and will receive new Android updates very quickly

Things to Consider
  • May be hefty for some (178g) and large size won't be for everyone (159.3mm x 77.8mm)
  • No dual-window/multi-tasking software to take advantage of the big screen
  • Camera app is basic and does not have manual controls or RAW support
  • No OIS leads to shakier video recording, especially in 4K (impact not felt as much in still photography as larger pixel size and HDR+ help alleviate this issue)
  • Fast charging only works with USB Type-C to Type-C cable

The 32GB model (in 'graphite') is available for £439.99 from Carphone Warehouse. The 32GB option in 'aluminium' or 'frost' are available directly from Google and cost £449. 64GB/128GB storage options are also available direct from Google, with prices at £499 and £579 respectively. These variants of the 6P can be bought here.

Notable mentions

I considered the OnePlus 2 for the Under £300 category which offers good overall specs and performance (and fingerprint sensor) at great value for money: £239 (16GB) or £289 (64GB). However, the silly invite system coupled with a lack of inventory (for the 16GB model anyway) meant who knows when you'd actually get your hands on one. 

For Under £400, it was very tempting to put Motorola's flagship, the Moto X Style, in place of the Nexus 5X. It has a larger 5.7" QHD display (520ppi) producing more vivid colours and sports a more premium feel with slightly more heft and the use of aluminium in its frame. Front-facing stereo speakers along with Motorola's useful software additions are nice benefits whilst customisation options are plentiful through Moto Maker with the option to change numerous facets including the choice of different materials for the rear. The camera though is lacking slightly compared to the 5X, is much more difficult to use one-handed, has no fingerprint sensor and question marks are now being raised about Motorola's ability to release timely software updates. 

The Samsung Galaxy S6 can also be had for under £400 (£360+ from Amazon) bringing with it an excellent camera, beautiful design and premium build, fast performance, wireless/quick charging, NFC with Samsung Pay and one of the best smartphone displays on the market. It's also more pocketable and manageable with its 5.1" display and thin bezels and has a much improved fingerprint sensor compared to the S5. Not everyone will enjoy the glass and aluminium construction though which is slippery and highly likely to smash if dropped. The battery life is also mediocre at best (2550 mAh and made worse by the QHD display and top of the range processor) and although Samsung has done much to improve the software experience, TouchWiz is still rather aesthetically unpleasing, has strange quirks and more likely to slow down over time not to mention Samsung's usual delay in updating their phones to the newest version of Android.

The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact was the alternative for the Under £500 category, offering something for those who prefer smaller smartphones for ease of use. It has a premium, industralised design, good camera, fingerprint sensor and fairly high-end internals. Its display however is 'only' 720p, which considering the price is quite a sore point (although it does help with battery life). Sony's version of Android is also still a little on the heavy side and they don't have the best track record of updating their software in a timely manner. It's a good phone, but slightly overpriced for what it is.

Which Android smartphones would you have in this list?

No comments:

Post a Comment