Smartphones Galore

In the past couple of years, phone manufacturers have been more readily toying with the idea of creating affordable smartphones. This used to mean that some fairly major compromises had to be made, but every now and again, a company proves that that no longer has to be the case.

This newly emerging trend of affordable high-end devices was started, at least in my eyes, by the Nexus 4 - a device I snapped up as soon as it became available. I told myself that buying this phone outright and getting a SIM-only contract, instead of getting a phone on a 2 year contract, would save me a decent amount of money over that amount of time… and it would have, if I hadn’t bought the Nexus 5 a year later - another amazing phone. This was then quickly followed by the hugely successful OnePlus One - marketed as the Flagship Killer.

All of these had at least some separation between their releases. This year though, in the world of affordable smartphones, we’re spoiled for choice!

The Cheaper Affordables

Moto G:

One of the best affordable phones for a while now has quite easily been the Moto G. Sadly, it was always a very plastic feeling phone. However, Motorola have recently announced the 3rd generation of the phone, and it’s a vast improvement on its previous iterations, and is highly customisable visibly to suit your preferences.

Some quick specs:

  • Snapdragon 410 processor (not the greatest at the moment, but easily powerful enough as a quad-core 1.4 GHz CPU)
  • 1 or 2 gb RAM
  • Better camera - 13 MP now
  • Bigger battery

It’s also fully water resistant, and has a 5-inch 720p screen (that’s just under 300 pixels per inch - there are far sharper screens out there, but at a normal usability distance, the human eye can’t perceive much more than 300ppi on a screen anyway!).

I won’t list the specs of the previous generation device, but trust me, those specs are a modest improvement (or if you don’t trust me you can always google it). The build and feel of the device is also greatly improved.

You can however still easily tell that this isn’t a premium phone, and that’s because it wasn’t built to be one. But at £179 for the base model, it’s definitely good value.

Wileyfox Swift:

Wileyfox are a UK (London) based company that are brand new to the smartphone scene, and they’ve just announced 2 new phones, one of which is the Swift. Unlike the Moto G, I’ve not seen this one in the flesh, but based on all the images and videos I’ve seen, it reminds me quite a bit of the second generation Moto G. And coincidentally, in much the same way as the OnePlus One was labelled the Flagship Killer, Expert Reviews seems to have labelled the Swift as the Moto G Killer, which is arguably well deserved!

It also has a Snapdragon 410 processor, 2 gb of RAM (unlike the Moto G, that’s the base amount), a 5-inch 720p screen, and a 13 MP camera. It has 16gb of storage in its base configuration as well. To get the same storage and RAM from the Moto G will cost you £209. The Swift however is £129. That’s 38% cheaper!

The Moto G and the Swift both look like amazing choices, and are both quite cheap, but their specs aren’t quite high-end.

The Higher-Priced Affordables

Moto X Play:

At the mid-priced end of the spectrum, we have yet another Motorola device : the Moto X Play. The Moto X is Motorola’s flagship range, but this year they’re releasing two variants of it, the Play and the Style. The Play is the cheaper of the two, with lesser specs and lesser build quality compared to the Style. But even with that in mind, it looks to be a really good phone.

As with the Moto G, you can customise the phone when ordering it as well, with different colour backs and accents, an engraving, and even a greeting message in the OS for when you boot up the phone.

It has a 1080p 5.5-inch screen, a 21 MP camera, the Snapdragon 615 processor (which is Octa-core: 4 lower-clocked cores to save battery, and 4 higher-clocked for performance that the phone can switch between), and a massive battery at 3630 mAH. Most flagship phone batteries are typically between the 2200 - 2800 mAH area. So the Moto X Play is quite clearly intended to be a long-lasting phone. These specs are an obvious improvement over the phones mentioned above, and naturally the price is higher as well, at £279 for the 16gb model. That price puts it squarely in the region of the original Nexus 4 / Nexus 5 cost, which is a pretty good place to be as far as I’m concerned. It does also make it the most expensive of the three mid-priced phones I’m going to mention…

OnePlus 2:

You can’t have a blog post about new affordable phones at the moment without mentioning the OnePlus 2, which is easily the cheapest high-performer available at the moment. For the price, its specs are amazing: a 5.5-inch 1080p display (again), Octa-Core Snapdragon 810 processor, 3 or 4 gb of RAM (the 4 variant is a little more expensive of course), 3,300 mAH battery, 13 MP camera, and a fingerprint sensor.

It looks pretty nice too…

OnePlus has definitely borrowed some aesthetic choices here from both the iPhone (by that I mean, it’s pretty much just a slab of metal) and Motorola (with the customisable backs - especially the available wood finishes). But if you’re going to borrow design choices from anyone, those two companies are commendable options.

With the cheapest model at £239, this is a very good phone for the price! Assuming you can get it of course… This was ideally going to be my next phone of choice, but OnePlus have opted to use an invite system as they did with the OnePlus One. This time they promised some much needed improvements to the system, but sadly the invite roll-out was delayed. Several million people have put themselves on the reservation list for an invite, but the reservation list will only be approached after competition winners, early OnePlus backers who bought the original phone, and those especially active on the OnePlus forums. So the chances of someone getting this phone are pretty slim.

Some invites were also sold on eBay, but those reached well over £1,000… just for an invite so that you could then spend a further £239 on the phone. So essentially, this is one of the best and one of the cheapest phones available right now, but you’ll have to spend either a lot of money, patience, or effort, to stand a chance of getting it.

Wileyfox Storm:

The other entry from new London-based company Wileyfox, is the Storm.

Storm on the left, Swift on the right.

This is a phone that looks highly reminiscent of the OnePlus 2. In terms of specs, it sounds just like the Moto X Play. But at £199, it’s cheaper than both of them.

With a 5.5-inch 1080p screen (again), the Snapdragon 615 processor, a 20 MP camera (and an 8 MP front-facing one), and a 2,500 mAh battery, it may as well be the spec sheet for the Moto X Play, save for the battery which is over 1,000 mAH smaller - but it also has a higher megapixel front-facing camera, and comes with 32gb of storage by default. The 32gb variant of the Moto X Play costs £319. So ultimately, if you chose this over the Moto X Play, you’re sacrificing a bit of battery life, to save £120!

Wileyfox are of course brand new to the smartphone scene, so some people may not trust in their quality over manufacturers like Motorola or Samsung. But let’s not forget that OnePlus started in exactly the same place and have made a very good name for themselves.

And The Rest…

There are a lot of potential phones and manufacturers I’ve not mentioned here, such as the Xiaomi Mi4, the Obi Worldphone, the Huawei Honor 7, the Oppo R5s (though it looks to have a tiny battery so isn’t an option for me), the upcoming 2015 editions of the Nexus 5 and the Nexus 6 (still only rumours on these though), and new company Nextbit are promising a new phone very soon as well (not sure how affordable it will be yet though).

We’re definitely spoiled for choice in terms of affordable smartphones at the moment. As I said earlier, I was originally looking to get the OnePlus 2, but it’s very unlikely I’ll manage that! I’m still waiting to see what Nextbit has to offer, but at the moment, the Wileyfox Storm and Obi Worldphone have both caught my eye. Yep, too much choice.

Posted: August 26th, 2015
Categories: web, mobile, tech