Cheaper smartphones are better than you think

 17 Apr 2016 - 12:09

Cheaper smartphones are better than you think
Mid-priced phones are better than you think, but low-priced devices are bound to disappoint, a German magazine's test has found. (Mascha Brichta / dpa)


Smartphone snobs sneer at devices costing only a fifth of the price of high-end models. The surprise: they're actually pretty good.

By Dirk Averesch

Lower-priced smartphones are way better than most people think, a computer mag reports in a bombshell test of the devices.

They have displays of HD sharpness, with powerful quad-core CPUs, good workmanship and in most cases even a pleasing design.

German computer magazine c't tested six LTE devices in a range that sells in Europe for 100 to 150 euros (114 to 171 dollars).

It points out that in aspects such as replaceable batteries or space for a second SIM card, the lower-end phones are actually better than top-end competitors like iPhones which cost five times as much.

But for a good camera, the experts recommended digging deeper into the pocket and spending 170 to 200 euros - even though the cameras of the cheaper class are not as bad as they were just a few years ago.

Almost all the cameras tested were found to be sufficient for outdoor snapshots at least.

Buyers are advised to research models before buying them. For example, check that the phone allows the swapping in and out of apps via SD card - an important detail in cheaper phones that often have only 8 gigabytes (GB) of storage built in.

While the brightness of the high-resolution IPS displays of the devices being tested was generally satisfactory, there were greater differences in terms of contrast and colour reproduction.

Both a device for just under 100 euros and the most expensive phone tested - costing 150 euros - supported the sRGB colour space. One negative aspect was the viewing angle of the displays - even a slight tilting distorted the image a lot.

So users should do a tilt test in the shop before buying, or make sure they can get a refund for an online order that performs badly.

The quad-core processors in the devices tested allowed both the Android and Windows 10 Mobile operating systems to run smoothly. The experts found that with the exception of games, the phones ran apps without performance problems.

A direct positive impact was noticed when it came to things like the startup speed of apps if the phone had 2 GB of RAM rather than the 1 GB common in this price range.

Weaknesses in these cheap smartphones were most noticeable when it came to the WiFi module. In some cases voice quality often left a lot to be desired. Price was not a factor here - the phone with the best sound quality cost only 95 euros, c't said.

However, anyone who thinks they can get a decent smartphone at the absolute entry-level price in Europe of around 50 euros will be disappointed - at this price point, the manufacturers make extreme cutbacks, the experts warned.

For the buyer this means hard-to-read, pixelated TN displays, very little memory and poor cameras. At this price point, anyone who just wants a phone to make calls and to text is better off getting a classic "feature phone" mobile rather than an ultra-cheap smartphone.