A while ago a friend asked me for some buying advice with regards to Android phones. Her requirement was to spend a maximum of 150 Euros and no SIM lock so that she can use it with her existing contract. Now first of a disclaimer the prices in the article are in Euros referencing Amazon.de, I am not sure how much these phones cost in other markets and there might be other alternatives.
When I set out to find an Android phone for less than 150 Euros I added a few more boxes that a phone needed to check in order for me to recommend it to my friend. The first box was that it needed to be upgradeable to android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) , the newest Version of Android. As of February 2012 there is only one phone that comes with ICS pre installed and that phone is the Galaxy Nexus, which is a premium handset and retails north of 500€ outright and would blow the budget my friend set. A quick search on Amazon.de revealed quite a few phones that ticked the below 150€ mark but most of them weren’t upgradable to ICS. I expanded my search window to up to 250€ and to my surprise there were quite a few really good phones available for less than 250€ and all of them would be getting Android 4.0.
Why is it important to have Android 4.0 you might ask, well the reason is that 4.0 is a significant upgrade, phones skipped the 3.x version of Android and are all on 2.3 or earlier. Most new phones that will be released in 2012 will hopefully be using Android 4.0 and most people who bought the first wave of Android Devices are now approaching the end of their 2 year contracts so they will tend to retire their old phones and also get new Android 4.0 phones. I would expect that by the middle of the year the 2.x devices will only be about 50% of the market and by the end of 2012 they will most likely have become irrelevant for app Developers, since Android 5.0 will be released by the end of 2012 if Google sticks with the rythm that they have established in the last years.
Now without further ado let’s have a look at the 7 devices that I found that are worth buying beginning of 2012. As I am writing this the Mobile World Congress is looming around the corner where manufacturers are expected to launch a whole slew of new Android phones most of them hopefully with 4.0. But until the new devices hit the streets, these 7 are good options if you cannot wait. Of course there are a few more phones that will get ICs but those have higher price points and are not included in this article.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray
For around 220€ you basically get an Xperia Arc that was washed a bit to hot and so it shrunk. The Ray features a sleek and compact body with a 3.3 inch screen with a resolution of 480×854, an 8 megapixel camera on the back and a front facing camera for video chats. You really get a lot of phone in a compact package. It comes with Android 2.3 and will be upgraded to 4.0 early 2012. Check out the detailed specs at GMS Arena or buy it at Amazon.de
Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V
The biggest difference of the neo V compared to the Ray is the larger 3.7 inch display which results in a bigger keyboard in portrait mode which makes typing a lot easier. Unfortunately the camera is only 5 megapixel and all around the phone isn’t quite as sleek looking, but the larger display with the same 480×854 resolution might be attractive. It’s available at Amazon.de for about 210€ you can check out the full spec at GSM Arena
LG Optimus Sol E730
After two Sony Ericsson devices we now have an LG on the 3rd spot. With its 3.8inch display it is another 0.1inches larger than the neo V but in terms of specs it is pretty similar to the first two Sonys. With regards to design and looks, well it looks quite boring since it is basically just a black slab, but some might like it for its understatement. I haven’t handled this phone but if my experience with an LG Optimus One is any indication then this phone should be quite robust and solid built, and it won’t feel like it will break when you look at it. It can be yours for 240€ on Amazon.de if you want to read more about the specs check out GSM Arena
LG Optimus Black P970
The Optimus Black is the second LG in the lineup. What sets the Black apart is it’s big 4inch screen, and premium looks. It was once a higher end device when it was originally released back in May 2011, of course it has aged now as one can notice with the low 250€ price tag at Amazon.de. But nevertheless it will be updated to Ice Cream Sandwich and that makes it a great choice if you are looking for something that feels premium and has a large screen at a budget price. More info and specs at GSM Arena.
Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman
And we are back with another Sony Ericsson, we are now starting to look at lower prices and less features but you still get quite a bit of phone here. The Live with Walkman comes in at just about 160€ on Amazon.de and you still get quite a bit of phone for that. It compromises on screen size with only 3.2inches and a resolution of only 320×480 but you still get a 5megapixel camera in the back and a front facing camera for video chat. The “with Walkman” is plain marketing from Sony Ericsson it is no better or worse than any of the other phones when it comes to music. Head over to GSM Arena for the full specs.
Sony Ericsson Xperia active
If you are into sports then the active might be just right for you. It’s dust proof and water resistant, you can even use it with wet fingers. The display is scratch resistant and it comes loaded with sports and fitness apps. On the spec side the Xperia active gives you a 3inch screen to stay compact with a 320×480 resolution. Unfortunately it does not have a front facing camera. With 3 inches typing especially in portrait mode will become really hard so be aware of that before you spend the 215€ that it costs at Amazon.de. Once my LG Optimus One dies I might get this phone for sports. You can find more specs and details at GSM Arena.
Sony Ericsson Xperia mini
In the last few years smartphones have been getting bigger and bigger in screen size we went from 3.5 inches on an iPhone to a massive 4.65 inches on the Galaxy Nexus. The Xperia mini bucks the trend and offers a 3inch 320×480 display in a very compact package making it much more portable. Yes you probably are not going to watch movies on such a small screen but for less than 150€ at Amazon.de the mini has an unbeatable price and I bet you wont find any Ice Cream Sandwich device for less. You still get a fast 1Ghz processor and in general a lot of smartphone for the money. For the complete specs check out GSM Arena.
So there you have it 7 phones that will be upgraded to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich all below 250€ and one of them even below 150€. I think they all make great entry level smartphones or second phones for people who like to switch things up. I am sure there are going to be tons of new phones coming out in the coming months hopefully none of them still on 2.3 Gingerbread. Until then keep an eye on these 7 phones and get them while you can.