GSMArena smartphone buyer's guide: February 2015

GSMArena team, 09 February 2015.

Under 100

Starting with the previous installment we made a rule - no phones with old software. This mostly affects Android (no phones below 4.4 KitKat), Windows Phone handsets available today are all WP8.1. Even so, not all have been confirmed for Windows 10.

The other thing was a good screen - it's the single point of failure for touchscreen smartphones. There's only one phone below 480 x 800 resolution (the cheapest one) and we preferred IPS over regular LCD - IPS noticeably improves image quality when you view the screen from an angle.

Obviously there have to be compromises made, but we only picked dual-cores and better. Core count is not a great measure of performance, but all selected phones are at least "good enough," for those we've reviewed you can get more details.

The sub-100 segment is full of excellent devices, but even a short look at the market tells you it's Lumia against the world. We've, of course, hand-picked several Androids and to our surprise a Firefox phone proved one of the best options here.

The cheapest device we'd consider buying is the LG L40. It's over 50, but we stayed clear of devices with old software or low-quality screens. This one has a 3.5" IPS LCD with Gorilla Glass 2. It's not a very sharp screen but you get Android 4.4 KitKat on a dual-core processor and that's pretty decent.

There's an LG L40 Dual if you need an extra SIM slot - and a recent study has shown that in some countries over 40% of Android smartphones are indeed multi-SIM devices.

LG L40
Pros Cons
  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 1.2GHz dual-core CPU, 512MB
  • 3.5" IPS screen, 320 x 480px
  • Optional dual-SIM
  • Low-res screen, 320 x 480px
  • Basic 3.15MP camera
  • CPU may turn out to be inadequate so does RAM amount

The Nokia Lumia 530 Dual SIM is one of the most comprehensive smartphone experiences you can have for only a few bills. If you catch it on a price reduction (and those are fairly common), it's a great deal.

It has a bigger, better screen than the LG (not an IPS but still), a quad-core processor and dual-SIM telephony. It's not 100% clear if it will be updated to Windows 10 or not - the new Lumia 435 and 532 are guaranteed, but the former drops a few features while the latter is pricier.

Those two are quite price cut-prone so if you can get a Microsoft Lumia 532 at the same price as the Lumia 530, go for it, you'll sleep easy knowing the new Windows 10 update is coming.

Nokia Lumia 530 Dual SIM
Pros Cons
  • Windows Phone 8.1
  • 1.2GHz quad-core CPU, 512MB RAM
  • 4" screen, 480 x 854px
  • 5MP camera, 480p video
  • Windows 10 update may have features missing

The price difference between the LG L50 and L40 is pretty small and this one is a much better match for the Lumias. It uses a similar dual-core processor and has a similar camera, though the big change is the screen - it's a 4" display with 480 x 800px resolution. Extra perks are the VGA front-facing camera and NFC.

LG L50
Pros Cons
  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 1.3GHz dual-core CPU
  • 4" screen, 480 x 800px
  • 3MP camera, 480p video
  • Front-facing camera
  • Basic 3MP camera
  • CPU may turn out to be inadequate, so does RAM amount

The Alcatel Fire E is a Firefox OS phone and one of the cheapest phones around that record 1080p video. It has a 5MP main camera and a VGA front-facing camera. Add a good screen, 4.5" IPS LCD with 540 x 960px resolution, dual-core processor and speedy 3G (42.2Mbps) and you get a compelling offer from an alternative platform.

Alcatel Fire E
Pros Cons
  • Firefox OS 1.3
  • 1.2GHz dual-core CPU, 512MB RAM
  • 4.5" IPS screen, 540 x 960px
  • 5MP camera, 1080p video
  • VGA front-facing camera
  • App catalogue not as varied as on Android
OS review

The Motorola Moto E has slipped under the 100 price point since we last saw it and is a great option for fans of current software. It's already receiving Android 5.0 Lollipop and offers a capable hardware. This includes a 4.3" screen, dual-core processor with 1GB RAM and a 5MP/480p camera.

Motorola Moto E
Pros Cons
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 4.3" screen, 540 x 960px
  • 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM
  • 5MP camera, 480p video
  • Build quality is not the best around
  • CPU may turn out to be inadequate

The Nokia Lumia 630 Dual SIM serves as a good middle ground between the Lumia 530 and the 535. The screen size is exactly in the middle - 4.5" - and the 5MP camera records 720p video, something neither of the 53x Lumias can do. It also adds ClearBlack display tech for a better viewing experience outside. As with the 530, the Windows 10 update is still to be confirmed.

Nokia Lumia 630 Dual SIM
Pros Cons
  • Windows Phone 8.1
  • 4.5" screen, 480 x 854px
  • 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 512MB RAM
  • 5MP camera, 720p
  • Windows 10 update may have features missing
  • No front-facing camera

The Samsung Galaxy Ace Style is an affordable, compact Android. It has a 4" screen and runs Android 4.4 KitKat on a dual-core processor. The 5MP main camera records 720p video and there's a VGA front-facing camera. This model relies on 3G, but an LTE model is available if you need it.

It's only a bit pricier than, say the Xperia E1, but the better camera is worth it.

Samsung Galaxy Ace Style
Pros Cons
  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 4" screen, 480 x 800px
  • 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 512MB RAM
  • 5MP camera, 720p video
  • CPU may turn out to be inadequate, so does RAM amount