So far this month, we’ve counted down our top picks this Christmas amongst gadgets, gaming and wearables. Now, we’re here to take you through our top choices in budget smartphones this year.
To clarify, when we say ‘budget smartphones’ we’re referring to products that aren’t flagships, yet offer sizeable bang for your back. That includes smartphones from both the low-end and mid-range that we feel deserve an accolade following their introduction this year. Our list proceeds in no particular order.
Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments, but for now, enjoy the list!
Samsung Galaxy A5
We had hands-on time with the Galaxy A5 earlier this year, and we were mightily impressed with Samsung‘s determination to bring the higher-end features of the Galaxy S line down to a more affordable price point.
Up until the release of the A line ““ which has now been updated to 2016 versions ““ Samsung‘s commitment to the mid-range segment had been woeful at best. With the release of the Galaxy A5, we found Samsung had carved out its own intersection between the premium and affordable realms that brought with it a classy metal design language, with equitable performance and feel – all for an average price of around R5000.
For Samsung fans, we can‘t recommend a more affordable investment into the Korean brand.
Microsoft Lumia 535
While Microsoft might be attempting to play catch-up with the likes of the flagship 950 and 950 XL smartphones, the company released its first Microsoft-branded device in a new low-cost alternative this year; the Lumia 535.
The Lumia 535 remains an interesting proposition, as it forms one of the most appealing segways into the Windows Phone ecosystem without requiring a consumer to spend a premium on a system that suffers from a lack of applications and extensions.
With a great camera and a solid build quality that offers brighter colours than even Apple‘s vibrant iPhone line, and at a traditionally sub-R2000 ZAR price tag, the Lumia 535 remains one of the best entries into Windows Phone yet.
AG Mobile Ghost
We‘re always pleased to meet a fellow South African, and the Ghost is a unique contender from local company AG Mobile.
Available through Cell C, the Ghost is a well-positioned mid-range smartphone that offers not only a blank slate to customize with stock Android 4.4 KitKat, but also offers a variety of free accessories ““ including a battery pack, cover, car charger and more ““ alongside a lifetime warranty with a 24 hour swap-out service. Needless to say, should your Ghost prove faulty, AG Mobile will swap out the unit within a day; how‘s that for peace of mind?
Between a well-rounded set of specs, a pleasing form factor, and great after-sales service, the Ghost is a serious competitor in South Africa‘s mid-range, and sells for figures between R3500-R5000 ZAR.
LG G4 Beat
We reviewed the LG G4 Beat earlier this year and instantly fell in love. Whereas we weren‘t quite certain with the G3 Beat that preceded it, the G4 Beat proved to be a suitable heir to the throne ““ bringing the top-end feel and specifications of the flagship G4 to a far more affordable price point.
Between the premium leather back which is retained (in South Africa) from the flagship G4, LG‘s classy Android 5.1 Lollipop skin and the addition of Manual Mode for photography, the G4 Beat has caught our eye as one of the better distillations of a flagship product into the mid-range.
A worthy rival to the Galaxy A5, indeed, at a sub R5000 ZAR asking price.
Xiaomi Mi 4
Last but not least, we fittingly have one of the most recent entries into South Africa‘s smartphone market space; the Xiaomi Mi 4. Recently arrived under the banner of the MIA (Mobiles in Africa) group, the Mi 4 offers specs usually reserved for a much higher end of the market at a jaw-dropping R3799 ZAR.
Arriving with 16GBs of storage in South Africa instead of a standard 8GB, the Mi 4 looks set to contest and ultimately shake up South Africa‘s mid range for the better.
For those eager to get their hands on a Mi 4, we‘ve just had word on South African contract prices today.
What‘re your thoughts on our list? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments below!