Our habits of conspicuous consumption have been thrown into sharp relief by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Suddenly, having the latest iPhone doesn’t really matter all that much, because you can’t show it off to anyone.
Indeed, while sitting in your own home, the only thing a smartphone really need to be able to do is make and receive calls.
For those long days of self-isolation, you don’t need a high-end Android or iOS device when the cheapest smartphones in the UK will arguably do a better job of accepting calls.
That’s because they’re more focused on calls than on supporting NFC payments, or doubling as miniature workstations.
While you’re stuck at home, a laptop or tablet can do everything your smartphone is capable of, with a bigger screen and a far superior keyboard. And a mouse, in some cases.
To keep in touch with loved ones and receive text updates about the status of your next takeaway, these are some of the cheapest smartphones in the UK, as of April 2020…
Cheap yet cheerful
Astonishingly, at the time of writing, Argos is selling a mobile phone for just 99 pence.
The Vodafone Mobiwire Ayasha comes from a budget French manufacturer, offering very basic 2G connectivity which doesn’t really extend beyond texts.
There’s a tiny 1.8-inch screen, an equally diminutive 0.1MP camera and a processor whose performance won’t trouble the phone currently in your pocket.
Yet for £10.99 (including an obligatory £10 Vodafone top up offering 250 talk time minutes and 3GB of data), it’s a compelling value proposition.
Indeed, for less than a tenner, you can buy a number of network-specific handsets, offsetting their ridiculously low purchase price by requiring periodic data and talk time purchases.
Handsets like the Vodafone Alcatel 20.03 and the EE Alcatel 1066 are unashamedly basic, but they’re still cheaper than most phone cases.
However, although they’re pay as you go rather than pay monthly, they do lock you into buying all future data and call services from one network.
If you’re willing to push your budget to £15, you can acquire SIM-free phones from Alcatel and Alba. Some are incompatible with specific networks, but most are provider-agnostic.
And for less than £20, you can have a Nokia. Its lozenge-shaped 105 handset offers weeks of battery life without bloatware or quad-core processors. There isn’t even a camera.
The lack of 3G makes it effectively internet-free, but it does have a flashlight and a few games, plus increasingly retro (yet still sought-after) features like a 3.5mm headphone port and a radio.
You get what you don’t pay for
Ultimately, the cheapest smartphones in the UK are not meant as competitors to Samsung Galaxies and iPhones.
Instead, they’re ideal for fulfilling a smartphone’s original purpose – making and receiving calls with minimal interference from complex software or signal-blocking chassis materials.