Do you like your phone? Tell me about it!
December 30, 2010 6:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a cheapish mobile phone that can do basic internet chores (facebook, email, basic web stuff). I can't afford a smartphone or the monthly contract that comes with them. I am in the UK. Do you have a phone in this category that you like/hate? What would you recommend? Extensive information about my personal needs and whims follows:

I can't afford an expensive phone and I certainly can't afford the kind of monthly contract that comes with an iPhone or these other fancy new smartphones. I'll happily spend £50 on the phone, or increasingly grudgingly up to £100, but I'll need the monthly cost to be as low as possible. More on that at the end.

The phone needs to be available in the UK on a PAYG carrier. It needs to be capable of basic internet stuff, including Facebook, mobile Gmail, and have a useable web browser that can handle basic stuff like Google searches, Wikipedia lookups and the likes. I'm not expecting a Mobile Safari style full web experience, but the phone needs to have enough grunt to be usable. My old Nokia flip phone used to spend ten minutes struggling to render even the simplest web pages and then announce it was out of memory - I don't want that, although I am prepared for the experience to be less than slick.

Bonus features that would be worth spending a few quid on: Bluetooth that actually plays nicely with Apple's Address Book. Epic battery life. GPS (or fake GPS from triangulating cell towers). Useable camera.

I am very interested in a pleasant user experience. I get really bothered by minor irritations, like the way my otherwise perfect Nokia 1100 leaves me having to press several buttons to exit the text editor after sending an SMS message. I would like the interface to be attractive and non-clunky, the buttons to feel nice and everything to be thoughtfully designed, as much as possible.

I am not interested in using the device as a music player or for games, and have no real preference as to the form factor, save that I would rather a compact device rather than a big qwerty-keyboard-having slab.

Bonus question: I'll probably switch networks when I get this thing. Currently I top up my phone with £20 every six months or so. I'm not a heavy user. I will not be a heavy user of this new phone either. If anyone can recommend a UK PAYG network that gives you the most internet for the least expenditure on minutes, that'd be really useful. Is there a website that covers this stuff particularly well?
posted by nowonmai to Technology (7 answers total)
Best answer: very quick and sketchy response (might be able to manage more later):

The Orange San Francisco smartphone is just within your range (£99 plus top-up, but search for deals), and can be unlocked (possibly still for free). GiffGaff, Tesco, Ikea all offer very good value plans. As before, I'd strongly recommend looking at the excellent Ken's Tech Tips for all advice regarding mobile phones and plans.
posted by davemack at 7:15 AM on December 30, 2010

Best answer: I'd second the San Francisco recommendation. Android's a very capable operating system, even if the handset itself doesn't have a lot of heft. It might be slightly above what you're looking for, but in terms of user experience, Android doesn't really have a rival unless you want to shell out for an iPhone.

GiffGaff have some good deals, as do 3. Those would be where I'd look in terms of network. For more info, Recombu is a good site -- here's their San Francisco review.
posted by radioedit at 7:35 AM on December 30, 2010

Best answer: I have a Samsung S3370, which does everything you need and a little more. And if you have clumsy fingers like me, a stylus works great on the touch screen.
posted by New England Cultist at 9:00 AM on December 30, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions! Both links are great, to sites I haven't seen before, but on reading reviews of the San Francisco, it's not quite what I'm looking for. I'm looking for a phone that's less ambitious in terms of feature set, but with more polish in execution, if that makes sense. A slightly more basic phone that's really well done. Although I will do some research to see if the Orange junk can be replaced with a pure Google version of Android...
posted by nowonmai at 9:01 AM on December 30, 2010

Sorry, linky link. Forgive my ignorance about UK plans etc. I'm in New Zealand.
posted by New England Cultist at 9:02 AM on December 30, 2010

Best answer: Have a look at Virgin's PAYG phones. Their tariff works as follows:

"Top up with:

* £15 in a month and get unlimited texts and 1GB Mobile Web
* £10 in a month and get 300 free texts

Topped up with less than £15?

You can still access the mobile web for just 30p per day for 25MB. This is ideal for occasional use as you only pay on the days you browse the mobile web.
Free texts or web access will be added on the first day of the month following the top up(s)"

posted by essexjan at 11:49 AM on December 30, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input! I haven't chosen a phone yet, but I'm now more likely to go with a low-end Android device if I can get one at a price I like and without too much carrier-specific crap, otherwise the S3370 looks great.
posted by nowonmai at 7:07 AM on January 2, 2011

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