The UK’s Best Value Mobile Phone

With the mobile industry changing on an almost daily basis, Xingtone has spent the past few days trying to track down and identify what we believe is the best value for money mobile phone currently on the market in the UK. ‘Value for money’, of course, is not a style contest. Our main categories for consideration included the contractual options, the cost of the handset, the flexibility available should you decide you’re not a fan of your phone and the cost of a typical call or text should you decide to make use of a pay as you go contract. In the end, it turned out the choice wasn’t as hard as we thought it might be.

In terms of value for money, we found – risky deals on eBay aside – that your best bet is currently on sale at your local branch of Tesco. The VX1i Party Phone is a Tesco’s own brand phone that currently markets at a measly £18.99 in most of their high street stalls. Of course, these days it isn’t too difficult to grab a very cheap phone – you can even get a free iPhone if you’re willing to blow the budget on a monthly contract – but the Tesco phone leaves all your options open (though there is one catch to be aware of – the handset doesn’t appear to function on the ‘3’ network).

At £18.99 you’ll be left with a completely unlocked device, and the option to shop around multiple networks to find the best contract (or pay as you go option) for your own needs. Having an unlocked phone already in your possession gives you added negotiating power when it comes to approaching the networks (after all, they don’t need to provide you with a free handset), and also allows flexibility when it comes to pay as you go options, with some users even opting to get hold of SIM Cards from several different networks to save on call costs. At £18.99, and with a slim line handset that fits comfortably in the pocket and no commitment to associating yourself with Tesco’ own service or partner network O2, the VX1i might be slightly more of an effort to set up (and it won’t win any style awards in the modern market, either), but for the casual phone user there can hardly be a better option.

The handset was, in fact, designed as a temporary replacement for those who can’t afford to replace a mobile in the short term, hence the cheap price, but we’ve found it to be of solid build quality, and ideal as a main phone in its own right, or as an alternative to slip your SIM card into instead of taking a more expensive smart phone along on a night out, or to a messy sporting event where it might get damaged. The value option clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed, with Tesco selling an incredible 20,000 of the VX1i handsets just before Christmas, and Tesco’s CEO of Telecommunications describing the model as ‘a plucky alternative to smart phones’ and a great chance to save at ‘the perfect time to cut costs’. The company head also admits, though, that the popularity of the tiny bargain handset has surprised even him.

Features included in the VX1i are not particular impressive, but then again for most, this kind of phone’s main purpose is simply calls and text messaging. The basic features are:

-       Five hours of talk time and 90 hours of phone standy time.

-       The handset is no more than a few millimeters thick, and smaller than a credit card.

-       Standard simple features like the alarm clock, call forwarding and (service permitting) voice mail.

Okay, so it’s hardly glamorous, but it’s about time somebody released a handset without any expensive tie-ins, at a nice affordable price, and with the option to set up a contract that suits the user. Surprisingly, the VX1i is not quite the cheapest handset on sale in the UK at present, but it is almost certainly the best value option: while the VX1i might struggle to convince gadget lovers, it provides the perfect option for those for whom the mobile phone is more an occasional convenience then a lifestyle accessory.

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