Everyone has an opinion on which is the best Android smartphone but one thing the market has seen in the last couple of months is massive growth in the number of prepaid entry-level smartphones, phones that can be had for under $400.
With so much choice, we look at our Top Five models, each under $400.
Retailing for $399 unlocked, the XT5 is the best combination of screen technology, operating system and processor available for under $400.
The XT5 delivers a 3.2-inch screen with 320×480-pixel resolution and combines it with Qualcomm’s 600MHz MSM7227 processor, the same chip inside the HTC Legend.
Add in Android 2.1 and its the most potent combination available. The image sensor is a 5MP unit too, which is impressive for a phone at this price.
The 1230mAh Lithium-ion battery here is rated for up to 500 hours on standby.
Being unlocked, you can choose your carrier and the phone comes with a 2GB MicroSD already installed, ready to go.
Although it lacks the popular HTC Sense interface, the hardware here is basically the same as the HTC Legend, which has been selling on prepaid for over $500.
In fact, we’d say the XT5 would actually qualify as a mid-range phone, given what you can end up with as an entry-level phone if you’re not careful.
LG’s Optimus One is very similar to the XT5 with the same screen resolution and processor but comes with the Froyo (2.2) version of Android.
Add in the fact that it’s expected to sell for just $349 prepaid and it sounds like a winning combination.
The only problem is that its not available yet. LG announced in mid-September that the Optimus One would go on sale with Optus as a prepaid handset.
Optus denied the fact, then told us it would go on sale in late October. As of today, there’s no mention of the Optimus One on the Optus website…
So for that reason, it comes in as No. 2. It may go to No. 1 if its proved not to be vapourware…
Compared to the less than spectacular Optimus GT540, this is one of LG’s more stylish and more capable phones. We just hope it actually does make it on sale in Australia.
The new Xperia X8 Shakira is the dark horse in the field – three-inch capacitive touchscreen with 320×480-pixel resolution and the ever popular Qualcomm MSM7227 processor makes for a pretty decent start.
It’s no mistake that this CPU is the chip of choice for phone makers in this segment of the market.
And when you consider the phone is selling for just $249 prepaid (locked to Optus), it’s the cheapest worthwhile Android handset going.
It also comes with the Android Market app so you get access to over 100,000 applications.
The drawback is that it only runs Android 1.6. Sony Ericsson has said an Android 2.1 update is on the way, however it has yet to be released and a 2.1 update was recently outed for the larger Xperia X10.
If the X8 Eclair update happens, this phone becomes a must-see at this price.
That aside, the $249 price tag is still impressive for this level of hardware and if you’re after an Android handheld more than a phone, the X8 on prepaid for $249 easily makes this the best Android phone under $250.
Huawei has been pumping out a few budget phones of late but this looks to be the best of them.
It comes with Android 2.1 on-board and a large 3.5-inch LCD capacitive touchpanel with 320×480-pixel resolution. At retail for only $349 and unlocked, the big screen does come at the expense of processing power.
The 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7200A is a predecessor to the MSM7225 used in the HTC Wildfire so its performance will be lower than the top three.
Given the $349 price tag, it might be a little hard to swallow.
The camera on this one is also only a 3.2MP unit, which is lower than other phones at this or similar pricing.
However, given the prepaid entry-level market is still the domain of low-powered models with Android 1.6 and resistive touchscreens as well, the U8230 is at least on the right side of the technology fence.
However, given overall pricing and features, we’d check the first three out before deciding on this one.
The HTC Wildfire was the first prepaid Android phone to go under $400.
While its available only on the Telstra 3G network, the price has dropped from its original $349 down to $299 at Big W stores.
The biggest drawback here is the screen – at 3.2-inches, the size is fine as is the fact that its a capacitive type too.
What’s not great is the resolution – at 240×320-pixels, it’s grainy, doesn’t look great in bright outdoor lighting and just doesn’t give you much detail.
The processor on-board here is the 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7225 which is noticeably slower than the MSM7227 but you do get Android 2.1 out of the box.
If Sony Ericsson comes good on the Android 2.1 update for the Xperia X8, we wouldn’t bother coming this far down the list. But as we said, there are other Android phones under $400 prepaid that we wouldn’t personally choose.
So how did we do? What did we leave out? What did you choose? Leave us your comments below.