Pay as you go is an oft overlooked way of running your mobile life if you're thinking of buying a smartphone, but that's not the way it has to be. There's no reason one can't combine a big flashy handset with paying for minutes, texts and data on one's own terms.
While not every single model you'll find subsidised on pay monthly contracts will appear on PAYG rosters, there are still plenty to choose from. So, to help you sift through the bad to get to the spiffing, here are what Pocket-lint considers to be the best smartphones on PAYG as we speak.
- All except Virgin Mobile
Let's face it. Rightly or wrongly, almost everyone wants an iPhone 4. Apple has made its smartphone the standard by which all others have been judged for quite some time now, and the fourth incarnation is as stunning an evolution of the concept as all the others have been. There's that Retina Display, the extra gaming power, front and back facing cameras for FaceTime video calls as well as a decent level of photography and video capture. It's a good one. It's also the most expensive one. FULL REVIEW
It may be a little older than the shiny Apple device, but the Motorola DEXT is still a good handset and also happens to be a bit of a bargain. For £130-odd (plus a £10 top up) you can get yourself a piece of the Android full QWERTY slider pie. It's got what used to pass as a pretty big screen with 3.1-inches at your disposal and there's a nice 5MP camera with AF and flash to play with. For the moment, it's still stuck on Android 1.5, but the 2.1 upgrade should be on the way any minute. FULL REVIEW
BlackBerry Bold 9700
The BlackBerry Bold 9700 is still pretty much heralded as the finest BlackBerry phone that money can buy, and once the update to the BlackBerry 6 OS software turns up shortly, there'll not be much to separate it from the slightly newer Bold 9780. If you've ever wanted to know that all the fuss is about BlackBerrys, then this is the handset to buy. Interestingly, there's only one place you can get it on PAYG, but you can always venture over to sites like Expansys for a SIM-free version for a bit more cash. The brief specs are a 2.44-inch screen, 3.2MP camera with flash and one of the finest full QWERTYs you'll find anywhere. FULL REVIEW
The only Windows Phone 7 handset you can pick up on PAYG right now is the HTC HD7 on O2. It’s not cheap, but it’s still cheaper than the iPhone 4 and it does have one of the biggest screens that you can get anywhere, with 4.3-inches of pure display action. Certainly one to consider for all video consumers out there. The point, of course, behind this one is that you’ll be a seriously early adopter of WP7 and all the innovative GUI and syncing interest that comes with it. Definitely a head-turner. REVIEW
The Nokia N8 is the modern day pinnacle of the Symbian world featuring the revamped and really annoying to type Symbian^3 OS, and sporting a whacking great 12MP camera with xenon flash, Zeiss optics and full HD video shooting. All in all, it’s pretty hot. You also get all the apps of the Ovi Store, free satnav software and all sorts of interesting trimmings like BBC iPlayer apps and Dolby sound on board too. Being Nokia, it’s a very well built affair and it’s actually good at making calls as well. There's a turn up for the smartphone books. FIRST LOOK
BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105
The BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 is a great handset. It gives you the benefits of BlackBerry's connectivity, the great email service and mainstream applications to give you a social mobile with communication at its core. All of that is packaged into a slim and elegant device that will be as at home in the hands of a texting teenager as it will in the pocket of your finest business suit. It has a 3.2-megapixel camera, GPS and all the other goodies you could hope for but, do remember, it's not a full QWERTY. FULL REVIEW
LG Optimus One
The LG Optimus One feels like a better device than LG’s GT-540 Optimus. We prefer the design and we like that the buttons are to the point, unlike the Huawei Ideos, which goes a little overboard on controls. The offering of Android 2.2 means you get some nice high-end features, even if getting Flash video means moving to a new browser. If you can get the Optimus One at the right price, you’ll find yourself with a phone that offers almost all the goodness that Google’s mobile OS has to offer. FULL REVIEW
The HTC Wildfire offers up a comprehensive package of connected treats and dishes out some of the experience you'll find on the best handsets from this company. The experience is a step down from that of the Legend and the Desire and rightly so. It's also cheaper, so those who can't live with the premium price of the other handsets, but want the features will find it here. You'll have to accept the compromise of taking a lower resolution screen and having lesser video capabilities and thereby a device with less scope than higher-spec alternatives, but it’s still a decent buy. FULL REVIEW
Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini
The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini is something of a surprise package. It is a tiny phone, but offering the Android operating system brings with it the convenience of a handset that can be easily customised. You don't get short-changed on the hardware front either: you still have your essential hardware covered. The skin that Sony Ericsson has layered over the top of Android makes it simple to use and we didn't feel that there was any real problem getting a response from the screen. Do bear in mind that it is still a mini phone and it won't recreate the experience that large devices offer - think large amounts of text entry or viewing full webpages - but it’s still a very tasty and stylish looking number. FULL REVIEW
BlackBerry Torch 9800
The Torch didn’t get the best score in our reviews of all the RIM handsets, but we can't help liking it because it is unashamedly BlackBerry. Those familiar quirks that BlackBerry users grow accustomed to are still visible here. It might not be one for the newcomer, but it’s still a fun, if rather expensive, device. What you do get for the cash is the very latest in BlackBerry software, both a touchscreen and a QWERTY keyboard, very good social integration and the best imaging technology that RIM offers. FULL REVIEW
So which is your favourite deal of the lot and what are the phones that you'd like to see come to PAYG deals? Let us know in the comments below.
Vodafone has introduced Vodafone Freebees on Pay as you go - where customers get great value pay as you go price plans with free texts and web access, or international calls when they top up. Go to www.vodafone.co.uk/freebees for more information