What are the good alternatives to major brand smartphones for the budget conscious?

As an avid lover of my smartphones – more for what I can do with it rather than the importance of its brand name or its price tag – I am very pleased to see how many different options are available today that does not break one’s bank.
As an entrepreneur & budget minded individual, I have been using a prepaid phone for more than a decade. This has been very useful in aiding my control of data & talk-time expenditure.

For a long while now, the South African & global smartphone market have been dominated by Apple’s iPhone & Samsung’s Android devices. These are what I refer to as tier 1 brands.
Tier 2 brands, in my mind, include Huawei, Blackberry, Nokia, Sony & LG. All these brands have a long history in the mobile phone market globally. Google & Microsoft have also been playing in this space with several models of their own.

So, what exactly do we want from a good smartphone? Here is the list of the most basic requirements consumers look for in a smartphone:
1. Good battery life – at least 1 day on a full charge
2. Decent size, high definition touchscreen – 5 inches or bigger is the going trend
3. Front & rear cameras – 8 mega-pixel resolution or better
4. Robust construction, but lightweight & thin
5. Decent processing speed & storage capacity – for effective speedy functionality & storage of high quality images for all our social media posts & selfies at restaurants, holidays and our favourite dishes
6. iOS or Android operating system – android being the global leader & most compatible with the PC software we are most used too
7. Ability to download & house our wide variety of favourite applications – Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, local news & music stations, e-hailing & banking apps and hundreds more
8. Multiple network acceptability – allowing users to use the cellular network service provider of the choice (post-paid or pre-paid or both)
9. A variety of accessories – micro SD storage extensions, Bluetooth wireless headsets & other wearable tech
10. Seamless integration with our cars, televisions, laptops or tablets, even our aircons & refrigerators and home security systems in more modern households
11. A device that lasts longer than 18 months before it needs to be replaced due to the high cost of repairs; or the fact that the latest version of the operating system is not compatible with your current device anymore


All the above-mentioned factors are well catered for by the wide array of models from the tier 1 brands mentioned earlier. However, the catch is that these tier 1 smartphone brands all come with relatively hefty price tags. In South Africa, as across most markets in the world, consumers have the option of network dependent contracts – where the device is offered “free” as part of your monthly subscription; or the outright cash purchase option. The latest models of tier 1 brands are almost always brought to market via post-paid subscription offers.

For most of us budget conscious people out in this world, this does not leave us with too many options of getting our hands onto a good, effective smartphone. But do not despair – there is light at the end of the tunnel. The world of technology innovation has progressed fast enough that the world is now littered with quality, cost effective, sleek & trendy looking smart devices.

Here some of my more affordable, yet VERY functional and not at all horrible looking smartphone options available – outside of the major tier 1 & tier 2 brands:

1. Moto G5 – estimated R 2000-00
Weight: 145g | Dimensions: 144.3 x 73 x 9.5mm | OS: Android 7 | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 1920 | CPU: Snapdragon 430 | RAM: 2/3GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB | Battery: 2800mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP

2. Moto E5 Plus – estimated R 2400-00
Weight: 196.6g | Dimensions: 160.9 x 75.3 x 9.4mm | OS: Android 8.0 | Screen size: 6-inch | Resolution: 720 x 1440 | CPU: Snapdragon 425 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 5000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP

3. Moto E4 Plus – estimated R 2400-00
Weight: 198g | Dimensions: 155 x 77.5 x 9.6mm | OS: Android 7.1.1 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 720 x 1280 | CPU: MediaTek MT6737 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB | Battery: 5000mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP

4. Honor 9 Lite – estimated R 2800-00
Weight: 149g | Dimensions: 151 x 71.9 x 7.6mm | OS: Android 8.0 | Screen size: 5.65-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 2160 | CPU: Kirin 659 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 3000mAh | Rear camera: 13MP + 2MP | Front camera: 13MP + 2MP

5. Xiaomi Redmi 4X DualSim 32GB LTE – Black
4100mAh battery (20hour talk time approx.) | Snapdragon 435, Octa-core 1.4GHz | 13MP camera | 5MP front camera | 5″ full HD display | Premium metal frame design | Rear mounted fingerprint |HD Video recording with slow-mo | 32GB Storage, expandable storage up to 128GB with micro SD card | 3GB RAM

6. AZUMI XPlus 4G Smartphone – estimated R 3500-00
4G | OS VERSION Android 7.0 | Processor QUADCORE 1.25GHZ | RAM 2GB |size 153mm x 77.8mm x 8.5mm | Weight 175g Battery included | Duration Battery in conversation [hrs] 2G: 10hrs 3G: 8Hrs | Battery standby duration [hrs] 2G 220hrs – 3G 200hrs – 4G150 hrs | Resolution Screen 1080 * 720 HD | Screen Dimension 5.5 ” | Camera 13 MP + 8MP | Internal memory 16 GB | Expandable memory 32GB

Above is a list of only six of a plethora of options available to the more budget conscious consumer. I personally am an avid supporter of the AZUMI brand. I gave up my iPhone 6 and opted to go the Android device route. What a great decision!! I have not looked back in over a year. Not only did my brand new 5inch device only cost me R 3000-00, as opposed to the near R 10 000-00 I spent on my Apple two years earlier, it also does look in no way out of place next to its branded competitors on trendy coffee tables around Sandton – often being mistaken for a far more expensive brand.

I have dropped my device several times, with a glass protector or some other hideous cover – And to my utter surprise – it has not so much as shown up a dent or crack. Anyway, even if I did drop it and break a screen – my repair cost would be nowhere near as dear as its branded cousins.

Another bonus – NOBODY wants to steal my non-premium branded smartphone. No pawn shop is willing to accept my trusty Azumi – believe me, I had done the exercise – if it isn’t branded, they aren’t buying it, thereby reducing its value to the local phone snatchers. Another PRO!!!!!!!
In terms of functionality, let me tell you I have not been disappointed at all. Picture quality is amazing, ALL my apps function perfectly and the Android operating software is compatible with my televisions, tablet, laptop and all my wearable tech.

So, next time you are in the market for a smartphone, or gift ideas for friends and family – consider looking into the wide array of alternative smartphone brands out there – expensive is NOT the only marker for quality and efficacy anymore……

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