Top 5 best value smartphones (December 2012)

It seems smartphone manufacturers have started to clear out stocks of existing smartphones ahead of CES and Mobile World Congress, which are due to see the launch of a glut of new handsets.

Our previous deals roundups have included the likes of the Apple iPhone 4S, the Nokia Lumia 800, the Samsung Galaxy S3, and the Google Nexus 4. And we're back at it this month, with the five best value-for-money smartphones to consider if you're looking to buy a handset in December 2012.

As usual, some are SIM-free, while others are tied to a mobile phone operator; we've made sure that prices are correct and stocks are available at the time of publication. We suggest that you regularly visit our deals section, where other smartphone bargains will be listed throughout the month.

HTC Windows Phone 8S, £180 net

The HTC Windows Phone 8S is the cheapest Windows Phone 8 handset on the market, until the launch of the Nokia Lumia 620 smartphone. The phone, which is locked to Three's network, is a decent mainstream model with a decent hardware configuration. This includes a dual-core Qualcomm system-on-chip, 512MB of RAM, 4GB onboard storage with a microSD card, a 4in display with an 800 x 480 pixel resolution and Beats Audio technology. For more details, check out our hands-on preview of the HTC Windows Phone 8S and the Windows Phone 8X.

Samsung Galaxy Y, £39.95 net

This is arguably Samsung’s cheapest Android smartphone on the market and E2Save sells a pair of them for £79.90, although they are refurbished and you will need to buy a £20 airtime top-up. Still, the Galaxy Y would make a nice stocking-filler for teenagers especially as the handsets will come unlocked. The Galaxy Y includes a 3in QVGA display, a 2-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, an 830MHz single-core SoC and much more.

Sony Xperia U smartphone, £89 net

We couldn’t resist the temptation to list the Sony Xperia U again, this time for our December top value smartphone list. The device is rapidly becoming one of our all-time favourites, as it combines some cracking features with an ever-dropping price tag. Even though it can be found for cheaper than the £139 Asda charges for it, the supermarket retailer is sweetening the deal with a £50 Asda Gift card, which could come handy for Christmas purchases and Boxing Day sales.

Unlike other offers, this one doesn’t require an additional top-up voucher. As for the phone itself, it comes with a 3.5in Reality Display with an 854 x 480 pixel resolution, powered by the mobile BRAVIA engine. The Xperia U also includes a dual-core system-on-chip from ST-Ericsson clocked at 1GHz, 512MB of RAM, 50GB of cloud-based storage courtesy of Box.net for life, and a rear 5-megapixel camera.

The only two major criticisms are the lack of a microSD card slot and the rather small onboard storage. For a closer look, read our review of the Sony Xperia U.

Motorola MOTOSMART Black, £49.95 net

Entry-level Android smartphones are clearly replacing feature phones at the very low-end of the mobile spectrum. The Motorola MOTOSMART is a clear example of that trend. This smartphone costs only £49.95 at Phones4U on any major network (excluding Three), with an additional £10 top-up voucher. The mobile phone retailer bundles it with free Wi-Fi for a year, a feature which is worth £60 on its own. The phone’s key specs include a Qualcomm SoC, 512MB of RAM, Android 2.3 Gingerbread, a microSD card slot, a 3.15-megapixel camera, a 3.5in 480 x 320 pixel camera and full access to Google Play. If you want a more in-depth look at the handset, check out our review of the Motorola MOTOSMART.

Orange San Diego, £99.99 net

The Orange San Diego is yet another favourite of ours, and its price has been slashed by nearly half. At £99.99 (plus a compulsory £10 top-up), this is one of the best bargains on the market, especially since it now comes with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, making it far superior to any other smartphone below £100. Sadly, the bargain could mean that the phone is on its way out, either to make way for another model or because it is not selling particularly well. The Orange San Diego is exclusive to Orange and comes with a free pair of WeSC headphones. Noteworthy specs include an Intel Atom Z2460 processor clocked at 1.6GHz, 1GB of RAM, 16GB onboard storage, a 4in 1,024 x 600 pixel display, an 8-megapixel camera that can take 10 pictures per second and HD Voice. You can read our review of the Orange San Diego here.