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Top 5 value smartphones in the UK (October 2012) from £130

The end of the year has brought a number of new handsets - notably the Apple iPhone 5 - which in turn caused manufacturers to drop the prices of existing smartphones to clear out stocks.

Here are the 5 best value for money smartphones to consider should you be looking to buy one in October 2012. Only one is SIM free and the rest are tied to a mobile phone operator; prices are correct and stocks are available at the time of publication. We suggest that you regularly visit our deals section where other smartphone deals will be listed.

Apple iPhone 4S, £394 + £5 top-up

£399 gets you the iPhone 4S PAYG on T-Mobile (opens in new tab) (via eBay). You get a £5 credit with unlimited internet (capped at 250MB with no-limit web browsing and email) for 12-months. That’s £55 less than the new suggested retail price of the SIM Free iPhone 4S. It remains a pretty capable handset even after the launch of the Apple iPhone 5 especially if you don’t need 4G. Check out the spec comparison between the two Apple handsets (opens in new tab).

Nokia Lumia 800, £150

O2 customers wishing to explore Windows Phone 7.5 may wish to check the Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone which costs £150 on PAYG (opens in new tab). The phone, which will be upgradable to Windows Phone 7.8 in the near future, is not the cheapest Windows Phone handset on the market (there are a few models like the ZTE Tania, the Nokia Lumia 710 or the HTC Radar available for around £100), but it is the one sporting by far the best value for money ratio. Indeed, you’d be hard pressed to grab an Android phone with a similar spec for such a low price. We recently published a detailed comparison between the Nokia Lumia 800, the Lumia 820 and the Lumia 900 (opens in new tab).

Samsung Galaxy S3, £375

The Samsung Galaxy S3 (opens in new tab) may no longer be Samsung’s top of the range smartphone with the launch of the Galaxy Note 2 but some will probably prefer its more compact form factor (although that’s a relative term). eBay powerseller, ecell_accessorize, is selling the smartphone (unbranded and unlocked) for only £375 including free delivery; in comparison, Amazon sells it for nearly £480. Find out more about the Galaxy S3 in our review (opens in new tab) and see why its tagline, “designed for humans, inspired by nature” is backed up by a few well implemented features.

Orange San Diego, £170 + £15 top up

Mobile operator Orange offers the San Diego (opens in new tab), the first Intel-based smartphone to land in the country, for £170 on PAYG with an extra compulsory £15 top up (on one of their five available animal plans). Arguably, the deal will appeal most to Orange customers and the fact that the phone itself cannot be unlocked means that you will be tied to Orange (and Everything Everywhere) once you take the plunge. Still, if you want to explore the phone in detail and understand why it in many ways sets a landmark, read our extensive review of the Orange San Diego (opens in new tab).

Sony Xperia U, £130 + £10 top up

(opens in new tab)Sony is rarely known for delivering outstanding entry level smartphones but the Xperia U smartphone (opens in new tab) (available for £140 at Phones4U with a £10 top up and with free 12 months Wi-Fi courtesy of The Cloud with 500MB monthly allowance) seems to mark a definitive change in the company’s market strategy. The phone, which is available on all major networks except Three and Virgin Media, is the cheapest dual-core handset on the market and boosts a display density higher than Samsung’s new superphone, the Galaxy Note 2. Those looking for a compact smartphone with a style may want to read our review of the Sony Xperia U (opens in new tab).

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.