The popular choice for consumers looking to purchase a cheap smartphone is a low-end Android handset. But, the market landscape is changing with Windows Phone manufacturers now offering more attractive options at comparable price-points, which may be of better value for the money. An entry-level Windows Phone could very well be the right smartphone for you.
Today, the most popular inexpensive Windows Phone is the Nokia Lumia 520. In Europe it is available under the €150 mark, off-contract, making it one of the cheapest unlocked smartphones that consumers can buy on the old continent. In the US folks can get the Lumia 521 instead, which is designed for T-Mobile's cellular network, under the magical $100 price-point. Even though we're only looking at the Finnish manufacturer's Windows Phones at this point, there are inexpensive models from other companies such as HTC and Huawei too. In comparison, the market is packed with similarly-priced Android handsets. You may be looking at one right now.
But before diving into any software or hardware comparison, it is worth pointing out that an inexpensive Windows Phone does not automatically translate into an entry-level model. For instance, the HTC Windows Phone 8X which was initially available for flagship-money can now be had for less than the price of a Samsung Galaxy S2, the latter of which is considerably older. The Windows Phone 8S is even cheaper nowadays, even though it was once offered for nearly the price of a mid-range device. Still, either of HTC's Windows Phones is more expensive than the Lumia 520 or Lumia 521.
"An entry-level Windows Phone could very well be the right smartphone for you."
Now that you have an idea regarding the cost of an entry-level Windows Phone, it is time to look at why you should consider getting one over a similar Android smartphone. First off, let's discuss the obvious benefit -- the experience. Microsoft designed Windows Phone to run well on all types of smartphones, including entry-level models like the Lumia 520. The tiled operating system does not require the most powerful hardware to run smoothly, case in point being the paltry 1 GHz dual-core processor (coupled with just 512 MB of RAM) that is available in the aforementioned handset.
However, despite such unimpressive internals the results may surprise you -- navigating the user interface on an entry-level Windows Phone results in a pleasant experience, that is not plagued by noticeable stutter or significant lag. Smooth is probably the best word to describe it. Apps open decently-fast, even when multitasking. Games run fine too, although you may need 1 GB of RAM to run the latest and greatest titles.
On the other hand, similar Android smartphones exhibit both noticeable lag and stutter even when doing something as basic as navigating the user interface. The reason for this is that the operating system is not optimized for low-end hardware, which is a common sight on such inexpensive devices. Android needs a very fast processor and 2 GB of RAM to shine; this sort of combination is certainly not found in smartphones costing the same as the Lumia 520 or Lumia 521.
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but there is no denying that even entry-level Windows Phones like the Lumia 520 look good. Such handsets may be made of plastic, but manufacturers spruce things up by offering multiple color options, ranging from the common black and white to the more exciting red and yellow. The build quality is good too, considering the low price. By contrast, low-end Android smartphones often look uninspiring, especially when they're coupled with a typical black and white color palette. Just look at this Samsung Galaxy Ace 2; it is ugly and even more expensive than the Lumia 520.
"Windows Phone Store may satisfy the casual gamer's needs. It's a matter of personal preference."
No one can argue the fact that Android is more customizable and offers more features than Windows Phone. But for someone looking at a cheap smartphone, this may not be the top priority. Most people -- who are not power users -- do not even fiddle with the look of the software on their smartphones, according to HTC. From my point of view, the ease of use plays a key part in choosing which device to purchase. And this is an area where Windows Phone trumps Android, due to its simple layout and uncomplicated settings menu. I do have to point out that it may be easier to do some things on Android compared to Windows Phone, but for people who are looking to use a smartphone and not fiddle with it the latter is ultimately a good choice.
Users of popular social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter will appreciate the tight integration in Windows Phone. There is no need to open any of the dedicated apps to post updates, respond to them or follow what other people are doing. Most low-end Android devices offer no such benefits, as manufacturers rely on what Google Play has to offer. When it comes to the three aforementioned social networks, both platforms offer decent apps although the balance may tip in Android's favor as it gets more frequent updates. However, Windows Phone is starting to get its fair share of attention from more popular developers, so the situation can only improve going forward.
What about the app situation? It is true that Windows Phone Store cannot match Google Play when it comes to the number of available apps and games. But the offerings that prospective users may want could be available on both platforms already, which what ultimately interests consumers. Are you looking for the latest game title? If so, Android is probably a better choice for you. Windows Phone Store may, however, satisfy the casual gamer's needs. It's a matter of personal preference.
Windows Phone may not be the right choice for everyone looking to purchase an inexpensive smartphone, but it is certainly an option worth considering before pulling the trigger. The platform has received too much negative press but, if the success of the Lumia 520 is of any indication, consumers do not appear to be afraid to go with the less obvious choice. Why should you?