There are no two ways about it, smartphone prices are skyrocketing, with no sign of slowing down any time soon. I still remember the day Apple announced the iPhone X in 2017, with its thousand pound/dollar price tag - and since then we've seen Samsung, Sony and Oppo all release phones that exceed that figure.
Thankfully, there are plenty of brilliant budget phones that buck this inflated price trend, with Google's Pixel a-Series, Sony's Xperia 10, and newcomer Nothing Phone (1) that don't compromise too much when it comes to pivotal aspects like the screen, sound and performance. So why mention these phones when we're hotly anticipating the iPhone 15 and Xperia 1 V? Well, it looks like 2023 might be a big year for budget phones, with Google and Sony unveiling their respective devices just hours apart.
Last week, Google held its annual I/O event, which was mostly focused on AI and Android upgrades, however, we did see some new hardware. This includes the ludicrously expensive Pixel Fold and versatile smart display/tablet hybrid, imaginatively titled the Pixel Tablet. While the latter is worth keeping an eye on, the real star of the show in my eyes is the new Pixel 7a, which seems to offer a majority of what the regular Pixel 7 does, with £100 knocked off the price.
The Pixel 7a gets a 1080p/90Hz OLED display, the same specification as the Pixel 7 but it's a tad smaller at 6.1 inches compared to the regular 7's 6.3-inch screen. The 7a also gets wireless charging, more RAM, face unlock and a much higher resolution camera system when compared to last year's Pixel 6a. The 7a even gets the latest Tensor G2 processor that's found in the Pixel 7 Pro, meaning performance should be buttery smooth. Overall, the 7a is looking like a pretty enticing budget smartphone for most people; but there's an even better-looking option for AV enthusiasts.
Introducing the Sony Xperia 10 V, which also debuted last week. If the name sounds familiar, then you may recognise its predecessor from the 2022 What Hi-Fi? Awards Best Smartphone category as the 10 IV wowed us with its stellar AV performance at a very reasonable price. I seriously respect Sony's commitment to AV performance with its smartphones, with the 21:9 aspect ratio on all its devices and dedication to keeping the 3.5mm headphone jack alive after every other smartphone manufacturer kicked it to the curb.
The 10 V carries over many of its predecessor's best features, including that 1080p 21:9 OLED display, which wowed us last year, and hi-res audio support for both wired and wireless headphones. It's getting some AV-focused updates, however, including a brighter display and better loudspeakers - the latter is especially exciting as the 10 IV's speakers were my biggest gripe with the device.
The only caveat is that it's not getting much in the way of internal upgrades, with the same Snapdragon 695 5G chip powering the device. I would've preferred a more up-to-date processor in this latest-generation smartphone, considering that the 10 IV did stutter occasionally, but I can look past it - especially if the picture and sound performance are as good as last year's model.
Ultimately, both the latest Google and Sony announcements prove that you can get a lot of smartphone, for not a whole lot of money. That's why I've got my eye on the Xperia 10 V, as it could be the next great movie-focused phone that doesn't break the bank.,
Read our full Sony Xperia 10 IV review
And check out our picks for the best Android smartphones