Last year smartphones managed to outsell feature phones for the first time in history. It wasn’t all because of flagship phones like the Galaxy S5 or the HTC One, rather it was the proliferation of budget smartphones that have driven down the price of owning one of these powerful, potentially life-changing devices.

The network operators in South Africa have jumped on the low cost bandwagon with the MTN Steppa and the Vodafone Smart 4 mini from Vodacom taking their shot at the title. While both Samsung and Sony have some skin in the game with the Galaxy Trend and the Xperia E1 making their presence felt. LG brings the only phablet to the mix with its G Pro Lite while Nokia is the only non-Android smartphone in the running with its wildly popular Lumia 520. All of them are great budget smartphones, but only one can be the winner.

LG G Pro Lite (R4 799)

LGCheapieThe LG G Pro Lite is both the largest smartphone, in terms of sheer physical size, in our supertest as well as the most expensive. However the increased budget allows it to bring some hefty benefits to the table.At the outset a 5.5 inch display with the less pixels than the 3.5 inch display of the iPhone 4 sounds like a terrible idea but the G Pro Lite’s display manages to make up for the lack of pixels with fantastic colours and outdoor visibility thanks to the IPS technology it uses.

Battery life is by far our feature of choice in any smartphone and the G Pro Lite is an absolute champion in this arena. It’s all because of the monster of a battery hiding within the G Pro Lite which is larger than all but a few phones that we’ve ever had to test.

 “Light price, not features
Rating: 3.5 Stars 

MTN Steppa (R499)

Mtn-121214AIf this were a simple race to the bottom of the price scale then the MTN Steppa would have this all sewn up without the need to for any further reading. The fact that you could purchase two of them for R1 000 and still be able to tip the car-guard R2 on your way out of the store is an incredible feat.

However that R499 price does make for a rather spartan spec sheet which might not appeal to everyone. One of the biggest gripes we have with the Steppa is the fact the Google’s Android operating system is buried underneath one of the heaviest customisations we’ve ever seen on an Android phone. Sure we can get passed it with some trickery, but should we have to?

 “Stepping up, stepping out
Rating: 3.5 Stars 
Next: Nokia’s Lumia 520 and the Samsung Galaxy Trend