This post lists the phones I have had. Sicne then, I have moved to mid-range phones, as the budget phones are just too slow.
I have had an HTC Desire for about 3 and a half years. In July 2010, it initially came loaded with Android 2.1 (I seem to remember). About a year after that, I rooted with CyanogenMod Rom 7. However, I really missed the HTC Rosie dialler, which allowed to dial and search by name or number. So I put HTCs Sense back on, and thats pretty much how I kept it since then.
Recently, the device has been rebooting when it gets hot (using GPS). It then could not boot, and I had to go into Recovery mode to restore an old backup of Sense. So it was time to look for a new device. But after 3 years, I was very happy with the HTC Desire.
I was looking for a budget (read cheap) phone. Spending R6000 and above just for a phone seems ludicrous, especially since its bound to fall and get damaged. I also wanted a phone for my wife, so I needed two affordable phones.
I had seen the Samsung Galaxy Pocket in Jet, Ackermans and other stores, for about R800. It ran Android 2.2, and seemed OK. However, I decided to get a Galaxy Pocket Plus - S5301. Dion Wired were selling it for about R900. It ran Android 4.0.4, on 4GB RAM with a 850 MHz CPU. Nothing special in terms of specs, but it had Android 4.x.
Perhaps there are other cheaper, non-branded phones from China that have Android 4.x, but I did not see any. There is also a Huawei phone, but I think it was more expensive.
After having it for a few weeks, I don't have any complaints. Yes, it does lag sometimes, but that is to be expected considering the CPU (even the HTC Desire had a 1GHz CPU). Most apps run on it, with a notable exception of Google Now (only > 4.1). And I don't really take pictures, so I don't mind the camera.
This is my first Samsung device, after a run of three HTCs in a row (TyTn II, G1, Desire). I can honestly say that HTC has a superior feel and experience to its devices. Samsung does not even offer a dialler like Rosie? I'm sure the HTC One range knocks the socks off the Galaxy S3/S4.
A recent article highlighted the Vodafone Smart Mini, which has a 1GHz CPU and runs Android 4.1, for only R799.