The Best Budget Android Phones

The Best Budget Android Phones

Our pick

Motorola Moto G5 Plus

Excellent performance and build quality compared with other budget phones. Its interface is clean with no preinstalled bloat apps, and it works on all major US carriers—even Verizon and Sprint.

For the fifth year in a row, the best cheap Android phone comes from the Moto G line. For just $230, the Moto G5 Plus offers a 5.2-inch 1920×1080 LCD screen, 2 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, a microSD card slot, and a fast, accurate fingerprint sensor. The Moto G5 Plus is faster than most other budget phones thanks to its Snapdragon 625 processor, as well as Motorola’s solid software optimization. Moto’s Android 7.0 software is clean and fast, with no bloatware—it’s better than the software on many phones that cost two or three times more.

Unlike many cheap phones, the G5 Plus is unlocked for all US carriers, even Verizon and Sprint. It also trades the clip-on plastic shell of last year’s G4 for an aluminum back panel that adds some reassuring heft. We recommend the $230 version with 32 GB of storage. You can upgrade to 64 GB with 4 GB of RAM for $70 more, but the other specs are unchanged. If you’re on a tight budget, Amazon sells ad-supported versions to Prime members for $185 and $240, respectively.

Upgrade pick

OnePlus 3T

The OnePlus 3T has a fast CPU, more memory than most flagship phones, a great aluminum body, and the best camera on any phone in its price range.

If you can spend more, the OnePlus 3T is an especially fast phone thanks to its Snapdragon 821 processor and 6 GB of RAM. That’s the sort of hardware we’re used to seeing in phones costing hundreds of dollars more, and it makes the OnePlus 3T noticeably faster than other mid-priced phones. The 16-megapixel camera is optically stabilized and rivals the cameras on flagship phones such as the LG V20 (though not the cameras on iPhones, Pixels, or Galaxy phones). The fingerprint sensor is quick and accurate, and the software is very close to stock Android 7.1 Nougat. And although the 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED screen isn’t especially bright and has odd color calibration, the OnePlus 3T is still the best phone you can get for around $450.

If you need a good phone that costs as little as possible, get last year’s Moto G4 Play. It cuts the right corners to keep the price down without making the experience of using the phone unbearable. The G4 Play runs a clean, fast version of Android Marshmallow with a Nougat update (allegedly) on the way. It has a light-but-durable plastic frame and a grippy back panel that hides a removable battery, something you rarely see anymore in phones of any price. The display and performance are both good enough, though not what you’d get with a flagship phone or the Moto G5 Plus. The 8-megapixel camera isn’t great, but it’s better than what you get with other phones in this price range.

Like the G5 Plus, the G4 Play has two versions: a normal phone for $150 and an ad-subsidized $100 version for Amazon Prime members. We don’t love ads on phones, but at least the ads (which appear on the lock screen) are unobtrusive. It’s a great deal if every dollar counts.

Table of contents

Why you should trust us

Over the past five years, I’ve written more than a million words about Android phones, tablets, and software on sites such as Android Police, ExtremeTech, and Tested. I’ve also lived with dozens of different Android phones as my “daily drivers” during that time. I use and review more phones every year than most people will own in their entire lives.

Who should get this

Good smartphones have never been cheaper. For less than a third of the price of a flagship phone like the Samsung Galaxy S8 or Google Pixel, you can get a phone that does almost as much, minus a few fancy features such as wireless charging, a curved screen, or a near-field communication (NFC) chip. A cheap phone probably won’t come with a quad-HD (2560×1440) screen or a top-of-the-line processor, but you don’t need those things to have a good experience.

Budget phones are, of course, great for anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to spend a lot on a phone. They’re also excellent for someone getting their first smartphone (especially kids and teenagers), or for the terminally clumsy: If you lose or break a higher-end phone, especially one you’re still paying your carrier for, you may have to shell out a lot to replace it—often $500 or more. If you don’t have insurance, you can end up paying the balance on a phone you don’t have anymore, plus the price of a new phone. (Even if you do have insurance, replacing or repairing an expensive phone can cost more than getting a cheap new one that can tide you over.)

Budget phones are excellent for someone getting their first smartphone, especially kids and teenagers, or for the terminally clumsy.

A phone like the Moto G5 Plus can also make more sense than a flagship phone for other reasons, as the things that make budget handsets less fancy than flagship phones can actually be appealing. The glass back panels of the Samsung Galaxy S8 are beautiful, but one bad drop and they could be a spiderweb of cracks. You can toss a cheap phone around without worrying as much.

High-end phones use significant power running eight CPU cores, tracking your steps, driving high-resolution displays, and syncing data for extra apps you probably don’t use and that don’t necessarily improve your experience. The less-powerful internals of budget phones often mean that these handsets have much better battery life than flagship phones—definitely the case with our pick.

Budget devices are also usually GSM-unlocked, meaning you can use them on either AT&T or T-Mobile in the United States, as well as most networks in the rest of the world. A few phones, like the Moto G5 Plus, even support CDMA networks like those of Verizon and Sprint. Some budget phones also have dual SIM slots, making them even more capable traveling companions. More important, you can use unlocked phones on prepaid mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). These low-cost carriers operate on national networks but have a few more data-usage restrictions or calling limits. You can use one MVNO, and if a better deal comes along, you can just pop in a different SIM card and get on with your life. More-expensive phones, such as the Galaxy S7, Google Pixel, and Apple iPhone are also available unlocked, but, well, they’re much more expensive.

High-end phones waste power running eight CPU cores, tracking your steps, and syncing other information, none of which necessarily improve your experience.

The big US carriers have also started offering voice and data plans that make it easy to bring your own budget phone. Instead of subsidizing phone prices over long-term service contracts, most of the carriers now promote financing or leasing plans for purchasing phones, along with separate, no-contract monthly service plans for cell and data service. If you buy a cheap phone for full price, afterward you need to pay only for the price of service, with no commitment beyond the current month’s billing cycle.

Premium phones still have a place, though. Flagship models provide much better screens and cameras, and much more built-in storage, as well as flashy features such as NFC for contactless payment, fingerprint sensors, wireless charging, faster processors, speedier charging, and better construction. If you expect to game, multitask, or shoot photos and video on a regular basis, a flagship phone will serve you better. If your daily routine doesn’t include those things, it makes sense to buy something cheaper.

Lastly, inexpensive phones from small companies are also more prone to security issues. Budget-device makers have less control over the manufacturing and supply chain, so hardware and software partners can intentionally or unintentionally introduce malware into a device, as reported in The New York Times (parent company of The Wirecutter). A more reputable budget-phone maker with a strong US presence and retail operation can ensure that any security issues are dealt with swiftly. We saw this happen recently with smartphone retailer Blu: It acted quickly to correct a security flaw, whereas a lesser-known budget-phone maker might have never released a fix. Choosing a phone from a huge company such as Samsung, Google, or LG makes it less likely you’ll encounter this type of security flaw in the first place.

How we picked

To find the best budget phones, we started by reading the roundups and reviews published on general tech sites such as CNET, The Verge, and Wired. Having zeroed in on potential contenders, we went a level deeper to more technical sites like AnandTech and Ars Technica and enthusiast sites such as Android Central and Android Police. These product reviews often creep into thousands of words, giving us plenty of information with which to narrow our testing selections.

From our research and our years of experience with Android phones, we know that the quality of the screen is very important but varies wildly independent of resolution. Although you don’t have to settle for a blurry 840×800 display anymore, some panels still outshine others—often literally. Many budget phones now have 1920×1080 screens, but qualities such as viewing angles and color accuracy can mean the difference between an okay phone and a great one. A budget phone today should have at least a decent 720p screen.

As with any smartphone, a budget phone’s software can have a big impact on how pleasant it is to use. Some manufacturers insist on cluttering a phone with obtrusive overlays and crappy preinstalled apps that slow down the device and often look less refined than stock Android. Many of these apps are included only because the app creators paid the phone maker to preinstall them. This practice helps subsidize costs for the phone maker, but you shouldn’t have to declutter your phone right after you buy it. Worse, you can’t remove some bloatware at all—only disable it. And the slower hardware used in budget smartphones can make a heavy UI skin even more annoying. Overall, the closer to stock Android software a phone gets, and the fewer preinstalled apps a phone has, the more likely we are to recommend it.

We eliminated phones that don’t look likely to receive OS updates or security patches from their makers. Some companies are better than others at providing such updates, and others barely support their phones at all. For example, Google and Samsung issue monthly security updates, but Motorola and OnePlus have both had problems getting updates out in a timely manner. Other makers are worse. Android 7.0 launched late last year, so a new phone should be running 7.0 by now, or at least be scheduled to get an update soon.

Inside, most budget phones use a midrange system-on-a-chip (SoC). Each phone we recommend is fast enough to handle Android 7.0 and to perform basic tasks such as email, Web browsing, and media playback. Gaming might bog down some of the slower chips, but RAM is more important in this regard: There’s a big difference in performance between budget phones that have 2 GB of RAM or more and those that have only 1 GB. You don’t need to spend much more to get 2 GB in phones that offer it, and it’s worth that extra cost.

Some cheaper phones have only 8 GB of storage for apps, photos, music, and everything else—but because that storage also holds the operating system and preloaded apps, you end up with only a few gigabytes free. This restriction makes a microSD-card slot essential on any phone with 16 GB of storage or less.

If a good phone camera is important to you, the options are extremely limited when it comes to budget smartphones. Even high-end Android phone cameras often struggle, and the further down you go, the worse things get. Some budget-phone cameras do okay outdoors or in bright light, but you should spend some extra money if you want a phone that can replace your point-and-shoot camera. The cheapest phone with a good camera is the OnePlus 3T, which costs $440 at the time of writing and has a better camera than anything else under $500—you’ll have to spend hundreds of dollars more on a flagship phone, such as the iPhone 7 or the Google Pixel, to get a better one.

As mentioned above, most budget devices are SIM-unlocked, so you can use them on any compatible carrier. For this feature to be meaningful, however, it’s important for the phone to support 3G and 4G bands on the right carriers: You will have plenty of plan options when you buy one of these phones, but mostly on GSM networks with LTE support such as AT&T, T-Mobile, some regional carriers, and the MVNOs that use those networks. (Sprint and Verizon are picky about registering unlocked phones for their aging 2G/3G CDMA networks if the phones were purchased elsewhere, so your options are more limited with those carriers.) Being on a GSM network offers you the most freedom to take advantage of budget phones. Our top pick, the Moto G5 Plus, is compatible with both GSM and CDMA networks, so it’ll work on all major US carriers.

We didn’t consider iOS and Windows Phone smartphones for this guide. The cheapest iPhone is the 32 GB iPhone SE for $400, but it has a tiny 4-inch screen and a two-year-old processor. Meanwhile, you can find some cheap Windows Phone options, but that OS still lags on features and has nowhere near the app support of Android or iOS.

How we tested

I have tested more than two dozen budget smartphones since 2015. For the testing, I carried each handset as my only phone for a while—no cheating by grabbing a different phone when things got weird or inconvenient, as they sometimes do with budget phones. Because these phones are mostly unlocked handsets, I was able to transfer my SIM and rely on the test device for all my mobile computing needs, everything from messaging to Web browsing to running Android Auto in my car.

When reviewing each phone, I looked for annoyances such as a confusing user experience, interface lag or stuttering, and impractical unique features—extra features should make a phone more convenient and easier to use rather than get in the way. The design and build quality of a phone are also important, because “budget” shouldn’t automatically mean that the handset feels as if you could snap it in two with your bare hands. I also noted how the battery held up during each day of testing.

The intention here was to test how the phones would perform in real-world use, without any special knowledge or hacking on the user’s part, so I did all of my testing on unmodified software with the stock apps whenever possible. If an included app or service needed to be replaced or disabled, I’ve noted that in this guide.

Our pick: Motorola Moto G5 Plus

“Our pick” Android phone on a wooden surface.

Our pick

Motorola Moto G5 Plus

Excellent performance and build quality compared with other budget phones. Its interface is clean with no preinstalled bloat apps, and it works on all major US carriers—even Verizon and Sprint.

The Motorola Moto G5 Plus has better performance, cleaner software, and better build quality than other budget phones. Unlike most cheap unlocked phones, it works on all major US carriers, including CDMA-based Sprint and Verizon. It’s only splash-resistant, not fully water-resistant like some older Moto G phones, and its camera is lacking compared with more-expensive phones, but it’s still the best cheap phone for most people.

The Moto G5 Plus is the only variant of the fifth-generation G series that will be sold in the US, but Motorola sells two versions, both with a Snapdragon 625 eight-core ARM processor. Motorola’s software optimization make this phone “incredibly smooth for general smartphone tasks,” as I noted in my Android Police review. The $230 base model has 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage (versus just 16 GB in last year’s Moto G); for $70 more, the upgrade model includes 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The cheaper version is best for most people because you can add more storage via the microSD-card slot, and 2 GB of RAM is fine for basic tasks. Unlike last year’s base model Moto G4, the G5 Plus has a fingerprint sensor on the front, and that sensor is easily as fast as those in much more expensive phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7.

Many other low-cost phones have heavy UI layers that slow down the handset and provide custom features that barely work. But as Jamie Rigg says at Engadget, “The G5s run the flavor of Nougat you know and like, with Motorola slipping in only helpful additions that don’t hinder Android performance.” The Motorola additions include the fantastic Moto Display, which lets you view and act on notifications on the display using a low-power black-and-white mode while the rest of the screen remains asleep. With Moto Actions, a quick flip gesture can launch the camera, and a chop motion turns the flashlight on and off. You can also hide the on-screen navigation buttons and control the phone entirely with swipes on the fingerprint sensor.

The back of “Our pick” Android phone.

The Moto G5 Plus has an aluminum back instead of the colorful plastic shells of last year’s G4 series. It feels more solid, but we miss the G4’s color options.

The Moto G5 Plus has a 5.2-inch 1080p LCD, which is more comfortable to use one-handed than the 5.5-inch screens on the OnePlus 3T and last year’s Moto G. You won’t get the vibrant colors or perfect blacks of an AMOLED, but this screen is excellent for the price. Ars Technica’s Andrew Cunningham says the screen “isn’t fancy but looks nice and colorful and sharp.”

With a 3,000 mAh battery, the Moto G5 Plus will have no trouble making it through a day with plenty to spare. A second day would be pushing it, but the G5 Plus lasts longer on a charge than the more-powerful OnePlus 3T. The G5 Plus also supports fast charging (compatible with Quick Charge adapters up to 15 W), so when the battery does get low, an hour plugged in should give you enough juice for a full day. However, it still uses a Micro-USB port while other phones have moved on to Type-C.

The Moto G5 Plus comes in either gray or gold, with an aluminum back panel, unlike last year’s colorful plastic backs and accents. It’s not fully aluminum like the OnePlus 3T (the sides are still plastic), but it’s sturdier and feels better than other phones in this price range.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The 12-megapixel rear-facing camera on the Moto G5 Plus does well in bright light, but low-light images tend to be dark and blurry. However, the camera is a little better at everything than the camera in other phones in this price range. As the Verge’s Chris Welch says, “Compared to other phones in this price range, the G5’s camera is ahead. It’s just nowhere close to today’s flagships.” You’ll need to step up to the OnePlus 3T if you want a noticeably better camera without spending $600 or more. The G5’s camera module is also pretty big and prevents the phone from laying flat.

If you want to make contactless payments through Android Pay or use other NFC features, you’ll have to look elsewhere: Motorola includes NFC only on the European variant of the Moto G5 Plus. Budget phones often drop NFC, so this isn’t exactly a surprise.

About the Amazon Prime Moto G5 Plus

If you want to save a few bucks, you can get the Amazon Prime version of the Moto G5 Plus for $45 off the regular price, but it has lock-screen ads and a few preloaded Amazon apps. It’s also available only to Prime subscribers. We’re not big fans of this version, but the ad subsidy puts the G5 Plus close in price to our ultra-budget pick, the Moto G4 Play, and the G5 Plus has a sharper display, better performance, and nicer build quality. If you’re a Prime member, and you can stomach the ads, the G5 Plus is a better deal. But if you’re not, or you’d rather have a worse phone than look at ads, get the ad-free Moto G4 Play.

For people who can spend a little more: OnePlus 3T

A person holding the “Upgrade pick” Android phone.

The OnePlus 3T has a fast processor and uses a clean version of Android.

Upgrade pick

OnePlus 3T

The OnePlus 3T has a fast CPU, more memory than most flagship phones, a great aluminum body, and the best camera on any phone in its price range.

If you can afford to spend a bit more on your phone, get the OnePlus 3T. Its blazing-fast hardware, superb build quality, and speedy fingerprint sensor make it a good phone, period, not just a good near-$450 phone. If cheaper smartphones like the Moto G5 Plus omit too many of the features you want, the OnePlus 3T will be more to your liking—it makes the right compromises to keep its price reasonable while offering a flagship-level experience. The OnePlus 3T has slightly faster hardware than the OnePlus 3 it replaced after just 5 months, but the 3T’s price is a little higher too. It’s the best phone in this price range, though it doesn’t work on Verizon or Sprint.

The OnePlus 3T makes the right compromises to keep its price reasonable while offering a flagship-level experience.

When we say that a budget phone performs well, we often mean that it performs well for a budget phone. The OnePlus 3T, however, uses a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 821 processor and comes with 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage (but no microSD-card slot, unfortunately). As I wrote in my review for Android Police, “The OnePlus 3T is as fast as phones that cost twice as much.”

The OnePlus 3T is unlocked, and it supports dual SIM cards—none of our other picks do. This feature lets you use two different cellular carriers without swapping cards, and it’s handy when you’re traveling. Unlike the Moto G5 Plus, the 3T is compatible only with GSM networks like those of AT&T and T-Mobile, but it has full-band support for both, including the elusive band 12 on T-Mobile.

This handset has an aluminum unibody design, meaning the frame is made from a single block of metal. The result is an impressively solid-feeling device.

On the left side of the phone is something you won’t find on any other Android phone: an alert slider. This switch allows you to toggle between normal, priority, and silent notification modes without waking the phone up. The home button, meanwhile, doubles as a fingerprint sensor, and it’s one of the fastest and most accurate we’ve ever tested.

The OnePlus 3T’s 16-megapixel Sony image sensor rivals the camera on phones like the Nexus 6P. In every kind of lighting, this phone’s photos exhibit far better color reproduction and crispness than photos from the Moto G5 Plus or G4 Play. It is unchanged from the OnePlus 3 camera, of which Chris Velazco from Engadget writes, “It’s pretty good in every situation.”

The OnePlus 3T’s version of Android 7.1 Nougat, called OxygenOS, is clean, fast, and close to stock Android, though it adds a number of cool extras like gestures—which work with the screen turned off—to launch the camera or turn on the flashlight. The Moto G5 Plus has similar tricks, but they’re otherwise rare on Android phones. You’ll also find a dark-UI mode to make the OnePlus 3 more pleasant to use at night.

The “Upgrade pick” Android phone on a wooden surface.

The all-aluminum chassis of the OnePlus 3T feels great in the hand.

The OnePlus 3’s 5½-inch, 1080p AMOLED display got mixed reviews: While The Verge says that it’s “more than sufficient,” Ars Technica says that “[t]he OnePlus 3 won’t win any display awards.” The display hasn’t changed with the 3T, which has the same color-calibration issues with default settings—such as whites that are too cool and greens that are almost neon. And Text can look a little more fuzzy than on the Moto G5 Plus’s 1080p LCD. The OnePlus 3T’s display doesn’t look bad, but a $440 phone should have a better screen.

OnePlus says that it went with the 1080p display to save battery life, and that might have been a good decision.The 3,000 mAh battery in the OnePlus 3 was on the small side, but the 3T boosts that to 3,400 mAh, enough to get you through a day comfortably. The 3T does have fast charging, but not the Qualcomm Quick Charge technology most other phones use, or even the newer USB Power Delivery that’s possible with USB-C; OnePlus’s Dash Charge works only with the included power adapter, and you can’t get Dash Charge hardware from anyone else. The phone will still charge at normal speed with a standard USB-C cable and adapter, and any fast charging is better than none, but using a proprietary quick-charging technology instead of a standard one is annoying.

If you have only $100: Motorola Moto G4 Play

A person holding the ”Budget pick” Android phone

The Motorola Moto G4 Play is the cheapest phone you can get that still offers good build quality, a sharp HD display, and reasonable performance. It also has one of the best versions of Android you’ll find on a budget phone, with no heavy skins or redundant applications, though it’s a couple Android versions behind. The efficient hardware and (removable) 2,800 mAh battery mean the G4 Play will run more than a day on a charge, too.

The standard Moto G4 Play is $150, but if you’re trying to squeeze under the $100 mark (and have an Amazon Prime membership), we recommend the $100 Amazon Prime edition. Both versions have full support for CDMA carriers (like Verizon and Sprint) as well as GSM carriers (AT&T and T-Mobile). Like our previous pick, the Blu R1 HD, the Moto G4 Play comes with a $50 discount in exchange for subtle lock-screen ads for Amazon products, similar to what you’d find on a subsidized Kindle. We don’t love the idea of ads on a phone, but this is the best phone you’ll get for $100.

We don’t love the idea of ads on a phone, but this is the best phone you’ll get for $100.

Many inexpensive phones run ancient versions of Android or have clunky interfaces. The G4 Play has a clean version of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow without a ton of preinstalled apps (though the Prime version does have a few extra Amazon apps). An update to 7.1 Nougat (the current version of Android) is allegedly on the way. The software does include Moto Display, which is one of the manufacturer Android tweaks that we really like. The display wakes up when you get a notification or pick up the phone, allowing you to view notifications and unlock the device with a swipe.

To get such a low price, you have to give up fancy hardware features like a fingerprint sensor, NFC chip, and metal frame, but the plastic isn’t bad. ZDNet says, “The hardware is fairly basic, but it feels solidly built with a back that is easy to grip and keep secure.” The removable back also reveals a removable battery, a genuine rarity in phones of all prices these days. Even without swapping in a spare battery, the G4 Play lasts for more than a day of heavy use—it’s slightly better than the OnePlus 3T.

The back of the “Budget pick” Android phone with removal battery shown.

A removable battery is almost unheard of in phones at any price these days.

The Moto G4 Play has a 5-inch 1280×720 LCD that’s sharp and very bright, making it easy to see outdoors. The viewing angles are weak, and the colors aren’t the most accurate we’ve seen, but it’s an okay display for the price.

The rest of the G4 Play’s specs are entry-level as well. The quad-core Snapdragon 410 with 2 GB of RAM is a slight improvement over the MediaTek chips phones like the R1 HD use, but it’s still not suitable for more than basic use. TechRadar says the G4 Play is “just powerful enough to provide a passable Marshmallow experience.” If you multitask heavily or try to play a 3D game, it will lag. You also get only 16 GB of internal storage, but the G4 Play does have a microSD-card slot.

Android Authority calls the camera performance “predictable” for a cheap phone—that means mediocre. The 8-megapixel rear camera captures images quickly, but low-light performance is poor and colors look a bit washed out, even in bright light. It’s fine in a pinch, but anyone interested in snapping photos on a budget should step up to the Moto G5 Plus at least.

If you can’t justify $200 or more for our other budget picks, the Moto G4 Play is the best you can get. It’s fast enough for basic tasks, the screen is readable outdoors, and the software is clean and efficient. The excellent battery life and removable battery are appreciated, as well. We also like that it works on all major carriers.

What to look forward to

HMD Global announced three phones at Mobile World Congress: the 5-inch Nokia 3, the 5.2-inch Nokia 5, and the 5½-inch Nokia 6. All three run stock Android. Each phone offers different specs (the top-of-the-line Nokia 6 has a Snapdragon 430), but they all have microSD-card slots and fingerprint sensors. The 3, 5, and 6 will cost around $150, $200, and $250, respectively, when they ship in the next few months.

The competition

The Huawei Honor 8 is more expensive than the Honor 5X, and the hardware shows it. The metal frame and Gorilla Glass screen are beautiful, with a Samsung design vibe. The 5.2-inch 1080p display is excellent too. However, the software is still a mess (it doesn’t even support Android Auto) and Huawei has yet to live up to its update promises for the Honor 5X. We’re concerned the Honor 8 will lag behind, as well. The OnePlus 3T is a better choice in this price range.

Huawei’s Honor 6X has a few things going for it, including an aluminum chassis and excellent battery life. It’s also the cheapest phone, at a mere $250, to get one of Huawei’s dual-camera setups. However, the secondary camera on the 6X isn’t as useful as it is on Huawei’s more expensive phones: It captures depth information so you can apply a blur effect to the background of your image, which is interesting, but not a reason to buy the phone. The 6X’s software and performance make it hard to recommend this phone. It’s launching with year-and-a-half-old Android 6.0 Marshmallow running the clunky old version of Huawei’s EMUI skin. It’s sluggish and requires constant babysitting of your apps and settings.

The Blu R1 HD was our previous ultra-budget pick, but it went out of stock shortly before a November 2016 malware scare. The device has been updated to remove the offending software, and it recently went on sale again. However, the slightly-more-expensive Moto G4 Play is a better purchase because it’s faster and doesn’t have a history of sending your data to a random server in China. We recommend the R1 HD only if you refuse to spend more than $60.

The Moto Z Play is the best device in Motorola’s new Z lineup, but that’s not really saying much. These phones have support for Motorola’s line of Moto Mod snap-on accessories, but the Mods cost as much as $300. The Z Play is the least expensive Moto Z phone at $450 ($400 on Verizon), and its battery life is incredible. However, the design is clunky and Moto Mods are still not a selling point. Unless battery life is your only criteria, the OnePlus 3T is better—cheaper, faster, and more attractive.

Neither the ZTE Axon 7 nor the Axon 7 Mini are good enough to get our recommendation over similarly priced phones. The Axon 7 has high-end specs including a 5.5-inch 1440p AMOLED display, Snapdragon 820, and 4 GB of RAM. However, the phone is heavy and the buttons aren’t very good. The software is also annoying compared with OnePlus’s. The Axon 7 Mini has improved buttons and is only $300, but the Snapdragon 617 chip is much slower. The software is also still annoying to deal with. Both these phones have rear-facing fingerprint sensors, which are great, though they aren’t as fast or accurate as the ones Motorola uses on the cheaper Moto G5 Plus.

The Alcatel Idol 4S aims to be a more premium phone compared with last year’s Idol 3, but it fails to compete in this higher price bracket. The $400 phone has a Snapdragon 652 CPU, 3 GB of RAM, a 5½-inch 2560×1440 AMOLED screen, and a 16-megapixel camera. The phone’s shipping box doubles as a VR headset, which is a neat trick. There isn’t much else to the Idol 4S, though. The performance, camera, and design are not as good as the OnePlus 3T.

LeEco is not a big name in the US, but the Chinese firm is trying to wiggle its way in with big deals on its first North American devices. The Le Pro3 has a Snapdragon 821 processor and 4 GB of RAM but costs only $400. However, its software is almost universally described as “frustrating.” The phone includes a ton of preloaded apps, along with confusing interface changes to Android. The Le Pro3 also lacks a headphone jack. The $250 Le S2 steps down to a Snapdragon 652 and 3 GB of RAM, but it’s still got the bad software and no headphone jack. The Moto G4 is a much better choice.

The Sony Xperia XA is priced cheaply, but it has been widely panned in reviews due to its disappointing display and extremely short battery life. For an extra $20, the Moto G4 is a much better phone. The more-expensive Xperia XA Ultra has gotten a more-positive reception, but it’s a huge phone that will prove too hefty for many. It also has a 6-inch 1080p display with a smaller battery than the Moto G4, translating to inferior battery life. The only reason to buy the XA Ultra is if you care only about having the biggest phone.

(Photos by Ryan Whitwam.)


Published at Tue, 09 May 2017 16:02:50 +0000

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