Just because the main focus in mobile tech is placed on flagships doesn’t mean that there isn’t any interest in smartphones that are a little more economical. I’m quite pleased that we’ve come to a point in the industry where “affordable” isn’t always synonymous with “deplorable piece of junk”. Whether you’re looking for a new daily driver out of necessity or you just want to try something different, it’s nice to know that you don’t always have to drop a fat sack of cash to do so.
Here I’ve compiled a list (in no particular order) of 7 low-cost smartphones that not only perform well, but are also easy on the wallet.
If you liked the way the HTC One M9 looked but you didn’t like the price tag attached to it, then you might be one of the few people that will be pleased about the fact that the M9 is nearly identical to the M8. While the M9 is better on paper, most will agree that it doesn’t do much to displace the M8. The M8 does use the 4-megapixel UltraPixel camera that has kept the HTC One line in hot water since the beginning – and it is noticeable once if you plan on viewing the photos on anything but the phone itself – but the photos are still not that bad.
Aside from that you have the awesome dual front-facing speakers, decent battery life, microSD card support, and depending on your carrier you’ll even see an upgrade to Marshmallow. While a new M8 would run you about $500 from HTC’s website, you can easily find new, used, and refurbished options for a fraction of the cost just about anywhere else.
The Moto G is a great option for a number of reasons: its price tag starts out below $200, vast amounts of customization options, and microSD card support (which is good considering that the Moto G only offers 8 and 16GB options for internal storage). The device is also waterproof and features Android 6.0 Marshmallow, so you’re up to speed concerning software. With that in mind, it’s important to note that while the Moto G overall does a fine job doing typical smartphone things (social media, web browsing, calling, texting, etc.) it was never equipped to be a device that ran graphic-intensive games. The camera also isn’t the most impressive, either. Still, the Moto G is a terrific phone for the affordable price of $179.99, and the customization can’t be beat.
“Affordable” is a term that’s entirely subjective, and the $349 price tag on the Nexus 5X borders on my definition of “affordable”. However, the device seems to go on sale enough that it’s definitely worth a mention. One of two Nexus devices released late last year, LG’s Nexus 5X is an upgrade from the 2013 Nexus 5. The device features a stock Android experience, a fingerprint sensor, and always among the first to receive the latest updates to Android (as well as monthly security updates). While the 5X is lacking certain desirable features (no microSD card), its other features make up for it.
OnePlus X is a device that has the premium look without the premium price. While performance won’t be that of a flagship, the device is considerably more powerful than your average budget smartphone - 3GB of RAM gives you plenty of power for multitasking. The 13-megapixel rear-facing shooter is also an impressive addition, although it’s not going to give you the great low-light shots that the M8 would be able to give you (which is probably the one saving grace of the UltraPixel camera). OnePlus X also features an AMOLED display, which only adds to the device’s beauty. With a beautiful design and decent specs, the $249 price tag of the OnePlus X is well worth it.
Huawei has been making headlines recently here stateside thanks to the Nexus 6P flagship. However, the Chinese company also has a new budget smartphone available to U.S. consumers, the Honor 5X. The most attractive features of the 5X is its full-metal unibody design and addition of a fingerprint sensor, both of which are a rare find on the budget end of the smartphone industry. Specs are about what you would expect out of a $200 phone, but nothing so shabby that you’d really notice unless you’re performing some really intensive activities. Overall, the Honor 5X is among the most beautiful and affordable on this list.
With a large 5.5-inch display and dual front-facing speakers, the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 is one of the better budget options on the market. The OneTouch Idol 3 also has a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, along with an impressive 8-megapixel front facing camera. Powered by a Snapdragon 615 processor and 2GB of RAM, this phablet-sized smartphone is a great option for the budget-savvy smartphone shopper. Alternatively, there's a more compact 4.7-inch version of the Idol 3 as well. The 4.7-inch version sells for $179.99, and the 5.5.-inch sells for $249.99.
It wouldn’t be fair to leave out Windows Phone / Windows Mobile 10 devices simply because they’re not that popular. After all, the platform still performs quite well with minimal specs. The Lumia 640 is one of the best buys for the money when it comes to Windows Phone, which sell for $79.95 from Amazon. The 8-megapixel camera performs quite well, which comes as no surprise coming from the Nokia Lumia line. The matte polycarbonate casing for this phone is hardly ever referred to as “premium”, but rest assured that this phone is quite durable, regardless. For less than $80, the features you get on the Lumia 640 are excellent. The biggest drawback is, of course, the app gap – but if apps are of little importance anyway, the 640 is definitely worth a look.
Readers, when it comes to phones at a "budget" price, which ones are your faves? Let us know in the comments below!