There are new smartphones hitting the market constantly, but which is the best to pick up when you’re trying to save a buck or two? We’ve seen some great launches this summer and we’re only expecting more over the coming months, but for now, let’s go over the best affordable Android smartphones you can go pick up today…
Nomad case for Pixel 3
NEW FOR NOVEMBER:
ZTE Axon 7 Mini
Like it’s bigger brother, the ZTE Axon 7 Mini is a solid bang-for-your-buck smartphone, offering specs just below that of a flagship with the same premium build you’d find on smartphones double the cost. Coming in at $299, the Axon 7 Mini brings a 5.2-inch 1080p AMOLED display, Snapdragon 617 processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a 2,705 mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0. ZTE also keeps up its audio performance with dual front facing speakers, HiFi audio through the built-in DAC, and Dolby Atmos playback for improved quality across the board. There’s also a 16MP rear camera, 8MP front-facing shooter, and a fingerprint sensor on the back.
Retail pricing on the Axon 7 Mini usually lands at $299, but we’ve seen it go on sale already for $249. Like most other unlocked devices, the Axon 7 Mini is compatible with GSM carriers including AT&T and T-Mobile in the US. You can pick it up through Amazon, Best Buy, or B&HPhoto.
LeEco Le S3
LeEco made its US debut last month, and with that comes the Le S3. This mid-range smartphone which retails for $249 brings a 5.5-inch Full HD display, all-metal build, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and full compatibility with US GSM carriers. It also brings a 16MP rear camera, 8MP front facing camera, USB C, rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and even an IR blaster.
The retail price of $249 for the this is already a solid price, but when you buy during LeEco’s flash sales, you can grab it for just $150, easily making it one of the best values on the market. Granted, you’ll have to put up with LeEco’s very heavy EUI skin over Android Marshmallow…
FROM EARLIER THIS YEAR:
Moto Z Play
We first heard about the Moto Z Play at IFA 2016, and now the phone is on sale both through Verizon Wireless and Unlocked. This new $449 smartphone isn’t the least expensive device on this list, but it is the least expensive way to enter the world of MotoMods, by far. The device is compatible with the same MotoMods as the Moto Z and Moto Z Force, but this device changes things up by offering a 5.5-inch 1080p display, a 2.0GHz octa-core chipset, 3GB of RAM, and a 16MP rear camera.
The biggest highlight of the Moto Z Play is by far its battery. While the Moto Z Force impressed us with its great battery life, the Moto Z Play extends that battery life by over 10 hours by packing a 3,600 mAh battery. That’s 50 hours in total, pretty impressive to say the least.
One of the devices we need to talk about is the new Honor 8. For just $399, this device is nothing short of great. It brings a great looking, premium feeling metal and glass build with a compact 5.2-inch display and rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. Also on the back, you’ll find a dual-camera system similar to the Huawei P9..
Under the hood, the Honor 8 brings the Huawei-made Kirin 950 octa-core chipset, 4GB of RAM, up to 64GB of storage, Android Marshmallow with EMUI 4.0, and a 3,000 mAh battery with USB C. The Honor 8 has been very well received so far and has also just gone on sale in the US. Pricing starts at $399 and goes up to $449. You can pick it up from Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Newegg, and of course Honor itself. The Honor 8 is compatible with all GSM carriers.
You can also read our review here.
BLU Pure XR
BLU has been very popular in the affordable phone space for a while now and with its latest option the company lands on this list yet again. The new BLU Pure XR is a flagship for the manufacturer, and at just $299 it’s a pretty solid deal. For that price you’ll get an all-metal build, MediaTek Helio P10 processor, 4GB of RAM, Android Marshmallow, USB C, a fingerprint sensor, 16MP/8MP cameras, and a 3,000 mAh battery.
On the front you’ll also find a 5.5-inch SuperAMOLED display with Gorilla Glass 3. BLU has also made it a point to emphasize the 3D-Touch capable display, bringing some iOS-like tricks to the phone. For the price, the Pure XR seems pretty solid, and like most of BLU’s other devices, this one is GSM only, so you’ll be able to use it on AT&T, T-Mobile, and other GSM carriers here in the US. You can pick it up through Amazon or Best Buy.
ZTE Warp 7
The ZTE Warp 7 is the latest in the collection of carrier-specific ZTE Android smartphones, this time on Boost Mobile. The device is available now for just $99 and brings a 5-inch, 720p display, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, a 1.2GHz Qualcomm processor, and Android Marshmallow. It also brings a large 3,080 mAh battery with Quick Charge support and of course it brings LTE connectivity and 13MP/5MP cameras.
Moto G4 Play
Another device available this month is another addition to the popular Moto G4 series. The new Moto G4 Play brings a smaller size at just 5-inches, also with slightly lesser specifications. The Moto G4 Play brings a Snapdragon 410 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage a 720p display, 8MP/5MP cameras, and Android Marshmallow. Really, this is just a cheap version of the standard Moto G4. It has the same software and design and starts at just $149 unlocked for use on any carrier. Alternatively, you can get it for as little as $99 if you opt for the ad-supported Prime Exclusive edition.
ASUS Zenfone 3/ZenFone 3 Laser
Another solid mid-range option comes from ASUS. The ZenFone 3 lineup includes a range of different smartphones from all ends of the spectrum. You’ve got the cheap, yet solid devices all the way up to the expensive, powerful options. Two of those we’d like to highlight are the standard ZenFone 3 and the ZenFone 3 Laser.
The standard ZenFone 3 comes in at $369 unlocked and brings a 5.5-inch display, Snadragon 625 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. Further, it offers a 16MP rear camera, 8MP front facing camera, and its available unlocked for use on any GSM network. As far is hardware is concerned, the ZenFone 3 brings a premium metal/glass build with a fingerprint sensor mounted under the rear camera. The phone is also available in three colors — Shimmer Gold, Sapphire Black, and Moonlight White.
On the other hand, there’s the ZenFone 3 Laser. At $199 it brings a metal build with specifications that, while still respectable, are more towards the bottom of the spectrum. It brings a 5.5-inch 1080p display, Snapdragon 430 processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage with a microSD card slot, and dual-SIM connectivity (GSM only). Like the name implies, the ZenFone 3 Laser brings laser auto-focus to the 13MP rear camera. There’s also an 8MP front facing camera. As mentioned, the starting price for this model is $199, but you can also upgrade the specs to either a Snapdragon 625 or 820 for $200 and $300 extra respectively.
ZTE ZMax Pro
Cheap phones are hardly ever good, but the $99 ZTE ZMax Pro is easily the best option at its price point. For that price you’ll get a massive 6-inch display, Snapdragon 617 processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. It also comes with a 13MP rear camera, 3,400 mAh battery, and even a fingerprint sensor. These same specs are found on devices which are far more expensive, so for $99 this is a fantastic deal, however it’s not without compromises.
For now the ZMax Pro is an exclusive to MetroPCS and only comes down to $99 after a rebate. You can unlock it for use on other GSM networks, but only after 3 months of active service. You can learn more about the ZMax Pro in our full review here. If you’re looking to buy, it’s available now through MetroPCS.
ZTE Axon 7
The second device from ZTE to land on this list is the Axon 7. Starting at just $399, the Axon 7 packs a 5.5-inch AMOLED display, an all-metal design, front facing speakers, and premium specifications including the top of the line Snapdragon 820 chipset. It also packs an insane 6GB of RAM and support for Google Daydream.
The ZTE Axon 7 is available for purchase from ZTE, Amazon, and many other retailers around the web for $399 unlocked for use on GSM carriers. Alternatively, you can also grab the slightly smaller and cheaper Axon 7 Mini.
Alcatel IDOL 4S
There’s also the Alcatel IDOL 4s. This one hits our budget cap at $399, but for that price it’s a fantastic phone. The design is made up from glass and metal with a 5.5-inch QHD AMOLED display, Snapdragon 652 processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 16MP rear camera, and a 3,000 mAh battery. The device’s packaging also doubles as a VR headset with several pre-loaded VR applications. There’s also a fingerprint sensor on the rear and stereo speakers on both sides of the phone.
Moto G4 Family
After debuting last month, the Moto G4 family continues to be one of the best budget options available right now. Starting at $199 you’ll get the standard G4 with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. An extra $30 will double the storage. The G4 Plus, on the other hand, will start at $249 for the 16GB model with 2GB of RAM, but you can also upgrade to the top tier model to get 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM for another $50 ($299).
Both phones share 5.5-inch 1080p displays with Gorilla Glass 3 and the Snapdragon 617 processor under the hood. They also both pack 3,000 mAh batteries with support for fast charging. Last but not least, they also both share near-stock builds of Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
The differences come into play in the camera department. Both have 5MP front cameras, but the standard G4 has a 13MP sensor with the G4 Plus getting a slightly better 16MP sensor with Lenovo’s ‘Hybrid Focus’ autofocus system. The G4 Plus also packs a fingerprint sensor on the front which can recognize and unlock the phone in less than 750 milliseconds.
One of the big highlights to keep in mind with this device is that it’s not only unlocked, but compatible with all major US carriers. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and just about everyone else is compatible — just pop in a SIM and go. Both devices are available now with full MotoMaker customization. You can also pick up the Moto G4 or Moto G4 Plus on Amazon, with a “prime-exclusive” Moto G4 also available starting at $149.