If you’re looking to buy a phone for someone else, chances are you’d rather not go all-out and get a top-tier phone on a contract. Rather, especially if you’re buying for an Android fan, it would make more sense to just buy an affordable unlocked device. And on this side of things, that’s fine because in many cases you’ll be getting the same capabilities as those more expensive options…
Moto G4 & G4 Play
One no-brainer if you’re looking for a solid smartphone on the cheap has always been the Moto G series from Motorola. The Moto G4 and G4 Play, specifically, are great options for the price.
The G4 is the better of the two with its 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS LCD Display, rear 13MP camera and 5MP front shooter, 1.5 GHz Snapdragon 617 octa-core SoC, 16GB or 32GB of storage, and Android Marshmallow 6.0.1.
On the other hand, the Moto G4 Play has a 5-inch display, a Snapdragon 410 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, a 720p display, 8MP/5MP cameras, and Android Marshmallow.
There are lots of deals available on both of these handsets, and you’ll just have to go with whatever is best for you. As for the Moto G4, Amazon is offering it as of today from $180 shipped without ads for the 16GB model, or $130 shipped with ads for the 16GB model. Alternatively, the G4 Play is available without ads for $130 shipped, and with ads for $100 shipped.
Perhaps one of the more underrated Android handsets that you should buy this holiday season is the Honor 8 from Huawei. Even at its retail price of $400, this phone is fantastic. While it isn’t without compromise, you would be hard-pressed to find a better bang for your buck than this metal-and-glass build high-powered smartphone packing Huawei’s powerful Kirin 950, the latest version of Android, and more.
It brings a premium glass front and back build with a 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. There’s also 4GB of RAM, up to 64GB of storage, Android Marshmallow with EMUI 5.0 (soon), and a 3,000 mAh battery with USB-C. It’s unlocked and compatible with all GSM carriers.
Be sure to read our full review, in which we praised the phone for its stellar cameras. The phone is rated 4.3 out of 5 stars from 103 Amazon customers. You would be crazy not to grab it from Amazon for the current low of just $260 shipped, which is a solid discount off its $400 retail.
ZTE Axon 7 Mini
Like many of the other phones in this list, the ZTE Axon 7 Mini is a solid smartphone per dollar. It brings a 5.2-inch 1080p AMOLED display, a Snapdragon 617 system-on-a-chip, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a 2,705 mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0. There’s also a 16MP rear camera, 8MP front-facing shooter, and a fingerprint sensor around back. And like more premium smartphones, the 7 Mini also sports a premium metal build.
Other than its solid specs, ZTE also brings better-than-average audio performance with its dual front-facing speakers, HiFi audio via its built-in DAC, and Dolby Atmos playback for improved audio quality no matter how you’re listening.
Retail pricing on the Axon 7 Mini lands at $299, but we’ve seen it on sale for $200. For now, you’ll be able to get it for just $200 shipped from both Amazon and Best Buy. But considering it’s Black Friday weekend, there’s no telling how long those prices will stick around. As it is an unlocked device, the Axon 7 Mini will work with GSM carriers including AT&T and T-Mobile in the US.
Moto Z Play
Lenovo announced the Moto Z Play at IFA 2016, and while it’s definitely not cheap, it’s still pretty affordable — especially for what you get. Specifically, you get a portal into Lenovo’s modular ecosystem known as the MotoMods, which were introduced with the standard Moto Z. This device has a 5.5-inch 1080p display, a 2.0GHz octa-core chipset, 3GB of RAM, and a 16MP rear camera.
But if you want to talk specs, the biggest highlight with the Moto Z Play is definitely its battery life — which is something that matters to most people. The standard Moto Z was choked in this area by its super-thin design, but the Moto Z Play will last you up to 50 hours via its 3,600 mAh battery.
While we haven’t seen it on sale this holiday season yet (I would stay tuned for that), you can grab the Moto Z Play in its 32GB variant from Amazon for just $450 shipped — or add $50 to that an get a Moto Mod like the projector or Hasselblad camera in the package.
ZTE ZMax Pro
Finally, if you really want to go the super-affordable route, there’s the $99 ZTE ZMax Pro. At this tiny price point, you get a lot of stuff: a 6-inch display, a Snapdragon 617 processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 13MP rear camera, 3,400 mAh battery, and even a fingerprint sensor.
But there are some downsides with this device, of course — just like with any other. If you grab this phone you’re stuck with MetroPCS, and that $99 price tag only comes after a non-negligible $80 rebate. After 3 months service, you’ll be able to use it outside of MetroPCS if you want. Be sure to check out our full review, and if you’re already sold, head over to the MetroPCS website.