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
ZTE Axon 7
Since the holidays are upon us and many are likely looking for gifts, we decided to specifically highlight our top pick this month for an affordable device, and the pick was pretty obvious ─ the ZTE Axon 7.
If you want a flagship experience, but at a slightly lower price point, the ZTE Axon 7 is an option worth considering. Starting at just $399, the Axon 7 packs a 5.5-inch AMOLED display, 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. All of that combined makes for an absolutely fantastic smartphone, and at its price tag of just $399, it’s easily one of the best bang-for-your-buck deals out there today.
NEW FOR DECEMBER:
As we approach the end of the year, sadly, there’s nothing new to report in the budget phone space. However, with CES 2017 just weeks away, we expect that to change very soon… Stay tuned.
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 (for free with monthly financing) 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, although we’ve seen deals as low as $299 recently. You can pick it up from Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Newegg, and of course Honor directly. The Honor 8 is compatible with all GSM carriers.
You can also read our review here.
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.
ASUS Zenfone 3 Deluxe/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 ZenFone 3 Deluxe comes in at $369 unlocked from Amazon or Best Buy 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. It’s also available from Amazon and Best Buy.
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 as well as T-Mobile.
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 of 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.
You can order the IDOL 4S now from Alcatel for $399 with a free set of JBL headphones and Incipio case along with the phone. Alternatively, the device is also available from Amazon. If the VR headset isn’t for you, the IDOL 4S is also available phone-only on Amazon for $349.
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. The new Moto G4 Play brings a smaller size at just 5-inches, also with slightly lesser specifications. It also 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.
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…
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