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’re expecting some great new releases over the coming months, but for now, let’s go over the best affordable Android smartphones you can go pick up today…
NEW FOR MAY:
ZTE Max XL
Following on the success of last year’s Zmax Pro, ZTE has recently released the ZTE Max XL for Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile. The new $129 smartphone includes a pretty outstanding collection of specifications for the price, including a Snapdragon 435, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a 6-inch 1080p display. The build is, of course, entirely plastic, but offers up a grippy texture on the back and a fingerprint sensor as well.
The Max XL also includes Android 7.1.1 out of the box with a very clean, near-stock build of the OS. There are only a handful of changes through the UI, and most aren’t bad at all. The phone also includes a giant battery, measuring in at 3,990 mAh with USB-C charging with Quick Charge 2.0.
For the foreseeable future, the ZTE Max XL will be exclusive to Sprint, Boost, and Virgin Mobile. Regardless, it’s one of the best devices you’re going to get for this sort of price point. Currently, orders are only available on Boost Mobile.
FROM EARLIER THIS YEAR:
Moto G5/Moto G5 Plus
Motorola made its return to MWC this year with two new G Series phones in tow ─ the Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus. While the former won’t be coming to the US, both make up solid options for the mid-range Android market. The Moto G5 offers a 5-inch 1080p display, Snapdragon 430, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, 2,800 mAh battery, and Android Nougat out of the box. It also comes with a 13MP rear camera and is available now in Europe for €199.
The Moto G5 Plus, on the other hand, is available in the US. It offers up a slightly larger 5.2-inch 1080p display, larger 3,000 mAh battery, and a stronger processing package with the Snapdragon 625, up to 4GB of RAM, and up to 64GB of storage. The 12MP camera also offers up better low-light performance compared to what’s found in the Moto G5.
Both of these phones also feature fingerprint sensors and full metal builds. The Moto G5 Plus is available now via outlets such as Amazon and B&HPhoto. Amazon also offers the 64/4GB variant with ads for just $239.
Another phone in Amazon’s refreshed collection of Prime Exclusive devices is the Alcatel A30. This is a very bare-bones device, but considering its price of just $60 unlocked, it’s not a bad deal at all.
The device runs on top of the Snapdragon 210 chipset, offers up Android Nougat out of the box, 16GB of storage with a microSD card, and a 5-inch 720p display. There’s also an 8MP rear camera and 5MP front facing, along with front-facing speakers. Sounds pretty good for $60 right?
The main caveat is the presence of Amazon’s ads, but forking over an extra $40 will get you an ad-free version. One of the awesome extras is that this device is also available for Verizon customers.
Amazon currently has the A30 in GSM and CDMA variants.
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. Plus, it should prove to be even better with the enhanced Doze mode which just rolled out to both the Verizon and unlocked variants of the phone with Android Nougat.
After debuting in China last year, Honor brought the successor to the popular Honor 5X, the Honor 6X, to the United States at CES 2017. As expected, the Honor 6X brings a 5.5-inch 108op display, Huawei’s in-house Kirin 655 chipset, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a new dual-camera system on the rear.
The dual-camera brings one 12MP sensor paired with a secondary 2MP sensor. Like the Honor 8 and Mate 9, the secondary camera is a monochrome sensor which helps sharpen photos especially in low light conditions. On the front, there’s also an 8MP camera. The Honor 6X also brings a fingerprint sensor on the rear and a large 3,340 mAh battery. Plus, the entire phone is built from aluminum and feels absolutely spectacular in the hand.
That all sounds pretty decent for a $249 device, but the Honor 6X isn’t without compromise. The phone lacks NFC as well as USB-C. Rather, it uses the older microUSB standard. Those could be deal breakers for you, but if you’re interested in checking out the 6X, it’s currently available from Amazon, Newegg, Best Buy, and various other retailers unlocked for $249. Keep in mind, too, that Android Nougat with EMUI 5.0 now available for the device, and it vastly improves the experience…
One of the devices we need to talk about is the 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, and a 3,000 mAh battery with USB-C. The Honor 8 has been very well received so far, but it’s an even better device now that Android Nougat has landed with EMUI 5.0. Pricing starts at $399 and goes up to $449, although we’ve seen deals as low as $299 recently.
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.
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. It’s even been on sale for $349 recently. Plus, it now has the added bonus of Android Nougat.
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.
Moto G4 Family
After debuting a while back, the Moto G4 family continues to be one of the best budget options available right now, even with the Moto G5 now available. 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 Nougat.
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 — 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.
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