You don’t need a flagship to get a good Android experience, not anymore. With initiatives like Android One and Android Go, and Google’s own step into the affordable market, Google has made mid-range and even low-range devices usable again. With so many options on the market now, it’s hard to tell which ones are even worth your time. Let’s dig through and get to know the best affordable Android phones you can buy, as of March 2020.
BEST AFFORDABLE ANDROID PHONES – May 2019
New for May:
Google Pixel 3a / Pixel 3a XL – New for May
The full Google Pixel experience, made affordable
For the last three years, Google’s Pixel phones have been the pinnacle of the Android phone experience. Pixel phones offer consistent, monthly updates, exceptional camera quality, and a pleasantly near-stock Android OS. Thus far, this experience has come at a flagship price (barring purchasing an older, discounted model).
That all changed with the launch of the Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL at Google I/O almost one year ago. While not spec sheet stuffers like some other devices, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL have the most important spec secured: an identical rear-facing camera to the one found on last years flagship Pixel 3.
If you really do care about the specs, there are some important differences you should be aware of. For example, the Pixel 3a has a 5.6-inch, 2220×1080 display, while the Pixel 3a XL, the larger phone, has a 6-inch display with a smaller resolution of 2160×1080. Thankfully, both models still feature OLED panels. Additionally, the Pixel 3a XL has a 3700mAh battery to the smaller Pixel 3a’s 3000mAh one.
Beyond these core differences, the devices are identical, with a Snapdragon 670 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. The Pixel 3’s “glass sandwich” design has been replaced with a plastic back, which can honestly be seen as positive or negative, depending on whether you prefer design or durability.
Audiophiles will also be happy to know that the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL feature a traditional 3.5mm headphone jack on the top of the device.
Why it’s arguably still the best affordable Android phone you can buy:
The Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL feel, outside of the obvious hardware differences, almost identical to the more expensive Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. Combining that experience with a $399 starting price makes for an extremely compelling offer.
Where to buy Google Pixel 3a / Pixel 3a XL:
Unlike Pixels past, the Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are not carrier exclusive to Verizon in the US, but can both be purchased from Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and US Mobile. For a brief time, all the main carriers offered $100 off both phones, but it seems Sprint is the last carrier with this offer, making the Pixel 3a essentially $299.
As always, though, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL can be purchased unlocked from a variety of retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo, and Walmart for $399 and $479 respectively. At the time of writing, Best Buy has the best deal, offering a $100 discount off the Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL if you choose to activate the phone immediately.
The best Android One device you can get, with Nokia durability
With the Nokia 7.1, the company solidified its strong comeback in the world of Android, having spent enough years chasing after the Windows Phone market. Powered by a Snapdragon 636 processor, the Nokia 7.1 features 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, 3000mAh battery, dual SIM card slots, a microSD card slot, a headphone port, and a fingerprint scanner. The phone has a 5.8-inch 1080p notched display with HDR support.
Running on Android One, the Nokia 7.1 offers the absolute best of stock Android, without any OEM tastes, styles, or opinions getting in the way. This makes for a much snappier experience than you would expect from a phone less than half the price of most flagships. The Nokia 7.1 even recently received an update to Android Pie late last year.
For cameras, the Nokia 7.1 showcases a 12MP rear camera supported by a 5MP camera used to sense depth for things like the bokeh effect. There’s also an 8MP camera hiding in the display notch, for your selfie needs.
Why it’s the best affordable Android phone you can buy:
As our own Damien Wilde noted in his full review of the Nokia 7.1, the phone is tough, as we’ve all come to expect. In the era of dropping a phone and breaking the phone, Nokia devices were joked to instead break the floor. Some of this ruggedness carries through in the Nokia 7.1, offering sturdy metal edges and a healthy amount of weight in the hands. However, the glass back detracts from its durable form.
Its durability, spec sheet, and inclusion of still-loved features that many flagships have dropped, like the microSD card slot and the headphone jack, make the Nokia 7.1 an easy recommendation, even if you weren’t specifically in the market for an “affordable” Android phone.
Where to buy Nokia 7.1:
The Nokia 7.1 is available in two colors, Blue and Steel, both ringing in at $349, from Amazon, Best Buy, and B&H Photo. Like most other devices in our list, the Nokia 7.1 is not available direct from carriers, but the unlocked version will work with any GSM carriers (like AT&T and T-Mobile) in the US.
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
The best phone not coming to the United States
The Xiaomi Pocophone F1 manages to strike an excellent balance. The important flagship specs to make the phone as fast as you could ever need are matched by sensible compromises to keep the Android device affordable.
In raw specifications, the Pocophone F1 outpaces or at least matches flagship contenders like the Pixel 3 and OnePlus 6T, packing a Snapdragon 845, 6GB of RAM, 128GB or 256GB of storage, and a headphone jack to boot.
With a retail price of around $300 USD, you’re likely wondering how Xiaomi has managed to pull this off. The answer is compromises. While most “flagship” phones are built with premium materials like glass, aluminum, or stainless steel, the Pocophone F1 is simply plastic.
The Pocophone F1 also uses an unimpressive 5.99-inch, 2246×1080 resolution display. As Damien notes in his review the screen itself also attracts smudges and dirt. Under the surface, Xiaomi also cut NFC capabilities, which means wireless payment solutions like Google Pay are unavailable (though this could be resolved with the right Wear OS device).
Some may also consider the Pocophone’s use of Xiaomi’s MIUI to be a downside. If you’re unfamiliar, suffice it to say, don’t expect the traditional Android experience on the Pocophone F1. Unlike many devices on this list though, the Pocophone F1 has received the update to Android Pie, which is a plus.
Why it’s the best affordable Android phone you can buy:
The Xiaomi Pocophone F1 is optimized for those who want a high-powered phone but don’t have a flagship budget. Coming in at prices that translate to about $300 in the US, the Xiaomi Pocophone F1 is an obvious choice for many enthusiasts in the European market, including the UK.
Unfortunately, the Pocophone F1 is entirely unavailable in North America, and has little-to-no support for the cell bands used by US carriers. This means you shouldn’t even attempt to import it, as it outright will not work.
Where to buy Xiaomi Pocophone F1:
Where you can buy the Xiaomi Pocophone F1 and how much it will cost varies from country to country. The official Pocophone website has a proper list of where to buy the phone depending on your country.
Despite not working properly, you can still pick it up on Amazon in the US for just over $300 if you just want something for WiFi-only use.
OTHER EXCELLENT AFFORDABLE ANDROID SMARTPHONES
Motorola Moto G7 / G7 Power
The latest in the Moto G series, the Moto G7, G7 Power, and G7 Play, continue in the tradition of offering fair specs at a fair price. All three models feature the same Snapdragon 632 processor, which should ensure mostly consistent performance, give or take the differences in RAM.
The standard Motorola Moto G7 is built on the solid foundation of 4GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage space. Externally, the Moto G7 also features a 6.2-inch, 2270×1080 display with a waterdrop notch, dual (12MP / 5MP) rear cameras, and a rear fingerprint sensor. You can pick up the standard Moto G7 for $269 from Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo, and Google Fi.
The next model down, is the Moto G7 Power, which has a bit less RAM at 3GB, and only 32GB of storage. It also takes a big step down in resolution with a 6.2″ 1520×720 display. While these may be somewhat steep downgrades, the G7 Power has a huge advantage in the battery. Compared to the standard G7 and the G7 Play’s 3000mAh battery, the G7 Power has a massive 5000mAh battery. This model is currently available from Best Buy for $249 and B&H Photo for $229.
For another $50 discount, you can pick up the Moto G7 Play with a meager 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. For the same price though, you’d be better off picking up an Android One phone from elsewhere on this list.
Motorola Moto Z3 Play
With a Snapdragon 636, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage space, and a 3,000mAh battery, the Moto Z3 Play seems like any other affordable Android phone on this list. What makes it special is the ability to add on Motorola’s signature Moto Mods, which can deliver things like a bigger battery (included from most retailers), a better camera, or even a full on projector.
The Moto Z3 Play is definitely targeted at those who believe that smartphones can be more. For some, as our Damien Wilde points out in his review, the device’s modular nature can be, instead, frustrating.
As of February, this device can now be updated to Android Pie, making it a slightly better option.
Honor View 10 / View 20
Huawei’s Honor sub-brand is focused on making great, budget-friendly Android phones, and the Honor View 10 is no exception. For a retail price of $499 (now down to about $415 on Amazon), you get a Kirin 970 processor, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage space.
Unlike some newer phones from Huawei, the Honor View 10 should work on some American carriers, including some 4G support. The View 10’s successor, the Honor View 20, has recently hit the international market, but it doesn’t have the same support for US carriers. If you’re stateside, you want the View 10, otherwise, consider the View 20.
The only gaming phone on this list is the Honor Play, also from Huawei’s budget-friendly sub-brand Honor. With the Kirin 970 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage space and a microSD card slot, the Honor Play is ready to tear through whatever games you may throw at it.
It’s very rare to see “budget-friendly” and “gaming” together these days, especially in the world of Android phones. With a listed price of about $279 on Amazon, the Honor Play is an easy choice for gamers looking for a dedicated device. I’m also a touch partial to this phone due to its use by Huawei to test Fuchsia.
Unfortunately, like many newer Huawei devices, the Honor Play is hampered by its very limited support for American wireless networks.
Sony Xperia 10 / Xperia 10 Plus
Like the Xperia XA2 before it, Sony’s latest phones, the Xperia 10 and 10 Plus, do not boast the most elegant design. While many phones have caved to the trend of display notches, the Xperia 10 makes a strong statement with its large “forehead” of an upper bezel. But what it lacks in looks, the Xperia 10 makes up for in solid specs and affordability.
The core spec that Sony is attempting to draw attention to is that both devices carry a 2520×1080 resolution, 21:9 aspect ratio display, making them perfect for watching movies “the way they are meant to be seen.” Our Damien Wilde got the chance to spend some hands-on time with them, so be sure to check out his impressions.
The smaller Xperia 10 features a Snapdragon 630, 3GB of RAM, 64GB of storage (expandable via microSD), and a 6″ display. Around back of the device, you’ll find a dual 13MP/5MP camera array with support for 4K video recording and the bokeh effect. You can pick this model up for $350.
The most noticeable difference in the Xperia 10 Plus is its 6.5″ display, but under the hood it packs a slightly better battery, a Snapdragon 636 and 4GB of RAM. The dual cameras on this model have been tweaked to 12MP/8MP, otherwise offering the same trimmings. This model steps a little further away from affordability though, at $430.
- Amazon US – Xperia 10
- Amazon US – Xperia 10 Plus
- B&H Photo – Xperia 10
- B&H Photo – Xperia 10 Plus
- Best Buy – Xperia 10
- Best Buy – Xperia 10 Plus
EXCELLENT ANDROID ONE SMARTPHONES
If you’re looking for the stock Android experience, look no further than Android One. Android One is Google’s push for consistency, against the well-meaning but sometimes power-hungry OEM themes placed on top of Android. Devices running Android One have an almost Pixel-like stock Android experience.
Also, by being able to skip porting (or updating) their custom theme to the latest version of Android, manufacturers are normally able to bring the latest versions of Android and security updates to Android One devices in a timely manner. As far as affordable Android phones go, it’s hard not to recommend one running Android One.
Nokia 4.2 – New for May
Nokia has truly cornered the market for great affordable Android One phones. The best model in their lineup to get the best of affordability and great features is the Nokia 4.2. It features a Snapdragon 439 processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage space. The device comes in black and pink, with the pink being reminiscent of (but much bolder than) the Google Pixel 3’s “Not Pink.”
Despite these reduced specs, compared to the 7.1 and 8.1, the Nokia 4.2 is still easy to recommend, thanks to “premium” features like a Google Assistant button and face unlock. Combined with Android One’s consistent updates and a retail price of $189, the Nokia 4.2 strikes the perfect balance for its price range.
As you may expect, though, the Nokia 4.2 only works on GSM networks in the US.
EXCELLENT ANDROID GO SMARTPHONES
Android Go specializes in making Android work for the tightest of budgets of all kinds — financial, mobile data, storage, etc. Android Go includes slimmed-down versions of the Google apps you know and love, that also slim down on data usage where possible. Their availability in the United States is extremely limited, however, which makes selection difficult.
If it hasn’t already been made clear, Alcatel takes making affordable Android phones very seriously, and the Alcatel 1X, the first Android Go phone, is no exception. For the easily affordable price of $89, the Alcatel 1X features a MediaTek chip, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a tiny 960×480 display.
Despite the otherwise meager specs, Android Go is able to compensate and make the phone feel “quick,” according to hands-on reports.
At CES this year, Alcatel unveiled a revamped 1X for 2019 and the new Alcatel 1C. Neither model has launched in the US yet, but may be worth considering, if you’re able to wait before buying.
As with many other devices on this list, the Alcatel 1X only supports GSM carriers in the US.
Asus ZenFone Live
At only $60, the Asus ZenFone Live is a solid choice, for an affordable Android Go phone. In fact, it even sports a Snapdragon 425 processor and a 1440×720 display, which is more than can be said for most other Android Go phones released so far.
Otherwise, the ZenFone Live’s specs are still weak, but fitting for the price range, with 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage. You also still have Asus’s ZenUI 5 laid on top of Android Oreo (Go edition).
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