Best budget phones

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The best phones in the world long carried expensive price tags that weren’t attainable for many of us, but now “great” phones can be had for less money than ever before. Paying $700 isn’t necessary anymore. Shop online or stroll through a retail store and you’ll see phones listed below $400. Those phones, maybe to your surprise, are potentially worth every penny.

Let’s check out the best budget phones around.

Because the phrase “budget phone” is highly subjective and varies by person, our list of the best budget phones covers seven devices at multiple price points.

Editor’s Note: This list will be updated on a monthly basis or when necessary. Each time there’s a change, we will note where that happened.

Motorola Moto E (2015)

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Motorola changed the game within the low-end segment back in 2014 when the original Moto E was introduced to the world. Never before did we see a budget-friendly device from a top hardware manufacturer with this type of value. Then, one year later, the Moto E (2015) added 4G LTE connectivity while maintaining the well-liked pricing.

 Motorola Moto E (2015)
AnnouncedFebruary 25, 2015
ReleaseFebruary 2015
Display4.5-inch (960x540) IPS LCD with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 200 / Qualcomm Snapdragon 410
RAM1GB
Storage8GB with microSD card slot
Rear Camera5MP with autofocus
Front CameraVGA
Battery2390mAh (non-removable)
Chargingmicro-USB
SoundIntegrated mono speaker
SoftwareAndroid 5.1 Lollipop
ConnectivityBluetooth 4.0 LE, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
SensorsAmbient, proximity, accelerometer
Measurements129.9 x 66.8 x 12.3mm
Weight145g
ColorsBlack, White

The bargain bin-like price didn’t stop Motorola from getting its signature features in to exceed expectations for a low-end phone. The Moto E has a Moto Display, Moto Assist, and Moto Quick Capture — all features we’ve seen the company’s mid-range and high-end devices. Moto Display makes it possible to view and interact with notifications without picking up your phone; Moto Assist tailors the phone’s behave to your lifestyle; Moto Quick Capture launches the camera with the flick of a wrist. All of these are stored and managed in the Moto app.

Motorola launched Alert shortly after the Moto E was released, and it’s a terrific service for sharing your location with important people. When activated, it’ll periodically share your location with designated people so they know where you are at a given time. This is especially useful for children and the elderly that others want to check in on,

Although Moto Maker isn’t available for the phone, you can still add your personality to the Moto E with bands and grip shells. They’ll show your personality and save you money on accessories.

While Motorola is selling the Moto E with 4G LTE for $149, Amazon has it available for just $83. Select carriers also have the phone on sale for their prepaid customers.

Buy it now: Motorola, Verizon, AT&T, Amazon, Republic Wireless

BLU Life One X

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When considering low-end and mid-range devices, there’s a little Miami-based company that is always in the mix. BLU Products, whose name stands for “Bold Like Us,” has a reputation for producing very affordable unlocked devices perfect for anyone wanting to keep as much money in their wallet as possible. A phone from BLU priced at $199 would be considered expensive for the brand, which is something you really can’t say elsewhere.

BLU’s Life One X is a special phone because of its mid-range specifications obtainable for less than $150. Let’s not forget the phone’s exterior is made of aluminum and faux leather, too.

 BLU Life One X
AnnouncedDecember 11, 2015
ReleaseDecember 2015
Display5.2-inch Full HD (1920x1080) IPS LCD with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
ProcessorMediaTek MT6753
RAM2GB
Storage16GB with microSD card slot
Rear Camera13MP with autofocus, LED flash
Front Camera5MP with LED flash
Battery2900mAh (non-removable)
Chargingmicro-USB
SoundRear-facing mono speaker
SoftwareAndroid 5.1 Lollipop
ConnectivityNFC, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
SensorsAmbient, proximity, accelerometer, compass
Measurements149.5 x 73.6 x 8.6mm
Weight141g
ColorsBlack, White

The display, processor, and camera are three key areas that stand out for the Life One X. It’s surprising to see Full HD (1920×1080) resolution on phone with a very low price. For the processor, MediaTek’s technology is paired with 2GB of RAM. For less than $200, getting more than 1.5GB of RAM is a steal. Then there’s the 13MP and 5MP cameras that, at least on paper, are comparable to high-end phones of the past. You may not pull off stunning shots, but you will get clear pictures to be shown at that 5.2-inch display.

Because this phone is running an older version of Android, you’re probably a little turned off that it could soon be a whole two versions behind. Well, there’s good news for you. BLU says it will be pushing a software update to the Life One X that includes Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

On Amazon, the BLU Life One X is usually listed at $149 but can occasionally be spotted with a $99 price tag.

Buy it now: Amazon

LG K10

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LG’s K10 is probably the most underrated budget phone out right now. Why’s that? It’s built from an experienced company, carries justifiable features for its price, and runs the latest version of Android from the get-go. There are phones on this list that aren’t on Marshmallow today and won’t be for a bit longer, so LG deserves praise for getting this one ahead of the competition early.

The K10, while plastic, tricks you into believing its built from premium materials as it has a textured back and 2.5D Arc Glass on the front.

 LG K10
AnnouncedJanuary 4, 2016
ReleaseJanuary 2016
Display5.3-inch (1280x720) IPS LCD display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 410 / MediaTek MT6753
RAM1GB / 1.5GB / 2GB
Storage16GB with microSD card slot
Rear Camera13MP with autofocus, LED flash
Front Camera5MP / 8MP
Battery2300mAh (removable)
Chargingmicro-USB
SoundRear-facing mono speaker
SoftwareAndroid 6.0 Marshmallow with LG UX 5.0
ConnectivityNFC, Bluetooth 4.1, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
SensorsAmbient, proximity, accelerometer
Measurements146 x 74.8 x 8.8mm
Weight142g
ColorsIndigo, White, Black

That 13MP camera on the rear is going to impress as LG is one of the industry’s leaders in the field. Pretty much all of the company’s high-end phones are capable of capturing moments with clarity and color, and you can expect the same here. I’ve seen camera samples from the K10 and came back more than satisfied with the results. On top of that, LG’s Gesture Shot, Burst Shot, Live Shot, and Video Screen Shot are present to enhance what the camera can do.

If you’re not a T-Mobile customer, the LG K10 is a slightly more expensive unlocked; however, you’re not giving up the great value LG has going on. And LG’s K7 is available around the world with a smaller price but without Marshmallow and the same specifications. You can choose either budget phone from LG and feel confident in your purchase.

Buy it now: T-Mobile, Amazon

Motorola Moto G (2015)

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The Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus are going to be released during the summer months of the year, but the third edition of the Moto G shouldn’t be dismissed just yet. One year after it launched, the phone holds up well against its competitors in the mid-range space because of strong performance, lengthy battery life, and a $179 starting price that is eligible for Moto Maker customization.

 Motorola Moto E (2015)
AnnouncedJuly 28, 2015
ReleaseJuly 2015
Display5-inch (1280x720) IPS LCD with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 410
RAM1GB / 2GB
Storage8GB / 16GB with microSD card slot
Rear Camera13MP with autofocus, dual-LED flash
Front Camera5MP
Battery2470mAh (non-removable)
Chargingmicro-USB
SoundFront-facing mono speaker
SoftwareAndroid 6.0 Marshmallow
ConnectivityBluetooth 4.0 LE, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
SensorsAmbient, proximity, accelerometer
Measurements142.1 x 72.4 x 11.6mm
Weight155g
ColorsCustomized through Moto Maker

Perhaps better than what the phone has is the experience you get when buying a Moto G. Motorola allows the phone to be made by you in Moto Maker — the customization suite the company launched in 2013 for the Moto X.

The Moto G (2015) was actually put on our Talk Android Staff Picks: Best Android Phone of 2015 list by yours truly. It’s an unbelievable phone regardless of what the price tag says, and the sub-$250 price should make it clear how insane the value is. Nothing about the Moto G says you’re settling. Motorola created a phone that I would, even in 2016, choose over certain other flagships with cutting edge technology. The Moto G works that well.

Buy it now: Motorola, Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart, Republic Wireless

Honor 5X

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Beginning this year, Huawei plans to take North America seriously through its Honor brand. The first device under the brand to be released in the United States and other countries is the Honor 5X. It’s a phone that burst on to the scene with respectable specifications, a modern-day fingerprint scanner, and an attractive $199 price.

 Honor 5X
AnnouncedJanuary 6, 2016
ReleaseJanuary 2016
Display5.5-inch Full HD (1920x1080) IPS LCD
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 616
RAM2GB
Storage16GB with microSD card slot
Rear Camera13MP with autofocus, LED flash
Front Camera5MP
Battery3000mAh (non-removable)
Chargingmicro-USB
SoundBottom-facing stereo speakers
SoftwareAndroid 5.1 Lollipop with EMUI 3.1
ConnectivityNFC, Bluetooth 4.1, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
SensorsAmbient, proximity, accelerometer, compass, fingerprint
Measurements151.3 x 76.3 x 8.2mm
Weight158g
ColorsDaybreak Silver, Dark Grey, Sunset Gold

An aluminum alloy typically found on aircrafts on the outside of the phone gives it that premium appearance, and its sand-blasted matte sides give you the grip you need. Surprised that this phone is $199? We were as well when the Honor 5X launched at CES 2016. The Honor 5X’s spacious 5.5-inch display has Full HD resolution, and there’s a fingerprint scanner on the back. Somehow you can get those things and more in this phone that can be found on sale for as little as $149 on Amazon and Newegg. The $199 price is acceptable, too.

The big question mark, for now, is whether or not the Honor 5X will receive software updates beyond the still-delayed Marshmallow. If Honor can commit to keeping the Honor 5X current, consumers can grow to trust the brand and feel confident in buying its devices.

Until we see that commitment, slap a fresh coat of paint on it with a fancy launcher or CyanogenMod 13 and your Honor 5X will the value to beat in 2016. Or you can just power through EMUI… But that’s not something we recommend anyone doing. EMUI is harsh if you’re not familiar with software from Chinese companies.

Buy it now: Honor, Best Buy, Amazon, Newegg

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3

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Before its rebranding at MWC 2016, Alcatel was a relatively unknown brand. The Idol 3 really changed everyone’s perception of what a device from Alcatel is. Its a flagship with mid-range specifications that go above what you’d expect at a low price.

Alcatel’s recipe for success with the Idol 3 is a ‘3-in-1’ experience where the display, camera, and sound are meant to be top-notch. The screen, which is a roomy 5.5 inches in Full HD, is backed by Technicolor Color Enhance technology that improves vividness and brightness. While it’s not quite as good as a phone with an AMOLED panel, the Idol 3’s IPS LCD panel benefits immensely from that technology. When you’re watching a video and playing sound through the JBL Audio-made front-facing speakers, the Idol 3 rises up as an entertainment champion.

 Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3
AnnouncedMarch 2015
ReleaseJune 2015
Display5.5-inch Full HD (1920x1080) IPS LCD
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 615
RAM2GB
Storage16GB with microSD card slot
Rear Camera13MP with autofocus, LED flash
Front Camera8MP
Battery2910mAh (non-removable)
Chargingmicro-USB
SoundFront-facing stereo speakers
SoftwareAndroid 6.0 Marshmallow
ConnectivityNFC, Bluetooth 4.1, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n
SensorsAmbient, proximity, accelerometer, compass
Measurements152.7 x 75.1 x 7.4mm
Weight141g
ColorsBlack

Alcatel put clean software on the Idol 3, meaning you’re not going to go through any trials and tribulations just to set up and use a phone. The company’s in-house apps, too, are easygoing. In fact, they match Google’s Material Design guidelines perfectly. The software on the Idol 3 blends in with stock Android.

The Idol 4 and Idol 4S are (supposedly) coming soon, but their specifications are going to jack up the price considerably from the Idol 3. That, along with the phone’s performance, is why the Idol 3 at a light $199 remains a good buy. Pre-installed software from third parties might be why Alcatel was able to get the price down to $249 at launch and now $199, but whatever you don’t like can be uninstalled.

Buy it now: Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart, Target, B&H Photo

Motorola Moto X Pure Edition

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Surging above the rest of the phones on this list is the Moto X Pure Edition, which Motorola released in 2015. The phone is about double the price of the next most expensive phone here, and for that reason we’re including it on the list in case you decide there’s a little wiggle room in your budget.

The Moto X Pure Edition is a treat to hold because of its textured, curved back and aluminum frame.

 Motorola Moto X Pure Edition
AnnouncedJuly 28, 2015
ReleaseAugust 2015
Display5.7-inch Quad HD (2560x1440) IPS LCD with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 808
RAM3GB
Storage16GB / 32GB / 64GB
Rear Camera21MP with phase detection autofocus, dual-LED flash
Front Camera5MP
Battery3000mAh (non-removable)
Chargingmicro-USB with Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0
SoundFront-facing stereo speakers
SoftwareAndroid 6.0 Marshmallow
ConnectivityNFC, Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
SensorsAmbient, proximity, accelerometer, compass, gyro, barometer, fingerprint
Measurements153.9 x 76.2 x 11.1mm
Weight179g
ColorsCustomized through Moto Maker

Motorola loaded the Moto X Pure Edition with the usual things you expect from a flagship and then topped the software with its own enhancements. The result is an smooth software experience that works around you.

You can get an already-made phone online or in stores all over the place, but the Moto X Pure Edition can be personalized by you through Moto Maker. Despite the starting price being $399, Motorola and its sellers are often cutting that by $50 or $100 as the phone is around one year old. Getting the Moto X Pure Edition for $299 or $349 is a steal! Software updates are going to continue rolling out to this phone and the hardware holds up nicely against time.

Buy it now: Motorola, Best Buy, Amazon, B&H Photo

Closing

So those are seven of the best budget phones you can buy today from various carriers and retailers without breaking the bank. What else is great about them? They’re off-contract options, too. None of them tie you down to a single carrier and thus you can move from carrier to carrier seamlessly.


About the Author: Justin Herrick

Born and raised in New Jersey, Justin is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University where he studied marketing with a focus on digital marketing. He's very talkative and enjoys discussing anything from technology and sports to video games and television. As for Justin's current device rotation, he carries around the Google Pixel and Nexus 9. In the rare case that his phone or tablet is not in his hand, he is either flicking through cards on his Moto 360 (2015) or typing away on the Microsoft Surface Book. Justin is patiently waiting for the day that Google replicates the Galaxy Nexus with modern day specifications.