Best cheap Android phones of 2015

May 19, 2015
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There was a time, not all that long ago, that in order to own a powerful smartphone you would either need to commit to a two-year contract, or you would be expected to pay as much as $500 – $700. Thankfully, this has changed considerably in the last year or so. There are now several manufacturers that offer handsets that bring quality specs and yet are priced low enough you don’t need to take out a second mortgage or sign your life away to a carrier. In this article, we take a look at some of the best low-cost Android phones on the market.

Now, obviously the idea of “low-cost” is somewhat subjective. For some folks it is anything under $350, for others it might mean devices that are under $200. With this in mind, we’ll bring you a total of six devices: three that are under $200, and three that are under $350 — this way everyone wins. We’ll also be sure to list a few honorable mentions and encourage our readers to let us know if there’s a phone you think deserves a mention for sporting reasonably solid specs at a rock bottom price.

As for how we’ll ‘rank’ the phone? Basically we are looking at a number of factors though price/value ratio is probably among one of the highest factors here. It is also worth mentioning that all devices on this list will be full unlocked, and off contract. For those US readers looking for even cheaper phones and don’t mind going with a locked-down handset through a prepaid carrier, you’ll want to check out our Cricket, AT&T, Boost, T-Mobile and Verizon prepaid lists.

Editors note – we will be updating this list as more devices hit the market. This article reflects things from a US/EU centric perspective, though many of these devices and pricing will apply to other international markets as well.


Best Android phones under $200

#1 – Motorola Moto G (2nd Gen.)

The follow-up to the original Moto G holds a lot in common with its predecessor, including its 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU and 1GB of RAM. This time around, however, the display size has jumped up to 5-inches and the camera package has also improved.

The Moto G runs on near-stock Android 4.4, and should get Android 5.0 Lollipop sometime before the year is up. Motorola’s Moto G series proves that low-price doesn’t have to mean low quality, something we’re also seeing with the even cheaper Moto E.

Videos

Specs

  • 5-inch LCD display with 1280 x 720 resolution
  • 1.2GHz Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 400 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 3G/GSM
  • 8GB and 16GB storage options, microSD expansion
  • 8MP rear cam, 2MP front cam
  • 2070 mAh battery
  • 141.5 x 70.7 x 11 mm, 149g
  • Removable colored backs
  • Android 4.4 KitKat (Lollipop update coming down the pipeline)

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Buy from Amazon

#2 – Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen.)

Motorola took a lot of attention to detail with its followup to the original Moto E. Now with 4G LTE capabilities in tow, the Moto E (2015) boasts a 4.5-inch qHD display, a 1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 CPU (for the 4G variant), 8GB of on-board storage and a 5MP rear-facing camera. It runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and features all of Motorola’s great software enhancements we’ve grown to love.

The device is now available in many different regions around the world. It’s available for just $149.99 off-contract for the LTE version, with the 3G iteration an even cheaper $119.99. We do recommend spending the additional $30 on the LTE version though, as high-speed internet does do a lot in enhancing the overall usability and experience of this smartphone.

Check out our review!

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Specs

  • 4.5-inch qHD IPS LCD with 540 x 960 resolution
  • 3G model – 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 200 CPU, 4G model – 1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 8GB of on-board storage, MicroSD expansion up to 32GB
  • 5MP rear cam, VGA front cam
  • Non-removable 2390mAh battery
  • 129.9 x 66.8 x 12.3 mm, 145g
  • Removable colored backs
  • Black, White
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop

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Buy from Amazon

#3 – Huawei SnapTo

Huawei just launched its budget-friendly SnapTo handset a few days ago on Amazon, and you can already pre-order the device for just $179.99. The cheap price point of the SnapTo puts it right up against Motorola’s Moto G (2nd Gen.), which offers up very similar specifications. Much like we saw on the Samsung Galaxy Note series, the SnapTo features a nice faux leather back to give it a more premium design.

Specs

  • 5-inch 720p TFT display
  • 2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 8GB of on-board storage, MicroSD expansion up to 32GB
  • 5MP rear cam, 2MP front cam
  • 2200mAh battery
  • 144.5 x 72.4 x 8.4 mm, 150g
  • Black, White
  • Android 4.4 KitKat with Huawei’s Emotion UI v2.3

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Pre-order from Amazon

Best Android phones under $350

#1 – Asus Zenfone 2

Asus launched its newest flagship, the Zenfone 2, at CES 2015 a few months ago. It was originally marketed as the first smartphone to feature 4GB of RAM, but that’s not all this powerhouse brings to the table. Toting a 5.5-inch 1080p display, the Zenfone 2 features a big 3000mAh battery, 13MP rear-facing camera, a powerful 64-bit Intel Atom Z3580 processor and runs Android 5.0 Lollipop.

The Asus Zenfone 2 is now available in the U.S., China Taiwan, Europe and a few other regions. The base model, which is the variant running on 2GB of RAM and the Z3560 processor, is now available from Newegg, Amazon, and several other major retailers for just $199. If you want to spring for the higher-end model, which has a 2.3GHz Intel Atom Z3580 processor, 4GB RAM and 64GB storage, that will only run you $299.

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Specs

  • 5.5-inch full HD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 64-bit quad-core Intel Atom Z3560/Z3580 processor (running at 1.8 or 2.3GHz)
  • 2/4GB of RAM
  • 16/32/64GB of on-board storage, MicroSD card expansion up to 64GB
  • 13MP rear cam, 5MP front cam
  • Non-removable 3000mAh battery
  • 152.5 x 77.2 x 10.9 mm, 170g
  • Osmium Black, Sheer Gold, Glacier Gray, Glamor Red, Ceramic White
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop

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Buy now on Amazon

#2 – OnePlus One

While still not the easiest to get a hold of, it’s much easier to get an invite for the OnePlus One than it was just a few months ago. Additionally, OnePlus is slowly introducing “pre-order” windows for the device, and hopefully it is only a matter of time before it is widely available without any hoop jumping required. While it’s no longer a “brand new” device, it’s low pricing  (starting at $300) still makes it an absolute winner and recent software updates have eliminated many of the complaint points that some OnePlus One users had to deal with early on.

As for the hardware?  The OPO is powered by a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 with 3GB RAM. There’s also storage options of both 16 or 64GB, a 13MP camera, a 3100 mAh battery and Cyanogenmod 11S (based on Android 4.4). The OnePlus One is a solid device, spec wise, and the addition of out-of-the-box Cyanogenmod makes it stand out. At the same time, the OPO is also a desirable device for those that prefer a stock-like Android experience.

Videos

Specs

  • 5.5-inch LTPS IPS with TOL display, 1080p
  • 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 16/64 GB, no expansion
  • 13 MP rear LED flash, Sony Exmor RS sensor, 6p lens, f 2.0, 4K, HDR
  • 5MP front, f 2.0, 80 degrees field of view
  • 3,100 mAh battery
  • GPS, GLONASS, microUSB 2.0, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC
  • GSM/WCDMA/FDD-LTE/TD-LTE
  • CyanogenMod 11S based on Android 4.4 Kitkat
  • 152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm, 162 grams
  • Colors: Silk White/Sandstone Black

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Buy from OnePlus
Buy from Amazon

#3 – Alcatel Onetouch Idol 3

The Alcatel Onetouch Idol 3 (5.5-inch variant) is one of the best budget-friendly smartphones on the market. It features a simple and elegant design, a solid 13MP rear-facing camera and a fantastic audio experience. For the price, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value than the Idol 3 – it has a beautiful 5.5-inch Full HD display, a capable Snapdragon 615 processor, and runs a customized version of Android 5.0 Lollipop.

The phone is now available from Amazon for just $250, which is quite the steal considering the impressive features this phone brings to the table. Be sure to head to the links below to check out our full review. Trust us, this phone might surprise you.

Videos

Specs

  • 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & 1.0 GHz Cortex-A53 Snapdragon 615 processor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16/32GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 128GB
  • 13MP rear cam, 5MP front cam
  • 2910mAh battery
  • 152.7 x 75.1 x 7.4mm, 141g
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop

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Buy now on Amazon

Honorable Mentions

While these are some of the best budget handsets, the market for affordable devices continues to grow and we are seeing a number of excellent choices, here’s just a few honorable mentions that are worth your consideration:

  • Moto G (1st gen) – It’s still pretty easy to find the original Moto G, and often times you can get it at some very steep discounts. For those willing to go the prepaid route, the phone is found for a little under  $100 through the likes of Verizon and. Boost Typically though, it’s going price is now around the $150 mark unlocked.
  • Asus Zenfone 5 – Powered by a 1.6GHz Intel Z2560, the Zenfone 5 packs pretty solid specs, including a 720p display. While it never officially launched in the US market, there are plenty of importers on Amazon and elsewhere that sell the device for as little as $170. While not as impressive as the 2nd-gen Moto G or the newer Zenfone 2, the specs are still very good and the phone will certainly stand out from the crowd.
  • Sony Xperia M – There’s something to be said for Sony’s aesthetics, and if you are looking for a premium looking phone without paying premium dollar — the Xperia M might just fit the bill. The phone can be found for as little as $150 and is powered by a dual-core 1GHz Snapdragon S4 Plus with 1GB RAM and 4GB storage with microSD.
  • Sony Xperia M2 – Again seeing Sony’s aesthetics, though this time with improved hardware including a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 with 1GB RAM, 8GB storage and microSD.
  • Huawei Ascend Mate 2 – The Huawei Mate 2 is priced at under $300 and yet offers up a 6.1-inch 720p display, a Snapdragon 400, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, a 13MP rear cam, and 5MP front cam.
  • Motorola Moto X (1st gen) – While the Moto X is starting to get on in age, but it’s more than capable of providing an excellent Android experience. The handset features a 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2GB RAM, a 4.7-inch AMOLED display with a 720p resolution, storage sizes of 16/32/64GB, a 10MP rear cam, 2MP front cam, and a non-removable 2,200 mAh battery.
  • Motorola Moto E (1st gen) – While the Moto E isn’t nearly as impressive as its 2nd-gen model, it still provides a decent Android experience at a highly affordable price.
  • Blu Vivo IV – While not the most impressive phone on the market, the Vivo IV offers a pretty big punch for the money. At $199.99 you get a 1.7GHz Octa-core processor with a MAali 450GPU, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, a 13MP LED cam, and a 5-inch 1080p display.

We will be adding plenty more to the honorable mention section in the days to come, so please be patient. Also feel free to add suggestions for the list if you so please! What do you think are the best ‘cheap’ phones available for purchase outright (prepaid or unlocked)? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Now read: Best cheap Android tablets under $200

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