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 $600 – $800. Thankfully this has changed considerably in the last few years. 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 cheap Android phones on the market.

Now, obviously the idea of “low-cost” is somewhat subjective. For some folks it is anything under $300, for others it might mean devices that are under $200. With this in mind, we’ll bring you nine devices in all: three that are under $200, three that are under $300, and three that are under $400 — this way everyone wins.

As for how we’ll ‘rank’ the phones? 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.

Editor’s 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.
Update, November 2016: This month we removed the Moto G (2015), OnePlus X and OnePlus 3 to make room for the Honor 8. We’ve also changed up the order quite a bit this month.

Best phones under $200

Moto G4 Play

Lenovo’s Moto G4 Play enters the market with a low price tag, solid specifications and a familiar design language we’ve all grown to love.

It sports a 5.0-inch HD display, solid Snapdragon 410 processor, 2GB of RAM, and an 8MP rear camera that’s great for snapping the occasional photo. Plus, you get a removable 2800mAh battery, which is a feature many manufacturers have been leaving out of their phones lately.

Specs

  • 5.0-inch IPS LCD display with 1280 x 720 resolution, 294ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256GB
  • 8MP rear camera, 5MP front camera
  • Removable 2800mAh battery
  • Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • 144.4 x 72 x 9.9mm, 137g

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Honor 5X

Huawei has finally announced its plans to break into the US market with the Honor 5X. The Honor 5X was announced a number of months ago, but it was just recently revealed that the dual-SIM budget handset would be coming to the United States for less than $200.

Featuring an all-metal build and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, the 5X absolutely comes to market with a few features that we don’t normally see on sub-$200 smartphones. It comes with a big 5.5-inch Full HD display, Snapdragon 616 processor, 16GB of storage and microSD expansion up to 128GB. It also comes with a 13MP rear camera, a pretty sizable 3000mAh battery, and runs Huawei’s EMUI atop Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 401ppi
  • 1.5GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 128GB
  • 13MP rear camera, 5MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3000mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 151.3 x 76.3 x 8.2mm, 158g

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Nexus 5X (Project Fi only)

Google chose to release two Nexus smartphones in 2015 – the higher-end Nexus 6P made by Huawei and the LG-made Nexus 5X, which is the true sequel to LG’s beloved Nexus 5 from 2013. Both of these devices feature similar specifications, but they still manage to stand out drastically from one another. The Nexus 5X has a solid Snapdragon 808 processor, a 2700mAh battery and a really great 12.3 megapixel rear-facing camera. It also boasts a fingerprint scanner on the back, a front-facing speaker that provides decent audio quality and of course, this phone runs the latest version of Android.

In our full review, we had just a few gripes. While the Snapdragon 808 processor is very capable of performing just about everything you throw at it, the fact that the 5X comes with just 2GB of RAM makes us nervous for the future. It also only comes with 16 or 32GB of on-board storage with no microSD card expansion, so folks who are used to 32 or 64GB variants will need to rely on cloud storage when it comes to keeping media on the phone.
Considering that the Nexus 6P costed only $120 more than the 5X at launch, it was a tad difficult to recommend this smartphone at the start. Now Google is offering the Nexus 5X on Project Fi for the low price of just $200. If you’re looking for a solid smartphone in this price range and would like to try out Google’s Project Fi network, the Nexus 5X is for you.

Specs

  • 5.2-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 423ppi
  • 1.8GHz hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16/32GB of on-board storage, no microSD card expansion
  • 12.3MP rear camera, 5MP front camera
  • Non-removable 2700mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 147 x 72.6 x 7.9mm, 136g

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See it at Project Fi

Best phones under $300

Moto G4 Plus

The Moto G series has always been among the best bang for your buck smartphones around, and things remain the same with Motorola’s latest mid-ranger, the Moto G4 Plus. It has everything you’d want in an inexpensive smartphone: a big Full HD display, plenty of RAM and onboard storage, and also a great 16MP rear-facing camera. This G4 Plus model also comes with a fingerprint sensor, which is a first for the Moto G line.

The best part? It’s available for just $250 through Moto Maker, so you’ll be able to customize the colors, engraving on the back, greeting, and more.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 401ppi
  • Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor
  • 2/3/4GB of RAM
  • 16/32/64GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256GB
  • 16MP rear camera, 5MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3000mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 153 x 76.6 x 9.8mm, 155g

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Motorola Moto X Pure Edition (aka Style)

The Moto X Pure Edition (or Moto X Style if you live outside the U.S.) boasts a big 5.7-inch Quad HD display, a powerful Snapdragon 808 processor, a really good 21MP rear camera and a big 3000mAh battery. You can also customize this device through Moto Maker, allowing you to choose whichever back plate, front plate and accent colors you’d like. Additionally, this is one of the first flagship devices other than Google’s own Nexus phones to receive Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

It might not be the most high-end device on this list, but the combination of a cheap base price, customizability via Moto Maker and amazing software experience really helps set this phone apart from the rest.

Specs

  • 5.7-inch IPS LCD display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 520ppi
  • 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 16/32/64GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 128GB
  • 21MP rear camera, 5MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3000mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 153.9 x 76.2 x 11.06mm, 179g

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Best phones under $400

ZTE Axon 7

ZTE’s Axon Pro from 2015 was a good phone, but it fell short in a few key areas. It came to market with only one storage option, no expandable memory, and the dual camera setup on the back of the device felt a bit gimmicky. Not only does the company’s latest flagship fix all of those problems, it brings much more to the table.

It has a big 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED display, the latest Snapdragon processor, plenty of RAM, multiple storage options, and yes, expandable memory up to 256GB. It also sports some killer front-facing speakers, all-day battery life, a great camera, and a sleek, attractive design. While certain parts of the software could use a little more polish, the ZTE Axon 7 goes toe-to-toe with the best in the Android market. It’s also inexpensive at only $400, making this an even more attractive option for folks looking to score a solid flagship device.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch AMOLED display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 538ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
  • 4/6GB of RAM
  • 64/128GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256GB
  • 20MP front camera, 8MP rear camera
  • Non-removable 3250mAh battery
  • Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • 151.7 x 75 x 7.9mm, 175g

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Honor 8

Huawei has brought what many have wanted from an affordable flagship for a while now: a gorgeous design, a smaller size, and a great camera. In addition, the Honor 8’s excellent performance and IR blaster are not always common on an affordable smartphone. The Honor 8’s software might not be fore everyone, but we think the impressive camera performance and high-end design really make up for it.

While the Honor 8 enters the market in an incredibly competitive price segment, we can say that this is one of the better phones you can buy for around $400.

Specs

  • 5.2-inch LTPS display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 423ppi
  • HiSilicon Kirin 950 processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 32/64GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256GB
  • Dual 12MP rear cameras, 8MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,000mAh battery
  • Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • 145.5 x 71 x 7.5mm, 153g

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So there you have it – our picks for the best budget-friendly options Android has to offer at the moment. Did we miss anything? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

See also:

Best Android phones

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