Best Cheap Android Phones (December 2013)

December 31, 2013

    Google Nexus 5 drop test aa 10

    In our always-connected world, it’s coming to a point where you’re pretty much expected to have a smartphone. Of course not everyone can afford the latest and greatest.

    The good news is that technology has advanced to the point where you can actually get a great smartphone without breaking your bank — this is even more true now that Motorola has taken the veil off the Moto G.

    In this article, we take a look at some of the best low-cost Android phones on the market.

    In order to be included on this list, said device must meet the following criteria:

    • From a major brand (Samsung, LG, HTC, Sony, Motorola, Huawei, Lenovo, ASUS)
    • Be under $350, unlocked.

    Editors note – we will be updating this list as more devices hit the market. This article reflects things from a US/EU centric perspective.

    #1 – LG Nexus 5

    Google Nexus 5 black aa 8

    The much awaited successor to the LG Nexus 4 has arrived, and it is easily the most powerful device on this list. Of course, it’s also the most expensive, flirting with the line between “cheap” and mid-priced at $349 for the 16GB model. Still it’s worth mentioning because there is no better way to get a high-end Android experience without breaking the bank (or signing a contract).

    The LG Nexus 5 is powered by a 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU and has 2GB of RAM. The new Nexus also ships with Android 4.4 KitKat right out of the box.

    While the KitKat update has started rolling out to several other Nexus (and non-Nexus) devices, the Nexus 5 has the distinction of being the only Android device with Google’s brand new “Google Experience Launcher”.

    LG Nexus 5 Specs

    • 4.96-inch display with 1920 x 1080 resolution
    • 2.3GHz Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU
    • 2GB of RAM
    • GSM/3G/LTE
    • NFC, A-GPS, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, Wireless charging
    • 16GB and 32GB storage options
    • 8MP rear cam with OIS, 1.3MP front
    • 2300 mAh battery
    • 130g, 137.84 x 69.7 x 8.59mm
    • Android 4.4 KitKat’

    For more on the LG Nexus 5, including our review, click here.

    Buy now on Google Play $349


    #2 – Motorola Moto G

    Motorola Moto G aa 1

    The Moto G is a major game-changer in the mobile world, offering mid-range specs at a killer price. Motorola’s new budget handset features a 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU and includes 1GB of RAM.

    The Moto G essentially runs on stock Android 4.3 with few modifications, and already has an upgrade available for Android 4.4.2 KitKat. While the handset doesn’t have tons of special features, it has reasonably solid specs and a price tag that’s under $200.

    Motorola Moto G Specs

    • 4.5-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
    • 5MP rear cam, 1.3MP front cam
    • 2070 mAh battery
    • 143g weight, 129.9 x 65.9 x 11.6mm
    • Removable colored backs
    • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean

    Buy Now on Amazon $180 (8GB) / $200 (16GB)


    #3 – Sony Xperia L

    sony-xperia-l-in-hand cheap android phones

    Sony’s Xperia L features a 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU and 1GB of RAM. It only has 8GB of internal storage, but there is a microSD slot to increase that by 32GB.

    As for software, it’s reminiscent of stock Android, taking on the Ice Cream Sandwich theme. Finally, it has very little in terms of bloatware, which is often hard to come by.

    Sony Xperia L Specs

    • 128.7 x 65 x 9.7 mm
    • 137 grams
    • 4.3-inch FWVGA display
    • 1Ghz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor
    • Adreno 305 GPU
    • 1GB RAM
    • 8GB internal storage, expandable via microSD upto 32GB
    • 8MP rear camera with HDR mode for both pictures and video, 0.3MP front camera, autofocus, LED flash
    • dedicated camera button
    • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
    • 1,750 mAh battery
    • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean

    For more on the Sony Xperia L, including our review, click here.

    Buy Now on Amazon $270


     #4 ZTE V956

    zte-1

    The ZTE V956 is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8625Q CPU with 512MB of RAM. The handset also features a larger 4.5-inch display with a resolution of 480 x 854.

    ZTE might not be a very well known brand, particularly in the United States, but the specs here are actually reasonably decent considering the handset can be yours for just a little over $100.

    ZTE V956 Specs

    • 133 x 65 x 9.8 mm
    • 138 grams
    • Quad-core 1.2 GHz CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8625Q
    • 4.5-inch display with resolution of 480 x 854, 218 ppi
    • 512 MB RAM
    • 4 GB built-in storage
    • 5MP rear cam, .3MP front cam
    • 2G: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz (SIM 1 & SIM 2)
    • 3G: UMTS 850 / 2100 MHz (SIM 1)
    • microUSB 2.0
    • Bluetooth
    • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g, Wi-Fi hotspot
    • Lithium-ion 1600 mAh

    For more on the ZTE V956, click here.

    Buy Now on Amazon $110


    #5 – LG L5 II

    LG Optimus L5 II

    The LG L5 II is powered by a 1GHz Mediatek MT6575 1GHz CPU with a PowerVR SGX531 GPU. The handset also has 512MB RAM and a 4-inch IPS display with a resolution of 480 x 800.

    Sure, the LG L5 II isn’t going to win any awards or blow anyone away, but at under $200, you’ll find the L5 II is a reasonably solid-performer with enough oomph to provide an enjoyable basic Android experience.

    LG L5 II Specs

    • 118.4 x 62.2 x 9.2 mm
    • 100 grams
    • 4-inch IPS display with 480 x 800 resolution, 233ppi
    • 1 GHz Cortex-A9 (MT6575)
    • 4GB internal storage, expandable via microSD
    • 5MP main cam
    • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
    • 1,700 mAh battery
    • Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean

    For more on the LG L5 II, click here.

    Buy Now on Amazon $179


    Any particular favorites in your list? Did we miss one? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below. We’ll be updating this piece regularly — especially considering there are quite a few interesting handsets heading our way over the next few months.

    There’s a lot of great phones coming from lesser known players, and we’ll be sure to include them if they meet our criteria as well. Let us know what devices you think we should include!

    Comments

    • Nihar

      S3 mini

    • danny

      Its prob just over $300 (£285 here in the UK but I have a Motorola RAZR I xt890 an its one of the best phones I’ve had for the price

      • lil bit

        Niche product with extremely low availability. IMO.

      • Leonardo Rojas

        Hey! What a winning bet you did in purchasing a Razr i n.n

      • Leonardo Rojas

        I have one too. It easily compares to most top tier smartphones. Just yesterday I was comparing it to the GS4, the Razr i was as fast as that one, even faster at times. That’s where I realized (again) how useless 1080p resolution is. I opened Web pages on both and the viewing was the same! There wasn’t more content in the 1080p display than in the 540p display of the Razr i. That’s a waste of resources.
        Of course the display of the GS4 is better and it’s GPU is better. But that doesn’t show much.

    • lil bit

      Xperia L fails on camera with extreme softened graininess under most conditions, Nx4 is not widely available (not even in USA now) at a low price, HTC was never a good option for budget as they barely work at all, simply not reliable enough. Even as the Touchwiz hater i am i say S3 Mini is the phone to go for here, reliable with good battery and camera. Personally i am having a hard time with these low PPI Pentile displays, Nokia N9 had higher PPI than S3 Mini and the blurred Pentile Amoled was one of the main reasons why i was not comfortable with N9. The greenish or blueish tint when viewed from even the slightest angle is also a mayor concern with Amoled, but i dont think any of that matters for a budget buyer.

      S3 Mini it is then, its also the phone i generally recommend people on a budget to buy, below the price of S3 Mini you simply cant find anything thats good enough. I dont let my personal distaste for Amoled and Touchwiz get in the way for other people getting the best available phone at the price point in question.

      • Leonardo Rojas

        How curious, the S3 Mini is the one I tell everyone to avoid. It’s not precisely cheap, that’s why. At its price range you can get much, much better devices like Motorola Razr i or HD. Even LG OPTIMUS G is not far above the S3 Mini price.
        I’d never get a Mini version of any model, they cost nearly as much as their full models and have less than half of them to offer. The Xperia Z1 Mini is the only Mini that’s looking to be great.

        • rabidhunter

          Don’t forget the DROID Mini. The only differences are screen size, LCD not AMOLED, and battery size.

      • Sammy rules Galaxy

        The tone, the structure of this comment reminds me of those paid writer/students in Taiwan whom hired by Samsung to bad mouthing their competitors and persuade others to opp for Samsung. “Although this and that is not what i fond of and this and that is well known to be the downside and I truly hated it, but given this and that, Samsung is the one to go for.” Same tactics from these promoting companies. Not that I am saying you are, but you sounds a lot like them.

    • Godai

      Since the Nexus 4 ran out of stock, my recommendation for the best value Android was always the LG Optimus 4x HD. Here in Germany you can grab one for only 250€.

    • Angelo Allegra

      Considering the options I think I’d rather keep my Galaxy S2 (international version, Italy here – and 2000mAh official extra battery) as a cheap backup phone when I’ll get a new one (Right now possibilities are Nexus 5, Xperia Z1 or Z2, Oppo Find 5 or 7 and Note 3)… none of these compare positively to the S2 potential, aside from the 720p display of some.
      And no, I’m no fan of the Nexus 4 (which is expensive in here, not sold on Google Play Store, and with street price over 349 euro).

      • Leonardo Rojas

        Xperia Z2? Where did you read about it? Are you from the future? O.o

        • Angelo Allegra

          Plenty of blogs already talking of Sony already preparing the Xperia Z2 as a follow up of Z1: I think, IIRC, I did read about it over Android Police, Droid Life or somewhere else.

    • Wildfire

      IMO the best cheap android handset is the Xiaomi mi2S. for $276 you get a 720p 4.3″ display with 1.7Ghz Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor, Adreno 320 and 2GB RAM,

      • Leonardo Rojas

        Oh I wish there was a 720p display versions of most of the devices with 1080p displays. I find 1080p resolution a complete waste :(

      • dsa

        and it’s china only isn’t it?

    • http://www.youtube.com/lordstickmax LordStickMax

      i think not including the new droid mini is a bad move. thats a pretty powerful phone for only $450 off contract and it works on Verizon

      • Cole Raney

        It is more expensive than even the nexus 5. It doesn’t belong on this list.

      • tomn1ce

        This list consist of cheap smart phones under $350 the Droid Mini missed it by $100. Not to mention that to use its full potential you have to be locked down on vzw. The phones listed here are able to hook up to any GSM network or at least most.

    • Leonardo Rojas

      How about the LG L3 ll or better, the L5 ll. The L5 ll has a clear and nice IPS screen, decent specs and good performance. I was playing with it yesterday. Didn’t disappoint.
      If cheap and good is the target, that’s the smartphone I’d advice to get.

    • rabidhunter

      What about DROID Mini by Motorola? $99 on contract, but not sacrificing any power like Galaxy S4 Mini… It has the same processor, same camera, same amount of RAM, same features. The only differences are the 4.3″ TFT LCD screen and battery size.

      • tomn1ce

        This list is for low-cost, unlocked devices with no contract attached to their prices.

    • Q.

      Good list of phones, but even though I hate M$, I would honestly recommend the Nokia Lumia 520 & 620 to people looking for sub $150 phones.

    • http://www.androidrootz.com/ Anuj Patel

      Even though the Nexus 4 is a year old phone, it’s a BEAST! Never laggs and handles anything I throw at it!

      • Rooney-

        Throw a stone at it and see :)

        • WtF

          mine Nexus 4 is still there. However, the same stone destroyed my iPhone5. In the end, I had to throw my old Nokia 8250 to destroy stone.

          • krestian

            ROFL! and the battery on the Nokia is still running after a week of “hard” usage!!!

            • Lisandro O Oocks

              that’s what she said

        • MadCowOnAStick

          I question this “96 guest votes” :)

          • Rooney-

            And why would you do? :)

            • MadCowOnAStick

              ya know, it just looked maybe a LITTLE suspicious :)

        • tomn1ce

          on either side of the phone for that matter…. -_-

      • Shark Bait

        It is! for the first time I dont think I need to upgrade…… I still want to though!

      • Brad B

        My Nexus s just died a few months ago! It ran for 3 years with a only a few problems before it completely killed.

    • Balraj

      Bad mention: galaxy s3 mini :-P

    • Matthew Pringle

      Inexpensive* phones. Don’t sully androids good name.

    • Hewbert Gabon

      How about Cherry Mobile Cosmos X2/Konka V981.. For 260$
      1.2GHz Quad-core Processor MediaTek MT6589
      PowerVR SGX544
      16GB Internal Storage, Expandable via MicroSD up to 32GB
      1GB RAM
      4.8-inch Super AMOLED HD Display
      Corning Gorilla Glass 2
      18.0-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED Flash and BSI
      5.0-megapixel front-facing camera
      Dual SIM, Dual Standby
      3G, HSPA+, Bluetooth, WiFi, WiFi Hotspot, GPS/aGPS, FM Radio
      Android Jelly Bean 4.2
      Smart Stay and Smart Call Software Technology
      2,200mAh battery

    • undertaken316

      Also the Optimus G Pro has started seeing some price drops in Europe and here’s a loot at it:

      http://youtu.be/NqdBuiRLC0w

    • Erick Ordoñez

      $230+ is cheap??? … :s … not where I live on. Nice article tough.

      • Shark Bait

        cheap relative to most high end phones yes

        • MG

          I agree. When you look at the cost of service for subsidized phone on contract, pay a little upfront instead of paying a ton over the life of the agreement. Any of these phones on a prepay service like 35orless can easily you save over $500 p/year

      • Lisandro O Oocks

        it’s 32 hours of minumum wage here. How much is it where you live?

        • Jeevan

          In india its .3$ an hour. so these phones aren’t really budget.especially after adding the 40% tax that govt’ adds on phone.

          • Brad B

            My sister works here in the U.S. and makes six figures. Her counterpart in India that she had to meet before a lot of the skill workers short falled and they started working with Brazil made roughly 7 dollars U.S. currency and hour. I almost passed out when I heard that. How does anyone make a living getting .5 dollars an hour anywhere!

      • thartist

        Nothing to see here besides Moto G.

        • Jesus

          Yeah but 8GB non expandable storage, for that price. Kinda gay…

          • Tuấn Ankh

            That’s why the 16GB is available for only $20 more. ;)
            And I find it funny I meet you here again xD

            Looking for a cheap phone too?

            • Jesus

              OMG only $20 more? I hope you’re right.

              It’s just released in australia, but we don’t have the 16gig… yet?

              And yeah, looking for a cheap phone! The Moto G is awesome, but 8GB just will not do.

      • Merlevandemadom

        Yes, what are the best Android phones below $100? And easy to update to latest version like stock Android 4.4 KitKat. Look at dx.com or pandawill.com and you’ll see lots of phones around $50 with Android 4.x and 512MB RAM, so you can run the latest stock Android 4.4

      • Brad B

        The Nexus is a great deal for high end. If you look at paying 350 versus 650.

      • Brad B

        And Nexus’ come completely unlocked. Ready to go. No commitments. Not strings. No nothing. You pay the amount. It is yours. Other phones you buy will have bloatware. Nexus phones from Google are pure Android.

    • tom

      UK buyers can now get the lovely Motorola Razr i (top end build quality/sd card/long battery life/fast) on PAYG with a certain numerically named provider for only £150.

    • Kayiro

      Correct me if im wrong but i thought it said, best CHEAP smartphones

    • nevan

      how about sony xperia sp?

    • Samsung

      The sIII mini shouldn´t stand in the last place… It´s so much better than the Xperia L…

    • Ked

      How much is LG NExus 4 ? Translated into PHP…

      • Chad Fernando

        do your research first and you’ll know the price :)

    • edward

      you are too rich to consider those model are cheap!

    • Ass hole

      Poor people dont need smart phones.

    • Erica Mathis

      Pantech Discover blows these phones out of the water with 4″8″ HD screen, 720 x 1280 pixels. Snapdragon S4 Plus, 16 GB storage (up to 32 GB), 12.6 MP camera, great stereo speakers. All for around or under $200 unlocked. Nothing comes close to this.

      • Niral Ramesh

        yeah but unlike the moto g, you get terrible updates. The moto g already has KitKat

    • Valtheus

      I am still waiting for my Moto G to ship. So you pretty much know where i am on the list… ;-)

    • VasyaPupkin

      What is moto g doing there??

    • mumusen

      Nexus 5 has iOS camera? Think you are an apple lover. It got OIS camera

    • benbrookboy

      I think the LG L9 is a decent choice and and one of the lowest prices of the phones mentioned.

    • Data

      The Moto G is probably one of the best Android phones out there, not just low end!

      Also, since my last comment I still hate M$ but the Lumia 520 is still an appealing device under $100.

    • Varun

      Nexus 5 is not cheap in my country by any means 16,32 GB costs around $460, $530 respectively, so its not cheap and a mere $100 less than the lg g2…..btw I live in India

    • Jayfeather787

      What about the Nexus 4? Still a great phone.

    • Ray

      Don’t forget about the 50GB of Google Drive storage on the Moto G, it’s a good feature for the price.

      • http://www.1singur.deviantart.com/ Stefan Dumitrache

        Is it forever, or you have to pay for it after a year or two?

    • Alexandana Theng

      I love stock android and nexus 5 but i can’t afford to buy it here. It costs USD 540/unit for 16GB and even Nexus 4 still costs USD 440/unit for 8GB :(

    • crickcrick

      Apart from 1 and 2 the rest of the phones should not be on the list, they are neither cheap nor good

    • cRash

      Xperia SP

    • maxinel21

      Recently I was REALLY low on money and debts were eating me from all sides! That was UNTIL I decided to make money.. on the internet! I went to surveymoneymaker dot net, and started filling in surveys for cash, and surely I’ve been far more able to pay my bills! I’m so glad, I did this!!! With all the financial stress these years, I really hope all of you will give it a chance. – qaj8

    • John

      what about Ascend Y300 ?

    • kyzer

      What aout lenovo p780 ?

    • deepen915

      anyone buying a galaxy s3 mini in late 2013 is an idiot..

      • David Brooks

        Or maybe they just want a user-replaceable battery and an SD card slot, both of which are lacking in many competitors such as the Moto G.

    • http://www.1singur.deviantart.com/ Stefan Dumitrache

      I recently bought me an Allview A5DUO, with a fairly recent OS, 4.2.2, a dual-core A7 1.2 ghz, gpu Mali400, 512 RAM (quite dated), 4′ 800×480 display. It only costed about 120 euros here, and it’s good enough to run Vice City. So yeah, that’s what a cheap phone is.

    • parman

      Realy nice

    • Jayfeather787

      Even though the Nexus 4 is a 2012 phone, it is a good phone for the price.

    • george

      Check out the Vizio VP800 sold online from 162$.
      5 inch FullHD screen, 2GB RAM, snapdragon s4 processor quad core 1,5Ghz Krait.

    • Jose Rosas

      The Xperia Play, is 2011 MOdel is an old phone but its PlayStation Gamepad is uniqe in every phone. Costs about $80-130 at Amazon.

    • http://www.youtube.com/#/mrjlwilliams J. Williams

      Moto G is the best of all these on the list, and I highly recommend it. Check it out if you don’t have one already, good job on the list by the way.

    • thetruthisalie

      Mising BLU lineup…

    • LG L5 II owner

      Don’t buy LG L5 II I’ve had it for 6 months and it’s lagging much!!! Buy it only if you’re using it for social media, calls and messaging! Every other thing will lag it out!

    • teotsi21

      thl w8 beyond. Sweet price(200 euros) and high end performance…

    • Wesley

      do you not get the budget that some of us have to deal with, I was hoping to see a phone on here for 50 dollars at the most, maybe when I start making more than minimum wage, I can look at this.

    • Mohd Zamzuri Haron

      I think Alcatel One Touch Idol X should be in the list. I’m using it now. Bought it at MYR 950 (USD288) at that time. With it decent outlook design, I also impressed with the performance. So far I haven’t facing any problems with it. Can view out their specs here :
      http://www.alcatelonetouch.com/global-en/products/smartphones/one_touch_idolx.html
      It’s a cool smartphones.

    • Winyon

      Blu Life Play X

    • hgjfhdhghjkli

      What not to like in this article? Because if You are writing about cheapest Android phone – bear in mind, that there are even for ~30-40$ in Europe/states phones. If You want to write about cheap-est just do some research. Even from “mayor brands” You can find for ~100$ easily – e.g. older models, new not used. But the term “mayor brands” is strange, especially when writing about “cheap” not “costly”…

    • Beckim

      Nexus 5 is $450 how is that cheap ?

    • Purvin

      Rate the Xolo range of android phones . They too have great specifications .

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