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If you had $700 to spare, what phone would you buy? If you only had $300?

For this week's Friday Debate we discuss what phone we'd recommend, and which we'd pick up if we had $700 to spare -- or even as little as $300.
July 25, 2014
LG G3 Vs HTCOne M8-90
One of the advantages to Android is the shear level of options out there when it comes to hardware. Whether you’re looking for a bleeding edge flagship or a modest budget device, you’ll find a variety of handsets from HTC, Samsung, Sony, Motorola and countless other OEMs. Of course all these options also can add a bit of confusion when it comes time to find a new phone.

With this in mind, for this week’s Friday Debate we ask what Android handset would you recommend on the premium and budget end of the scale? If you had $700 to spend on a phone right now, what handset would you buy? What if you had just $300? Keep in mind we’re talking outright prices not what you’d get them if you signed a contract.

Be sure to check out what our contributing team members had to say and then feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments below!

Jonathan Feist

Choosing a phone based on a dollar value is a difficult, but necessary undertaking for many of us. Our budgets often determine our wants, unfortunately.

There are a number of great phones on the market right now, and it is interesting to see the overall price variance between them. It is especially interesting that the price does not necessarily indicate what hardware is in use, nor the overall performance of the device.

If I had to choose one phone at under $300 and another at the $700 mark, I would choose the Moto G and the Sony Xperia Z2. Surprised?

The Moto G is a no brainer, it is a device that is absolutely unparalleled in performance, considering its specs, and indeed, its price tag. Now, let’s get into the semantics of the price, with a $300 budget, I would have plenty of money available to invest in a solid case, an external power pack, and maybe some cloud storage after dropping the ~$200 on the Moto G itself.

As awesome as the Moto G is, let’s not confuse it for a top of the line device, nor one packed with all of the bells and whistles, but I cannot think of a better, current generation, budget device with this much bang for the buck in the entire history of Android.

Now, getting to that Sony Xperia Z2. Let’s face it, at $699, it is as close to $700 as you need to get. Now, I do like the look of the Z2, I also think it packs enough size, power and features to keep me going well on to my next device.

I’ve seen a few negative reviews of the Z2 camera, but I really do think it takes great photos. And, if I must be honest, it is solely for the camera that I would choose the Z2 as compared to the other $600+ phones out there.

The LG G3 would have been my choice, but for LG’s tendency to go overboard on the contrast when taking pictures. The G3 is probably the better bang for the buck too, it just got edged out by a hair for my personal purchasing decision..

It is important to note that if I were purely making a recommendation here, I would say the G3 over the Z2.

Stepping away from the hypothetical $300 and $700 price points, for the average consumer, I would prefer to recommend something in between. The Nexus 5 has always been an excellent recommendation, as has the Moto X. Also, players like OnePlus, Oppo, Xiaomi and more have been coming to market with devices that cannot be ignored for their price.

Considering the OnePlus One, for example, is rocking pretty much the exact same hardware and specs as the current $600+ flagships, but for under $400, it is hard not to give it serious consideration. In the end, I type this on my own Moto G, still in search of my next device.

Gary Sims

Choices, choices, choices, which phones to choose! This is a great question, what would I buy?

Let’s start with the budget phone. If I had $300 to spend on a budget phone I would get the 16GB version of the OnePlus One. At $299 it is a absolute bargain. The phone looks great, it has a great screen, a fantastic processor package and CM11. As an added bonus it is also a 4G phone, something you wouldn’t necessarily expect at the lower-end. If my budget was slightly less I would agree with Jonathan and get a Moto G, but I would maybe go for the Moto G 4G version or the dual-sim version! I also think the ThL 5000 should get an honorable mention. I am just in the process of writing up a review of the device and it is very nice, especially when your consider its price – $270. Besides the HD display, Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and the octa-core processor, you also get that beast of a 5000mAh battery! Give me battery life over pixels per inch any day.

At the high-end, I am a little stuck… It isn’t in my nature to spend $700 on a phone (off contract or over two-years). I would actually get two or even three phones for that price, what about a couple of Moto G’s and a OnePlus One (64GB version), I reckon I could get all of those for under $700 total. But if I am forced to pick just one phone for $700, I guess I would get a LG G3.

The screen is very cool at 1440 x 2560 pixels, that is a pixel density of 534 ppi. The processor package is top of the range and the 3GB of RAM is a nice touch. LG have done a great job with the design of the G3. Even though it is a 5.5 inch device it is easy enough to handle. There is also a removable battery, an SD card slot and a camera that uses laser focusing, what more could you want!

Joe Hindy

It all really depends on the use case doesn’t it? It’s not really enough that everyone has their own tastes but everyone has their own needs as well and that’s what kinda makes it really hard to recommend phones to people. Generally I’ll ask what they prefer in a phone or what they want in a phone and then recommend from there.

That said, if I had to buy one for me, the premium phone I would go with is the HTCOne M8. I like it’s design (it’s a snazzy looking device to me). I also store all my music on the device so the SD card slot is always a big plus. It has the latest specs which I like and because I am a root user, the prospect of getting the bootloader unlocked in under 30 minutes without all that much effort appeals to me a great deal. It actually chased me away from T-Mobile’s Xperia Z1s last year because that phone is still pretty much locked down. But that’s me and my tastes really. For others I would probably recommend something else based on what they need. Like if I knew someone who camped a lot, I would recommend the Xperia Z2 or the Galaxy S5 thanks to its dust and water protection. I would recommend the M8 to other root users thanks to its easy-to-unlock bootloader. If they wanted a dramatic and amazing multimedia experience, I’d probably tell them to pop down on an LG G3. For me, though, if I had $700 today I’d buy an HTCOne M8.

On the budget side of things, I would get a Moto X. I like the voice features and the phone operates better than most other $300 phones. The OnePlus One is pretty good but I learned the day I bought my first Xbox 360 then had to go wait in line at Best Buy to return it thanks to the RROD to be patient when new stuff comes out so they can work out all the kinks. It’s an amazing phone but I’ve seen people all over the place having trouble with it (like the yellow band of doom). Once they solidify their offering, I would likely jump to them. If I were really poor and my phone broke and I had to replace it today, I’d probably go with a Moto G because pretty much everyone can afford one of those like right now.

What’s great about Android is that we have these kind of options, eh? Our choice of OEM skins, cheap or expensive phones with varying specs and features. It’s a good day to be a fan of Android!
Robert Triggs

Whilst any of the current flagship smartphones are great purchases at around the $700 mark, my money would go to the LG G3. Although the HTCOne, GS5, Z2, etc, each have their own nuances, pros, and cons, I feel that LG has done the best job at putting the additional effort into the areas of a smartphone that are the most important to me at this price range.

We can quibble about the subtleties of image quality all day, but features like Optical Image Stabilisation, superfast laser assisted focus, and 4K video capture makes the G3’s camera a doddle to use, enabling users to obtain high quality snaps with minimal effort.

Furthermore, whilst a 2K display might not strictly be necessary, at $700 you might as well grab as many pixels as you can. Not forgetting that for $700 you want your device to scream good taste, and, as far as I’m concerned, the LG G3 is by far the best looking smartphone on the market right now.

Picking a device with a more reasonable price tag is a more difficult task, as we sadly have to start compromising. The Moto X is a safe pick at $300, and worthy of the praise it receives, but you can get a little more bang for your buck if you can get your hands on the OnePlus One. These devices are really putting a squeeze on the mid-range offerings from the big smartphone OEMs.

However, if you can stretch an extra Jackson to that $300 budget you can occasionally grab a Sony Xperia Z on Amazon for $320, which still holds its own against current flagship smartphones valued at twice its price. Even better, with the Xperia Z you won’t have to make any sacrifices with regards to display or camera quality, or have to worry about issues like the OnePlus One’s yellow display tint.

We’re not quite there yet, but older flagships are starting to find their way towards the $300 price mark, which will be very exciting times indeed.