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Best of Android 2018: best value phones

Stretch your dollar more than your waistband this Thanksgiving

Published onNovember 21, 2018

Best of Android 2018 banner.

Smartphones have gotten more and more expensive, and 2018 saw the first few sail past the $1,000 mark. If you’re looking for a mobile that isn’t going to set fire to your disposable income, that just ain’t gonna work.

Luckily, we also saw some pretty awesome budget phones hit the market this year, and even after subjecting them to the same crucible of testing that the rest of the flagships went through, we found that they hold their own against the most expensive phones for half the cost — or less.

The Xiaomi POCOphone F1 and OnePlus 6T are the best bang for your buck

If you’re looking for a phone that gives you all the best goodies of a flagship, but you can’t shell out for one, your best options are the Xiaomi POCOphone F1 and the OnePlus 6T. Both phones offer impressive performance and even hung tough in a few of our awards categories on their own merit.

At the bare-bones end of the high-powered spectrum, you’ll find the POCOphone F1, which retails for the equivalent of $300 (20,999 rupees) for the version with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage and goes up to $429 (29,999 rupees) for the Kevlar-backed version with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

If you can spend a bit more, the OnePlus 6T adds a few more high-end features like an in-display fingerprint scanner and waterdrop notch starting at $549 for 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, going up to $629 for 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It’s also available through T-Mobile with all the usual carrier deals and discounts.

The Xiaomi POCOphone F1 has all the pieces to a high-end phone

Probably the most important phone without a big-brand label that was released this year was the POCOphone F1. Boasting all the same high-end specs you’d find in a much more expensive smartphone, the POCOphone F1 offers about 80% of the performance at one-third of the cost. Sure, there’s no IP rating, and there are a couple corners cut, but overall it’s a remarkably solid phone.

Specs alone may not be enough to entice you, but the POCO F1’s 4,000mAh battery offers probably the best battery life you’re gonna get at its price point, even eclipsing much more expensive phones. The OnePlus 6T battery comes in a little smaller at 3,700mAh but it also includes the excellent fast charging tech formerly known as Dash Charge.

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From left to right, the bars represent our mixed-use, Wi-Fi browsing, and video playback tests. You can see that both of our winning value phones beat the average, and even a few notable phones in terms of battery life. If you’re in the market for a new mobile companion, either of these phones will withstand heavy use.

The POCOphone F1 puts basically the same specs in a $1,000 phone into one that costs just $300.

Xiaomi especially knows that there’s one hell of a market for bang-for-buck phones, and they’ve managed to squeeze better-than-average performance out of the F1 in more than one category. But the POCOphone F1 sets itself apart by retailing for about $300. That’s an absolute steal when you consider the guts of this phone are largely the same as the high-end phones this year. It has the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, competitive RAM and storage options, and… a headphone jack. It has a few other quirks, so definitely check out either the video review above or our full review for more information before you buy.

The OnePlus 6T takes budget performance to extremes

On the other side of the affordable coin is the OnePlus 6T. Instead of making a basic or utilitarian phone with rough edges, OnePlus released a phone that offered the fit and finish of a true premium flagship. It still doesn’t have everything, but it does have most of what you’d get in a phone that costs $300 more.

While people like me will bemoan the loss of the headphone jack (seriously, get the OnePlus 6 while it lasts), it seems to be where we’re headed these days. But the OnePlus 6T does all the little things right, goes toe-to-toe with the other flagships in display performance, and hangs tough with its battery just like the POCOphone F1.

The $550 OnePlus 6T will give you a Pixel-like experience with only a few tradeoffs.

OnePlus and Xiaomi have been vying for the top budget spot for a while now, and we’ve explored this in the past. But each phone brings a different experience to the table. For example, the OnePlus 6T will get updates faster, has a more customizable interface, and generally gives you that Pixel-like experience with only a few tradeoffs. The Xiaomi phone will give you all the hardware, but without the finish.

Among flagships, these phones are average… but that’s a good thing

We pit 30 mid-to-high-end phones against each other this year, and both our value picks were able to stay ahead of that Mendoza line without much trouble. Only falling behind in a couple places, you can see that these are phones to be reckoned with. The OnePlus 6T takes a massive whack in the audio section for not having a headphone jack, but if you’re on team Bluetooth: everything’s fine.

We here at Android Authority emphatically recommend each of these models if you're looking to make your dollar go as far as humanly possible

The OnePlus 6T offers a better display, battery, and performance than average — and the POCOphone F1 beats the mean on display and battery performance. Considering the area where both fall short (camera), still isn’t too bad, we here at Android Authority emphatically recommend each of these models if you’re looking to make your dollar go as far as humanly possible.

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