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Best smartphones under $100 (December 2016)

Did you ever think you could buy a smartphone for under $100? There are sacrifices to be made, but you would be surprised to see how far a Benjamin can go.
January 26, 2017
ZTE ZMAX Pro Review 16

Did you ever think you would be able to purchase a capable smartphone for under $100? Thankfully, as smartphones become evermore commonplace, we’re seeing prices drop dramatically. Sure, a phone that costs $100 or less still comes with a number of sacrifices, but you would be surprised to see how far a Benjamin can go these days.

We have put together a nice list of devices that rank in at under $100, while actually delivering a pretty impressive experience, at least considering the asking price. It’s not a long list, but there are definitely some options to consider here. Got $100 bucks to spend on a phone? You have come to the right place. Let’s make sure you get the most out of every single dollar!

Editor’s note: For December we removed the aging Moto E (2nd gen) and brought on the G4 Play.


Owning an affordable phone no longer means you’re getting a cheap phone, as you’ll certainly find out if you give the ZTE ZMAX Pro a shot. For just $99 you get a phablet-sized smartphone that includes what was reserved as a premium smartphone feature not too long ago, a fingerprint scanner.

Before jumping in, there are a few things worth mentioning. First of all, this is strictly a MetroPCS exclusive, so you’ll have to settle with that reality if you intend to reap the benefits of its incredible pricing. This is arguably a factor that’ll limit its overall reach, as being confined to one carrier means it won’t get as much face time from consumers. And secondly, there are still some sub-par qualities with it – such as the inaccuracies with the display and over-sharpening effect with its cameras.

Then again, these compromises can be overlooked due to its price point, which again is the focal point here with the ZTE ZMAX Pro. At the end of the day, it’s a worthy recommendation if you’re on a tight budget, and the specs are pretty solid – including a Snapdragon 617 processor with 2GB RAM, 32GB storage, and a 1080p 6-inch display.


  • 6.0-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 367ppi
  • 1.5GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 32GB of internal storage, microSD expansion up to 128GB
  • 13MP rear camera, 5MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,500mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 165.1 x 83.8 x 8.9mm, 175g

Moto G4 Play

The Moto G series largely began the trend of affordable yet capable smartphones. In the 4th generation, it has branched out into several categories, ranging from sub-$150 on up. The most entry level of these is the G4 Play. While its far from a powerhouse, with pricing as low as $99, you get a solid device that is powered by a Snapdragon 410 processor with 2GB RAM. Other key specs include a 5-inch HD display, an 8MP rear camera, and a removable 2800 mAh battery.

To get the G4 Play (also known as the G Play) for $99, there is a small catch. You have to be a Prime subscriber and there are lockscreen ads. If you want to go add free, the G4 Play will set you back $150, a bit over the $100 mark. Still, this is a solid phone for the price.


  • 5-inch IPS LCD display with 1280 x 720 resolution, 294ppi
  • 2GHz quad-coreQualcomm MSM8916 Snapdragon 410
  • 1/2GB of RAM
  • 8/16GB of storage, microSD expansion up to 256GB
  • 8MP rear camera, 5MP front camera
  • Removable Li-Po 2800 mAh battery
  • Android 6.0.1Marshmallow
  • 4 x 72 x 9.9 mm, 137g


Feel like even $100 isn’t something you can spare right now? The BLU R1 HD can be had for as little as $50, if you happen to be a Prime subscriber and don’t mind dealing with a few ads on the lockscreen. BLU has a number of decent budget phones, and the BLUE R1 HD is no expect.

This phone gets a lot right, with a solid design and build quality, decent performance, a clean software package, and an unbeatable price point. The camera experience is a bit of a let down, and the ads, if you go for the Prime version, can get annoying, but at this price, these are understandable compromises to make. If you are looking for a good option on a budget, the BLU R1 HD should definitely be considered. Even if you want it without the ads, it’s still priced at just $99.


  • 5.0-inch IPS LCD display with 1280 x 720 resolution, 294ppi
  • 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6735 processor
  • 1/2GB of RAM
  • 8/16GB of storage, microSD expansion up to 64GB
  • 8MP rear camera, 5MP front camera
  • Non-removable 2,500mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 143 x 70.7 x 8.5mm, 142g

BLU Advance 5.0 HD

BLU Advance 5.0 HD

Want something even cheaper than the R1 HD, but don’t have Prime or don’t want to put up with ads? The BLU Advance 5.0 HD costs only $69.99 and offers dual-SIM capabilities, as well as a good set of specs (considering the price). It also sports an appealing design and a size that will be great for one-handed operation.


  • 5-inch IPS LCD 2180 x 720 display
  • 1.3 GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6580 processor
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 8 GB of storage (microSD support up to 64 GB)
  • 8 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 2,200 mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 145 x 73.1 x 9.7 mm, 174g

It’s incredible to see what $100 can get you, right? Are there any other phones you could recommend for this list? Who is signing up for one of these? Hit the comments to let us know!