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The Cheapest Smartphones that Don’t Suck

There’s no shortage of affordable smartphones on the market—but finding an affordable phone that doesn’t suck can be a challenge. So we combed through the options and found the best phones you can buy that won’t break the bank.

Buying an affordable phone isn’t like buying a high-end flagship model, because there are a slew of choices in the budget market—and most of them aren’t  very good. That’s where the real challenge comes in: finding a phone that fits your needs, meets your budget, and won’t end up causing extra stress and frustration in your life. In the budget phone market, it’s a balancing act.

That said, there are a couple of things you’ll have to accept right out of the gate: budget phones make compromises over their flagship counterparts, which is how manufacturers keep costs down—usually the camera.

Second, you’re going to have a lot better luck looking at Android, because truly affordable iPhones simply doesn’t exist. There is an option here, but it’s not the best choice. But we’ll talk more about that down below.

The Best Option Overall: Motorola Moto G6 ($235)

When it comes down to it, one brand has been absolutely crushing the budget phone market for years now: Motorola. The company’s G series smartphones have consistently provided excellent bang for the buck, with great performance and features paired with better than average support and updates.

This doesn’t change with the G6, the newest entry into the G family. This 5.7-inch smartphone comes with not only a sizable (and good looking) display, but 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, an SD card slot, and snappy Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 processor. It’s ships with Android 8.0, so it’s also running the newest version of Android right out of the box.

To add to the value, the G6 is an unlocked smartphone, meaning it works on all the major carriers—just pop your SIM card in and you’re good to go.

The Best for Camera: Honor 7X ($200)

The camera is generally the first thing to take a hit on any budget phone, because good camera sensors are pricey—that’s why you find the best shooters on the most expensive phones. That doesn’t mean you have to settle for a garbage camera, either.

So if a good camera is important to you, consider the Honor 7X. While it still won’t be quite as good as a flagship phone (that costs four times as much, mind you), it’s probably the best that you’ll find in the budget market.

The Honor 7X features dual rear cameras—a 16MP main camera and 2MP secondary lens for capturing depth—with support for portrait mode. The 8MP front camera uses software to produce a similar portrait effect, so you can capture your own pretty face with that shallow depth of field everyone is looking for.

Otherwise, the 7X offers a 5.93-inch 18:9 display, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, 3GB of RAM, and a 2.36GHz octa-core processor for snappy performance.

The only thing to keep in mind with the Honor 7X is that it’s a GSM-only unlocked phone, so in the US it only works with carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile.

The Best for iOS Users: iPhone SE ($200-350)

If you’re looking for a cheap iPhone, the SE is your best (and only) bet. This tiny 4-inch smartphone is a throwback to the original iPhone size and form factor, but keeps all the internals modern and snappy.

You won’t get iPhone 8/X performance from this budget Apple entry, but it’s still a good phone for everything it offers, which includes a 12MP rear camera and Apple’s 64-bit A9 processor. It also comes with a variety of available storage options, from 16GB to 128GB.

The biggest hurdle when it comes to buying the iPhone SE is carrier compatibility. Depending on who your carrier is, the phone may be a lot more affordable—for example, you can get it from Simple Mobile for as low as $140. The unlocked model, on the other hand, will set you back $350. That’s also the price you’ll pay to buy directly from Apple, regardless of which carrier model you get.

With that in mind we don’t have a go-to source for a great deal on an iPhone SE. Either you get it subsidized through a carrier to knock the price down or you eat the upfront costs that make it significantly more expensive than the other budget picks here.

 


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