Update: Moto's latest onslaught of affordable phones have invaded this list, as has Nokia's mid-range stunner.
Original article follows below.
Trying to find the best cheap phone, especially in the US, used to be like finding a needle in a haystack. But thankfully, more and more manufacturers are targeting the low-end market.
Don't go thinking that low-end automatically equates to a disposable piece of tech. In fact, many features once-exclusive to flagship phones have made their way into what we consider to be budget territory.
We've deployed our knowledge of the best phones under $300 and tested hundreds of cheap phones to rank the best devices. Only the cheapest unlocked, contract-free and SIM-free phones are included in the top ten.
But every cheap phone here should be just fine for casual use by anyone looking to save some cash on a discounted iOS 11 or Android Oreo device. Chances are pretty good that we'll soon see even more Oreo on this list, and perhaps some Android P phones once that OS launches later in 2018, thanks to Google's Android One initiative.
The Moto G6 had a tough act to follow: itself, really, with the 2017 Moto G5 Plus. Thankfully, the latest budget smartphone from Motorola fully delivers on the hype.
When it comes to the flagship-level specs and features to be found here, this model touts an all-glass design, dual-lens rear cameras, an 18:9 aspect ratio display, headphone jack, USB-C charging and the very latest Android Oreo update.
Launching at $249 unlocked with support for every US carrier, this phone is an unbeatable value. It provides decent specs with clean Android software, making this the best choice out there if you're looking for a new phone, but don't have loads of cash on-hand.
Read the full review: Moto G6
Apple's return to the four-inch form factor is a successor to the iPhone 5S, but packs a serious punch in the performance department, bringing specs that put in on par with the iPhone 6S.
The fact that you can usually get this smartphone for under $300 makes it an absolute steal if you're a loyal iOS user. Sure, it doesn't come with all of the bells and whistles of a brand new iPhone 8 or iPhone X, but complete with iOS 11, it still holds up well.
Read the full review: iPhone SE
Available for just a bit more than what the top-ranked Moto G6 costs, the Nokia 6.1 is a phenomenal choice if you're looking for a phone with solid specs and a high-quality build.
There are certain elements where the Nokia 6.1 falls below the Moto G6, particularly its single rear camera to Moto's two, as well as its support for only GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile.
The latter certainly won't be an issue for those using said carriers, but Verizon and Sprint users will want to opt for something else.
In a lot of other ways, the Nokia 6.1 handily bests the Moto G6. It's more powerful, with a faster chipset, more RAM and internal storage space, and if you enjoy stock Android, this is the choice to make.
Read the full review: Nokia 6.1
The Asus ZenFone V is a budget beast that deserves to fly but is chained down by Verizon exclusivity. Even so, this phone would still feel like a reasonable deal at $400, but it’s only $240.
There’s some much going right for this phone, making it easy to forget about some of the nitpicky detractors. The screen, the camera, the powerful internals and the simple but classy design pull this phone together in a great way, and tacking a $240 price tag on the box makes it a no-brainer.
Unfortunately, tacking Verizon on the box limits who can buy this phone, but for Verizon customers or those looking for a great budget phone worth switching carriers for, the Asus ZenFone V is worthy.
Read the full review: Asus ZenFone V
The Honor 7X gets the title for offering a flagship level of design quality for such a low price. For $199, you'll nab a phone with a large 18:9 aspect ratio display, enough power to run pretty much anything on the Google Play Store, and dual rear lens cameras to take photos with greater depth of field.
We typically don't expect much from phones below the $200 price mark, but 2017 and now 2018 has really made us rethink this. While options higher up on this list represent a better value, as well as a blending of hardware and software that will simply appeal to more people, the Honor 7X is the company's best stab yet at a device that will captivate the mainstream.
Read the full review: Honor 7X
Compared the Moto G6, the Play variant keeps the good looks, microSD support and the low price, but compromises a bit in terms of speed.
It’s not quite fair to call the Moto G6 Play a “dumbed-down” version, as it’s actually enhanced in a few ways. First off, Moto fit a 4,000mAh battery inside, which should provide more than a day of life for many users.
The Play is for those who typically put their phone through some abuse. To fit in line with that lifestyle, it’s got a plastic build instead of glass. Moto skipped the Play series last year, but compared to the Moto G4 Play, this one is on a whole new level of quality and value.
Read the full review: Moto G6 Play
At its core, the Blade V8 Pro offers a lot for the money. It doesn’t wow when compared to flagship but if all you want is a phone to do the basics, you’ll be happy with the Blade. ZTE did a great job balancing price, performance and features.
After using the ZTE Blade V8 Pro for a month, we were impressed at just how little we missed from a flagship phone. Sure, you don’t get the multitasking performance of more powerful smartphones but for a majority of tasks, the Blade V8 Pro is perfectly adequate.
The ZTE Blade V8 Pro is an excellent smartphone for the price. Its bargain bin price gets you good battery life, decent dual-rear cameras and a near-stock Android experience. If you’re okay with having an older version of Android, the Blade V8 Pro is among the smartest choices if you're in need of a budget smartphone.
Read the full review: ZTE Blade V8 Pro
The LG Q6 is the midrange take on the company’s 2017 flagship smartphone, the LG G6. As you can see for yourself, much of the G6’s visual pizazz has made the transition to the more budget-friendly class intact.
It features the familiar tall aspect ratio, a nearly bezel-free design, and commendable build quality that yields a smooth feeling in the hand. However, given its lower asking price, not every single one of the G6’s finer qualities makes an appearance.
The plastic back, for example, is prone to scratching. You won't find a fingerprint sensor here – a feature served up by the sub-$100 Moto E4. Predictably, the Q6’s internal specs are decidedly ho-hum and don’t pack adequate muscle to hustle through some of the more demanding 3D games available on the Google Play Store.
The budget smartphone arena is competitive as ever and the Q6's downsides are hard to forgive. But, as it's available for as low as $239 in the US with Amazon supported ads, you're still getting a whole lot of phone for the cash.
Read the full review: LG Q6
I’m surprised by the Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom. While I was fairly impressed with its specs and the much-improved design over the original Asus Zenfone Zoom, its direct predecessor, I wasn’t completely sold. That’s mostly because I didn’t know how much it would cost.
Not only is it cheaper and far better than the Zenfone Zoom, it’s one of the best mid-tier options available. Asus’ ZenUI has improved to the point where it’s no longer a red flag for most users and the value here in terms of spec and design is tough to beat.
While not perfect in its execution, it’s full of crowd-pleasing features and rocks a pleasing design that defies its price point, coming together as a smart buy for just about anyone.
Read the full review: Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom
Only crippled by Xiaomi's lack of official presence in the US, the Mi A1 is an incredibly solid Android phone, backed by Google's Android One program that ensures it the latest in both security and software updates.
The Xiaomi Mi A1 wears its inspiration on its sleeve. As such, it looks a lot like an iPhone, but for what it lacks in originality, it makes up for with a super low price tag of $199.
We've seen it available on Amazon, however through unofficial avenues, so be cautious of who you purchase from. That being said, if you're looking for a phone that will work with GSM networks like AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket and MetroPCS, it's hard to beat this phone's specs for the price.
We wanted to place this device higher on the list, but given that it's tough to find, perhaps its successor will find its way higher on this list should Xiaomi ever branch out its phones division to the States in an official manner.
Read the full review: Xiaomi Mi A1
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