We’ve tested more than 20 of the best budget Android phones since 2015, carrying each one for multiple days of hands-on testing, and the Motorola Moto G5 Plus currently offers the best combination of features for the price. It performs better than most other budget Android devices, works on every major US carrier, and has easy-to-use software. But everyone’s budget is different, so we also have a pick for shoppers who can spend a little more as well as for those who need a decent smartphone under Rs.15,000.
For the fifth year in a row, the best cheap Android phone comes from the Moto G line. For its current price of just Rs.14,999.00 , the Moto G5 Plus offers a 5.2-inch 1920×1080 LCD screen, 2 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, a microSD card slot, and a fast, accurate fingerprint sensor. The Moto G5 Plus is faster than most other budget phones thanks to its Snapdragon 625 processor and Motorola’s solid software optimization. Moto’s Android 7.0 software is clean and fast, with no bloatware—it’s better than the software on many phones that cost two or three times more.
It also trades the clip-on plastic shell of last year’s G4 for an aluminum back panel that adds some reassuring heft. We recommend the version with 32 GB of storage. Currently, you can upgrade to 64 GB with 4 GB of RAM but the other specs are unchanged.
If you’re looking for the least expensive phone that you’ll still actually want to use, get the Moto E4. It doesn’t have as many features as more-expensive phones, but it does have an excellent fingerprint scanner, which has never before been available on such a cheap phone. The Moto G4 runs a clean, fast version of Android Nougat, and it has a light-but-durable plastic frame and a grippy back panel that hides a removable battery, something you rarely see anymore in phones at any price. The phone’s display and performance are both good enough, though not what you’d get with a flagship phone or even the Moto G5 Plus. The 8-megapixel camera is a bit slow and performs poorly in low light, but it’s better than what you get with other phones in this price range.
Why you should trust us
Over the past five years, I’ve written more than a million words about Android phones, tablets, and software on sites such as Android Police, ExtremeTech, and Tested. I’ve also lived with dozens of different Android phones as my “daily drivers” during that time. I use and review more phones every year than most people will own in their entire lives.
Who should get this
Good smartphones have never been cheaper. For less than a third of the price of a flagship phone like the Samsung Galaxy S8 or Google Pixel, you can get a phone that does almost as much, minus a few fancy features such as wireless charging, a curved screen, or a near-field communication (NFC) chip. A cheap phone probably won’t come with a quad-HD (2560×1440) screen or a top-of-the-line processor, but you don’t need those things to have a good experience.
Budget phones are, of course, great for anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to spend a lot on a phone. They’re also excellent for someone getting their first smartphone—especially kids and teenagers—or for the terminally clumsy. If you lose or break a higher-end phone, especially one you’re still paying your carrier for, you may have to shell out a lot to replace it. If you don’t have insurance, you can end up paying the balance on a phone you don’t have anymore, plus the price of a new phone. (Even if you do have insurance, replacing or repairing an expensive phone can cost more than getting a cheap new one that can tide you over.)
A phone like the Moto G5 Plus can also make more sense than a flagship phone for other reasons, as the things that make budget handsets less fancy than flagship phones can actually be appealing. For example, the glass back panels of the Samsung Galaxy S8 are beautiful, but one bad drop and they could be a spiderweb of cracks. You can toss a cheap phone around without worrying as much. And high-end phones have faster processors, high-resolution screens, and other extra features that can drain your battery: The less-powerful internals of budget phones often mean that these handsets have much better battery life than flagship phones—definitely the case with our pick.
Budget devices are also usually GSM-unlocked, meaning you can use them on either AT&T or T-Mobile in the United States, as well as most networks in the rest of the world. A few phones, like the Moto G5 Plus and the Moto E4. Some budget phones also have dual SIM slots, making them even more capable traveling companions.These low-cost carriers operate on national networks but have a few more data-usage restrictions or calling limits. More-expensive phones, such as the Galaxy S8, Google Pixel, and Apple iPhone are also very good, but they’re much more expensive.
Premium phones still have a place, though. Flagship models provide much better screens and cameras, more built-in storage, NFC for contactless payments, wireless charging, faster processors, speedier charging, and better construction. If you expect to play high-end games, multitask, or shoot photos and video on a regular basis, a flagship phone will serve you better. If your daily routine doesn’t include those things, it makes sense to buy something cheaper.
Inexpensive phones from small companies are also more prone to security issues. Budget-device makers have less control over the manufacturing and supply chain, so hardware and software partners can intentionally or unintentionally introduce malware into a device, as reported in The New York Times. A more reputable budget-phone maker with a strong US presence and retail operation can ensure that any security issues are dealt with swiftly. We saw this happen recently with smartphone retailer Blu: It acted quickly to correct a security flaw, whereas a lesser-known budget-phone maker might have never released a fix. Choosing a phone from a large company such as Samsung, Google, Motorola, or LG makes it less likely you’ll encounter this type of security flaw in the first place.
Motorola Moto G5 Plus
The Motorola Moto G5 Plushas better performance, cleaner software, and better build quality than other budget phones. It’s only splash-resistant, not fully water-resistant like some older Moto G phones, and its camera is lacking compared with more-expensive phones, but it’s still the best cheap phone for most people.
The Moto G5 Plus is the only variant of the fifth-generation G series that will be sold in the US, but Motorola sells two versions, both with a Snapdragon 625 eight-core ARM processor. Motorola’s software optimization makes this phone “incredibly smooth for general smartphone tasks,” as I noted in my Android Police review. The base model has 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage , the upgrade model includes 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The cheaper version is best for most people because you can add more storage via the microSD-card slot, and 2 GB of RAM is fine for basic tasks. Unlike last year’s base model Moto G4, the G5 Plus has a fingerprint sensor on the front, and that sensor is easily as fast as those in much-more-expensive phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8.
Many other low-cost phones have heavy UI layers that slow them down and provide custom features that barely work. But “The G5s run the flavor of Nougat you know and like, with Motorola slipping in only helpful additions that don’t hinder Android performance.” The Motorola additions include the fantastic Moto Display, which lets you view and act on notifications on the display using a low-power black-and-white mode while the rest of the screen remains asleep. With Moto Actions, a quick flip gesture can launch the camera, and a chop motion turns the flashlight on and off. You can also hide the on-screen navigation buttons and control the phone entirely with swipes on the fingerprint sensor.
The Moto G5 Plus has a 5.2-inch 1080p screen, which is more comfortable to use one-handed than the 5.5-inch screens on last year’s Moto G. You won’t get the vibrant colors or perfect blacks of an AMOLED, but this screen is excellent for the price.
With a 3,000 mAh battery, the Moto G5 Plus will have no trouble making it through a day with plenty to spare. A second day would be pushing it, but the G5 Plus lasts longer on a charge than the more-powerful OnePlus 3T. The G5 Plus also supports fast charging (compatible with Quick Charge adapters up to 15 watts), so when the battery does get low, an hour plugged in should give you enough juice for a full day. However, it still uses a Micro-USB port while other phones have moved on to Type-C.
The Moto G5 Plus comes in either gray or gold with an aluminum back panel, unlike last year’s colorful plastic backs and accents. It’s not fully aluminum (the sides are still plastic), but it’s sturdier and feels better than other phones in this price range.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The 12-megapixel rear-facing camera on the Moto G5 Plus does well in bright light, but low-light images tend to be dark and blurry. However, the camera is a little better at everything than the camera in other phones in this price range. As per me “Compared to other phones in this price range, the G5’s camera is ahead. It’s just nowhere close to today’s flagships.” You’ll need to step up to the OnePlus 5 if you want a noticeably better camera without spending more. The G5’s camera module is also pretty big and prevents the phone from laying flat.
If you want to make contactless payments through Android Pay or use other NFC features, you’ll have to look elsewhere: Motorola includes NFC only on the European variant of the Moto G5 Plus. Budget phones often drop NFC, so this isn’t exactly a surprise.
Motorola Moto E4
The Motorola Moto E4 is the most affordable phone you can buy right now that has a sharp screen, an accurate fingerprint scanner, and consistently acceptable performance. It also runs a nearly stock version of Android 7.1 that won’t get in your way with clunky skins or bloatware. It gets longer than average battery life, and the 3000 mAh battery is removable, a true rarity these days.
Many budget phones ship with ancient versions of Android that lack features and leave you vulnerable to security holes, and this is especially true for phones that cost less than $200. However, Motorola is shipping the Moto E4 with a clean and fast version of Android 7.1 Nougat. Android 8.0 Oreo, which launched in August 2017, is expected to roll out on Motorola devices later in the year. The software includes a few subtle improvements from Motorola, including Moto Display, which is one of the manufacturer Android tweaks that we really like: The display wakes up when you get a notification or pick up the phone, allowing you to view notifications and unlock the device with a swipe.
The Moto E4 has a 5-inch 1280×720 LCD screen, a size that makes the phone comfortable to use in one hand. The screen is sharp enough at this size, and the colors are accurate, but brightness is low compared with that of more-expensive phones. Below the display is a front-facing fingerprint sensor, which is unheard of in this price range. It’s very accurate and almost as fast as the sensors on Motorola’s high-end Z-series phones. In fact, this sensor is faster, more accurate, and better-placed than the one in the Galaxy S8.
The E4’s battery life is better than we expected, even considering the modest specs. You should be able to make it through two days on a charge with moderate use. When you do run out of juice, the phone supports 10-watt fast charging with the included charger. That’s slower than Motorola’s high-end phones, but it’s still twice as fast as with the previous Moto E. And because the battery is removable, you can always swap in a new one when you run low on power.
This low price requires some sacrifices. The quad-core Snapdragon 425 processor is fast enough for basic tasks, but gaming or intense multitasking will slow down the Moto E4. “If it wasn’t for its inability to handle high-end games, I’d have thought I was using a much more expensive device,” It also lacks an NFC chip for mobile payments, and you get just 16 GB of storage. The microSD-card slot makes up for that somewhat, but it’s another thing you have to buy.
On the back of the phone is an 8-megapixel camera that’s not in the same league as the camera on the OnePlus 5 or even the Moto G5 Plus. It’s better than the camera on most phones in this price range, but it’s essentially useless in dark environments. According to me “This camera cannot work miracles – but it’s not bad considering the price of the device.” If you intend to take a lot of photos, you should step up at least to the Moto G5 Plus. The front-facing 5-megapixel camera, on the other hand, is actually impressive for a Rs.9999.00 phone, and it even has a dedicated flash.
If you can’t spend Rs.15,000 or more on a phone, the Moto E4 is your best option. Despite its limitations, it’s fast enough for basic tasks, it has a sharp screen, and it includes up-to-date software without a bunch of clunky add-ons. The removable battery is also a big plus, and we like that it works on all carriers.
What to look forward to
Motorola revealed special-edition versions of our top pick. The Moto G5S and G5S Plus will have a slightly improved screen, camera, and processor. Based on announced European pricing, we expect these phones to cost more than the currently available Moto G5 Plus, but we don’t expect to have confirmed US pricing and availability until fall 2017.
Samsung announced that its unlocked Galaxy J3 and J7 will be available for purchase starting July 28. The J3 will cost around $150 and features a 5.0-inch HD TFT display, 1.5 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, a 5-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front camera, and a 2,600 mAh removable battery. The J7 starts at $220 and features a 5.5-inch HD TFT display, 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, an 8-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel front-facing camera with flash. It also includes a long-lasting 3,300 mAh removable battery. Both will be available on Samsung’s website as well as at major retailers and enterprise distributors.
We used to recommend the OnePlus 3T as an upgrade pick for budget-phone buyers, but it was recently discontinued. We like its replacement, the OnePlus 5, but we think that model’s $479 starting price is too high for it to be a good budget phone. It’s still a good value for the money, though, and we recommend it as our budget flagship pick.
Nokia is back in the US with the Nokia 6. It has a sturdy aluminum design, but the edges are a bit sharp, making the phone a little uncomfortable to hold. The hardware looks okay on a spec sheet, but in practice the phone lags and drops frames even during light usage. The Snapdragon 430 has been fine in other phones, but it’s not well-optimized here. The camera is also disappointing, with soft, noisy photos and muted colors. Without Amazon ads, the phone is currently priced at $230 just like the Moto G5 Plus, so you should get that instead.
The Huawei Honor 8 and its upcoming upgrade, the Honor 9, are more expensive than the Honor 5X, and the hardware reflects that. Each model has a beautiful metal frame and a Gorilla Glass screen, with a Samsung design vibe. The 5.2-inch 1080p display of the Honor 8, which we reviewed this spring, is excellent, too. The software of that model, however, is still a mess (it doesn’t even support Android Auto), and Huawei has yet to live up to its update promises for the Honor 5X. We’re concerned that both the Honor 8 and the Honor 9 will lag behind other budget Android phones. If you can still find the OnePlus 3T, that model is a better choice in this price range.
The Moto E4 Plus is similar to the Moto E4 (our low-cost pick), but it adds a larger 5.5-inch display, an aluminum rear panel, and a huge 5,000 mAh battery. It gets better battery life by a day or two, but it’s not any faster than the E4, and the current price is too close to that of the Moto G5 Plus. That phone is just a little more expensive and includes a better display, more storage, and faster performance.
LeEco is not a big name , but the Chinese firm is trying to wiggle its way in with big deals on its first North American devices. The Le Pro3 has a Snapdragon 821 processor and 4 GB of RAM but currently costs only $400. However, its software is almost universally described as “frustrating.” The phone includes a ton of preloaded apps, along with confusing interface changes to Android. The Le Pro3 also lacks a headphone jack. The $250 Le S2 steps down to a Snapdragon 652 and 3 GB of RAM, but it’s still got the bad software and no headphone jack. The Moto G4 is a much better choice.