UPDATE: We're constantly seeing new affordable phones on the Australian market, and the latest one to make our list is the Oppo A57, a cheap option that does not sacrifice style or functionality in order to keep the price low – read on to find out more about it!
While handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S7, iPhone 6S, LG G5 and the HTC 10 are stealing headlines around the world, there's a lot of intriguing (and cheap) stuff going on in the world of budget phones.
Sadly smartphone innovation isn't cheap – and most of it is reserved for high-end contract handsets. There is however such a thing as a good cheap smartphone, and ever so gently all those amazing features from the flagship devices are slowly trickling down to the budget phones.
That's why we have sorted through hundreds of inexpensive smartphones in order to rank the best options that you can buy unlocked without monthly fees and, importantly, without a two-year contract.
Here's a selection of our favourite budget and mid-range smartphones. If you're looking to pick up a decent handset for not much cash, these are the top cheap phones your money can buy - even on a budget.
1. Motorola Moto G5 Plus
Meet the best Moto G to date
Weight: 155g | Dimensions: 150.2 x 74 x 9.7 mm | OS: Android 7 | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | CPU: Octa-core 2.0 GHz | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 16/32GB | Battery: 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP
While flagship makers battle for the top spot with small bezels and pixel-perfect cameras, Motorola has been winning a more quiet, but equally important fight: to offer desired features in a phone without costing too much.
Speaking of features, the new Moto G5 Plus has them in spades. A fingerprint sensor, generous heaps of internal storage with microSD support, Google Assistant, fast charging, 4K video capture capability – the list goes on.
Perfect for those on a budget who don’t want to sacrifice decent performance and flagship-style features, the the Moto G5 Plus has redefined itself and it didn't even have to. The premium build, competent specs and low price will suit deal-seekers and phone enthusiasts alike.
Android Nougat with Google Assistant, Moto’s slick (and light) custom touches, premium design and stacked list of features all make this more than your ordinary phone. All for $399, you say? That’s an easy sell.
2. Oppo A57
High-end looks at a fraction of the cost
Weight: 147g | Dimensions: 149.1 x 72.9 x 7.7 mm | OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 720 x 1280 | CPU: Octa-core 1.4 GHz | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 2,900mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 16MP
With a beautiful look and feel that looks almost indistinguishable from Oppo's higher end models, the Oppo A57 delivers a premium look and feel without costing an arm and a leg.
Like all Oppo phones, the A57 has a magnificent camera that works well in low-light situations. It also has the benefit of carrying over Oppo's Beauty Mode for seriously flattering selfies (you know a smartphone is serious about selfies when the front-facing camera has a higher megapixel sensor than the rear).
Add to this a front-facing fingerprint sensor, expandable storage via microSD, a terrific build that remains slim and stylish, and what you have is a mid-range phone that's easy to recommend at $328.
Admittedly, we'd have liked a 1080p screen rather than the 720p one that the A57 sports, and ColorOS may be a little too close to iOS for many Android users' tastes, but it's still hard to overlook a phone of this quality at the price listed above.
3. Motorola Moto G4 Play
Still a great Moto G handset
Weight: 137g | Dimensions: 144.4 x 72 x 9.9 mm | OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 720 x 1280 | CPU: Quad-core 1.2 GHz | RAM: 1/2GB | Storage: 16/32GB | Battery: 2,800mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 5MP
Is a blisteringly fast gaming experience on a 2K resolution screen important to you? If it's not, the Moto G4 Play may very well have everything you're looking for in a phone for next to nothing unlocked.
The Moto G4 Play just wants to have some fun. It isn't necessarily the most skilled at any one thing, but it's hard to look away from a deal this good.
Sitting at the bottom of the G4 totem pole in terms of specs, the G4 Play is generally lacking in marquee features found in the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus, like the water-repellant coating and fingerprint sensor, respectively.
But does that make it a bad phone? Nope, just one that's definitely not for everyone. Still, going for as low as $279 price point on the Motorola online store, everyone can afford this unlocked smartphone. Even if you love flagship phones, it's hard not to be impressed with the G4 Play, the new budget-priced ruler of Android smartphones.
Read the full review: Moto G4 Play
4. Apple iPhone 5S
Apple's iPhone makes the cut if you jump through hoops
Weight: 112g | Dimensions: 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm | OS: iOS 10 | Screen size: 4-inch | Resolution: 1,136 x 640 | CPU: Dual-core 1.3 GHz | RAM: 1GB | Storage: 16GB | Battery: 1,560mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
It's really, really difficult to fit an Apple phone on a best cheap phones list, but there has to be at least one that's inexpensive enough for iOS fans who refuse to try Android.
The cheapest is the iPhone 5S. The best deal we've been able to find through a carrier is Telstra, which has the 16GB version available for $369 on an pre-paid plan. Alternatively, you could buy it outright on the Kogan website for $429, no contracts required.
You're only getting 16GB, but then again, so are entry-level iPhone SE owners. It comes in space gray or silver, has Touch ID and a still-impressive 8MP camera and runs iOS 10.
Read the full review: iPhone 5S
5. Oppo F1s
Boost your selfie confidence
Weight: 160g | Dimensions: 154.5 x 76 x 7.4mm | OS: Android 5.1 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1,280 x 720 | CPU: Octa-core 1.5GHz | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB w/ microSD | Battery: 3,075mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 16MP
A budget phone with a fantastic build quality, the Oppo F1s delivers exceptional battery life (3 days), a HD screen and a fingerprint reader for just under $320. Not only that, it also provides a noteworthy photographical experience.
This is largely thanks to the phone's impressive front facing 16MP camera (compared to its 13MP rear camera), which allows users to take panoramic selfies.
Couple this with Oppo's Beautify 4.0 selfie software, and what you have is a phone that will go out of its way to show you in a flattering light.
In terms of performance, the Oppo F1s can get a little bogged down by intensive apps, however, if you want a budget phone with a premium feel, it's hard to beat.
6. Samsung Galaxy J2 (4G)
An affordable way to get the Galaxy experience
Weight: 125g | Dimensions: 136.5 x 69 x 8.4mm | OS: Android 5.1 | Screen size: 4.7-inch | Resolution: 960 x 540 | CPU: Quad-core 1.3 GHz | RAM: 1GB | Storage: 8GB w/ MicroSD | Battery: 3,300mAh | Rear camera: 5MP | Front camera: 2MP
Though it's unlikely to win any awards in the innovation department, the Samsung Galaxy J2 is a reliable handset that boasts a bright Super AMOLED screen at an affordable price point.
The J2, which is exclusive to Boost Mobile, also performs admirably when it comes to battery life, and even allows users to swap out the battery if they need a bit of extra juice.
Add to that the ability to add extra storage space via MicroSD (up to 128GB), and what you get is a full-featured Galaxy experience for under $200.
7. Sony Xperia XA
XA marks the spot
Weight: 137g | Dimensions: 143.6 x 66.8 x 7.9 mm | OS: Android 6.0.1 | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 1280 x 720 | CPU: Octa-core | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB w/ microSD | Battery: 2300mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 8MP
Considering its relatively low $299 price, the Sony Xperia XA is rather brazen for a mid-range phone. It’s powerful enough to handle everyday tasks and its looks show that you’re definitely getting your dollar’s worth here in that regard.
Outdoors visibility is surprisingly good too. The Xperia XA kicks into a sort of 'turbo' mode when it senses it's in a bright environment, altering colour and contrast to keep the screen as comprehensible as possible.
The Sony Xperia XA's front camera is pretty sound, and unusual in some respects. It's an 8MP sensor, which is common enough, but has autofocus. A lot of selfie cameras have a fixed-focus lens, under the notion that you're probably going to hold the phone at arm's length and point it at yourself.
The Sony Xperia XA is a slim, good-looking phone that has some high-end charm at a reasonably affordable price. There are better phones out there, but if you like Sony's Xperia style, the Xperia XA is a worthwhile choice that won't break your budget.
Read the full review: Sony Xperia XA
8. Motorola Moto G4 Plus
The high-end of Motorola's budget line
Weight: 155g | Dimensions: 153 x 76.6 x 7.9-9.8mm | OS: Android 6.0.1 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: Octa-core 1.5 GHz | RAM: 2/4GB | Storage: 16GB w/ microSD | Battery: 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 5MP
Lenovo has seamlessly continued Motorola's good work, refining this popular budget range and elevating expectations about what you can reasonably expect in a relatively cheap Android phone.
The gap between the Moto G4 Plus and the latest batch of Android flagships is not as wide as I expected. It's a pleasurable device to use, and it represents good value for money.
If you've been looking for something with a big screen and a good camera, and you can stretch beyond the bottom tier, the Moto G4 Plus is definitely a good buy.
Read the full review: Moto G4 Plus
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