Trying to find the best cheap phone, especially in the US, is a herculean task in 2017, as carriers want to lock everyone into contracts even at budget prices. You want to spend less money – not more, right?
That's why we've deployed our knowledge of the best phones under $200 and tested hundreds of cheap phones to rank the best devices. Unlocked, contract free and SIM-free phones are included in the top ten.
While most are $200 or under, you'll likely recognize the brands: Motorola, Google, Sony and Apple. But there are some that you’ve probably never heard of, namely Honor, ZTE and OnePlus, but they're just as worthy of your time.
The mobile devices on this list certainly won’t be the very best phones in the US, so you won't find the high-end iPhone 8 Plus or Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus here. Regrettably, the 4-inch iPhone SE is $279, so it misses our benchmark by $79, as delightful as it may be.
The best really cheap phone under $160
Blu R1 Plus
One of the cheapest Android phones we've reviewed
Weight: 191g | Dimensions: 153 x 76 x 10.5 mm | OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 720 x 1,280 | Chip: MediaTek 6737 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP
If you're shopping for a cheap phone that isn’t tied up in an annoying contract that's just slightly more than $150, this is our recommendation as it often gets discounted through Amazon flash sales.
The Blu R1 plus comes in right at $159, and that includes an Android phone with an HD display, metal build and a large 4,000mAh battery. It also has a dual-SIM feature, making it a great phone for travelers, plus it even includes a case and has a passable camera (great in daylight, not so great in low light).
This device is solely for the sub-$200 crowd as it can't handle 3D games well, has no fingerprint sensor and runs an outdated version of Android. It's capable of the basics, and gets you an in to Google's app environment.
Read the full review: Blu Plus R1
The best cheap phones under $300
1. Moto G5 Plus
Our favorite cheap phone with a premium new look
Weight: 155g | Dimensions: 150.2 x 74 x 7.7 mm | OS: Android 7 | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | Chip: Snapdragon 625 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB | Battery: 3000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP
The Moto G5 Plus is the best cheap phone you can buy right now mostly because it doesn't look or feel like a budget phone. It has a metal build, a 5.2-inch Full HD screen, a fingerprint sensor, quick charging and 64GB of internal storage with a microSD card reader for expansion.
Supported by all major US carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, the G5 Moto Plus also runs on Android 8.0 Oreo and includes Google Assistant, which we've found to be comparable to Siri. It has a Snapdragon 625 CPU, and while it's not going to be blowing away the benchmarks, it's powerful enough to play games and multitask. The only features that the more expensive Moto Z2 has that you’ll really be missing are a better camera, VR capabilities and MotoMods. Most people will do just fine with this phone, and it is less than a third of the cost of Motorola's flagship.
Amazon is offering the Moto G5 at an even deeper discount to Prime members. It's just $239 with Amazon's lockscreen ads, or the normal $269 without those ads for everyone else. .
Read the full review: Moto G5 Plus
2. Moto G4
The Moto G4 is now even cheaper
Weight: 155g | Dimensions: 153 x 76.6 x 9.8mm | OS: Android 7 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: Octa-core 1.5GHz | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16/32GB | Battery: 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP
If you're looking for a cheap handset that costs just $129, you can get that with Motorola's last-generation Moto G4, which is still a top pick for us.
It has a 5.5-inch Full HD display and a Snapdragon 617 CPU with 2GB of RAM and up to either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage. Don't worry too much, it has a microSD card slot in case you run out of space. You still won't get NFC or VR compatibility, but this phone does everything else you need on an everyday basis and works on all major US carriers.
Read the full review: Moto G4
3. 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 very, very hard to fit an Apple device on a best cheap phones guide, but there is bound to be at least one that's cheap enough for iOS fans who refuse to try the more affordable Android devices above.
The cheapest is iPhone 5S. When it was last sold through the Apple Store, it cost $450 without a contract – until the iPhone SE showed up and replaced it. That was too expensive to include here.
Now it's the cheapest iPhone we can find thanks to third-party stores like Amazon. It's under $199 through the main store and many third-party sellers are also hawking it for under $199.
Read the full review: iPhone 5S
4. ZTE Max XL
ZTE cut almost no corners on this budget device
Weight: 180g | Dimensions: 165 x 84 x 9.4mm | OS: Android Nougat | Screen size: 6-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: Snapdragon 435 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB w/ microSD | Battery: 3,990mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP
While ZTE may not be exactly the most well-known smartphone name, the Max XL really shows that they know how to make a cheap device that doesn’t compromise on quality.
Miraculously, this 6-inch device is right around $99and comes packed with a fingerprint sensor, 16GB of storage, a microSD card slot, and enough power to handle moderate loads of gaming and multi-tasking.
We know you'll be pleasantly surprised with every aspect of the Max XL, as we were. As far as specs, it rivals the Moto G5 found outside of the US and at that, it can hold its own to last year's budget Moto line.
The big downside is that it's currently only available for Boost Mobile, but that may change in the future. Even so, this device is one of the best, most shocking bargains to come out of 2017 so far.
Read the full review: ZTE Max XL
Who knew the low-end could be so good?
Dimensions: 144.7 x 72.3 x 9.3mm | OS: Android 7.1.1 | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 1,280 x 720 | CPU: 1.3GHz quad-core | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB with microSD storage | Battery: 2,800mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 5MP
The Moto E3 isn't our favorite cheap phone in the world right now... it's not even the best cheap phone from Motorola - those are the Moto G5 Plus and Moto G4 Plus.
But if you're looking for a truly affordable device that doesn't sacrifice too much to meet an attractive price tag, the Moto E4 is still a good option you could take a look at. We particularly liked the slick design, Android 7 software, fingerprint sensor and the value of the phone.
There's still the issue of it only having 16GB of storage and the performance isn't fantastic, but if you can get over those issues the Moto E4 will be a great phone for you.
Read the full review: Moto E4
6. Honor 5X
A whole lot of features for not a lot of cash
Weight: 158g | Dimensions: 151.3 x 76.3 x 8mm | OS: Android 6.0.1 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: Snapdragon 615 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB with microSD storage | Battery: 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP
If value is your main concern, the Honor 5X is an excellent option. While it doesn't run on stock Android like the other 5X (Nexus 5X), Honor's budget phone has a more premium look and packs more performance per dollar than many of the entries on this list, though it obviously pales in comparison to that of true flagship devices.
What the Honor 5X lacks in a standout feature, it makes up for being a good all-around workhorse for work and play. Better yet, it comes at a price that's pretty easy to swallow.
Read the full review: Honor 5X
7. Sony Xperia XA Ultra
XA Ultra marks the spot
Weight: 201g | Dimensions: 162 x 79 x 8.3mm | OS: Android 6.0.1 | Screen size: 6-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: Octa-core | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 16GB w/ microSD | Battery: 2,700mAh | Rear camera: 21.5MP | Front camera: 16MP
Considering its relatively low $300 (£299) price, the Sony Xperia XA Ultra is a rather brazen phone for being mid-range. 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.
Although this phone is short on surprises, the competent front-facing camera feels like a unique trait, and one that we hope comes back in the future. You’d think this sort of feature would be a better fit in Sony’s flagship product, but it’s good to see the company innovating in the mid-range sector.
If you’re in need of a solid performer that won’t break the bank, and you don’t mind the palm-stretching build of the XA Ultra, then you might have just found your next phone.
Read the full review: Sony Xperia XA Ultra
8. 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. Bargain hunters, however, might have trouble looking past the cheaper, but very similar Moto G4.
Read the full review: Moto G4 Plus
9. Nextbit Robin
A solid Android phone with a clever trick
Weight: 150g | Dimensions: 149 x 72 x 7mm | OS: Android 6.0 | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: Hexa-core 2GHz | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 2,680mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP
The Nextbit Robin isn't like most phones. First off, its design sets it apart from the get-go. Available in mint (as seen above) and red, the Robin pushes a bold visual statement that makes other devices look boring.
But thankfully, it's not all talk: Nextbit's tweaked version of Android Marshmallow (and soon, Android Nougat) allows users to take advantage of 100GB of free cloud storage to offload apps, games and photos to make way for what space you might need to use.
In addition, it's just a slick phone that doesn't shirk on features. You'll commonly find the Robin under the $200 mark. And, so long as you're on a GSM carrier, this could be your next device.
Read the full review: Nextbit Robin
10. Asus Zenfone 2
Android phone customizations on the very cheap
Weight: 170g | Dimensions: 152.5 x 77.2 x 10.9mm | OS: Android 6.0 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 1920 | CPU: Quad-core 1.8 GHz | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB | Battery: 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP
The more expensive 4GB ASUS Zenfone 2 was a tough sell for us, only because it brought powerful specs and Android customizations, yet wrapped it all in a plastic phone at $299.
Much less of an oxymoron is the 2GB Asus Zenfone 2, at a more reasonable $199. It feels just as cheap, but for a much more appropriate price. You just have to deal with its slower processor.
Intel is powering both variants, and this phone has a 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z3560 quad-core chip, ditching the more commonly used Qualcomm Snapdragon processors.
Its roomy 5.5-inch display, 1080p resolution and Android software tweaks are the real highlights. Screen brightness and camera are literal lowlights, but you can't win them all with a cheap phone.
We were able to test out the forthcoming Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe, but with its more powerful specs and all-metal design, it'll likely cost much more than the cheapest Zenfone 2.
Read the full review: Asus Zenfone 2
Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom
A lot of phone for the money
Weight: 170g | Dimensions: 154.3 x 77 x 7.9mm | OS: Android Marshmallow | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: Snapdragon 625 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32/64GB | Battery: 5,000mAh | Rear camera: two cameras, each 12MP | Front camera: 13MP
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.
At $329, 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
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