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.
1. Moto G5 Plus
The most phone for the least amount of cash
Weight: 155g | Dimensions: 150 x 74 x 7.7mm (up to 9.7mm at camera bump) | OS: Android 7.1 (Android Oreo incoming) | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | Chipset: Snapdragon 625 | RAM: 2/4GB options | Storage: 32/64GB w/ microSD support | Battery: 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP lenses | Front camera: 5MP | Supported Networks: All US Carriers
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 premium build, a 5.2-inch Full HD screen, a fingerprint sensor, quick charging and a hearty amount of internal storage in addition to a microSD card reader to handle even more memory down the line.
Supported by all international and US carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, the souped-up G5 Plus runs on Android Nougat, though will soon feature Android 8.0 Oreo.
Inside, it boasts a Snapdragon 625 CPU, and while it's not going to be blowing away the benchmarks, it's powerful enough to play most games and multitask with ease.
Read the full review: Moto G5S Plus
2. iPhone SE
iOS on an incredible budget
Weight: 113g | Dimensions: 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm | OS: iOS 11 | Screen size: 4-inch | Resolution: 1,136 x 640 | Chipset: A9 processor | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 32/1128GB | Battery: 1,624mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 1.2MP | Fingerprint Sensor: Yes | Supported Networks: All US Carriers
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
3. Asus ZenFone V
The absolute best value for Verizon customers
Weight: 147g | Dimensions: 146 x 72.6 x 7.6mm | OS: Android Nougat | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: Snapdragon 820 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB w/ microSD | Battery: 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 23MP | Front camera: 8MP | Fingerprint Sensor: Yes | Supported Networks: Verizon only
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
4. Honor 7X
18:9 aspect ratio comes to the mid-range
Weight: 165g | Dimensions: 156.5 x 75.3 x 7.6mm | OS: Android Nougat / EMUI 5.1 | Screen size: 5.93-inch | Resolution: 2,160 x 1,080 | CPU: Kirin 659 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB w/ microSD | Battery: 3,340mAh | Rear camera: 16MP + 2MP | Front camera: 8MP | Fingerprint Sensor: Yes | Supported Networks: GSM only
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
5. ZTE Blade V8 Pro
One of ZTE's best is also one of its most affordable
Weight: 185g | Dimensions: 155 x 76 x 9.1mm | OS: Android Marshmallow | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: Snapdragon 625 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB w/ microSD | Battery: 3,140mAh | Rear camera: 13MP + 13MP | Front camera: 8MP | Fingerprint Sensor: Yes | Supported Networks: GSM only
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
6. Moto E4
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 | Fingerprint Sensor: Yes | Supported Networks: All US Carriers
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 Nougat software, fingerprint sensor and the general 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
7. Nokia 6
Premium doesn't have to come at a high cost
Weight: 169g | Dimensions: 154 x 75.8 x 7.8mm | OS: Android Nougat | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: Snapdragon 430 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB w/ microSD | Battery: 3.000mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 8MP | Supported Networks: GSM only
If you can stretch to the quite reasonable price tag it’s the Nokia phone we’d recommend you go for, thanks to its large Full HD display, tidy performance and solid camera.
The only real negatives are that the phone isn’t as comfortable to hold as the rounded Nokia 5 and Moto G5 Plus, and we’d have liked the battery life to last a full day on a single charge more comfortably.
Overall then, the Nokia 6 is like a really good, affordable smartphone. It’s got a decent spec sheet and a great design, while the stock Android interface should mean it gets software updates promptly.
Read the full review: Nokia 6
8. LG Q6
Honey, I shrunk the LG G6
Weight: 149g | Dimensions: 142.5 x 69.3 x 8.1mm | OS: Android Nougat | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 2,160 x 1,080 | CPU: Snapdragon 435 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB w/ microSD | Battery: 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP | Fingerprint Sensor: No | Supported Networks: GSM only
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
9. 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 | Fingerprint Sensor: Yes | Supported Networks: GSM only
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
10. Xiaomi Mi A1
An impressive phone that can be hard to find
Weight: 165g | Dimensions: 155 x 75 x 7.3mm | OS: Android Oreo | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: Snapdragon 625 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB w/ microSD | Battery: 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP +12MP | Front camera: 5MP | Fingerprint Sensor: Yes | Supported Networks: GSM only
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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