Affordable, not cheap: 15 best low-cost smartphones
Good news is that with recent launches the answer is 'yes'. We now have phones that are cheap without being downright crappy, with an experience ruined by terrible issues - those affordable devices do not lag terribly, they have decent cameras, and some of them even come with a very likable design.
But which ones are they? We've picked the best affordable phones (running Android or Windows Phone), where affordable does not mean ‘cheap’ in any embarrassing way. Take a look at these best value-for-the-money devices that you can get right now, and let us know which you think is the best low-cost smartphone.
#15: Huawei Ascend Y530
Huawei Ascend Y530
#14: Samsung Galaxy S III mini
Samsung Galaxy S III mini
#13: Asus Zenfone 4
Asus ZenFone 4
#12: Nokia Lumia 520
Nokia Lumia 520
#11: Motorola Moto E
Motorola Moto E
#10: Nokia Lumia 530
Nokia Lumia 530
#9: LG L Bello
LG L Bello
#8: Motorola Moto G (2013 edition)
Motorola Moto G
#7: Nokia Lumia 635 (AT&T) / 630 (International)
Nokia Lumia 635
#6: Huawei Ascend G6
Huawei Ascend G6
#5: Xiaomi Redmi 1S
Xiaomi Redmi 1S
#4: Asus Zenfone 5
Asus ZenFone 5
#3: Sony Xperia M2
Sony Xperia M2
#2: Huawei Honor
#1: Motorola Moto G (2014 edition)
Motorola Moto G (2014)
1. aayupanday (Posts: 527; Member since: 28 Jun 2012)
Xiaomi's Mi3 will top that list... atleast here in India.
Getting SD800 for $230.
5. DogeShibe (Posts: 949; Member since: 10 Jan 2014)
SD 800 smokes every other device at that price tag.
Competition is a good thing for consumers.
34. wilsong17 (Posts: 1090; Member since: 10 Mar 2013)
How sweet but does it have lte compatible in the usa
69. SeanContra (Posts: 74; Member since: 24 Mar 2014)
I don't know. Can you repeat the question?
82. Liveitup (Posts: 1572; Member since: 07 Jan 2014)
Why do you think it smokes all the other choices?, what stood out that gave it that advantage in terms of affordability and user experience?, just curious.
10. LetsBeHonest (Posts: 1022; Member since: 04 Jun 2013)
Ur Absolutely right abt that. But not jist xiaomi mi3 also their redmi note and redmi 1s is way better than many they've already listed.
65. itsdeepak4u2000 (Posts: 2866; Member since: 03 Nov 2012)
True, the Redmi 1s is at par than Moto G with price tag of Moto E and that Redmi Note it'll scare the local brands like Micromax, Karbonn, Lava, etc. and even Xiaomi's home companies like Huawei, Lenovo, ZTE, etc.
Mi 3 has lesser price than Moto G and specs of Nexus 5 and other big OEM's flagships.
93. laughmi (Posts: 215; Member since: 28 Oct 2014)
Well said. I used Mi3 and it feels like an S4/iPhone6 competitor and screen quality is amazing. I mean no other brand can offer such screen quality even for $400 for sure. If Xiaomi maintains good service in India they can blow away Samsung and others. Also Android One, Huawei Honor Holly should be in this list. This looks like a US list sans Redmi
97. mafiaprinc3 (Posts: 357; Member since: 07 May 2012)
specs for mi3 is awesome for the price but i dont like the design
2. baldilocks (Posts: 542; Member since: 14 Dec 2008)
The Nexus 5 is still the best bang for the buck out there.
11. LetsBeHonest (Posts: 1022; Member since: 04 Jun 2013)
But what's the point when u just can't get one?.! Other than that its a great device.
31. Busyboy (Posts: 410; Member since: 19 Jun 2014)
Agree, however you can fork in another 50-100$ and get a OPO at OPPO Mart.
40. Arte-8800 (banned) (Posts: 4562; Member since: 13 Mar 2014)
Or the much better quality oppo7
33. Jommick (Posts: 211; Member since: 10 Sep 2013)
sone/comments/2atufn/looking_f or_invites_click_here/?sort=ne w
Thread exists for getting invites.
55. marcski07 (Posts: 556; Member since: 25 Apr 2014)
one plus one, one gets the invitation and the device, send it to another one. one + one + one + one, that's why that's their gimmick of promoting their brand. a one person gets the invitation add another one person so he can add another one person. :D
39. beedeezy14 (Posts: 12; Member since: 17 Dec 2013)
Damn! I just gave my last invites away. Really great phone.
49. AfterShock (Posts: 2960; Member since: 02 Nov 2012)
No, what's that and where can I go buy one?
67. bob_monkeywarts (Posts: 208; Member since: 14 Apr 2014)
So the guy with the username, "nexusdude" says the One Plus One is better then the Nexus? they are both great phones (but you can't get one of them) but still sort of funny.
98. mafiaprinc3 (Posts: 357; Member since: 07 May 2012)
i'm hoping to buy two 64GB sandstone black version when i get some cash and its more easily available for purchase, love that phone,android customization at its best. and they've been good so far in delivering updates to address issues unlike Huawei or Zte
73. Professor (Posts: 191; Member since: 02 Aug 2013)
I agree... The Nexus 5 still the best phone for the price. I consider it even better than the Motorola G (2014 ver)...
3. marbovo (Posts: 658; Member since: 16 May 2013)
There was a time when the word "cheap" was considered a good thing... whats happening this days?
35. tacarat (Posts: 215; Member since: 22 Apr 2013)
Because it got associated with "cheaply made" over "cheaply bought".
57. marcski07 (Posts: 556; Member since: 25 Apr 2014)
blame the Chinese, not all the Chinese but the fraud ones. it makes a bad image for china, but also their government, for allowing it rampantly, + the fact they are bullying smaller countries on the disputed waters in south china sea. lol off topic. :D
4. realjjj (Posts: 165; Member since: 28 Jan 2014)
lol none of those are even close to having great prices
16. elitewolverine (Posts: 2068; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)
Anything under 200 is great.
People forget that s5's etc all cost 600 or more. The nexus is great for the price, and the 1320 too.
6. Planterz (Posts: 1080; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)
Most of the phones listed are relatively new, but older devices need to be considered. Always remember to troll (in the deep-sea fishing sense of the word) eBay and Amazon for mid-range devices from a year ago.
For example, for $110 you can get a new LG F6. Dual core 1.2GHz SD S4+, 1GB RAM, 4.5" qHD screen, and LTE connectivity on T-Mo and AT&T bands. Sure, the Moto E is nice for the price, but I'd rather buy this. FF camera, LED flash on the main, bigger screen, and easily swappable battery. Oh, and LTE.
Examples like this exist for pretty much any provider in the US. And such phones should work on GSM networks outside the US. For $240 you can buy a brand new Nexus 4 off eBay, and that phone easily smokes all the phones on this list, for a few bucks more.
NOS midrange phones from a year ago, or even flagships from 2 years ago can be found for pretty cheap, and are often better than the crop of new "affordable" phones. Don't forget the forgotten phones.
9. Jason78 (Posts: 73; Member since: 10 Apr 2013)
An excellent strategy and one I personally use. I generally buy a 1 to 1 1/2 year old phone used on Ebay, use it for 3-6 months until something else catches my eye, and then sell it on Ebay for close to what I paid for it.
29. WahyuWisnu (Posts: 1001; Member since: 29 May 2014)
I do quite the opposite. In Indonesia, the price of second hand phone is not down by much, and early bird got a discount. So, If buy a brand new, just released phone, I got around 5-15% discount plus times some extra goodies. The downside to this is, I only have a couple of minute trying it when lining up for the early bird line. The upside to this were, if I don't like the phone, I could sell it in 1 months and almost lose no money (because early bird got a discount).
Usually after 3-9 months, I would sell the phone and lost around 10%-25% (depending on brand), and I use a brand new phone again. I consider that as RENTING the phone.
13. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 3617; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)
Tbh Nokia started the bang for the buck revolution with lumia 520.
14. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 3617; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)
Please remove that 530 crap, 520 is still a better choice than that pos.
20. Planterz (Posts: 1080; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)
They look pretty similar to me. Slightly better processor but slightly inferior GPU (Adreno 305 vs 302). Less built-in storage on the 530, but both have microSD expansion (I have no idea how WP handles app storage, so I don't know if internal space matters or not).
Both are OK options if one needs a cheap smartphone but doesn't want (or can afford) a big screen or plays graphically intensive games. But there are better Android choices than the 530 for the price (app selection for Android far outstrips WP). The off-contract prices for the 520/521 are tempting for those on an extremely tight budget. I have to admit this, despite being a WP hater, since the Androids at that price are horrible beyond belief, But even for those that are that broke, it's only a couple skipped fast food meals, 6-packs of beer, cans of energy drink, or a pizza delivery away from a far superior device.
70. mildorzalost (Posts: 60; Member since: 03 Jun 2014)
530 is faster, open games and apps almost in 1/3 faster
84. Venkatramanan (Posts: 246; Member since: 15 Aug 2014)
At this price point no Android device gives better experience. There's no use of having millions of apps in the store if we can't install and use at least 20-30 apps without compromising on the performance. WP gives better and smooth experience with low specd device also.
94. joey_sfb (Posts: 3231; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)
My first hand account with redmi 1s and redmi note say otherwise.
It's a perfect Android experience at rock bottom price. I bought 10 units of redmi s1 for office use and 4 units of redmi note for friend and family members.
17. jonartpop (Posts: 162; Member since: 25 Oct 2012)
I think Moto G more makes sense than any other low cost devices.
22. justsayit (Posts: 241; Member since: 09 May 2013)
-Xperia T2 Ultra
23. Neo_Huang (Posts: 711; Member since: 06 Dec 2013)
This list is for ~$200 or less phones. The T2 is ~$400, Nexus ~$300, etc.
64. justsayit (Posts: 241; Member since: 09 May 2013)
atleast all the are close perfect phone right? offer great perform yet didnot cost like high-end phone,to me is affordable
make no sense to spend slightly lower price for a not so good phone right
75. Professor (Posts: 191; Member since: 02 Aug 2013)
My list is even shorter because if it doesn't have LTE capability I don't even consider it worth not even $50.
Affordable: Blu Studio 5.0 LTE ($179)
Best for the price: LG Nexus 5 ($349)
The best: Samsung Note 4
24. Neo_Huang (Posts: 711; Member since: 06 Dec 2013)
Missing the Zenfone 5, Zenfone 6, Nubia Z7 Mini, Redmi, Redmi 1S, Redmi Note, Mi 1, Mi 1S, Mi 2, Mi 2s.
25. Totse2k15 (Posts: 276; Member since: 11 Feb 2014)
If you don't talk/text/data much and don't mind 3G, the Moto G Boost Mobile version is one of the best, it is under $100 (Depends on tax). $79.99 sometimes at Target. Flash it to Android 4.4.4 Verizon ROM to use on Page Plus. Great gift for people who do little talk and just want a nice, fair decent specs smartphone.
From my experiences. I owned one.
26. WahyuWisnu (Posts: 1001; Member since: 29 May 2014)
PA said that WP is a downside...
#9 Nokia 635
What’s not typical at all is the starting price of just $99.99 off-contract - that’s some 40% cheaper than the practically equally capable Moto G. THE ONLY DOWNSIDE? The Lumia 635 comes with Windows Phone on board, and the platform still lacks some essential apps.
38. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 3617; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)
Lol PA shot themselves there. Wait for wp fans to read this and watch the rage.
78. Liveitup (Posts: 1572; Member since: 07 Jan 2014)
I think its all about preference, if you're into the very latest apps then the platform may not be for you and that's understandable, however for the average consumer having with WP having over 300,000 and growing including the majority of the most popular apps general consumers would be very satisfied.
For myself things features such as Live Tiles/ Live Folders makes Windows Phones a better deal than having a few apps I dont need launchers and such for my smartphone experience I simply want something streamlined others may feel different but the what choice is all about.
I dont see one OS being better than the other just different.
91. jroc74 (Posts: 5192; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)
I am almost shocked by this comment....seriously...lol.
I will say this....I am going pre paid for right now...and I was tempted to get a Lumia just because of the price.....this was before the Moto G launched.
I always say my phone has to be a good phone first, everything else 2nd. And this is something Nokia, Motorola and BB excel at.
If it wasnt for the Moto G, I would have either got an old Moto phone or a Lumia. And WP would be my next choice just because of the choice in hardware. I have always stayed this since WP launched.
28. hwb01 (Posts: 8; Member since: 17 Apr 2014)
HTC Desire 610 is $199.99 on AT&T with no contract, and has Boomsound & Sense 6
61. Landmarkcm (Posts: 465; Member since: 11 Aug 2009)
Ya accept for it's a junk phone. I returned after just one day. You can see my very lengthy review of it on Amazon. :)
80. Liveitup (Posts: 1572; Member since: 07 Jan 2014)
Yes there are.I'm really interested in seeing what 5 years from now what the landscape will look like, smartphones will make these current devices look like second generation Blackberry devices etc.
Who will survive who will not?, Will Android own 100% of the market?, with 80% percent it looks that way guess only time will reveal. Its interesting nonetheless.
46. fzacek (Posts: 2206; Member since: 26 Jan 2014)
Shouldn't you be able to get the Galaxy S3 for around $200 now since it's already more than two years old?
53. Planterz (Posts: 1080; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)
Yes you can, reference my post above. Flagships from a year or 2 earlier can often be had NOS (new old stock) for the price of low-mid range phones recently released, and midrange phones that are still quite capable can be had for dirt cheap.
48. GreekGeek (Posts: 845; Member since: 22 Mar 2014)
Another ''Just for the heck of it'' top ten list....come on
If it were a REAL list, 3 Xiaomis and 2 Asus phones would probably make it
NO Sonys, NO Huwaweis, NO Samsungs
51. Landmarkcm (Posts: 465; Member since: 11 Aug 2009)
The Moto X with the great prices it can now be had at should be part of this. And it would be my top pick right now. I guess it's more still of an upper range device though is why it's not in this post. Only thing with it is the camera can still be iffy. So just use an app to solve that. I almost sent back the current one I have. Until I found several apps to work around the problem. Thank God haha. Hopefully I'll believe it when I see it though that Motorola's latest Kitkat update for it. When I get it, Really fixes the cameras problems because Moto's stock camera app just cant seem to get the exposure right with the flash most of the time.
54. Planterz (Posts: 1080; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)
The Moto X's can be had for a very good price during their occasional sales, and you still get to customize.
The LG G2 can also be found easily for about $350, and it's still a great phone that holds its own against the newest in benchmarks. You can get it cheaper than a Galaxy S4, and its specs are better. The lack of microSD storage and replaceable battery are a downside, but it's still one hell of a phone. It doesn't really fit in this article, but it's easily the best midrange phone when it comes to bang-for-the-buck, apart from the hard-to-obtain OnePlusOne. It even beats the Nexus 5.
60. Landmarkcm (Posts: 465; Member since: 11 Aug 2009)
Amazon really hooked me up on my Moto X from them. They gave me a partial refund of 150 smackaroos because the seller listed it as unlocked. Which it is I guess. But it came with an AT&T logo. And I was only asking to be sent another one from Motorola factory unlocked but they did not have. So I scored an awesome price. Which is still fine for me as I am on AIO, Well Now Cricket Wireless. I just love Amazon though. They really solve problems & shipping and service are top notch! Knock on wood :)