Affordable without being 'cheap' in an embarassing wayGood news is that with recent launches the answer is a resounding 'yes'. We now have phones that are cheap without being downright 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, 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.
#10: Huawei P8 Lite
The Huawei P8 Lite might not look like a winner, but its utilitarian interface that manages to run smoothly and its solid construction grant it a place in this list. The phone features Huawei's own HiSilicon Kirin 620 system chip with 8 Cortex A53 cores running at up to 1.2GHz and 2GB of RAM, and the phone is officially sold in the United States. The 5" screen with a 720 x 1280 pixel resolution is sufficiently sharp for our taste, but there are two caveats: Android 4.4 on board with no clarity about update plans, and a fairly middling camera.
Huawei P8 Lite Review
#9: Samsung Galaxy J5
The Galaxy J5 looks like a phone from the near past of Samsung: plastic and generic-looking when it comes to design. Yet, it's a good budget solution for those who slap a case on their phone and don't care much about looks: it runs TouchWiz powered by the ubiquitous Snapdragon 410 system chip, it's got 1.5GB of RAM, and a decently performing 13-megapixel camera. Unfortunately, it only ships with 8GB of internal storage - definitely insufficient in our books - but you can expand on that via microSD cards of up to 128GB.
Samsung Galaxy J5
#8: Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3
If this is what we can expect from a phone with an MSRP of $250, we’re going to have higher expectations from everyone else going forward. Quite simply, the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 is a testament to what can be achieved by a phone that’s on a budget. A $250 phone with the upper mid-range Snapdragon 615 system chip and with a good, 13-megapixel camera, that OT Idol 3 ticks all the boxes except one - it's not particularly exciting in terms of design. If you don't mind that, this handset offers an overall excellent value for the money.
Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 (5.5-inch) Review
#7: Lenovo K3 Note
The Lenovo K3 Note is one of the most popular phones in China, but you can also buy it via third-party resellers. The yellow phone (with its lemon-y theme), however, surprises with a great value for the money: it's a 5.5-inch phone with a 1080 x 1920-pixel display that looks sharp, and it comes with 2GB of RAM, which makes multitasking much more manageable. If you want a Chinese phone that is both cheap and from an established brand, the 5.5" K3 Note is one of your best bets at the moment.
Lenovo K3 Note
#6: Meizu m2 Note
The Meizu m2 Note is quite the impressive package: a 5.5-inch 1080p phone with the mid-range (but very capable) MediaTek MT6753 system chip and 2 gigs of RAM for a surprisingly low price. What really matters is that the m2 Note runs impressively well, all thanks to the FlyMe user interface installed on top of Android 5.1 Lollipop. The phone boasts battery life way above the average for its class, and a 13-megapixel camera that is quick and captures good-looking images.
Meizu m2 note Review
#5: OnePlus Two
The '2015 flagship killer', the OnePlus Two, is the most affordable phone running on the Snapdragon 810 system chip, and it's got a 5.5-inch display with a 1080 x 1920-pixel resolution, a clean and smooth-running Oxygen skin running atop Android 5, as well as a large battery and a capable camera. All of that comes in a package costing just $330, nearly half the price of other flagships with the same chip. Unfortunately, you need to go through the laborious reservation process at OnePlus to get this phone, but if you don't mind - it's one of the best affordable phablets out there.
#4: Asus Zenfone 2
The Asus Zenfone 2 arrives with a splash: it's one of the best deals on the market, beating phones with similar hardware by a huge margin when ti comes to cost. It comes in a 16GB version with 2GB of RAM for $199 (off contract) and a 64GB model with 4 gigs of RAM for $299 (again, full retail price). We recommend going for the truly beastly 64 gig version which is still half the price of the iPhone and Samsung Galaxies. Both models feature the powerful Intel Atom Z3580 system chip with four cores running at up to 2.3GHz, and it comes with PowerVR G6430 graphics (the iPhone 6 features the slightly higher class, but still compareable PowerVR G6450). The 13-megapixel camera is also a more than decent performer that does especially well with HDR images. Finally, with a great battery life and extremely quick recharging times, the Zenfone 2 is definitely one of the best budget phones money can buy these days.
Asus Zenfone 2 Review
#3: Xiaomi Redmi Note 2
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 is the cheapest phone to come with MediaTek's most powerful system chip: the octa-core Helio X10. The Redmi Note 2 really is a small breakthrough in price as other comparably specced phones cost multiple times more. Yes, the phone is plastic, but that's the one shortcut needed to arrive at that low price. Apart from that, the phone comes in a variety of vivid colors that we've come to expect from the Chinese giant Xiaomi. The Redmi Note 2 is 8.25mm thick, which is thinner than the earlier version (but not as razor-thin as some other phones), and it weighs 5.65oz (160 grams).
Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 official images
#2: Meizu m2
The Meizu m2 is a lot of a phone for a very low price. While the official price for this stylish 5 inchers is less than $100 (599 yuan) in China, third-party resellers now offer the phone for $129, which still sounds like quite the steal when compared with even great devices like the Motorola Moto G (2015 Edition). The Meizu m2 checks all bases: a 5" 720p display that actually looks good, a 13-megapixel rear/5-megapixel front camera combo that takes good-looking images and a MediaTek MT6735 SoC. What makes the Meizu m2 really stand out, however, is its clean and extremely smoothly-running Flyme UI running on top of Android 5.1 Lollipop on the M2. The skin has smooth animations and impressive performance (it also comes with the Google Play Store pre-installed internationally), and the device features some neat gestures that boost its functionality.
#1: Motorola Moto G (3rd generation, 2015)
The Motorola Moto G has somewhat surprisingly become the most popular Motorola phone of recent years, and for a good reason - the phone is offered officially in a variety of markets, it carries the venerable Motorola brand (that is now owned by Lenovo), and it has all the right ingredients with a smooth-running, near-stock Android skin and a camera that captures images quickly and with a consistently good quality. The new, 3rd generation of the Moto G now offers protection from water and boasts a much more refined designed with a nice textured back that you can easily swap. Add some signature Moto features that were previously available on higher-end Motorolas only, and the fast and affordable Moto G remains the best affordable phone money can buy right now.