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 3
The 5.5-inch Redmi Note 3 phablet is the first affordable phone by Xiaomi. It comes just several months after the launch of the otherwise identical in terms of specs and silicon Redmi Note 2, and probably such a rushed launch has something to do with the Meizu m1 Metal that brought aluminum design to this price point. The Redmi Note 3 is not only metal, but it is also an affordable phone that features a fingerprint scanner.
Under the hood, it has the MediaTek Helio X10 system chip and comes in a version with 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM, as well as another one with 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM. It's not just the processor that catches the eye in the Redmi Note 3, though. It's also got a 13-megapixel camera with ultra fast phase detection auto-focus, a feature previously reserved for flagship devices only.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3
#2: Meizu M1 Metal
The Meizu Blue Charm Metal also acts as the launch pad for Meizu's new version of its Flyme custom Android skin. It has graduated to version 5.0, and comes with some profound changes. The Helio X10 is certainly the star of the show: It's a fast chip, featuring eight Cortex A53 cores running at up to 2.0GHz, and humming along with 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM.
Meizu Blue Charm Color versions
#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.