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  • Affordable, not cheap: best low-cost smartphones (Spring 2017)

Affordable, not cheap: best low-cost smartphones (Spring 2017)

Posted: , by Victor H.

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Affordable, not cheap: best low-cost smartphones (Spring 2017)

When it comes to technology, some people just don’t find it reasonable to spend crazy amounts of money on a gadget that gets old in just several years. Yet, those same people still want the full smartphone experience, the camera, the apps, and the speed. Are there any affordable phones that would fit all those criteria?

Affordable without being 'cheap' in an embarassing way

Good 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.

#9: Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X


Price: $200

Affordable, not cheap: best low-cost smartphones (Spring 2017)

Affordable, not cheap: best low-cost smartphones (Spring 2017)

The Redmi Note 4X would be the ultimate affordable smartphone had Chinese company Xiaomi made it for the U.S. or Europe. Unfortunately, it did not. This phone is made for Asia only and that is the biggest drawback about it. With a killer metal design, a fast and reliable fingerprint scanner, decently good-looking display and a fast performance with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, it is a heck of a deal for $200 or less (yes, that's the full retail price). You can still get the phone on eBay or via some less-known third-party seller, but you won't get any proper warranty or service. The risk's on you, but if you want to take it, we understand.

#8: LeEco Le S3


Price: $200

Affordable, not cheap: best low-cost smartphones (Spring 2017)

The $250 LeEco Le S3 is a great value for the money and best of all, it's officially available in the United States, so you can get proper customer service. The phone is sleek, made out of metal and features impressive hardware. First, though, let's say a few words about LeEco. This is a Chinese brand that long was known for its Netflix-like streaming service, but has recently switched to making phones. It has made its official entry to the U.S. market in late 2016, and the Le S3 is its affordable offering. It undercuts its rivals by offering a rich featur-set including a 5.5-inch Full HD display, the Snapdragon 652 system chip with 3GB of RAM, quick charging and a 16-megapixel main camera with support for 4K video. Its interface, "eui" is among the more confusing parts of the experience, but you get used to it after a while and if you like something different you might even like it.


#7: ZTE Axon 7 Mini


Price: $250

Affordable, not cheap: best low-cost smartphones (Spring 2017)


With its cute and good-looking metal design, the ZTE Axon 7 Mini stands out in a crowd. The thing you notice first are its dual front-firing speakers, they are louder and better than what you get on many other things, and are a great thing to have. The phone runs on a mid-range chip, but performs reasonably well and has an above average camera, but its battery is nothing to write home about.

#6: Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)


Price: $210

Affordable, not cheap: best low-cost smartphones (Spring 2017)



One of the most popular Samsung phones is - surprise, suprise! - the Galaxy J7 (2016). It's shocking because it's definitely not a looker: with its plastic body and uninspiring design it reminds us of times long past. But it performs well, has very good battery life, very decent camera and a familiar user interface. Unlike other unproven brands, you can also rely on Samsung's customer service here and the price is right, all enough to make the J7 (2016) worth considering. It's out of necessity, not out of affection, though.

#5: Sony Xperia XA


Price: $200

Affordable, not cheap: best low-cost smartphones (Spring 2017)



The Xperia XA, introduced in late 2016, shows that you can have a different design even in affordable phones. Sure, it's plastic, but it has those nice curves and compact fit to it. It's also a Sony phone, bringing with it the brand's recognition and simple, down-to-business interface. The XA has an above average camera and very good battery life, and while it is not among the most exciting phones out there, it gets the job done for good money.


Price: $150

Affordable, not cheap: best low-cost smartphones (Spring 2017)

Affordable, not cheap: best low-cost smartphones (Spring 2017)

The Apple iPhone 5s is your cheapest iPhone still sold at MVNOs like U.S. Cellular, Cricket Wireless, Virgin Mobile, and you can also find refurb models going for a price of around $150. The iPhone 5s might be an old phone and its small, 4-inch display is not everyone's cup of tea, but if you don't mind that, you'd pleased to find that - unlike many Android phones of that time - the 5s works on the latest iOS 10 software platform. It also performs well. It's not the fastest phone around, but it does not stutter or lag significantly either, it captured good-looking images and has access to all the awesome applications available on Apple's App Store.

#3: Honor 6X


Price: $250

Affordable, not cheap: best low-cost smartphones (Spring 2017)

Affordable, not cheap: best low-cost smartphones (Spring 2017)

Honor does a lot right with the 6X. The dual camera system is flashy and allows some interesting blurred background effects to photos (not quite iPhone 7 Plus quality, though).

The phone is also crafted out of metal and looks attractive, while not being particularly flashy. It also offers some solid hardware for casual usage without getting weighed down by too many extraneous bells and whistles, and runs software that, while it's getting a little old, is functional and very customizable.

#2: ZTE Blade V8 Pro


Price: $230

Affordable, not cheap: best low-cost smartphones (Spring 2017)

The 5.5-inch ZTE Blade V8 Pro is a Snapdragon 430 phone that offers great value for the money. It has a lot going for it: strong performance for the class, outstanding battery life with support for fast charging, and a camera that is above many in the class. We'd love it if the phone had a slightly tighter build, louder speaker, and delivered more impressive video recording, but none of these are deal-breakers by a long stretch.

#1: Moto G5 Plus


Price: $230 for 32 GB / 2 GB RAM, $300 for 64 GB / 4 GB RAM

Affordable, not cheap: best low-cost smartphones (Spring 2017)

The Moto G5 Plus is the best affordable phone you can get right now. At a starting price of just $230, it offers stunning value for the money: the Snapdragon 625 system chip under the hood is powerful and extremely frugal, it has one of the fastest cameras around and image quality is above average, and battery life is also expected to be above the average in the class. The new Moto G5 Plus also ships with a clean, clutter-free interface on top of Android 7 Nougat. 

Quite impressively, this phone also works on all major US carriers with full 4G LTE support. The G5 Plus relies on a microUSB port for charging rather than the newer and more convenient USB-C, but that's hardly something to get too worried about.

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