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Best budget and affordable phones of 2018: a buyer's guide

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Best budget and affordable phones of 2018: a buyer's guide
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 a couple of 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?

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.

Moto G5S Plus

Price: $280 for 32GB, $350 for 64GB

Best budget and affordable phones of 2018: a buyer's guide


  • No real waterproofing (nano-coat only)
  • Aging micro-USB port
  • Bokeh effect produces underwhelming results

The new Moto G5S Plus brings back the Moto G series to where it first started: an amazing value-for-the-money proposition. At under $300, this phone is great value: it ships with a clean and well-performing version of Android, it's got very good performance, a decent camera and above average battery life. The G5S also features a sturdy metal design that feels reassuringly solid.

Honor 7X

Price: $200 / €290

Best budget and affordable phones of 2018: a buyer's guide


  • No USB-C; no fast charging
  • Camera becomes very temperamental in low-light
  • EMUI 5.1 isn’t very good-looking

The Honor 7X is shaping up like an easy phone to recommend. $200 gets you a solid, good-looking phone, with a tall, 18:9 screen and peppy performance. EMUI 5.1 feels rather tired and a bit cartoonish, but the functionality and performance within give the user much customization and plenty of speed in day-to-day tasks. As for the camera, it does seem promising, but we'll have to test it further before we give it our final verdict.

Apple iPhone SE

Price: $350 for 32 GB | $450 for 128 GB

Apple iPhone SE


  • Design feels dated with those big bezels
  • Loudspeaker is not among the best

Big phones are just not everyone's cup of tea (at least not yet), and that's why there is still a market for extremely compact devices that you can easily use with a single hand. 

The iPhone SE is one of the best such phones you can get at the moment: in fact, it's the only phone of such small sizes. It stands out not just with its size: even among Android compacts, it offers the fastest performance with a great and consistently reliable 12-megapixel camera that can capture 4K video and supports the fun Live Photos.

On top of that, the small iPhone SE features better battery life than even the iPhone 6s and 6: its smaller screen size and newer silicon allow for more effective use of battery. Add to that the affordable (at least in the US) price, and you have quite the appealing small phone.

Xiaomi Mi A1

Price: €220

Best budget and affordable phones of 2018: a buyer's guide


  • Display quality is not great, screen is bluish
  • Camera is about average

The Xiaomi Mi A1 is the company's first Android One phone, meaning that it runs on a clean, pure version of Android and does not have the company's MIUI. This is great for international users, as it helps with faster updates.

The Mi A1 is also well built, with a sleek metal construction and it excels in battery life, and even performs well. Its camera is not quite the best out there and the display is definitely on the cold side, but these are some compromises you make to get at that price.

Nokia 6

Price: $230

Best budget and affordable phones of 2018: a buyer's guide


  • Camera has a tendency to let in movement in regular shooting mode
  • Regular shooting mode has some trouble with dynamic range, specifically bright areas
  • Loading times can take a second or two in OS, borderline painful in loading games
  • Fingerprint authentication requires two taps, one to wake up and one to authenticate

The Nokia 6 is a solidly build phone with an almost premium feel, up-to-the-task screen, and capable 16-megapixel camera that sometimes makes it easy to forget you're holding an affordable phone. But we never lose sight of this affordable phone status in regard to processing power: in more intensive usage scenarios, this will be most evident.

Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017)

Price: €240

Best budget and affordable phones of 2018: a buyer's guide


  • Older Android version, slow updates
  • Low 16GB on-board storage
  • Not greatest camera
  • Performance a bit lacking

The Samsung Galaxy A3 2017 is a very cute phone, one with a compact size and a stylish glass design that is hard to find at this price. It is also water-proof, another rarity for an affordable phone. In addition, the Samsung Experience interface it runs on is rich in feature and the battery life is outstanding. There are compromises: the low screen resolution and only 16GB of on-board storage are the biggest ones.


Price: $250

Best budget and affordable phones of 2018: a buyer's guide


  • Plastic back scratches extremely easily
  • Stuttery performance

The Q6 features an edge-to-edge screen and a fairly modern design with a custom LG interface. It's one of the less recommended budget phone options and here is why: the LG Q6 feels a bit underpowered, its plastic back scratches extremely easily, its display is oversharpened and it’s noticeable, and its camera is nothing more than average and does not record 4K video. Worst of all, the lack of a fingerprint scanner and the poorly performing face recognition are very annoying for a modern, 2017 phone.

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