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

Posted: , posted by Victor H.

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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 G6

Price: from $235

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

Cons

  • No real waterproofing (nano-coat only)


The new Moto G6 series brings new life in one of the most popular affordable phones out there: the new Moto G6 features a sleeker than ever design with a thin, elegant body and a premium glass construction. It now has slimmer bezels too and a larger display for a more immersive experience, and at under $300, this phone is still a great value.

Moto sticks with its clean and fast version of Android and the G6 feels very zippy. With a decent camera and good battery life, the G6 remains one of the best options for those looking for a good budget phone.



Honor 7X

Price: $200

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

Cons

  • 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.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 (Pro)

*Only available via importers on Amazon, not officially sold in the United States
Price: $240

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

Cons

  • No NFC support
  • Outdated looks in interface
  • Not officially sold in the United States


The Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 is a surprisingly good phone that is now sold across Europe and Asia, and you can buy it via importers on Amazon in the United States. The Redmi Note 5 features a big, 6-inch display with tiny bezels and it runs on Xiaomi's MIUI custom interface that now supports navigation gestures similar to those on the iPhone X. Add to that a dual camera with portrait mode features and the powerful Snapdragon 636 chip, as well as a version of the phone with 4GB of RAM and 64 gigs of storage, and you are looking at one of the most powerful combinations at this price point.


Nokia 6.1

Price: $230

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

Cons

  • Somewhat outdated design
  • Questionnable selection of colors


The Nokia 6.1 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.

Xiaomi Mi A1

Price: €220

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

Cons

  • 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.


Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017)

Price: €240

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

Cons

  • 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.



LG Q6

Price: $250

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

Cons

  • 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.

Apple iPhone SE

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

Apple iPhone SE

Cons

  • 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.


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