The 10 Best Cheap Smartphones

Updated January 20, 2018 by Chase Brush

10 Best Cheap Smartphones
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Calling them "cheap" may not be totally accurate, but these smartphones are certainly much more affordable than the leading models, yet offer many of the same features, including bright displays and capable cameras. They're the perfect choice for kids and teens who need an entry-level device, or for anyone on a budget. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best cheap smartphone on Amazon.

10. Motorola Moto E4 Plus

You really can't go wrong with the Motorola Moto E4 Plus, which is easily one of the most affordable options out there. Of course, it's also one of the most basic, though it still manages to pack in a fingerprint reader, a front camera flash, and a water-repellent screen.
  • long-lasting 5000 mah battery
  • runs nearly pure version of android
  • thicker than most models
Brand Motorola
Model 01163NARTL
Weight 6.4 ounces
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

9. LG Q6

A miniaturized version of the flagship G6, the LG Q6 is a respectable budget model in almost all regards, including an accurate rear-facing camera and a vivid FullVision display that's great for watching movies. It does, however, lack a fingerprint reader.
  • nearly bezel-free screen
  • constructed to military specs
  • rear surface scratches easily
Brand LG
Weight 13.8 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

8. Alcatel Idol 5S

The Alcatel Idol 5S is the ideal choice for music lovers, thanks to its dual, front-facing JBL stereo speakers that produce better sound than many premium options. Still, its battery life is pretty miserable, so you'll only be able to keep the beats pumping for so long.
  • slim and elegant design
  • vibrant onscreen colors
  • rear camera is poor in low light
Brand Alcatel
Model 6060S
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

7. ZTE Blade V8 Pro

Camera quality is one of the areas in which buyers are usually forced to compromise when looking for a cheap phone, though with the ZTE Blade V8 Pro, it won't be by too much. With a rear 13-and-13-megapixel dual camera system, this model can snap some impressive pictures.
  • 3rd gen corning gorilla glass
  • hi-fi audio chipset
  • only comes in one configuration
Brand ZTE
Model Z978
Weight 12.6 ounces
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

6. Nokia 6

With the premium Nokia 6, this maker of once-popular business phones seems to have found its niche in the world of budget devices. It's an elegantly designed piece of tech, featuring an all-metal body, a 5.5-inch full HD display, a snapdragon 430 chipset, and 3GB of RAM.
  • comes in copper blue and black
  • works with all carriers unlocked
  • doesn't charge very quickly
Brand Nokia mobile
Model N6C
Weight 12 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

5. Asus ZenFone 4 Max

Perfect for power hogs on the go, the Asus ZenFone 4 Max incorporates a massive 5,000 mAh battery, offering hours of continuous use and even allowing it to serve as a backup charger for other devices. It's an important feature, even if the rest isn't quite as outstanding.
  • storage is expandable up to 256gb
  • 400 nits brightness for easy viewing
  • clunky interface is annoying
Brand Asus
Model ZC554KL-S430-3G32G-BK
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. Blu R2

If you're on a super strict budget but still want the utility of a basic smartphone, check out the Blu R2. It's hands-down one of the cheapest devices on the market, and while its build quality and spec list reflect that, you won't be kicking yourself over the price.
  • 13 megapixel front and rear cameras
  • comes in four different finishes
  • software can lag and stutter
Brand BLU
Model R0170WW BLACK
Weight 8.8 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

3. Apple iPhone SE

Loyal fans of iOS, take note: your favorite device manufacturer does make a low-cost model and it's called the Apple iPhone SE. True, it doesn't come with all the advanced features of their latest offerings, but that doesn't mean it's not a great choice in its own right.
  • top-of-the-line build quality
  • fast performance with ios 11
  • storage from 16 to 128 gb
Brand Apple
Model Mate2 Black
Weight 12.8 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

2. Huawei Honor 7X

It's hard to believe that a phone this good can be priced this low, but that kind of quality-to-cost ratio is something we've come to expect from the makers of the Huawei Honor 7X. Their latest offering boasts many of the high-end specs claimed by much more costly devices.
  • stylish metal body
  • 16 megapixel dual-lens camera
  • 2gb of ram and 32gb of storage
Brand Honor
Model 51092ASL
Weight 4.2 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Motorola Moto G5 Plus

Combining beautiful hardware and snappy performance with an under $300 price tag, it's tough to beat the Motorola Moto G5 Plus in terms of value. It runs a stripped-down version of Android 7.0, works with any GMS carrier in the world, and has a fast fingerprint sensor.
  • dual autofocus camera
  • turbopower charging mode
  • supports microsd cards up to 128gb
Brand Motorola
Model 01118NAAZN
Weight 10.6 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Beat Back The Bill

It's long been a dirty little secret that when you buy a cell phone along with a calling plan from a given distributor, whether it's Verizon, AT&T, or any of the other big players on the market, the sticker price is rarely what you actually pay for a phone.

Let's say you want a phone that costs $500. You walk into your local wireless provider's brick and mortar location and you see it advertised for only $100 if you get it with a contract. So, you sign up for their data plan, pay the $100 plus any initiation fees, and you walk out on cloud nine.

In the fine print of your contract, however, is the remaining $400 cost of the phone, divided up over the course of two years, which is about $16.67 per month. If your monthly bill is $80, that means $63.33 is going toward your actual wireless bill and its many hidden fees, and the remaining $16.67 is going toward the cost of your phone.

If you forget that you're due for an upgrade after the first two years are up, the phone company doesn't gracefully reduce your bill to $63.33 per month. They keep charging you the $80 until you come in for an upgrade, raising the cost of your phone higher and higher the longer you wait to switch.

That's why it can be so much smarter to get your hands on one of these phones on your own, and then walk into the wireless provider's office with all the power. Each of the companies present on our list go about reducing the cost of their phones in a variety of ways. Sometimes it's a little reduction in speed from a slower processor. Other times it's the camera that takes a hit in the quality department, or the battery life that doesn't quite compare to the more expensive phones on the market.

Whatever the reason for the reduced price, it's important to remember that the tech specs of these so-called cheap smartphones are mostly the same ones for which consumers paid $500 and $600 for just a couple of years ago.

Connected Systems

Each smartphone is essentially a little handheld supercomputer. But, for all the technical nuances going into them that might tip your decision in the direction of that phone or the other, picking a cheap smartphone from the options on our list should start with the one thing we started with: connectivity.

I don't mean the interconnected people each of whom has his or her smartphone out and at the ready. I mean the connection your phone makes between its operating system and the system you have on your computer. The days of having to plug a phone into your computer to update music libraries and contacts are fading into history as cloud computing technology gets faster and capable of holding more data. But that doesn't mean the interface between your phone and your computer is any less vital.

You know your computer's interface pretty well. If there's a problem, you can usually figure out what it is, or at least you know who to ask that knows how to fix it. You've also become familiar with the services you use online, regardless of your computer's operating system. That familiarity is priceless when choosing among smartphones.

For example, if you're a Macbook owner and a consummate Gmail user running Google's calendar and spreadsheet programs for work, you might not want a phone that runs Windows. That would be the least connected option. Android interfaces with Google platforms more smoothly than Windows, and it's much friendlier when plugged into a Mac. Conversely, if you do everything Microsoft, from your laptop to your email, using a phone that runs Windows will be second nature to you.

Of course, you want to keep an eye on specs like battery life, camera megapixels, processor speed, and internal storage, making sure you get the highest combination of them all for the best price, but if you can't figure out how to get the thing to sync with your email, all those specs will mean precisely nothing.

A Long Drum Roll

Many years before the iPhone swept into our lives and made us all slightly more alienated from one another while at the same time creating the illusion of greater connectivity, IBM introduced a touchscreen smartphone that had the ability to make calls, send email, and even send faxes. That's right: faxes. After all, this was back in 1993, when fax machines were still a thing.

The phone was called Simon, and 17 years before the introduction of the iPhone it cost a whopping $899. That's just under $1,500 adjusted for inflation in 2016. A little less expensive, and stripped of the ability to make calls, the Palm Pilot came along a few years later and introduced everyone to a more affordable, more complete mobile computing platform that launched an entire industry of personal digital assistants, or PDAs.

Then came the Blackberry devices and Palm's attempt at a phone in the early 2000s, both of which boasted better processing power and the ability to make and take calls, as well as surf the web. They were truly innovative machines that didn't stand a chance against what was coming.

In 2007, the iPhone appeared, and ever since, anyone in the market has only had the iPhone to compare itself to, to look to for the next thing it'd have to integrate into its system lest their company fade into obsolescence. It's a sad tale, in a way, but the makers of these cheap smartphones go about competing with the giant in a way that's more affordable, and in that sense perhaps more charitable, than the megalith.

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Last updated on January 20, 2018 by Chase Brush

Chase is a freelance journalist with experience working in the areas of politics and public policy. Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, he is also a hopeless itinerant continually awaiting his next Great Escape.

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