The Best Cheap Android Phones – September 2019
The last few years have seen smartphones get really good—and really expensive. While most flagship devices seemed to hold their price points at around $650 unlocked, the release of the iPhone X in 2017 seemed to be an open invitation for price increases from phone manufacturers, with Samsung, Google, and LG all following the lead. It’s often to see flagship devices come in nearing a grand or more, and while smartphones do last longer than they used to, it’s a lot of money to spend on a single gadget.
Of course, not everyone needs to buy a flagship device. Great Android phones exist in every price range. Whether you’re looking to pay a few hundred dollars for a phone that is nearly as good as those $1000 phones—with a few compromises, of course—or you just drop a couple hundred dollars or less to get a phone that will do what you need and not much else, Android’s 2019 offerings are the perfect place to look. The budget smartphone category has really come into its own as processors have advanced, good phone displays have gotten cheap, and even mediocre cameras have gotten good enough for Instagram. If you aren’t a heavy user and you just need something cheap and reliable, we’ve gathered the best cheap Android phones you can grab in 2019. From the cheapest Android phones around to a good middle-ground that’ll last you years to come, there’s something for everyone in our list. Let’s dive in.
For anyone who has shopped for a budget Android device before, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Motorola’s latest G-series device has landed on the top of our list. We’ve long praised the Moto G lineup of phones as a great option for those looking for solid performance at a low cost, and recent devices have only improved the experience. Available for just $299 for Amazon Prime subscribers and $329 for those without Prime, the Moto G7 is a step up from last year’s G6 in almost every way.
Right off the bat, Motorola has improved the build quality of the phone, with an all-glass build that feels much more premium than the price tag suggests. As always, a phone being coated in glass does increase the fragility of the device, but it makes using the phone feel like a better experience, instead of feeling cheap and plasticky. The display is huge and tall, measuring in at 6.2″ and featuring a 1080p resolution. It’s LCD, not AMOLED, but it features slim bezels and a notch cutout for the camera, which means it’s bright and bold without feeling too large in your hand. It might not be up to snuff with the displays on the new iPhones or Samsung’s Note 10, but it looks much better than what was in this price range just a few years ago.
The specs are pretty solid here, offering 4GB of RAM and a Snapdragon 636. It doesn’t fly by any means, but for general browsing, catching up with your stories on Instagram, and even placing video calls or playing some light games, it’ll get the job done. The camera is solid for the price range, and actually takes pretty great daytime photos. If you’re looking to buy this thing for the camera, however, you should absolutely spend the extra cash on our runner-up device below. Thankfully, as always, Motorola keeps their software light, which means you don’t have to worry about bloat and unnecessary apps slowing down your device or draining your battery. Unfortunately, Motorola and their parent company Lenovo are pretty bad at updating their phone’s software, so even with the light touch, you might only ever see one or two updates down the road.
Overall, the Moto G7 is a solid, if unsurprising package. At under $300, it’s a great option for those looking for a new budget device in 2019 that hits everything you could possibly want. It has a large screen, a usable camera, a decently-sized battery, a microSD card for expandable storage, and even a headphone jack. The best feature, however, comes down to its carrier support: this thing works almost everywhere, including on all four national carriers in the US, which means buying it unlocked is possible no matter what carrier you have. There are devices that do better in specific categories, or even beat the G7 altogether, but at this price point, it’s the best all-rounder you’ll find on the market. If you’re locked to a price below $300, you can’t do much better than the Moto G7.
- Clean Android build
- Good performance
- Truly a jack of all trades...
- ...but a master of none
- Poor low-light camera performance
Released six months after their older brother devices, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL are cheaper versions of Google’s flagship device. Starting at just $400 for the smaller model and $479 for the larger device, the Pixel 3a line is a great bang-for-your-buck offering, taking what’s great about Google’s flagship phones and just lowering the price enough to make it a better buy. The camera on the back of the device is nearly identical to what we’ve seen from the Pixel 3, albeit lacking the Pixel Visual Core that allows for dedicated photo processing. Still, despite slightly slower rendering times when taking HDR photos, the Pixel 3a is easily the best camera you can get on a smartphone for under $500—and possibly under $700.
The rest of the phone is great too, switching the glass build of the original Pixel 3 to plastic but keeping the general design language the same. The phone does take a few hits in terms of specs and other areas. Powered by a Snapdragon 675, it’s clear that the phone does run slower than flagships using Snapdragon 845s or 855s. And while 4GB of RAM is the same amount offered in the higher-tier Pixel 3 line, it’s starting to become long in the tooth in terms of speed. The phone also dumps the options for both wireless charging and water resistance, and while wireless charging seems like an obvious feature to leave behind (especially considering the plastic build), it’s really unfortunate that the phone doesn’t offer any kind of resistance to rain or an accidental drop in the tub.
Of course, in terms of software, this is a Pixel device through and through, complete with the clean build one can expect from Google. Fast updates are also guaranteed, coming months before other flagship devices are granted new versions of Android (and possibly years in the budget space). If there’s one major bummer on the software side of things, its the lack of free original resolution photo backups on Google Photos, something Google has included with all three generations of Pixel devices prior.
Overall, the Pixel 3a is a great way to get a near-flagship experience on a phone that comes in well under $500, and for anyone who really cares about their phone’s camera, this is absolutely your best choice for a budget device. While the original price points of the Pixel 3a starts at $399, we’ve seen the device drop during sales to just $299, making it ideal for anyone looking for an Android device that’ll see actual support from its manufacturer. If you can afford the upgrade over the Moto G7, the Pixel 3a is our pick for your next phone, but if you can’t, the G7 continues to be a solid offering in 2019.
- Incredible camera, especially at this price
- Updates handled by Google
- Already running Android 10
- No waterproofing
- No free original resolution photo backup
The Moto G7 might take our top pick, but it’s only one branch of the Moto G family you can pick from. Depending on your needs as a user—and your budget—you might want to drop down to the Moto G7 Power. At $50 less than the Moto G7, the Power trades the Snapdragon 636 for a slightly less-powerful Snapdragon 632 processor, drops the RAM from 4GB to 3GB, and lowers the resolution of the 6.2″ display to 720p. However, in exchange for those relatively small sacrifices, you save $50 and gain a fantastic feature in return: a giant 5000 mAh battery that, when combined with the 720p display, gives you up to three days of battery life on a single charge. So while it might not be the best all-around phone that the Moto G7 offers, the Power edition of the device is perfect for anyone who’s tired of their phone always dying in the middle of their work day.
- Jaw-dropping battery life
- $50 less than the G7
- Worse performance than the G7
- 720p display
If you need to save even more cash, the Moto G7 Play is what you’re looking for. At $100 cheaper than the Moto G7, you’re going to start looking at even more sacrifices than the Power edition we reviewed above. You’ll still get that Snapdragon 632 processor, but your RAM drops to 2GB, a paltry amount for a phone in 2019. With a 3000 mAh battery, you’re looking at about 40 hours of mixed use with the device—a good amount, but nowhere near the three full days offered with the G7 Power. The screen shrinks down to 5.7″ while remaining 720p, and the camera, while measuring in at 13MP, is decidedly low-quality. Still, for $199, you can do a lot worse than the G7 Play. It might not be our favorite budget phone on the market, but it’s a solid choice nonetheless.
- $100 less than the G7
- Similar specs to the G7 Power
- Smaller battery
- Only 2GB of RAM
The Nokia brand has really made a comeback since relaunching as an Android phone manufacturer in 2016, and while it might not be the same “Nokia” that was around in the 2000s, that hasn’t stopped the phones from being excellent devices, available at every price point you can imagine. The Nokia 7.1 is a fantastic device that comes in under $300, and if you aren’t interested in the Moto G7, it might be a perfect pick. With a Snapdragon 636 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 5.84″ 1080p display, you’re looking at a very competent phone compared to the G7. Unfortunately, while the Amazon listing mentions Verizon support, the phone only supports their LTE bands, so if you rely on a 3G network in rural areas, you’ll want to stick with the G7. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention that Nokia’s about to launch their upgraded 7.2 model for $349 with a new design, improved camera sensors, and a dedicated Google Assistant button. That model ships on October 1st, so by the time you’re reading this, it might already be live.
- Android One, with solid support
- Solid specs
- No CDMA support for Verizon
- About to be replaced by the Nokia 7.2