The Best Cheap Android Phones – October 2018
Over the past few years, flagship phones have gotten really good. Top-end Android phones like the Google Pixel 2, HTC U11, and Moto Z2 Force have offered users fast experiences, great cameras, pixel-dense displays, and even advanced features like waterproofing and so much more. Unfortunately, with these premium phones come premium prices. Not everyone wants—or needs—to spend more than $700 on a device like the Galaxy S9 or LG V30, or even $500 on a great mid-range Android phone like the OnePlus 5T or the Moto Z2 Play. These are great phones, no doubt, but for a lot of consumers, they’re just too expensive for what you want or need in a phone. There’s no reason to overpay for design, super high resolution screens, or top-end processors if all you’re looking for is a phone to get you through the day with a full battery, to read email and skim through news, text and place some phone calls, and take a couple pictures.
The budget smartphone category really started to blossom a few years ago, as solid-performing processors, bright, good-looking displays, and quality cameras started to get really cheap. Since 2013, the affordable Android phone market has flourished, and some of the best phones you can buy right now are budget Android phones! If you aren’t a heavy tech user, and you just need something cheap and usable, we’ve gathered some of the best cheap Android phones you can buy in 2018 below. We’ve included something at every budget level, from $200-level premium budget offerings to sub-$100 barebone smartphones, so rest assured that we’ve included everyone. We’ve even made sure to mention phones that are usable on CDMA networks like Sprint and Verizon, so no matter what you’re looking for, there’ll be something for you below.
Here are our top picks for the best cheap Android phones, as of October 2018.
We have long praised Motorola’s budget line, the G-series, for its affordability and its ease of use. The Moto G4 wasn’t the most attractive phone in the world, but the battery life was solid, the display was a sharp 1080p LCD, and the device was sold from Amazon for under $200. The Moto G5 Plus stepped up the game last year, with an improved metal design, better (if not great) cameras, and yet another low price when purchased through Amazon. Both devices, like much of Motorola’s lineup of phones, were able to work on basically every carrier in the United States (all four national carriers, plus every MVNO carrier like Straight Talk or Republic Wireless), and when Amazon revoked lock screen advertisements from their lineup of Prime-exclusive devices, the phones only got that much better.
So, for the Moto G6, expectations were set pretty high. After a few leaks that did end up basically confirming what we expected to see from Motorola in 2018, the Moto G6 was officially unveiled in April of this year, and overall, it’s an impressive device. Available for just $235 for Amazon Prime subscribers and $250 for those without Prime, the Moto G6 is a step up from the G5 in almost every way—though it’s worth noting that the G6 Plus, the natural successor to the G5 Plus, will not be arriving in the United States. Still, the G6 is a solid buy for the money. The build is all-glass, similar to Moto’s other devices, and though it looks great, it does increase the fragility of the device and works towards making it easier to break the device. Despite the glass back, however, the front of the device has seen a major improvement: an 18:9 aspect ratio, with a 1080p LCD that looks good.
The device has 3GB of RAM and runs on a Snapdragon 450, which is a strange choice for those possibly looking to upgrade from a Moto G4 Plus or G5 Plus. Because this device isn’t the Plus version of the G6, it uses Snapdragon’s 400-series line of processors, and this change is a major difference between models. The new Snapdragon 450 is a good processor, but if you’re looking to play a lot of 3D, intensive games, this might not be the phone for you. The camera is solid, but unfortunately, takes a while to actually capture a shot when taking a photo, largely because of the slower Snapdragon 450. Battery life is solid, and Motorola has finally moved their G-series to USB-C. Ultimately, the Moto G6 is a solid successor in the G-series line, though we wish the G6 Plus model had arrived on US shorts. Moto G5 Plus users may want to hold onto their devices for another year, but if you’re coming from the G4 or G4 Plus, it’s a perfect time to upgrade.
- Modern display
- Solid software experience
- Weaker processor than the G5 Plus
- Glass but no wireless charging
- Camera is slow
While the Moto G-series might be Moto’s most successful lineup of devices, it was the Moto X line that originally attracted so much press and fanfare nearly five years ago. When the first Moto X launched, it was the first device from Motorola under Google’s umbrella, and while that ownership model didn’t last long before the company was sold to Lenovo, the first two Moto X devices were not just successful—they were legendary. When Motorola brought back the Moto X line for a fourth generation in 2017, the device had changed quite a bit. Gone were the days of Moto Maker, replaced with a glass back that came in black and sky-blue. The device was no longer the flagship of Moto’s own offerings, now being offered as a mid-range product aside Moto’s Z-series of mod-enabled phones.
The 2017 Moto X4 isn’t a perfect device, but it’s pretty solid for the money. For just $279 through Amazon Prime (as of writing), you’re paying just $45 more over the Moto G6 for a device that is similar in most aspects and better in many areas. The design is nearly identical, save for a standard 16:9 aspect ratio as opposed to the 18:9 display on the Moto G6. It’s also smaller, measuring in at a more pocketable 5.2″ instead of the 5.7″ on the G6. The phone is IP68 water resistant, making it one of the few devices available below $300 that offers IP-certification for water resistance. 3GB of RAM is the minimum amount we would recommend in 2018, but it hits the mark, and offers a Snapdragon 630 processor for solid performance during both day-to-day activities and when gaming.
The software, like every Motorola phone, is basically stock software with some Motorola enhancements built in. The Moto X4 makes a major exception here when purchased through Amazon—you also gain access to Alexa built into the phone. The device has USB-C, a step-up from every other budget Motorola phone outside of the new Moto G6, and features a dual-lens camera on the device that takes solid shots during the day, but unfortunately, average-at-best shots at night. Overall, the Moto X4’s original price tag of $399 is simply too expensive for what you would be receiving, but at $249, it’s a really solid buy. For those disappointed by the OnePlus 6’s price increase, the Moto X4 represents a great buy at under $300. Though it was too expensive to initially add to this list, the past few months have helped to make this a great buy for anyone looking for a modest mid-range device.
- Solid, smaller display
- IP68 water resistance
- USB-C support
- Poor low-light performance
- Slow camera performance
- No wireless charging
Motorola and Lenovo have opted to only sell the G5 Plus to the United States, with the traditional G5 model region-locked to other areas in the world. That’s okay, though: so long as you have an active Amazon Prime subscription to gain access to the lower price, you’re getting one hell of a phone. The phone has a bright 1080p 5.2 inch screen, which’ll look both sharp and compact, though the large bezels on the top and bottom of the phone do make the device feel larger than it needs to be. The build feels premium, especially at this price; it’s made mostly of plastic, but with a metal finish that makes it feel like a much more expensive device than it truly is. It even comes with a fingerprint sensor at the bottom of the phone, for quickly unlocking the device throughout everyday use.
Under the hood, the device has a Snapdragon 625 processor, the same processor used in Motorola’s well-received Moto Z Play last year. By all means, it’s a fantastic mid-range processor, great for conserving battery life and generally being snappy and fast without the high-end price tag associated with Qualcomm’s 800-series. The pricier model gets 4GB of RAM, meaning the phone handles multitasking without issue, and that model also comes with 64GB of storage. Of course, this is a sub-$300 phone, so some corners needed to be cut. The phone uses the older microUSB port for connectivity and charging instead of the newer USB-C standard. Unfortunately, the camera is average at best. The 12MP shooter on the back looks good in the daytime, but trying to use the camera in low-light situations may produce noisy or blurry images. The 5MP camera on the front of the phone, meanwhile, is fine for Snapchats or basic selfie usage.
Motorola seems dead set on remaining the king of the budget smartphone audience, and if they keep releasing phones like the G5 Plus, they’ll have no problem doing so. Last year’s iteration combines competent specs, a great display, a premium-feeling build, and compatibility on all four carriers to offer smartphone users a flagship experience for more than half the cost of competing smartphones. Though the Moto G6 is probably the better buy thanks to its modern components, the G5 remains a great purchase.
- Great build, display and performance for the cost
- Works on all four national carriers
- Amazon Prime makes a cheap phone even cheaper
- The cheaper model only uses 2GB of RAM
- Poor camera performance in low-light
- Can be expensive if you don't have Amazon Prime
The Moto E5 Play is yet another Motorola phone, though it arrived in the heat of the summer as opposed to the tail-end of winter. Like the G6, the E5 Play is a solid phone, coming in at around $120 through Amazon Prime and just $10 extra for the standard, non-Prime version. Motorola’s budget offerings have always been some of their better phones, and while the E5 Play is certainly a no-frills device, it’s solid for anyone looking for a basic smartphone on the market today.
The phone features a 5.2″ 720p panel, reaching just under a 300ppi pixel density that is good enough for most users. The plastic design feels solid in the hand, and though Motorola has recycled some of their designs, it still looks good. Also included with the device: a removable battery, a “splashproof display,” 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage that can be expanded with a microSD card. The phone features both a MicroUSB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack along the bottom of the phone, and ships with Android 8.0 Oreo. To be honest, we wouldn’t expect to see the device get Android 9 Pie, but anything is possible.
Despite the limitations of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor, the performance of the phone is adequate for most users—and the swappable 2800mAh should last you at least a day, if not longer, with that 720p display. Overall, you really can’t go wrong with the E4 if you need a cheap phone fast: it works on all four carriers, is available at a variety of prices ($69.99 on Verizon’s prepaid monthly payment plan and $119 from Amazon Prime), and is one of the best cheap devices you can buy today Ultimately, the E5 Play is one the best phone you can buy today for the lowest amount of money, and you should absolutely keep it in mind when shopping for cheaper devices.
- Fantastic battery life
- Great performance for the price
- Really cheap
- 2GB of RAM
- Lackluster camera
- No word on updating to Pie
Last year, Nokia impressed us with the Nokia 6, a midrange device available for around $200, and this year, the Nokia 6.1 offers a revised version of the device with some improved internals for better performance. It does cost a bit more, but for under $300, the Nokia 6.1 is a great buy for anyone on a GSM-equipped network that allows for easy switching between SIM cards. As always, this Nokia device is manufactured by HMD Global the owner of the Nokia brand name and the newly-acquired Palm brand name. The Nokia 6.1 has a lot in common with last year’s device, but if you passed over the 2017 model, the 2018 Nokia 6.1 is a great purchase.
If one thing on the phone, feels a bit dated, it’s the display. At a 16:9 aspect ratio, the phone features a 2016-look on a smartphone consumers will be picking up well into 2018. The minimized bezels we’ve seen on devices from all sorts of manufacturers, from Samsung and Apple to Google and HTC, help to make phones a bit easier to handle and to slip in pockets. The newer Nokia 6, arriving later this year, still features the same 16:9 display, however, so don’t let that hold you back from upgrading on the device. Outside of the aspect ratio, the phone’s display is actually pretty solid. It’s a 5.5″ 1080p LCD panel that manages to do a solid, if imperfect job. You won’t mistake this for AMOLED, but it’s a decent-enough screen that you won’t feel like you’re missing out compared to other devices.
Specs-wise, the Nokia 6 is about what you’d expect for a phone at this price range. It’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor, a marked improvement from last year’s device. Also found in the device: 3GB of RAM, a good middle-ground between the too-little 2GB and high-end 4GB offerings of other similar phones, a 16MP rear-facing camera with an 8MP camera on the front of the phone (more on the cameras below), along with 32GB of storage and a microSD card slot for expandable storage. You’ll also find a USB-C port for charging and a 3.5mm headphone jack for listening to music. Finally, the battery clocks in at 3,000mAh, which should be large enough to get most users through a full day, though not much more.
Ultimately, the 2018 version of the Nokia 6 is a solid phone, and it’s still one of the best of the Prime Exclusive devices (you can get the non-prime version for an extra $30). As long as you’re on T-Mobile or AT&T (the two compatible carriers), you’ll be happy with picking up a Nokia 6.
- Fantastic build for $200
- Stock Android
- Solid display
- Successor already announced
- Weak processor performance
- Slow updates
It should be no surprise to any of our readers that a phone with the word ‘charge’ in its name is primarily focused on providing extra-long battery life to its users. If you’re looking for something that can give you two-day or longer runtime without needing a charge while keeping the price under $200, the X charge from LG promises to provide Amazon Prime members with a quality budget experience for only $170, now without any sort of advertisements on the lock screen.
Much of the phone is fairly low-end when it comes to specs. The body of the device uses a grey plastic back that will look familiar to any Android users from 2012, but with the price as low as it is, this shouldn’t be too shocking overall. The display measures in at 5.5″ with a 720p resolution; it’s low, but that works in favor of the device’s battery-saving techniques. The top and bottom of the device have large bezels that lead to the phone having only a 69 percent screen-to-body ratio, but again, at $170, no one will likely notice or care. The one problem we found with the display was its brightness—it’s a bit dim, which makes it difficult to see outdoors. Likewise, the Snapdragon 425 isn’t going to impress anyone here, and the camera should really only be used for quick, well-lit daytime photos.
But with a 4500mAh battery, the low-power processor and low-resolution display make it easy for the X charge to become the phone it’s meant to be: a low-power, long-last behemoth of multi-day battery. This thing can sip power slowly, and with the battery efficiencies provided by the last few major updates to Android, standby time is just as great as you would expect. If you put long-lasting battery as your top priority when shopping for a smartphone, and you want to buy for under $200, the LG X charge is a perfect option—assuming, of course, you aren’t looking to use the phone on Verizon.
- Multi-day battery life
- Only $170
- No Oreo update in sight
- Low-power processor
- Dim screen
Alcatel’s Idol 5S doesn’t quite hit the highs of the Moto G5 Plus and Nokia 6, but that doesn’t mean it’s not mentioning as a good choice in its own right. The most striking thing about the Idol 5S is its design, featuring a glass back with aluminium highlights that mostly look and feel far more premium than its competitors. The display is a pocketable 5.2″ with a 1080p resolution, and for a lot of people, this might be the perfect combination of size and pixel density.
Unlike the Nokia 6, the Idol 5S features the same Snapdragon 625 processor found in the G5 Plus that impressed us with its performance in both speed and battery life. You’ll also find 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage (expandable by microSD card, of course), a solid-if-not-amazing 12MP camera (with an 8MP front-facing shooter), and front-facing speakers that make for a great media experience.
The battery, unfortunately, isn’t quite large enough for what we’d like to see in a phone like this. At 2620mAh, it’s enough to get you through a day of use but nothing more—expect roughly four hours of screen-on time when the phone gives up the ghost. Like most other phones on this list, the Idol 5S’ software is largely untouched Android 7.1.1, without much more tweaking than the Amazon advertisements on the lockscreen and the included Amazon apps in your app drawer. Overall, this isn’t quite as strong of a contender as the G5, but we could see users having to flip a coin between this and the similar Nokia 6. If Nokia’s offerings seem to be a bit too big for your hand, the Idol 5S might just be perfect for you.
- Great design
- Front-facing speakers
- Small battery
- Expensive without Prime
If you need the ultimate cheap phone, and you aren’t willing to buy used off eBay or Craigslist, you’ll want to look at the Alcatel A30, which runs for $99 without Prime. This is our choice for the ultimate “barebones” budget buy for a few reasons. First, the phone has both GSM (linked) and CDMA versions at equivalent prices, so no matter what carrier you’re on, you can buy this phone and have support from your carrier. This is one of the most important features in a budget smartphone, because the CDMA market is so underserved outside of Motorola’s offerings. The phone runs a mostly-unskinned version of Android 7.0, making it one of the cheapest Nougat phones available.
It’s powered by a Snapdragon 210 processor and 2GB of RAM, so you shouldn’t expect the ability to game, but it’s good for texting, calling, emails, and some light web browsing. A 5 inch 720p display means text will look sharp enough for most text, and the 2460mAh battery should be able to get you through most of the day on normal usage. If you need a phone in a pinch, and you don’t want to spend more than $100 the Alcatel A30 will do most of the things you need it to do. Just don’t expect flagship—or even Moto G5 Plus—level performance.
As an addendum, Alcatel now sells an A30 Plus, with the same specs as the A30 but a larger 5.5″ 720p display, a slightly-improved camera, a larger 3000mAh battery, and a MediaTek processor replacing the Snapdragon 210 in the smaller A30. For Prime users, the Plus model is only a $20 upgrade over the original version, and while we wish the Plus model featured a sharper 1080p display, if you need a bigger phone for under $100, you can’t go wrong with the A30 Plus. Just make sure you buy the correct version for your carrier before you drop the cash through Amazon.
- Stock Android 7.0 Nougat
- Support for Verizon and Sprint
- 2GB of RAM and weak processor
- Small battery