Nowadays, everybody seems to own a smart-phone. The good news is that prices for smartphones and cell phones have dropped dramatically in the last five years, so anybody can enjoy a full-featured mobile device without having to burn a whole through his pocket. Long are the days when ‘cheap’ equalled mediocrity. Right now, it’s possible to purchase an excellent smartphone for affordable prices.
Sure, the Samsung Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 are great high-end devices, but they’re extremely expensive as well. Budget smartphones have improved so much so that, for half the price you would spend on an iPhone 5, you could get a device nearly as good. So here are our top 5 picks for cheap cell phones. Join us as we take a look at some of the best budget smartphones:
Recommended Read: Cheap Cell Phone Plans
Disclaimer: the prices displayed are available at the main U.S. carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, or Tmobile.
1. OnePlus One | $250.00
OS: Android v4.4.2 | Screen Size: 5.5 inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1080, 401 ppi | Memory: 3GB RAM | Storage: 16/64 GB | Battery: Li-Po 3100 mAh, non-removable | Rear Camera: 13 MP, 4128×3096 | Front Camera: 5MP, 1080@30fps
We were surprised to see just how many unbelievable features are packed into this $250 dollar phone. The OnePlus One smartphone boasts a vibrant 5.5-inch 1080 pixel screen, 3GB of RAM, 16 GB storage for the standard model, and 64GB for the premium one, and a 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor. Talk about amazing specs!
As if this weren’t enough, the cheap cell phone is also capable of recording 4K video and take 13MP shots for the main camera, and 5MP ones for the secondary one. The mobile device currently operates on Oxygen OS, or Cyanogen OS 12, by One Plus.
- has the processing power of a Galaxy S5 phone
- Beautiful textured design on the back of the phone
- Good battery life
- might experience some bugs and glitches
- doesn’t come with MicroSD storage
2. ZTE Grand X Max+ | $170-220.00
OS: Android v4.4.4 | Screen Size: 6.0-inches | Resolution: 1280×720, 245ppi | Memory: 2GB RAM | Storage: 16GB | Battery: Li-Ion 3200 mAh | Rear Camera: 13MP, 4128×3096 | Front Camera: 5MP
Many people are sceptical when they hear ZTE, and truth be told, not everyone knows about this company, but it’s actually one of the most prolific cell phone manufacturers in the United States. As a matter of fact, ZTE creates many unbranded devices for other companies, and its latest model, Grand X Max+, comes at the third of the price of the Galaxy Note 4, without forfeiting on performance.
The first thing you need to know about the ZTE Grand X Max+ is the fact that it’s huge. With a 6-inch display and a 7.9mm thich body, it can definitely be considered a phablet. The bad news is that it severely lacks in the functionality and ergonomics department, but it more than makes up for it with its impressive specs (LCD 1280×720 display, 244 PPI, 16 GB internal storage) and battery life.
- price ranging from 170.00 to 220.00 dollars
- very good battery life
- excellent camera
- uncomfortable to hold
- the processor sometimes feels sluggish
- the display gets dirty very fast
3. Nokia Lumia 635 | $50 with AT&T plans
OS: Windows Phone 8.1 | Screen Size: 4.5 inches | Resolution: 480×854 px, 221 ppi | Memory: 1 GB RAM | Storage: 8GB | Battery: Li-Ion 1830 mAh battery | Rear Camera: 5MP, 2592×1944 | Front Camera: no
The Nokia Lumia 635 may not have all the ground-breaking features that you expect to have in a smart-phone, but, unlike other cheap cell phones, it works seamlessly and it boasts an elegant design. You should definitely consider purchasing it if you’re planning on using the phone for a long period of time.
- exceptionally good price with AT&T or T-Mobile plans
- comfortable to handle & hold
- the screen lacks in terms of resolution
- bad battery life on LTE
- doesn’t have a front-facing camera
4. OneTouch Idol 3 | $249.00 on Amazon
OS: Android 5.0 | Screen Size: 4.7-inch | Resolution: 1280×720 | Memory: 1.5 GB/RAM | Storage: 8GB, 16GB | Battery: non-removable Li-Ion 2000 mAh | Rear Camera: 13MP, 4128 x 3096 px | Front Camera: 5MP, 1080 px
Number 4 on our list of cheap cell phones is Alcatel’s OneTouch Idol 3, a decent device with an attractive price. This is easily one of Alcatel’s best smart-phones that perfectly balances performance, design and specs. It can hold its own against models such as Moto E 4G LTE, and the Moto G. A few of the OneTouch Idol’s specs include a 5.5-inch display, 1920×1080 resolution, and 1.2-watt dual JBL speakers.
A first in the field of smart-phones is the ‘reversible mode’ that basically makes it possible to turn the phone upside-down while the camera lens remains on the bottom. The device, in itself, is quite slim and comfortable to use. All in all, the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 packs quite a punch for a cheap cell phone.
- We really loved the sound quality provided by the external speakers.
- It’s mega-affordable and offers good image quality.
- performance feels rather slow at time
- the OS is missing a few features & shortcuts
5. HTC One M8 | $230.00 on Amazon
OS: Android | Screen Size: 5-inches | Resolution: 1920×1080 | Memory: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB | Battery: 2.600 mAh | Rear Camera: 4MP dual | Front Camera: 5MP
The One M8 is arguably of the best affordable smartphones on the market right now, and a flag-ship worthy of the HTC name. It boasts all the impressive features you would expect to see in an HTC device: a superb 1920×1080 display, a 90% metal chassis, a pretty powerful processor and a beautiful design.
Another interesting thing about this cheap cell phone is the fact that it features a microSD slot. All in all, the HTC One M8 looks nice, it’s comfortable to hold, and it comes at a pretty hefty price. It might be slightly pricier than what you would normally expect from cheap cell phones, but its features are well worth the bucks.
- spectacular & comfortable design
- good duo camera
- we finally see a expandable memory on a HTC
- the camera doesn’t work very well in bright light.
This concludes our cheap cell phones list. There are several other models worth considering, but we settled for these 5, as they seem to have a little bit of everything. If you have any suggestions we would love to hear them. You should also know that there are plenty of places where you can buy cool accessories, like cheap cell phone cases or headsets, to make sure that your overall price doesn’t go up too much.
Another way to save money on cell phones would be to go for an unlimited contract, instead of a prepaid option. Tmobile, Verizon, GSM, Samsung and AT&T offer great plans for loyal customers.