Flagship smartphones have been rapidly adopting more experimental technologies to stand out from the competition. But while those advancements have opened several new opportunities for what phones are capable of, they’ve also significantly pushed up prices.
Fortunately, developments at the budget end are still primarily focused on offering more for less. So today, spending around $350 can get you a phone that can perform all the usual smartphone tasks without skipping a beat. Here are the best affordable and unlocked Android phones available in the US.
1. Nokia 7.1
The HMD Global Nokia 7.1 is one of the most well-rounded smartphones you can acquire in the budget range. Exceeding expectations for this price, the phone has an all-glass build and includes a 5.84-inch LCD screen. In keeping with modern trends, the Nokia 7.1 even features a notch and edge-to-edge screen.
The Nokia 7.1 is also an Android One product which means it will receive updates directly from Google and ships with the stock Android operating system and minimal bloatware. There is plenty of storage space too, with 64GB internal storage expandable via microSD.
The Nokia 7.1 carries two cameras on the rear—a primary 12MP f/1.8 lens and another 5MP secondary one for better bokeh effects. On the front, there’s an 8MP camera for selfies.
2. Moto Z3 Play
The affordable option in Motorola’s lineup, the Moto Z3 Play is another excellent choice for those looking to save. The Z3 Play’s biggest highlight is its modular design that lets you extend the phone’s functionalities by attaching several accessories called Moto Mods.
You can, for instance, plug in a projector Moto Mod for mirroring the screen on a wall. Motorola bundles the Moto Power Pack accessory for free in the United States that adds an additional 3450mAh juice to the phone’s 3,000mAh battery. Apart from that, the Moto Z3 Play has an all-glass exterior and a slim 6.75mm form factor. Unlike the Nokia 7.1, the Z3 Play features an OLED screen.
The phone’s rear camera arrangement houses two sensors; a 12MP lens paired with a 5MP depth sensor. For selfies, you have an 8MP f/2.0 lens which can also shoot 1080p videos.
There are a host of other Motorola phones that offer a bang for the buck. If you’re not interested in the Moto Mods, you can purchase the Moto G7 which comes equipped with most common smartphone features and a waterdrop-style display. For those on a slimmer budget, there’s the Moto X4 which is IP68-rated and sports a dual rear camera.
Xiaomi’s Pocophone F1 is the most powerful phone in the budget price range. It’s powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 which you would normally only find on high-end flagships. On top of that, it has an ample 6GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, and a large 4,000mAh battery. The Pocophone F1 is no slouch in the optics department either.
There’s a dual rear camera setup which includes a primary 12MP lens and a 5MP secondary shooter. On top of that, it has a 20MP selfie camera. The other key highlight of the Pocophone F1 is the LiquidCool thermals making it ideal for mobile gamers.
Xiaomi also sells the Mi 8 Lite which comes in at a slightly lower cost than the Pocophone F1. While it trades on some of the internal specifications to bring the price down, it does come housed in a premium glass body.
While Huawei’s flagships have yet to make it to US retail, the company has made its entry-level P20 Lite smartphone available in the country. The Huawei P20 Lite has a glass underside and a 5.84-inch notch-equipped 1080p screen. In addition, it has Huawei’s own Kirin 659 octa-core processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal storage which can be expanded with a microSD card.
As for the cameras, there are four of them. On the back, it sports a primary 16MP f/2.2 lens coupled with a 2MP depth sensor. For selfies, it has a 24MP camera and another 16MP wide lens. It’s worth noting here that Huawei doesn’t offer any warranty on the P20 Lite in the United States.
If the warranty is a key feature for you, then you could also consider the Huawei Mate SE. This phone has similar hardware to the P20 Lite but without the high-end selfie camera setup.
Samsung has long been one of the Android world’s most prolific and respected brands. If sticking to a well-known brand is important to you, then try the Samsung Galaxy J8. The phone offers a 6-inch 720p OLED screen. It includes the Qualcomm Snapdragon 450, features 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of expandable onboard storage.
The Galaxy J8 has dual SIM functionality and houses a 3,500mAh battery. Like the Huawei P20 Lite, it too doesn’t have US warranty. The phone runs Android Oreo which was initially released in 2017, putting it a few years behind the latest Android operating system. However, it does feature a dual 16MP and 5MP rear camera, and a 16MP front camera.
Asus’ mid-range device, the ZenFone 5Q, is another phone worth considering. The ZenFone 5Q has a glass shell and a 6-inch 1080p display. It’s powered by the Snapdragon 630, has 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of expandable internal storage. Similar to the Huawei P20 Lite, the ZenFone 5Q also has a total of four cameras.
On the rear, you’ll find a dual camera setup featuring one 20MP and one 8MP camera. For selfies, there is a 16MP and 8MP front-facing arrangement. The ZenFone 5Q is equipped with NFC, dual SIM support, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and a 3,300mAh battery.
7. LG Stylo 4
The LG Stylo 4 is an Amazon Prime Exclusive phone which means that it comes preloaded with a handful of Amazon apps like Prime Video and Kindle. Aside from the Amazon-tinged software, the Stylo 4 is a typical mid-range Android device.
It features a 6.2-inch 1080p screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 processor, and 3GB of RAM. What sets the LG Stylo 4 apart is the bundled stylus which you can employ for doodling, taking notes, or otherwise interacting with the phone.
The Stylo 4 also employs a dual rear camera setup, with a 13MP and 5MP arrangement. It runs Android 8.1, charges via USB Type-C, and has 32GB of storage, expandable via microSD.
Bonus: Refurbished or Discounted Older Phones
While the products above were always intended as budget phones, you could also consider refurbished or older flagship devices. Camera enthusiasts, for instance, can acquire the first generation Google Pixel XL for less than some of the phones on this list. Alternatively, if you’re invested in the Apple ecosystem, a refurbished iPhone 7 could save you significant sums.
A word of caution though, the terminology used to describe a refurbished or second-hand phone can be confusing. Before committing yourself, be sure to familiarize yourself with the terms used to describe non-new devices.
The Best Budget Smartphone for You
Thanks to Moore’s Law, smartphones with features that just a few years ago would have been cutting-edge, are now available at affordable prices. However, before diving into your next purchase, do confirm that your smartphone of choice will be compatible with your network provider. This’ll ensure that you purchase the best budget smartphone for you.
Once you’ve settled on which phone you’ll be buying, it’s time to choose an affordable carrier plan. For that, you may want to check out some of the cheapest unlimited phone plans.