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You don’t always need to spend a thousand dollars on a new smartphone. Cheap Android phones can deliver around 80% of what you’ll get from a flagship device.
Sure, you’ll miss out on a more refined design, wireless charging, or cutting edge camera features. But if all you need is something for light browsing and media consumption, then you can get that on a much lower budget. And if you buy an unlocked phone, you can use it on whichever carrier you choose.
Here’s our guide to the best unlocked Android phones under $200.
1. Best Unlocked Phone Overall: Motorola Moto G6 Play
The Moto G6 Play is the best Android phone under $200. It’s got a 5.7 inch HD (720p) display, 3GB of RAM, a solid mid-range processor, a decent 13-megapixel camera, and a fingerprint scanner for security.
It also has an incredible 4000mAh battery. That’s big enough to get you anywhere from a full day of heavy use to as much as three days if you steer clear of Netflix and gaming. There aren’t many phones at any price point that can do that.
TrustedReviews described the G6 Play as “the best phone you’ll find for the money,” and that’s hard to argue. In fact, the only aspect we don’t like is that it uses microUSB instead of the newer USB-C.
If you can afford a little more: The Moto G series has been the king of cheap smartphones since it first launched in 2012. If you can stretch your budget another $30 or so you can get the full Moto G6, and it’s worth it. That comes with a full 1080p HD screen, faster processor, enhanced camera, and USB-C for charging. Motorola is also good at providing software updates.
2. Best Specs Unlocked Phone: Honor 7X
The Honor 7X has the style and specs of a much more expensive phone. The edge-to-edge display packs in a 5.9″ screen with full 1080p resolution. There’s a dual camera setup on the back, with a 16-megapixel main lens plus a second two-megapixel sensor that enables you to add depth effects to your shots.
With a fast 2.36GHz octa-core processor and 3GB of RAM, its performance packs a punch.
What’s not to love? Well, it runs the maligned EMUI skin on top of an Android Oreo upgrade. It’s quite different to the Android experience you’re used to, and can be occasionally sluggish. There’s also no NFC, so contactless payments are off the table.
But overall, it’s a win. It gives you a slice of something more premium at an affordable price point.
3. Best Value Unlocked Phone: Moto E5 Play
The Moto E5 Play is the little brother to the G6 Play and is equally impressive in its own way. TechRadar described it as offering “all the tools a modern smartphone user really needs at the lowest price.”
Among its highlights are a 5.2-inch screen with 720p HD resolution. The processor is the same as in the G6 Play, supported by 2GB of RAM. There’s an 8-megapixel rear camera, and 5-megapixel camera for selfies. Battery life is still good, albeit with a smaller 2800mAh cell.
And you can shoot in the rain thanks to the phone’s splashproof design. For anyone on a tighter budget, this is a winner.
4. Best Unlocked Phone for Updates: Nokia 3.1
Cheap phones usually get the worst support when it comes to software updates. Not the Nokia 3.1. This phone is part of the Android One program, which guarantees two full operating system upgrades along with regular security updates.
This is a budget phone you can invest in for the long term.
What else do you get? A smart design with a 5.2-inch, 18:9 ratio, 720p display and minimal bezels (see the best bezel-less phones for more options like this). A microSD slot can increase your storage capacity. And the 8-megapixel camera is fine in good lighting conditions. What you don’t get is NFC or a fingerprint scanner.
With a Mediatek processor and 2GB of RAM, the 3.1 isn’t ideal for more demanding users. But for browsing, social media, and a little Netflix and Spotify, it’s good enough.
Android Police said the Nokia 3.1 is in “a class of its own,” and recommended buying if “you want a good phone on a tight budget.”
If you can afford a little more: The Nokia 6.1 takes you just beyond the price point, but brings improvements everywhere—including performance and camera—while keeping the timely software updates.
5. Best Big-Screen Budget Phone: BLU Life One X3
The BLU Life One X3 is an interesting mix of high end features and compromises, and comes at a very appealing price point.
It’s built from metal and has a curved glass display, lending it a more premium feel. The 5.5 inch screen is full 1080p HD, and is rated well by reviewers. It runs a stock version of Android, free from the bloat and other customizations that slow down most budget phones. There’s a fingerprint scanner within easy reach below the screen.
Best of all, the enormous 5000mAh battery is good for a couple of days of use on a single charge.
It’s no speedster, so isn’t for heavy users or those who use the camera a lot. But as a cheap phone for the basics it’s worth a look.
6. Best Android Phone Under $100: Nokia 2
If you’re shopping for very cheap Android phones then the Nokia 2 is your best option. It comes in at a bargain price point.
This a low-end device, with a five-inch screen and entry-level processor.
But the Nokia 2 does have some surprises, not least regular software updates. It has been upgraded to the Android Go version of Android Oreo—a special version specifically designed for budget smartphones.
It also has a massive 4100mAh battery that should keep you going at least two days between charges.
At this price point you need to keep your expectations in check. But if you can’t push your budget any further, or if you’re buying for an older relative who needs something closer to an old feature phone, the Nokia 2 will do the job.
Get More From Your Cheap Smartphone
When you’re looking for the best Android phone under $200, it’s inevitable that you’ll need to make some compromises.
The trick is to decide what’s most important to you, then go from there. So if you need long battery life, go for the Moto G6 Play. Or if software updates are important, choose a Nokia. And don’t forget, it’s easy to speed up even a low-end Android phone.
Whatever you choose, you won’t need to unlock your phone first, so you can use it with any carrier. Once you’ve picked your phone, check out our guide to the cheapest unlimited phone plans to bag even more savings.