27 votes

Budget smartphones - apparently there are good options. Opinions and recommendations?

I just picked up a Nokia 3.1 for $120 in a bit of an emergency and I really like it. It's very light, Android One, very nice styling and again it's $120!

I was shocked by this experience at this price point. This thing is excellent for my use case, as a pre-paid EU phone as my lovely iPhone 6s Plus has only one Sim slot. Are there any other great budget phones out there?

43 comments

  1. [6]
    pew
    Link
    I was doing some research about this as well today, ended up on the wirecutter about budget android phones. It seems basically every Nokia and Motorola Moto are good choices. Of course this...

    I was doing some research about this as well today, ended up on the wirecutter about budget android phones. It seems basically every Nokia and Motorola Moto are good choices. Of course this depends on your definition. Some consider a $700 phone a budget phone nowadays since often you pay $1000+. I'm thinking about a Google Pixel 3a. I want the native Android experience and fast updates.

    14 votes
    1. [4]
      Aestival
      Link Parent
      Just got a Pixel 3a because the camera on my oneplus 3 broke. It's amazing, I didn't even know I'd love phones made out of plastic, and the camera is probably the best at that price point. It's...

      Just got a Pixel 3a because the camera on my oneplus 3 broke. It's amazing, I didn't even know I'd love phones made out of plastic, and the camera is probably the best at that price point. It's probably the best phone for me, so I'm really happy for far. I have to say though, the pixel launcher is really stock android, no useful additions whatsoever. I had linage OS installed before and I find myself often lacking the features that I got used to. Heard the pixel launcher will be updated somewhat on android Q, so we'll see.

      6 votes
      1. [3]
        pocketry
        Link Parent
        What kind of features do you miss the most? I've been on a pixel for about 3 years now and I don't really customize it at all.

        What kind of features do you miss the most? I've been on a pixel for about 3 years now and I don't really customize it at all.

        1. [2]
          Aestival
          Link Parent
          Definitly some gestures, like changing songs in my poket by long pressing the volume buttons. Plus, I don't use google whatsoever so the search bar is really unnecessary and I can't delete it....

          Definitly some gestures, like changing songs in my poket by long pressing the volume buttons. Plus, I don't use google whatsoever so the search bar is really unnecessary and I can't delete it. There is no gesture for turning on my flashlight, which is annoying if you suddenly stand in the dark and I really wish I could have the back button on the right side, like I'm used to. It's a lot of small things for me.

          1. pocketry
            Link Parent
            I just realized I don't use that Google search bar at all either since I've switched to duck duck go. I'm about to investigate some other launcher since I'm not willing to install a new OS.

            I just realized I don't use that Google search bar at all either since I've switched to duck duck go. I'm about to investigate some other launcher since I'm not willing to install a new OS.

            1 vote
    2. matpower64
      Link Parent
      The thing about those articles is that they are often US-based, skipping on decent budget options like Xiaomi's Redmi line because they don't work on US bands. I did like the criteria used on this...

      The thing about those articles is that they are often US-based, skipping on decent budget options like Xiaomi's Redmi line because they don't work on US bands. I did like the criteria used on this article to pick the devices they picked and how they bought up that sometimes you are going to hit shady stuff on the cheaper devices from unknown/no-name companies.

      2 votes
  2. [3]
    EightRoundsRapid
    Link
    I have a Nokia 7 plus which has done well. Nokia make solid budget and midrange devices. And monthly security updates are nice. It's definitely advantageous that the majority of their phones are...

    I have a Nokia 7 plus which has done well. Nokia make solid budget and midrange devices. And monthly security updates are nice. It's definitely advantageous that the majority of their phones are in the Android One programme.

    Xiaomi make same excellent budget and midrange devices too. For example the Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite is available here for £189 SIM free. And their Redmi phones start at around £80 SIM free.

    OPPO are competitive too, with OPPO AX 7 at £159 SIM free, and Huawei's subbrand Honor have good offerings. And surprisingly, Sony have some half decent ones at around the £200 mark. Alcatel knock out some cheap stuff, but I wouldn't recommend them.

    8 votes
    1. crdpa
      Link Parent
      There's Xiaomi Redmi Go too. It's really cheap.

      There's Xiaomi Redmi Go too. It's really cheap.

      2 votes
    2. AugustusFerdinand
      Link Parent
      Nearly the same here, I have a Nokia 7.1 picked up for $200 brand new. Zero complaints, excellent phone.

      Nearly the same here, I have a Nokia 7.1 picked up for $200 brand new. Zero complaints, excellent phone.

      2 votes
  3. [7]
    JXM
    Link
    You can get a lot of good phones for less than $400 now. On the iOS side, if you want something smaller, the iPhone SE can be had for around $150-$200 with 64GB of storage. Even on the iOS 13...

    You can get a lot of good phones for less than $400 now.

    On the iOS side, if you want something smaller, the iPhone SE can be had for around $150-$200 with 64GB of storage. Even on the iOS 13 betas, it still runs super fast and is absolutely usable as a daily driver.

    On the Android side, you can get the Google Pixel 3A for $400. 3 years of updates from Google is a big selling point for me.

    Unlike iPhones, Android phones don't usually hold their value as well, so models that are only a year or two old like the Samsung S8/9 can be had for pretty low prices. I'd give an exact number, but those prices are always fluctuating based on sales and whatnot.

    I've also seen the Moto Z3 Play getting good reviews. It's $300 and comes with an AMOLED display.

    Nokia and Samsung both have pretty wide ranges of phones from $1,000 all the way down to $150. I'd recommend avoiding Samsung phones on the lower end, since they're extremely unlikely to ever get software updates and if they do, it'll be months or years behind everyone else.

    My only other suggestion to people out there looking for an inexpensive smart phone is to consider buying a used phone. Phones are like cars...they lose a lot of their value once you buy them, so buying a used phone can save you a lot of money. I've had good luck on sites like Swappa before. It seems like a lot of people are put off by the idea, but if you can save a few hundred dollars by buying a used phone that's in good condition, it might be worth it.

    7 votes
    1. [6]
      markh
      Link Parent
      I’m still happily running on an iPhone 7. An unlocked iPhone 7 is currently being sold on Amazon for around $200. I’ll never buy a new phone ever again when the one- or two-year-old models are...

      I’m still happily running on an iPhone 7. An unlocked iPhone 7 is currently being sold on Amazon for around $200. I’ll never buy a new phone ever again when the one- or two-year-old models are still great phones.

      Getting a new phone is always disappointing anyway. All my apps are the same, all my data is backed up. For most people, what’s the difference?

      3 votes
      1. [3]
        JXM
        Link Parent
        For me, the iPhone XS Max was big enough that I can use it as a replacement for my iPad. That’s the main reason I upgraded.

        For me, the iPhone XS Max was big enough that I can use it as a replacement for my iPad. That’s the main reason I upgraded.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          markh
          Link Parent
          That’s a fair reason to upgrade, if there’s a specific feature you really want. But the majority of upgrades - and upgrading to each new release - doesn’t seem necessary anymore.

          That’s a fair reason to upgrade, if there’s a specific feature you really want. But the majority of upgrades - and upgrading to each new release - doesn’t seem necessary anymore.

          1. JXM
            Link Parent
            Absolutely not. Most phones nowadays, even midrange ones like the ones I mentioned in my first comment, are more than good enough to last for at least a few years.

            Absolutely not. Most phones nowadays, even midrange ones like the ones I mentioned in my first comment, are more than good enough to last for at least a few years.

            1 vote
      2. [2]
        Neverland
        Link Parent
        The only thing I have against used phones is the diminished battery capacity. Otherwise they seem great! I know on iPhones you can take a screenshot of the settings/battery screen to show the...

        The only thing I have against used phones is the diminished battery capacity. Otherwise they seem great! I know on iPhones you can take a screenshot of the settings/battery screen to show the capacity at least. I would have no problem with a used phone if I could see that.

        1. markh
          Link Parent
          My phone is at ~75% capacity. Worst case scenario for me, if I know I’ll be gone all day, I bring an external battery.

          My phone is at ~75% capacity. Worst case scenario for me, if I know I’ll be gone all day, I bring an external battery.

          1 vote
  4. [8]
    moocow1452
    Link
    Nokia just released the Nokia 2.2 state side for $129, that comes with Android 9, a microSD slot and A REMOVABLE BATTERY! It's got the dumb notch if that is a deal killer, but if you can work...

    Nokia just released the Nokia 2.2 state side for $129, that comes with Android 9, a microSD slot and A REMOVABLE BATTERY! It's got the dumb notch if that is a deal killer, but if you can work around it, it's a pretty good deal.

    I like the Moto G and E lines, and if you are willing to get last year's phone refurbished, it's probably better specs than a budget phone this year. I'm also keeping an eye on feature phones with voice assistants, since that would allow me to do what I want with a phone without going down a weird rabbit hole of internet and games.

    6 votes
    1. [4]
      Neverland
      Link Parent
      I really wanted a feature phone for this use case, but I need tethering and could not find one that did that.

      I really wanted a feature phone for this use case, but I need tethering and could not find one that did that.

      2 votes
      1. [3]
        moocow1452
        Link Parent
        This is kinda boutique, but it is a feature phone and it does have tethering. https://www.punkt.ch/en/products/mp02-4g-mobile-phone/

        This is kinda boutique, but it is a feature phone and it does have tethering.

        https://www.punkt.ch/en/products/mp02-4g-mobile-phone/

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          rmgr
          Link Parent
          The MP02 looks like my ideal phone, I just don't know if I can justify AU$570 for it...

          The MP02 looks like my ideal phone, I just don't know if I can justify AU$570 for it...

          1. moocow1452
            Link Parent
            Could just mod another Android device to the teeth, pull out all the apks you don't need and run with that. There might even be a minimalism mod...

            Could just mod another Android device to the teeth, pull out all the apks you don't need and run with that. There might even be a minimalism mod...

    2. [2]
      JXM
      Link Parent
      Does the Nokia let you hide the notch in software like other phones do? I know the OnePlus phones let you do that. Just curious for other people who might be notch averse. I don't mind it.

      Does the Nokia let you hide the notch in software like other phones do? I know the OnePlus phones let you do that.

      Just curious for other people who might be notch averse. I don't mind it.

      1 vote
      1. moocow1452
        Link Parent
        I don't know if it's built in to this model in particular, but I know that other Nokia's have it and there are apps like Nacho Notch that fill it in for you.

        I don't know if it's built in to this model in particular, but I know that other Nokia's have it and there are apps like Nacho Notch that fill it in for you.

        2 votes
    3. a_s_k
      Link Parent
      sweet! my last two phones have been Nokia 2's and they are leaps and bounds better than other low budget <$100 smartphones that I've tried. Might have to try out the 2.2 next

      sweet! my last two phones have been Nokia 2's and they are leaps and bounds better than other low budget <$100 smartphones that I've tried. Might have to try out the 2.2 next

  5. [2]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. zerogravitas
      Link Parent
      I was hoping the A3 could be the best of both worlds, too bad they nerfed it with a 720p screen...

      I was hoping the A3 could be the best of both worlds, too bad they nerfed it with a 720p screen...

  6. mftrhu
    (edited )
    Link
    Xiaomi phones give a lot of bang for their buck - I got a Redmi Note 5 last year for €180 (~$200?, the 64 GB/4 GB version), and it's a very nice phone, if a bit too big for my hands. The rest of...

    Xiaomi phones give a lot of bang for their buck - I got a Redmi Note 5 last year for €180 (~$200?, the 64 GB/4 GB version), and it's a very nice phone, if a bit too big for my hands. The rest of my family got Xiaomi phones in the last few months, too, and the price of the Note 5 must have dropped since.

    Edit: but apparently can have some screen ghosting issues, which I'm noticing after ~a year of use.

    4 votes
  7. [3]
    lepigpen
    Link
    I've research budget phones a LOT being from a poor family and me and my parents have phones that are ~$100. Typically my answer is NEVER buy a "budget" phone. It's very rare that a budget phone...

    I've research budget phones a LOT being from a poor family and me and my parents have phones that are ~$100.

    Typically my answer is NEVER buy a "budget" phone. It's very rare that a budget phone will be a better value than a 1-2 year old flagship phone or even a 3-5 year old flagship phone.

    My dad uses a Moto G7 or something. My mom uses a Nokia 2. These phones probably cost a touch more than my LG V20 and my phone handily blows them out of the water. I got this phone for ~100 bucks. You can get various good phones for that price, iPhone 6s or Google Pixel 1 or even Samsungs but old Samsungs can be some of the worst in terms of slow down and software lag and battery drain.

    That said, it is great that the ~100 dollar price point finally has some truly great phones that can be used for the entire array of apps (just not great for 'gaming') and the cameras are at least serviceable. Typically good in good light, and functional in low light. But again, my LG V20 (and similarly priced flagship phones) blow those budget phones out of the water in every way.

    4 votes
    1. Litmus2336
      Link Parent
      Except for software updates :(

      Except for software updates :(

      1 vote
    2. Klayy
      Link Parent
      My wife has a Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus and it's amazing. I bought a Xiaomi Redmi 6A because it's smaller and it absolutely sucks (mainly because it's slow). It's hit and miss. One thing to take into...

      My wife has a Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus and it's amazing. I bought a Xiaomi Redmi 6A because it's smaller and it absolutely sucks (mainly because it's slow). It's hit and miss.
      One thing to take into account is the warranty - new phones come with one and if they die on you, you just get them fixed for free. Used phones become useless bricks.

      1 vote
  8. [2]
    DepartedPretzel
    Link
    Buying yesterday’s flagship Android smartphones is an often overlooked option, especially one actively supported by LineageOS (specifically the microG fork) for up-to-date software. I recommend...

    Buying yesterday’s flagship Android smartphones is an often overlooked option, especially one actively supported by LineageOS (specifically the microG fork) for up-to-date software.

    I recommend consulting Swappa for buying, iFixit for assessing repairability, and LineageOS usage statistics to determine which phones are popular (which may receive longer software support). As of writing, the OnePlus 2, Google Nexus 5X, and original Google Pixel have the best repairability and software support longevity.

    I recently got a mint Nexus 5X for $80 USD to replace a budget phone that simply quit working. After spending one afternoon installing LineageOS for microG, I’ve been using it with no regrets.

    4 votes
    1. moocow1452
      Link Parent
      The 5X gave me a bootloop issue when I had it, maybe yours survived long enough that it's not going to be an issue with you, but keep an eye out for it.

      The 5X gave me a bootloop issue when I had it, maybe yours survived long enough that it's not going to be an issue with you, but keep an eye out for it.

      2 votes
  9. joelthelion
    Link
    Just got a refurbished S7 for ~150$. It's a great phone. When it gets a bit older I'll install lineage on it to get the latest android version.

    Just got a refurbished S7 for ~150$. It's a great phone. When it gets a bit older I'll install lineage on it to get the latest android version.

    3 votes
  10. [2]
    FunnyFatGuy
    Link
    Picked up a refurbished iPhone SE just a few months back. It's replacing an iPhone 6, so it is an upgrade! I love iPhones but just can't get behind the big = good, and the no headphone jack....

    Picked up a refurbished iPhone SE just a few months back. It's replacing an iPhone 6, so it is an upgrade!

    I love iPhones but just can't get behind the big = good, and the no headphone jack. Admittedly I'd love some quality Bluetooth headphones... I just swing a new phone + new headphones right now. That's anything but budget!

    2 votes
    1. Silbern
      Link Parent
      It's far lower end, but this is part of my motivation for keeping my Epic 4G too. I really only use it for MP3 playing, reading emails, playing a few games, and browsing reddit / Tildes. I really...

      It's far lower end, but this is part of my motivation for keeping my Epic 4G too. I really only use it for MP3 playing, reading emails, playing a few games, and browsing reddit / Tildes. I really like its tiny size compared to many modern phones and how nice it is being able to use wired headphones, no problems with interference on the bus and the like. It's kinda ironic that in a time where electronics are shrinking in almost every way possible, phones and tablets seem to be about the only things going the other way and getting bigger.

      2 votes
  11. [2]
    DanBC
    Link
    I have a Moto G5. I like it, but the camera is lousy and it lacks some sensors. For example, it doesn't have a compass. It's a nice phone, comfortable to hold and use, and I think when this one...

    I have a Moto G5.

    I like it, but the camera is lousy and it lacks some sensors. For example, it doesn't have a compass.

    It's a nice phone, comfortable to hold and use, and I think when this one breaks I'll get another Moto G series. Or maybe I'll get a Nokia because they're doing nice phones too.

    2 votes
    1. reese
      Link Parent
      I love my G5. I believe it's in the $100-200 range now. No issues with it whatsoever, although I will not comment on the quality of the camera—I cannot tell the difference between good and bad...

      I love my G5. I believe it's in the $100-200 range now. No issues with it whatsoever, although I will not comment on the quality of the camera—I cannot tell the difference between good and bad picture quality among competing smartphone brands. For instance, you could show me a side-by-side of a Pixel vs iPhone, point at one and tell me it's comparatively bad, enumerating each reason, and I will still not understand why.

      2 votes
  12. nachodorito
    Link
    If you like custom UI's, go for a Redmi phone. If you like clean Android, go for a Nokia.

    If you like custom UI's, go for a Redmi phone.
    If you like clean Android, go for a Nokia.

    1 vote
  13. [5]
    babypuncher
    Link
    Kind of off topic, but what are the common use cases for multiple SIM slots? I keep hearing complaints that iPhones don't have dual SIM and I've never encountered a scenario where I would want two...

    Kind of off topic, but what are the common use cases for multiple SIM slots? I keep hearing complaints that iPhones don't have dual SIM and I've never encountered a scenario where I would want two separate phone numbers.

    1 vote
    1. Neverland
      Link Parent
      I think it’s best/only for people who travel. For example you can keep your US T-Mobile SIM in slot 1, and your Czech prepaid in slot 2. That way you still get your calls and texts to your US...

      I think it’s best/only for people who travel. For example you can keep your US T-Mobile SIM in slot 1, and your Czech prepaid in slot 2. That way you still get your calls and texts to your US number, while being able to use the super cheap prepaid for the local area. This is way cheaper for data usage than using int’l data roaming.

      1 vote
    2. Klayy
      Link Parent
      Two main use cases imo: separating personal and work sims travel

      Two main use cases imo:

      • separating personal and work sims
      • travel
      1 vote
    3. unknown user
      Link Parent
      I imagine if I wanted a work phone and personal phone, I'd use it. Recharge/carry only one phone instead of two. My phone is actually dual sim, but I've never used the second one.

      I imagine if I wanted a work phone and personal phone, I'd use it. Recharge/carry only one phone instead of two.

      My phone is actually dual sim, but I've never used the second one.

    4. Sheep
      Link Parent
      My dad needs 2 sim slots because his job forces him to use their sim card for any work related business. The alternative would be having 2 phones (which the company also subsidizes but it's more...

      My dad needs 2 sim slots because his job forces him to use their sim card for any work related business. The alternative would be having 2 phones (which the company also subsidizes but it's more practical to just carry one)

  14. rmgr
    Link
    I've had a good run with a second hand S7 I bought on eBay. I had an S7 from a contract but it slipped out of my pocket and smashed pretty badly so it ended up cheaper to replace the entire phone....

    I've had a good run with a second hand S7 I bought on eBay. I had an S7 from a contract but it slipped out of my pocket and smashed pretty badly so it ended up cheaper to replace the entire phone. I'll probably never go on a contract again. Once this one dies in a few years, I'll probably look at buying whatever 2017's flagship was