If you want the best possible experience for a low price, the Nexus 5X from Project Fi is the best deal out there. It’s a great phone that has direct support from Google for just $199.
Nexus 5X (from Project Fi)
At that price, you can look past the sometimes-inconsistent performance and lackluster hardware of the Nexus 5X, and instead focus on getting a great software experience, strong camera, one-touch fingerprint sensor, solid screen and continued support directly from Google. And even if you decide Project Fi isn’t for you, you can simply cancel the service without penalty and keep using your Nexus 5X on another carrier.
Bottom line: Even though it’s a year old, this is still Google’s phone and it’s slated for future updates. It offers a lot for just $200.
One more thing: New Google phones are on the way, and will be arriving in about a month. They won’t likely have sub-$200 price points, but if you’re worried about being left behind, it’s best to wait.
Why the Nexus 5X from Project Fi is best
Even a year on, this is Google’s own phone.
At its original price of $349 it was a bit harder to recommend, but when it comes to getting great bang for your buck things change a bit when it’s just $199. For that price you’re getting solid hardware, a fantastic one-touch fingerprint sensor, a good screen and a very powerful camera. Cheaper phones may offer you a handful of those features, but none of them hit them all at this price.
And what really makes the Nexus experience is the software — not only is it distributed directly by Google, meaning it was one of the first to get the latest Android 7.0 Nougat update, it’s also fast and packed with great features. Because of this, we have a Nexus 5X a year on that’s actually more powerful and capable than it was when it launched — not all phones can claim that.
If you think that 16GB will be too tight for you, you can buy a 32GB model for just $50 more, and even at that price the Nexus 5X is still a great phone.
On the downside, the Snapdragon 617 processor and 2GB of RAM can sometimes come up short if you have expectations set by more expensive phones, and the hardware doesn’t exactly feel inspired. But you have to give in somewhere.
Bottom-line: You really can’t go wrong with a Moto G4 — it’s the inexpensive phone that all other inexpensive phones are measured by.
One more thing: If you want to endure ads on your lock screen, Amazon will sell you a Moto G4 for $50 off.
The only drawbacks to the Honor 5X come in the software. Huawei’s EMUI is still an acquired taste with some questionable features and things that still don’t work quite as we might hope. But, there’s a lot of good stuff, too, and some really useful features baked in.
Bottom-line: The Honor 5X is still a decent buy, and has gotten a lot better with its Marshmallow update.
One more thing: You might also consider the Honor 5C, which has far less spectacular build quality but a speedier CPU
Moto E LTE (2015)
Beyond that, the latest Moto E is an unspectacular but solid budget offering, with a decidedly basic 5-megapixel rear shooter and chunky plastic construction. It does have Moto’s excellent software experience going for it though, and has been updated to Android 6.0 Marshmallow. For well under $100, it’s a great buy if you’re on a strict budget.
Bottom-line: The Moto E LTE gets you basic smartphone functions and doesn’t feel as cheap as the price tag would lead you to believe.
One more thing: Don’t expect an update to Android 7.0 Nougat on the Moto E.
The display is nice, the battery life is pretty good, the overall appearance is on point and the software provided by Cyanogen is slick, speedy and bloat free. It’s not available officially outside Europe right now, but it’s absolutely one of the best cheap phones money can buy. And with recent offers dropping the price to just £99, it really is a bargain.
Bottom-line: For those in Europe looking something a little nicer than a Moto E, with a fresh software experience, the Swift is a good choice.
One more thing: Don’t be tempted by the lower-end Spark or Storm. The Swift is the only one we recommend.