Smartphones have gotten extremely expensive in the last year, making an $800 budget somehow not reach the top of the market. But there are still tons of great phones in this price bracket, and we test them all to pick the best ones.
Once you step down from the absolute top end of the market, under $800, the Google Pixel 3 is the best phone you can buy for the money. It’s an exceptional phone overall that marries great hardware with top-notch software and sprinkles in little features and experiences you can’t get anywhere else. It also has an industry-leading camera, and software support from Google for years to come.
Google’s best-ever phone, in a compact size.
The Pixel 3 has the best Android software experience you can get, paired with the best camera you can get. The rest of the hardware isn’t shabby, either, now adding wireless charging, stereo speakers a much better display. It’s a powerful compact package.
Who should buy this phone?
The Pixel 3 is an excellent choice for just about anyone, but will be particularly enticing if you’ve grown tired with the overbearing and bloated software on most other phones. Android 9 Pie on the Pixel 3 is a treat to use, with simple and intuitive touches that make it fun and powerful without getting in your way.
The hardware is great, even though it doesn’t look particularly exciting. The screen took a big step forward this year, and the new glass back feels great while enabling wireless charging. The only real shortcoming here is having just 4GB of RAM, which feels a little tight as we head into 2019.
But what can’t be argued is that the Pixel 3 offers an exceptional overall package and experience that just can’t be matched. It feels holistic and well-integrated into Google’s services in a way that no other Android phone can. It’s not particularly tangible, but it is something that you notice as soon as you start using the phone.
Is it a good time to buy this phone?
Absolutely. The Google Pixel 3 was released in October 2018, and it will not be replaced with a new model for a full year from that launch.
Reasons to buy
- Excellent camera
- Simple and powerful software
- Stereo speakers
- Great screen
- Guaranteed software updates
- Wireless charging
Reasons not to buy
- Weak battery life
- Limited carrier and retailer availability
- Smaller screen than most
There are other great phones in this price range
Google isn’t the only company making a great phone for under $800. Samsung, OnePlus and more have really good competitors for a bit less that are worth considering.
Getting on in age, but still a great buy.
Solid hardware, an industry-leading display and a mountain of features make the Galaxy S9+ an easy choice. It does everything you can want in a big flagship phone, and has few downsides.
The Galaxy S9+ is a known quantity at this point being over 9 months old, but it’s also a well-tested and proven phone that’s still a great buy — especially with price cuts that drop it under $800. The hardware is good, and is filled with every spec or feature you could want, and has an amazingly consistent camera that still challenges the best.
Samsung’s cameras are still good and consistent, and its software gets an improvement with the Android 9 Pie and One UI update. For the money, it’s a great choice and a close runner-up to Google’s phone.
Best for less
A flagship-like experience for a couple hundred dollars less.
The OnePlus 6T gives you everything you want in a high-end phone, and doesn’t charge you extra for it. Great hardware, top-notch specs and an excellent software experience combine at a palatable price.
Sure you can spend $800, but you don’t have to if you buy a OnePlus 6T — and yet, you still get basically the same phone experience. For well under $700, the OnePlus 6T offers great hardware, a packed spec sheet and excellent software, and isn’t saddled with any of the bloatware or unnecessary features you find on most other phones.
It has a few shortcomings, namely in its display and cameras that really feel like they’re a step below (or a generation behind) the competition. But you’d be doing yourself a disservice not considering saving a bunch of money getting a OnePlus 6T.
When $800 is your absolute price limit, the Google Pixel 3 offers the best possible experience for the money. It isn’t as big as the competition, meaning its screen feels a little tighter and the battery isn’t massive, but every other part of the experience is uncompromising. Google’s software is exceptional, and this phone has the best camera available today. There are other options from Samsung and OnePlus that offer good value and different feature sets, but the Pixel 3 is still the overall winner of the segment.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Daniel Bader is the Managing Editor of Android Central. As he’s writing this, a mountain of old Android phones is about to fall on his head, but his Great Dane will protect him. He drinks way too much coffee and sleeps too little. He wonders if there’s a correlation.
Andrew Martonik is the Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central. He has been a mobile enthusiast since the Windows Mobile days, and covering all things Android-related with a unique perspective at AC since 2012. For suggestions and updates, you can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @andrewmartonik.
November 30, 2018 at 07:07AM