When your budget maxes out at $400, the Google Pixel 3a is the best phone you can get. That’s because it offers the same core experience as the higher-end Pixel 3, which costs nearly twice as much. You get the same software and features, and the exact same camera experience. The only shortcomings come in the hardware and a couple of the specs — a fine trade-off to save hundreds of dollars.
Best Overall: Google Pixel 3a
The Pixel 3a strikes a really good balance between hardware, specs and experience. Yes it’s made out of plastic, but it’s really well executed. Yes it has cut specs compared to the Pixel 3, but it fits right in with the phones at this price. Its features, too, match the competition. But unlike the other phones, the Pixel 3a has great Google software that’s filled with nice little features and guaranteed to get updates for years.
But what really sets the Pixel 3a apart from the competition at this price is its camera. Where it’s completely acceptable for a sub-$400 phone to have an "okay" or "capable" camera, the Pixel 3a has an outstanding camera — because it’s the exact same as the high-end Pixel 3. That means you’re not only getting far and away the best camera at $400, you’re getting one of the best cameras period. Even the selfie camera is directly comparable to the Pixel 3’s, which is one area where mid-range phones typically cut costs.
- Flagship-level camera
- Simple and useful software
- Guaranteed software updates
- Cheap feeling plastic build
- Weak battery life
Google Pixel 3a
A core Pixel 3 experience — and camera — for hundreds less.
The Pixel 3a has the same software, feature and camera experience as the much more expensive Pixel 3, but at a more enticing price point.
Runner Up: Nokia 7.2
Nokia just keeps making great, affordable phones with the same basic formula. You get solid (if understated) hardware, capable specs with just a little extra, solid cameras, and Android One software that’s clean and regularly updated.
The Nokia 7.2 adds in some spice with neat color options, and a new triple camera that brings a much higher resolution on the main sensor and supports it with a new ultra-wide lens for interesting shots. Processor, RAM, storage, and battery are all improved from the Nokia 7.1, and it was already no slouch. This is a complete package and a great value.
- Android One software is clean and simple
- Guaranteed software update future
- New triple camera looks promising
- Sleek hardware with interesting colors
- Big screen and suitably large battery
- Big screen with big bezels leads to a big phone
- Snapdragon 660 processor is starting to get old
A great all-around phone with everything you need in an affordable package.
It’s tough to argue with Nokia’s formula. The 7.2 has great hardware, a big screen, solid specs and a promising triple camera.
Best for Less: Moto G7
The G7 checks all of the boxes for less than $300, with solid specs, great software performance and a good-looking screen in an attractive casing. You’re missing out on NFC and get just average battery life, but most people will take that trade-off. Motorola has practically defined this price segment since the original Moto G, and it’s clear why when you see the Moto G7.
And depending what country you’re buying in, you have a few other G7 model options with a bigger battery for a little more money or slightly scaled back features for an even more enticing price.
- Simple and useful software
- Big screen
- Capable cameras
- Uncertain software update future
- Weak battery life for its size
- No NFC
Best for Less
A value leader for under $300.
It comes as no surprise at this point that the latest Moto G is an incredible value for anyone who has a max budget of $300.
Best with a Big Screen: Samsung Galaxy A50
Samsung really upped its game with the Galaxy A50, bringing so much of what makes its flagships great down to a palatable price. You get a great 6.4-inch display, way better specs than you’d expect, and a flagship-like triple-camera that really holds its own.
Obviously you miss out on Samsung’s best metal-and-glass build quality, and there are a few features cut here and there, but the A50 does a great job bringing what matters down to a budget-friendly price. And ultimately, it’s still a Samsung phone — with the consistency and features you expect.
- Flagship-style triple camera
- Big, top-tier display
- Strong battery life
- Great specs for the money
- Considerable bloatware in the software
- Portrait mode shots are weak
- No MST Samsung Pay support
Best with a Big Screen
Samsung Galaxy A50
A core Samsung experience for a fraction of the price.
If Samsung’s Galaxy S10+ is appealing, but its price isn’t, you’ll be incredibly happy with everything the Galaxy A50 offers.
Best Outside the U.S.: Honor 8X
Honor is a brand that often undercuts its competitors to gain market share, and you, the customer, benefit from that. The Honor 8X is a tremendous and powerful phone priced around £200, and you’ll love what it offers for that price.
The Honor 8X has a huge 6.5-inch display, nice-looking design, a massive 3,750mAh battery and capable cameras. It’s tough to argue with any of that when you’re spending this little.
- Premium two-tone glass finish
- FullView display is blissful
- Massive battery goes all day long
- Kirin 710 chipset with 6GB of RAM runs EMUI 8.2 well
- Dual cameras simplify photography
- EMUI, while smooth, comes with too many apps
- Outdated charging and power options
- No water resistance
Best Outside the U.S.
A fantastic value device with a huge battery.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a phone with better value for your dollar (or pound, in this case) than the Honor 8X.
The sub-$400 market is both extremely competitive and a little confusing, but there have never been more great options readily available. The Google Pixel 3a clearly stands out as the best possible value for the money at $400, because it’s based on the much higher-end (read: more expensive) Pixel 3. That means it has the same software, features and camera as the high-end Pixel 3, but at a considerable discount.
Sure it’s made of plastic, and the screen isn’t as nice, but at this price point you kind of expect those shortcomings. When it comes to the actual experience of using the phone on a day-to-day basis, those missing specs and features fade away and you just experience Google’s fantastic software and flagship-level camera.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @andrewmartonik.
September 23, 2019 at 06:01AM