It’s hard to know which phone to buy, especially the ones that don’t get a lot of attention. We live and breathe Android phones, and use nearly every one to find the best budget picks for you.
The Motorola Moto G6 currently offers the best combination of performance, features and value. It overshadows the competition with its wide availability, fast performance, and support for nearly every network in the world, beating out a number of rivals from Nokia and Honor.
The best budget Android phone for most people
A winner in every respect, from the modern design to the dual camera setup and excellent performance, the Moto G6 represents the pinnacle of Motorola’s dominance in the budget phone space.
Who should buy this phone
Not everyone needs a big, expensive Android phone — especially if they’re looking to buy it outright. At around $240, the Moto G6 provides 90% of what flagship devices offer at a third of the price. This phone is for anyone coming from an older budget phone, or just looking to simplify and downsize, without losing the core Android experience.
Is it a good time to buy this phone?
Yes. The Moto G6 is still new and will continue to be supported and updated by Motorola until 2020. And because it’s a budget phone already, the price is unlikely to drop dramatically over the course of its life, so anyone looking for an inexpensive Android phone, now is a great time to pick up the Moto G6.
Reasons to buy
- Great build quality and design for the price
- Excellent main rear camera
- Good battery life
- Compatible with all major U.S. and international carriers
- Moto Display adds tremendous value
- USB-C fast charging
- Available as Amazon Prime exclusive
Reasons not to buy
- Moto G line isn’t known for swift software updates
- Lacks NFC
Most people don’t need to spend a lot on a phone anymore
Flagship phones like the Pixel 3 and Galaxy Note 9 series can be up into the $800 to $1000 range, and many of the features that come with them, like wireless charging or waterproofing, aren’t fundamental to a device’s enjoyment. They’re bonus features.
Increasingly, you’re paying so much more for those bonus features that the Law of Diminishing Returns comes into play. At its core, the Moto G6 offers 90% of phones double and triple its cost. A few years ago, that delta would have been a lot more, but the prices of budget components have dropped so much, and retained so much of their more expensive counterparts’ characteristics, that it’s often not worth recommending those expensive flagships anymore.
The Moto G6 and its other budget counterparts on this list have awesome, high-resolution touchscreens, reliable software, and great cameras. Some features, like NFC, drive up manufacturing costs, so you have to weigh whether you need NFC-enabled features like mobile payments. And the Moto G6 also lacks the same graphical power as its more expensive competitors, but most games play without issue, even at medium or high settings, because Android games are designed to play on hardware of all sizes and prices.
The Moto G6 has all the major features you need from a modern smartphone, and the ones it lacks you can easily live without.
Motorola has had five years of practice making the Moto G line into a budget powerhouse; when it designed the first Moto G back in 2013, it eschewed expensive materials like metal and glass and focused instead on the core experience. Starting in 2016, Motorola began finding ways to add important features like fingerprint sensors, and last year, in 2017, the company transitioned the Moto G line to metal. With the sixth-gen lineup, that includes the cheaper Moto G6 Play and more expensive Moto G6 Plus, it’s back to a combination of plastic and glass, it’s a nice visual improvement over previous models.
At the same time, Motorola understands its audience, which is why it added a dual camera setup to the Moto G6. The second camera adds depth effects like portrait mode without sacrificing the excellent pedigree of the main 12MP sensor.
Finally, if you’re in the U.S., the Moto G6 is one of the few sub-$300 phones to work on all four U.S. carriers, and it’s even sold at directly at a couple of carriers, another advantage of Motorola’s long-standing relationship with companies like Verizon.
Alternatives to the Moto G6
Motorola isn’t the only player in town when it comes to cheap phones. In recent years, Honor, a subsidiary of Huawei, and HMD Global, which has reinvigorated the Nokia brand, have kept Motorola on its toes in the budget space. Then there’s Alcatel, which continues to bring down the cost of phone ownership with its new Android Go-powered devices.
Way more phone for a little more cash
The brand new Nokia 7.1 packs a whole lot of phone into $350. It has a powerful Snapdragon 636 processor and 4GB of RAM, along with ample 64GB storage and a beautiful 5.85-inch screen. As long as you can deal with the small notch, it’s a looker, too, with a sharp aluminum frame and a lovely dual camera rear design.
The Nokia 7.1 is a sequel to the Nokia 7, and brings so much value to a $350 unlocked phone. From the dual camera setup that shoots great low-light photos to the 6000-series aluminum design, you would be forgiven for thinking this device costs double its actual retail price. The best part isn’t even the hardware — the phone ships with Android 9 Pie on board, and thanks to Android One, will get two years of platform updates and security patches. Just be sure your carrier supports the phone — it only works on AT&T and T-Mobile (and their subsidiaries) in the U.S.
The top carrier option
Budget option with crazy battery life
A larger, more battery-focused version of the Moto G6 is the Moto E5 Plus, which has a massive 5,000mAh battery inside. Featuring a 6-inch HD screen and a 12MP camera, the Moto E5 Plus is a fantastic option if you’re going the carrier route.
If you’re locked into the carrier ecosystem, or want to get your phone with a low-cost financing option, getting the Moto E5 Plus is likely your best bet. It’s available for between $150 and $225 depending on your carrier, and you can get it for even less if you sign up for a new plan.
A notchless winner
A feature-rich phone that’s priced right
The 2018 Nokia 6.1 is durable, powerful and will receive timely updates direct from Google – priced at $230.
For a phone that offers a nice mix between performance and value, you should consider the Nokia 6.1. The phone only works on T-Mobile and AT&T in the U.S., and doesn’t have the same caliber of camera as the Moto G6. And given that it’s running Android One, it lacks some of the value-added software features like Moto Display that we love on the Moto G6.
An awesome Android experience under a hundred
Priced under $100, the Alcatel 1X runs Android Oreo Go Edition, Google’s suite of apps and software optimizations to make Android run great on less-expensive hardware.
With the Alcatel 1X, you lack a lot of the amenities of even the $250 Moto G6 — it’s all plastic, for starters, and only has 1GB of RAM — but if all you need is a basic smartphone to make calls, browse Instagram, and take a few photos, the 1X is a fantastic option.
There’s no shortage of awesome Android phones these days, whether you want to spend more than $700, less than $300, or even $100. The above phones represent the best of a set limitation — that of not wanting to overspend on a product that, inevitably, will need to be replaced in a couple of years.
But that’s the beauty of a device that costs a third of what you’d spend on a Galaxy S9 or Pixel 3. It offers 90% of what those phones cost and can be replaced more easily. While you may miss out on some of the more advanced features like waterproofing and wireless charging, and you may not receive as many updates, or for as long, these phones represent a new breed of budget devices you can feel confident in buying.
And the Moto G6 is the best of the bunch.
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.
Jerry Hildenbrand is Mobile Nation’s Senior Editor and works from a Chromebook full time. Currently he is using Google’s Pixelbook but is always looking at new products and may have any Chromebook in his hands at any time. You’ll find him across the Mobile Nations network and you can hit him up on Twitter if you want to say hey.
October 26, 2018 at 06:05AM