​Top 10 best Android and Apple smartphones for under $600

We compare and review the unlocked and SIM-free phones, smartphones and iPhones to buy right now in 2018

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

Credit: Sony

It’s easy to spend too much on a smartphone these days. Apple’s top-end iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max can cost you thousands, and Samsung’s high end Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 9 aren’t that much cheaper.

Thankfully, nowadays, it’s actually way easier to find a cheaper and more budget-friendly alternative to these flagship devices than ever before. The list of shared features between mid-tier devices and premium ones continues to grow, while the gap in quality continues to shrink.

Here’s our latest list of the top 10 best Android and Apple phones you can find for under $600.

Please Note - we use real-world prices sourced from Shopbot and Amazon and, as such, some of the entries in our roundup may surprise you.

1. Nokia 8 ($699 RRP, $559 on Amazon)

When it first made its debut as HMD Global’s first stab at a value-driven Nokia flagship, the Nokia 8 was compelling enough. It already had a Snapdragon 835 processor, a 5.3-inch QHD display and a 13-megapixel dual-lens camera to its name. Now, with a year of discounts behind it, it’s arguably even more tempting. 

HMD Global Nokia 8Credit: Nokia
HMD Global Nokia 8

As we said in our review of the Nokia 8, it “brings together solid specs, crisp cameras and fantastic form factor. As an experience, it’s by no means perfect but the small pile of things worth nitpicking never comes close to outweighing the list of things that do.”

2. BlackBerry KEYOne ($699 RRP, $497 on Amazon)

The BlackBerry KEYOne is still largely unchallenged when it comes to its signature keyboard. It’s the only mainstream Android brand to feature a physical keyboard, and the decline in the price of the KEYOne that the last twelve months means that you no longer have to pay a hefty price for it.

BlackBerry KeyONECredit: Blackberry
BlackBerry KeyONE

As we said in our review of the device at the time, “While it won’t suit everyone, this is one of the very best Android phones on the market to the point where it’s a Phone of the Year contender. All the old Blackberry users who left for Android and iPhone have a very viable route back into the fold and Blackberry even has an opportunity to gain new customers and fans with the KEYone.”

3. Moto Z ($699 RRP, $416 on Amazon)

The Moto Z was Motorola’s first effort at offering a flagship Android smartphone that connected to the company’s Moto Mod ecosystem at accessories. Though it does come with a few drawbacks, like the absence of a headphone jack, there’s still a lot to like here - and doubly so at the price.

Moto ZCredit: Motorola
Moto Z

As we said in our review of the device at launch, “Let’s be real here: The Moto X was a great line of smartphones, but never particularly exemplary. The Moto Z, on the other hand, is the Lexus to the Moto X’s Toyota: It’s a sturdy, confidence-inspiring device that promises extra bits of luxury. In the Moto Z’s case, those luxury promises are the Moto Mods.”

Read more: Sony X9300D and X8500D UHD 4K TV review

4. Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge ($679 RRP, $560 on Amazon)

Though it lacks the lustre of the Infinity Display found in the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S9, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge still holds its own for the most part. It’s equipped with Samsung’s Exynos 8890 Quad-core processor, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage.

Samsung Galaxy S7 EdgeCredit: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

In our review of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, we said that “Samsung hasn’t reinvented the wheel with the S7 and S7 Edge. These are iterative updates which build on the strengths of last year’s offering while also addressing shortcomings. The S7 and S7 Edge have improved battery lives and cameras along with new features like water resistance and expandable storage. If you’re trying to decide between the two models, our recommendation would be to spend the extra $100 and get the S7 Edge unless the shallow sides are likely to bother you.”

Read more: Hisense Series 7 ULED 4K UHD TV review

5. Xperia XZ Premium ($904 RRP, $569 actual)

If we’re talking about the raw discounts involved, it’s hard to look past Sony’s ultra-premium flagship from last year: the Sony Xperia XZ Premium. Armed with last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, an IP68 rating against water damage, a 4K HDR display and Sony’s MotionEye camera, it’s far from outdated.

Sony Xperia XZ PremiumCredit: Sony
Sony Xperia XZ Premium

As we said in our review of the device, “It’s not an outright winner, but it’s another great all-rounder with no real weak point which makes it even more attractive if you’re bothered by any of the failings and foibles of the competition.”

6. HTC U Ultra ($699 RRP, $360 actual)

Though it launched with a price-tag that originally rivalled Samsung’s Galaxy flagships, HTC’s U Ultra smartphone can now be had for the same price at budget buys like the Alcatel 1X and Nokia 3.1.

It boasts the same curved liquid glass design that’s found in most modern flagship devices like the HTC U11 and HTC U12+, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, a 5.7-inch display and a 12-megapixel rear camera.

HTC U UltraCredit: HTC
HTC U Ultra

7. OnePlus 5 ($699 RRP, $589 actual)

This year has seen OnePlus’ core promise to offer the same performance as more-expensive rivals has pushed the asking price of their recent flagships upwards. However, if you’re still looking for that classic low-price, high-value OnePlus experience, the OnePlus 5 is still a great option.

OnePlus 5Credit: OnePlus
OnePlus 5

As we said in our review, “the OnePlus 5 absolutely delivers on the brand’s promise of deliver flagship-level aesthetics and performance at a discounted price but doesn’t do a whole lot to endear itself beyond the cold hard math that entails. There’s not a lot of innovation here, just a phone that gets the job done. Fortunately, if all you care about is getting the best performance for the best price, the OnePlus 5 is going to be a hard bargain to pass up.”

8. iPhone 7 ($899 RRP, $569 actual)

It may be a couple of generations old but the iPhone 7 is still a decent-enough phone and, thanks to the depreciated price, much more affordable than it used to be. The iPhone 7 buys you into the Apple ecosystem, features 12-megapixel camera with optical image stabilisation and an IP67 rating against water and dust damage. The one drawback here is the absence of a headphone jack.

Apple iPhone 7Credit: Apple
Apple iPhone 7

Still, in our review of the iPhone 7 we said that “Ultimately, it’s a decent phone whose greatness depends entirely on what the Apple environment means to you in terms of value.”

9. Google Pixel ($899 RRP, $519 on Amazon)

Though Google has moved to phase out their first-gen Pixel smartphones, they’re still absolutely worth a look if you’re after a pure software experience that’s Android at its best. The Google Pixel still has a solid Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and HDR-enhanced camera that can hold their own against plenty of modern smartphones.

Google PixelCredit: Google
Google Pixel

In our review at launch, we said that “If the Pixel looked better and/or offered better battery life and didn’t come with a tax for Australians we’d be happier recommending it as the best phone on the market outright. However, while technically it is the best all-round phone on the market, many people will be happier saving hundreds of dollars going for the better-value, nearly-as-good, older alternatives.”

Read more: ​LG X Power smartphone review

10. Oppo R11s ($559 RRP, $479 actual)

If you like everything about Apple’s latest iPhones but the price, then Oppo’s R11s might be for you. Oppo have built their brand around offering an experience that benefits from the open-ended ecosystem of Android while offering the same sort of friendly and intuitive interfaces usually reserved for Apple users. The Oppo R11s boasts a 6-inch ultra-wide 18:9 AMOLED FHD+ display and comes powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor and 4GB of RAM.

Oppo R11SCredit: Oppo
Oppo R11S

In our review of the device, we said that “As an alternative to the iPhone 8, the R11s is easy to recommend - the performance is good, the camera rig is nice, it’s got a compelling build quality and slick feel-factor.”

Read more: Australian smartphone reviews 2016

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Tags mobileMotorolaApplesonymobile phonesiPhonePhoneslgmobile phoneAlcatelSamsung Galaxy S7 EdgeGoogle PixelOnePlus 5Nokia 8BlackBerry KEYOneXperia XZ PremiumHTC U UltraMoto Z

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Fergus Halliday
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