Although the prices of a high end smartphone like the Galaxy Note 9 and iPhone XS Max continue to balloon upwards, it’s actually become easier than ever to find yourself a good-value smartphone for less than $500.
Sure, you have to be willing to make some compromises when it comes to camera and processing power. Still, in terms of the overall experience, buying a mid-tier and budget smartphone (that doesn’t suck) is much easier than it used to be.
If our round-up of the best Apple and Android smartphones you can find for under $600 and $700 wasn’t good enough for you, here’s our latest list of the top 10 best Android and Apple phones you can find for under $500.
Note - we use real-world prices sourced from Shopbot and, as such, some of the entries in our roundup may surprise you.
1. Nokia 8 ($699 RRP, $455 actual)
HMD Global’s first stab at a value-driven Nokia flagship, the Nokia 8 was compelling enough at launch. It came equipped with a Snapdragon 835 processor, a 5.3-inch QHD display and a 13-megapixel dual-lens camera capable of unique ‘bothie’ shots. With a year of discounts behind it, the Nokia 8 is a bargain for a 2017 flagship device.
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. Huawei Nova 3i ($599 RRP, $433 actual)
Huawei’s new Nova 3i sits between its more premium P20 and P20 Pro but above the budget-friendly Nove 3e. The Nova series of smartphones has always been big on incorporating flagship features into an affordable device, and the Nova 3i is no different. It comes equipped with Huawei’s Kirin 710 AI processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB of on-board storage and a matching set of dual-lens cameras.
At its baseline RRP the Nova 3i was already a decent device. But factor in a few reseller-specific discounts and it’s made even better.
3. Moto Z ($699 RRP, $395 actual)
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. It does come with a few drawbacks, such as the absence of a headphone jack. However, there’s still a lot to like here - and doubly so at the price.
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.”
4. Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge ($679 RRP, $419 actual)
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. Meanwhile, under the hood, it’s armed with Samsung’s Exynos 8890 Quad-core processor, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage.
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.”
5. LG V20 ($699 RRP, $439 actual)
Though its videographic capabilities aren’t quite as accomplished as 2018’s LG V30 and LG V30+, the LG V20 is still a smartphone more than capable of holding its own. Spec-wise, the LG V20 boasts a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of built-in storage. It also features a unique secondary screen. Meanwhile, the LG V20’s main display QHD 5.7-inch one covered in Gorilla Glass.
Since the LG V20 released in 2016, smartphones have definitely gotten better, but they haven’t gotten that much better. If you can put aside the shortcomings of the camera, which is rendered mediocre by today’s standards, the LG V20 is still absolutely a viable device for those willing to give it a chance.
6. HTC U Ultra ($699 RRP, $360 actual)
Though it launched with a price-tag that originally rivalled Samsung’s Galaxy flagships, the HTC U Ultra smartphone can now be had for a price closer to 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.
In our review of the HTC U Ultra, we said that “HTC's flagship phone brings some interesting features to the top of the market including great looks and 24-bit audio.”
7. Moto G6+ ($498 RRP, $408 actual)
Motorola’s G-Series of devices have continued to prove the highlight of their portfolio in recent years. This year’s additions to the G-Series come in three sizes: Moto G6, Moto G6 Play and Moto G6 Plus. The latter is a little more top-end, featuring a dual-lens rear camera (12-megapixel + 5-megapixel), 16-megapixel front-facing camera, a 5.9-inch FHD+ display with an 18:9 aspect ratio, a Snapdragon 630 processor, 3200mAh battery plus 4GBs of RAM and 64 GBs of on-board storage.
As we said in our review of the mainline Moto G6, “in the absence of any official Australian presence from OnePlus, it feels like the Moto G6 has made a strong claim here to the Chinese brand’s value-driven positioning. It’s not without a few candid flaws, but those looking for a solid device with few compromises will likely find what they’re looking for here.”
8. Nokia 7+ ($649 RRP, $519 actual)
HMD’s ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the Nokia brand are made manifest in all the right ways with the Nokia 7+. The Nokia 7+ is currently the largest, and arguably the best, smartphone, in the 2018 Nokia range. As with the Nokia 6, Nokia 3.1 and Nokia 8, the final product here is as polished and clean as many flagships. The Nokia 7+ boasts a 6-inch LCD display and a Snapdragon 660 processor.
In our review of the Nokia 7 Plus, we said “If the thick bezels and traditional aspect ratio found in the new Nokia 6 is a deal-breaker and the Nokia 8 Sirocco is too expensive or gimmicky for consideration, the Nokia 7 Plus manages to eke out a nice middle ground for itself.”
9. LG G6 ($581 RRP, $489 actual)
Since this year’s LG G7 opted for a largely by-the-numbers upgrade, the LG G6 has actually managed to hold its own over time. Though the price-tag on the LG G6 has gone down, its spec sheet is still fairly sharp by modern standards. The LG G6 features a Snapdragon 821 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of ROM and a full IP68-rating against water damage.
In our review of the LG G6, we said that “what really tips the balance in its favour is the “Back to Basics” approach of making the phone more comfortable to hold, and it really is. Time will tell if this is the day-to-day phone we use moving forward - for now it is. But right now, it’s a great choice and a recommended buy.”
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 splices together the open-ended ecosystem of Android whilst also offering the intuitive interfaces Apple is known for. 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.
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.”
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