Although the prices of 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 a third or even a fifth of that..
Sure, you have to be willing to make some compromises when it comes to camera and processing power. But, in terms of the overall experience and features involved, 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 $400 and $500 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 $300.
Note - we use real-world prices sourced from Shopbot and, as such, some of the entries in our roundup may surprise you.
Motorola E4 ($249 RRP, AU$161 on Amazon)
Last year’s Moto E4 was a humble workhorse of a budget smartphone, but it still managed to impress us with clean software and consistent results. It features a 5-inch LCD display, 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM. It’s also got a fingerprint sensor and a 2800mAh removable battery to boot.
In our review of the E4, we said that “As far as $249 smartphones go, the Moto E4 is hard to beat. Sure, some corners have been undeniably cut. However, where it counts the experience is a whole lot better and smoother than a lot of what else is out there. Additional inclusions like a fingerprint sensor and support for Nougat’s Google Assistant contribute to making the E4 feel a whole lot more expensive than it actually is”
2. HTC Desire 10 ($950 RRP, AU$197 on Amazon)
Back when it launched in 2016, the HTC Desire 10 was a reasonably competitive high-end offering. It features a slick metal unibody design, 5.2-inch display, 3000mAh battery and a 12-megapixel sensor with a super wide f/1.8 lens.
In our review at the time, we concluded that “HTC’s got a killer phone here, but they may be shooting themselves in the foot (again) by asking too much for it.” These days, however, it’s a fair mark cheaper and well worth consideration by those who want a decent smartphone without spending a lot of money.
3. Motorola E5 ($249 RRP, AU$196 on Amazon)
Like the Moto E4, the Moto E5 features 2GB of RAM, 16GB of onboard storage and a humble Snapdragon 425 processor. Most of the differences here come down to form factor. The E5 features a significantly sharper and larger 5.7-inch LCD display with thinner bezels. It also runs on the more recent Android 8.0 Oreo.
In our review of the Moto E5, we said that “Though there’s plenty to like about the Moto E5 on its own merits, it falls short when stacked up against last year’s E4. Where other brands are going all-out packing value into their budget buys, Motorola have opted for a by-the-numbers upgrade to last year’s offering. The extra battery life does count for something - but it's not quite enough to give it an edge over the competition or its own predecessor.”
4. Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 ($349 RRP, $298 on Amazon)
Though Xiaomi isn’t officially a brand that you can buy in Australia, like OnePlus, there are plenty of places out there for those willing to import. And if you’re looking for a value-driven reason to start, it’s hard to look past the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5. The phablet runs on a Snapdragon 636 paired with 3GBs of RAM and Android 8.0 with MIUI 9.
In our review of the Redmi Note 5, we said that “between the solid material design and build-quality, performance that swings above its price-bracket and slick software experience, the Redmi Note 5 is a smartphone that’s very easy to recommend. What’s more, even with the usual caveats surrounding importing smartphones, it’s priced low-enough that, should you be looking for a low-risk introduction to the Xiaomi brand, this is probably the place to start.”
5. Samsung J5 Pro ($349 RRP, $259 Actual)
Samsung’s Galaxy J-series rarely gets the same love as its Galaxy S or Note products do.
However, if you’re in the market for a decent smartphone that costs less than $300, the Samsung Galaxy J5 is worth more than just a quick look. The handset boasts a 5.2-inch 720p HD Super AMOLED display, 13-megapixel camera, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage plus a fingerprint sensor. It’s even got dual SIM for those living that data SIM life.
6. Oppo A73 ($359 RRP, $289 on Amazon)
While their R-series is the most popular for Oppo, the company continue to offer great value with their A-series of devices, and the A73 is no different. It features a 6-inch FHD+ display and comes powered by a MediaTek MT6763T processor. Under the hood, it pairs up 3GB or RAM and 32GB of on-board storage (which can be further expanded via MicroSD). These technical specs are rounded out nicely by a 3200mAh battery.
In our review of the Oppo A73 we said that “Compared to its predecessors, the biggest advancement that Oppo have made here might just be the price. At launch, the A77 was $448. The A73 is almost $100 cheaper at $359 - and it’s certainly the better device.”
7. LG Q6 ($249 RRP, $261 on Amazon)
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Last year’s installment of LG’s Q-series of mid-tiers devices has aged well in the interim. It lacks the stylus found in the more recent Q7, but it does feature a hefty 32GB of storage, 5.5-inch IPS Full HD+ display with an 18:9 aspect ratio and a wide-angle selfie Camera. It’s even got several neat quality of life features like face unlock and LG’s unique square camera app.
8. Huawei Nova 2i ($399 RRP, $299 Actual)
Thanks to a year of price-depreciation, the Huawei Nova 2i has gone from one of the best smartphones you can buy for under $500 to one of the best smartphones you can buy for under $300. The device features a 8-core Kirin 659 chipset, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage. It also boasts a 3,340mAh battery, fingerprint sensor and Huawei's 5.9-inch 18:9 FullView Display.
Back when we reviewed it in 2017, we said that “Huawei aren’t the first smartphone brand to try and squeeze down a flagship offering into a lower price-point. However, when brands usually make that pitch, we're talking $600-800. With the $499 price-tag in mind, there’s not a whole lot out there that can match the Huawei Nova 2i. It’s a solid phone that borrows plenty from its more expensive and compact cousin to outstanding effect. “
9. Sony Xperia XA1 ($499 RRP, $299 Actual)
Sony’s Xperia XA1 didn’t blow us away when it first launched but it’s aged like a fine wine. Nowadays, you can scoop it up for a steal and the device’s combination of a MediaTek Helio P20 processor, 3GB of RAM, 5-inch display and 32GB of on-board storage make for a compelling package.
10. Huawei Y7 2017 ($299 RRP, $238 on Amazon)
Though their budget devices aren’t usually as apt to inspire envy as their flagship fare like the Mate 20 and P20 Pro, Huawei’s budget devices continue to offer a fairly competitive proposition, so long as you’re willing to live with the software quirks.
In our review, we said that “Compared to Huawei’s Y5, the Y7 is clearly both the better phone and an option that absolutely justifies the 50% increase in asking price. A much sharper and brighter display, longer-lasting battery and beefier camera make it a bargain phone you’ll want to root for.”
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