Now that top-end smartphones are not making leaps anymore between releases, something interesting is happening. Low/Mid-end phones have always been given a bad rep, and for good reason. They’ve historically been slow, had terrible displays, and quite flimsy build quality. But because they’ve always trailed behind flagship phones, they’ve gotten better. And now that the high-end is slowing down, that’s given the lower-end the opportunity to catch up, as they still have room for improvement.
Being that these phones do not make as much headline as flagships do, I thought there would be value in making a list of what are the good, non-budget-busting smartphone choices of today. So without further ado…
Asus ZenFone 2
Asus is known for making some fantastic computer hardware. However, they have been having trouble really making a stamp in the mobile space, at least in the US. And it’s not exactly well-deserved, they’ve had with some solid and interesting attempts. Anyone remember the PadFone X, that phone/tablet hybrid system? (link)
Like many manufacturers nowadays, Asus settled on a flagship label to stick with, known as the ZenFone, originally introduced in 2014. This year it was followed up naturally with the ZenFone 2:
Asus ZenFone 2 [source]
Introduced at CES 2015, this guy made some great impressions with its “high-end” like specs:
- 2.3 GHz Intel Atom SoC (64 bit)
- 4GB Ram
- 13 MP f/2.0 aperture rear camera
- 5.5″ 1080P IPS LCD display
- 3,000 mAh battery
- Multitude of color and textured chassis choices
Spec-wise, the ZenFone 2 can hold its own against popular flagships. But where Asus really made a stance was the price, at about $400 off-contract (not confirmed, as US launch is slated for May 18th). This is in a world where top-end smartphones retail for around $700.
However, the picture ain’t perfect with the ZenFone 2. Reviewers have knocked it’s camera and battery performance. But if you’re not expecting some trade-off for the price, you’re dreaming.
Update: Via Phone Arena, the ZenFone 2 will be on sale for just $337 for only one day, on May 7th.
Lenovo K80 [source]
The Lenovo K80 was in the news recently, noticed for being a very good competitor to the Asus ZenFone 2, with the following specs:
- 1.8 GHz Intel Atom SoC (64 bit)
- 4GB Ram
- 13 MP with OIS, rear camera
- 5.5″ 1080P display
- 4,000 mAh battery
See the resemblance? But Lenovo does up the battery to a whopping 4,000 mAh, which is crazy for a budget phone!
Unfortunatley, the K80 is for the Chinese market at the moment. Hopefully like many, it can be acquired through an international online shop. The pricing translates to about $290 US.
Moto G and E (2nd Gen)
Moto E on left and Moto G on right [source]
We can’t talk about budget phones without talking about Motorola’s offering. In my opinion, Moto has stretched the dollar the farthest in the mobile space.
It is important to note that the latest Moto G was released 6 months before the more-budget Moto E. Therefore, although the Moto E is the cheaper of the two, their specs are actually very close. This will change once a Moto G refresh comes out.
Source: Droid Life
Being that the prices of the Moto G and Moto E are currently $179 and $149, respectively, keep in mind that these phones are not gonna soar. They get the job done. And following Moto’s ways, you’ll get virtually stock Android and updates fast.
Huawei Ascend Mate 2
The phablet-loving folk also have some choices in the budget arena, a good one being the Ascend Mate 2.
Huawei Ascend Mate 2 [source]
Huawei has been making some headway in the US lately, with cheap beginnings but moving up steadily. The Ascend Mate 2 is a 6.1″ behemoth but retails for a budget-friendly $299 unlocked ($249 currently on Amazon).
- 1.6 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC
- 2GB Ram
- 6.1″ 720p Display
- 13 MP f/2.0 aperture rear camera
- 3,900 mAh
Can you pinpoint where the compromises were made? Although the Ascend Mate 2 is equipped with a decent camera and large battery, the Huawei had to let go on the processor and display resolution to meet that budget price. But if you’re more about function and want that huge screen, this might be the one for you.
HTC Desire 626
HTC Desire 626 [source]
HTC’s Desire line of phones is often overshadowed by their huge push for their more premium One flagships. But lately, the Desire phones have not been too far off spec-wise, for a significant less cost, removing the metal for more traditional poly-carbonate (more fancy way of saying plastic).
One of the more recent release was the Desire 626:
- 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 SoC
- 1 GB Ram
- 5″ 720p Display
- 13 MP camera
- 2,000 mAh battery
Spec-wise, this guy is more of a competitor to Moto’s low-end. This is reflected by the price as well, at about $200. But if you’re a fan of HTC’s software and build quality, this might be the budget phone for you. Via @upleaks, it is slated to be a prepaid Sprint phone at some point.
It must be said that your choices aren’t only limited to new phones if you’re budget conscience. Why not consider a flagship that was released last year? As updates come out, the old ones drop in price. They’re going to be right in line with new mid-end phones (maybe even better). Here are some good examples, as of today’s writing:
- HTC One M8 for $270 [via techbargains.com]
- Samsung Galaxy Alpha for $250 [via techbargains.com (expired)]
- Samsung Galaxy S5 for $349 [via logicbuy.com]
- LG G3 + $100 Amazon Gift Card for $399 [via techbargains.com]
Hope this helps anyone with a tight budget. Yes, some of these aren’t US, but they can be acquired, try a Google search. Just bear in mind that the warranty may not work if it’s in a different country, but being that the price is lower, many are willing to take that risk. Also check radios for compatibility with your carrier! The world uses GSM, so no-go for Verizon and Sprint folks.