A flagship smartphone usually costs somewhere in the region of $800, with some models creeping closer to one grand. That’s just silly money! If you’re willing to forgo the latest wizz-bang features — most of which are useless gimmicks — it’s possible to snag a cutting-edge phone for well under $400. Here are five of the best cheapskate-friendly models on the market.
Best for techies: LG Nexus 4 ($299)
As its name implies, the LG Nexus 4 is the fourth Google-certified smartphone. As with previous models, its a bare bones device that is designed to give users an uncompromised, bloat-free Android experience. It comes with a 4.7-inch True HD IPS Plus display with a native resolution of 1280×768 pixels and 318 ppi. The screen is also finished with Gorilla Glass for added protection. The device is powered by a quad-core 1.5Ghz Snapdragon processor and 2GB of RAM. This makes it the most powerful Android on the market at this price point.
One of the chief advantages of the Nexus 4 is that it automatically receives Android OS updates. In other words, you’re not tied to your carrier glacial testing and rollout schedule. This makes the Nexus 4 a great choice if you enjoy having the latest software technology at your fingertips. On the downside, the LG Nexus 4 lacks 4G/LTE support. It’s also a bit bland looking (it’s basically just a black rectangle), although some people might consider that a plus. All in all, this is an incredibly solid offering that will suit casual users and tech enthusiasts alike.
Originally retailing for $399, you can now pick up the 16GB version for $299 and under.
Best for cheapskates: Motorola Moto E ($169)
The Moto E is a 4.3-inch Android smartphone that comes with a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage and a 5-megapixel camera. These specifications might not look that impressive compared to the other phones on this list, but the asking price more than makes up for it. The Motorola Moto E has an official RRP of $199 but we’ve seen it online for under $170. You’d be hard pressed finding a cheaper phone that provides the same level of features.
Other noteworthy specifications include a 4.3-inch qHD LCD screen, a splash-proof rating of IPX2 and a beefy 1980mAh battery that should last you all day. It’s also highly customisable thanks to a range of “Moto Shells” for the back cover. As you’d expect from a sub-$200 Android, the build quality isn’t perfect, but it’s nothing you can’t live with. The piddly 4GB of internal storage is slightly more worrisome — although the inclusion of a microSD slot means you should never run out of space.
While it’s hardly a powerhouse phone, the Moto E is perfectly capable of running modern apps and doing everything you’d expect of a 2014 Android phone. That makes it incredible value for the asking price. Click here to peruse the best Google Shopping prices.
Best for trendsetters/gamblers: Nokia Lumia 630 (RRP: $179)
The Lumia 630 is a feature-packed budget smartphone running Windows Phone 8.1. It comes with a 4.5-inch, 854×480-pixel LCD display and a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU clocked at 1.2Ghz. Other noteworthy specs include a 5MP camera, a dual SIM card slot, 8GB of internal memory and SensorCore support. This is an SDK that allows developers to utilise sensors on the Lumia 630 without compromising battery life: handy if you want to take advantage of the plethora of Bluetooth-enabled fitness trackers and smartwatches on the market. In terms of grunt, it will be capable of handling everything but the most recent and visually demanding mobile games.
The Lumia 630 is also one of the most stylish low-end smartphones on the market, with five flashy colours to choose from. If you’re a fan of eye-catching gadgets, it’s hard to go past this phone. The OS’s Metro-style user interface is also very attractive.
The obvious drawback to the Lumia 630 is its operating system. While there is nothing wrong with the Windows Phone OS, it doesn’t enjoy the same wealth of third-party apps as Android or iOS and is struggling to gain market share against its competitors. In other words, you’ll be saddling yourself to an ecosystem with fewer apps and an uncertain future.
The Lumia 630 was recently superseded by the 635, which is good news for bargain hunters — Mobicity is currently selling it for $199, while Kogan has it for $179; a saving of more than $100 on the original RRP.
Best for Galaxy fans: Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini ($350)
Samsung’s phenomenally popular Galaxy range is the undisputed king of the Android market. Fortunately, you don’t need to blow the better part of a grand to join the “in” crowd. Instead of forking out for a flagship version, plump for the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. As it’s name implies, it’s essentially a shrunk-down version of the Galaxy S4 with a 4.3-inch qHD AMOLED screen. As you’d expect, it’s also been stripped down in other areas with a slower dual-core 1.7GHz processor, 1.5GB of RAM, an inferior 8MP camera and a lower resolution display (960×540 pixels).
Otherwise, the S4 Mini boasts similar specifications to its big brother: it runs on Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2 and comes withs 8GB of internal storage, a microSD slot, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, a GPS with GLONASS support and an NFC chip. It’s also one of the only dual-band LTE smartphones in Australia, compatible with both TDD and FDD LTE/4G networks where available.
Despite its vertically-challenged moniker, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is far from tiny: the 4.3-inch screen provides ample room for web browsing and video playback. Some people may even prefer the Mini’s dimensions — it’s certainly easier to operate one-handed than its gargantuan siblings. Originally retailing for a rather steep $576, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini can now be snapped up online for around $350 and under. Get it here.
Best “bang-for-buck”: Kogan Agora HD+ ($199)
The Kogan Agora HD+ is a five-inch, quad-core Android smartphone that provides an impressive amount of power for the asking price. It’s powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM running Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean). It also comes with a 2000mAh battery, an 8MP rear-facing camera, 8GB of internal memory, a dual-SIM card slot and a five inch HD IPS screen with a native resolution of 1280×720 pixels. Priced at $199, it arguably provides the best bang-for-buck on the market.
Crucially, the Agora runs on stock Android 4.2.2, which means there are no poorly designed skins getting in the way of Google’s fuss-free interface. In other words, the Agora’s UI is arguably less obtrusive and ham-fisted than most of its flagship competitors. On the downside, Kogan’s customer support doesn’t have the best reputation which could lead to frustrations if you run into hardware issues with your new phone. Like most of the phones here, it’s also 3G only. Nevertheless, if you’re after a cheap ‘n’ cheerful smartphone with a decent amount of grunt beneath the hood, the Kogan Agora HD+ is a good choice. Get it here.