Buying a good smartphone these days doesn’t need to cost you the earth anymore. Smartphone prices have decreased globally bringing cheaper, more affordable options to the mass market. But with no shortage of models to choose from, how do you define what's both a good quality and competitively priced smartphone?
Many phones these days can cost you over $800 when bought outright and in some cases they can even surpass the $1,000 mark. Therefore, to determine whether a device should fall into the "budget" category or not, I've chosen to focus on models costing $550 or less. So let's delve into which are the top models available within this price range as well as why.
Motorola Moto G
The Motorola Moto G has been one of those devices that set the standard for budget smartphones. It has consistently maintained a price point under $300 year after year and also offers IPX7 waterproofing which is something only mobile phones over $1,000 usually come with. It certainly isn’t the most powerful phone on the market but its functionality is more than adequate for its price.
The 13MP camera that comes with the Moto G 3rd Generation is equivalent to that in the latest Samsung Galaxy S7. Similar to the Galaxy flagship the Moto G also sports Gorilla Glass to protect its HD display. The biggest let down with this phone is its limited 16GB internal memory. Luckily though this can be expanded with a MicroSD card of up to 32GB. Lastly, the Moto G is 4G compatible which most budget phones these days still aren’t.
Operating System: Lollipop
Storage: 16GB (expandable to 32GB)
Cameras: Front 5MP and rear 13MP
Display: 720p HD
Battery: 2470 mAh
Plus: Dual micro-SIM, Micro USB
The OnePlus 3 has been receiving plenty of attention across the world, although its major drawback locally has been its lack of availability in Australia. Unless you know some trustworthy overseas retailer, the device simply isn’t readily available in our country yet. Both its predecessors received similar hype, including the OnePlus X, which is even cheaper than the OnePlus 2.
You can expect a fully metallic design to give that premium feel, along with a full 1080p display. Open up the bonnet and you will see the device has 6GB of RAM and a modified Android operating system called Oxygen OS. The high quality 16MP rear camera can even shoot in RAW, whilst the front camera sports an impressive 8MP. The only issue with all of this technology, is that it requires a a lot of battery power - something the 3,000 mAh battery can struggle with over a full day when pushed.
Operating System: Oxygen OS
Cameras: Front 8MP and rear 16MP
Display: 1080p Full HD
Battery: 3000 mAh
Plus: Dual Nano-SIM, USB C connection
The Xiaomi Mi5 is one of those phones that sounds too good to be true and has many customers wondering how can they produce something of this calibre for the price, when Apple and Samsung are charging vast sums of money more by comparison. Due to this phones popularity, it can also be quite difficult to get your hands on one. If you do manage to though, the value for money aspect is excellent. There is currently no official Australian importer, but where there is a will, there is a way (think grey imports).
It’s an impressively powerful phone for the price, built with the new Snapdragon processor found in the LG G5 or Samsung Galaxy S7. $425 will get you the standard 32GB device whilst $490 will afford you the more generously sized 64GB alternative. If you feel like you need even more space than that, opt for the 128GB option at a cost of $575.
Operating System: Android Marshmallow
Storage: 32GB to 128GB
Cameras: Front 4MP and rear 16MP
Display: 1920 x 1080
Battery: 3000 mAh
Plus: 4G dual nano SIM, USB C
Kogan Agora 6
A new entrant to the market from Kogan is also a great option for budget smartphone shoppers out there. As long as you don’t expect too much to come from a phone costing under $200, then you will be fine. The screen has a large 5-inch HD display that is not common in cheaper phones.
Unfortunately, the phone only contains a 16GB internal hard drive although it can be expanded to 64GB if necessary. If you find this phone too small then you can always consider the Agora 6 Plus, which retails for $349.
Operating System: Android Lollipop
Storage: 16GB (expandable to 32GB microSD)
Cameras: Front 5MP and rear 8MP
Display: HD IPS
Battery: 2050 mAh
Plus: Dual micro-SIM, Micro USB
Android users are spoilt for choice when it comes to budget smartphones, but those iOS followers rarely have a budget option to choose from. Buying a new iPhone on the market today will cost you over $800, however it depends on whether you would spend your money on a 3-year-old device. The iPhone 5S is still a great little phone if you want to have an Apple product without the extortionate price tag, then the iPhone 5S is the one to go for.
The 5S has a 1.7GHz dual-core A7 ARM processor and its powered by 1GB of RAM. The battery is considerably smaller than the other devices here, sitting at only 1570 mAh. The specs are nothing to get excited about, but if you love Apple yet hate their prices, buying an iPhone 5S is the most affordable way to join the club. Kogan is selling new models for $469, whilst refurbished ones go for as low as $399.
Operating System: iOS 7
Storage: 16GB up to 64GB
Cameras: Front 1.2MP and rear 8MP
Display: 640 x 1136 IPS
Battery: 1440 mAh
Plus: Nano SIM, Lightening USB