Updated for June 2018: The Apple iPhone X starts at $1,000, the iPhone 8 Plus at $800, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus at $840, and the Google Pixel 2 XL at $849. These manufacturers and wireless carriers tend to offer monthly payment plans to help people accept these high prices, but no matter how you slice it the price of flagships is still a deterrent for many folks.
Thankfully, there are some outstanding low cost alternatives and these alternatives have significantly improved over the past few years. Various manufacturers, including many from China and Korea, have compelling products and these products are finding their way into the mainstream market. Amazon has its Prime Exclusive Phones program that offers reasonable prices with added value Amazon integration.
Most of these low cost phones are GSM phones that work on T-Mobile, AT&T, MetroPCS, and other low cost carriers. Some can be found at Sprint and Verizon stores, but there is less availability and price competition when it comes to the CDMA networks.
It's tough to justify a $1,000 iPhone X as your first phone, but any of these following phones may be great to get started, to get work done without forking over serious cash, or to have a second phone in case of an emergency. These phones are in order from lowest to highest price.
1. LG K30 ($139.99)
The LG K30 has a 5.3 inch display with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor, 8 megapixel rear cameras, 5 megapixel front-facing camera, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage with a microSD expansion card slot, rear fingerprint scanner, and a rather large 3,000 mAh battery.
The K30 is priced at less than most insurance policies for flagship phones so if you need a low cost phone or a backup then this may be the one to consider.
2. Alcatel 3V ($150)
I currently have an Alcatel 3V on hand for testing and am rather stunned that it is only $150. It has a dual rear camera setup, 6-inch 18:9 aspect ratio display, rear fingerprint sensor, and more that make it almost indistinguishable from a new flagship at first glance.
The Alcatel 3V will be available soon for $150 and launches with Android 8.0 Oreo, a 3000 mAh battery, 2GB of RAM, and is unlocked to work on GSM networks.
The second 2 megapixel rear camera is designed to provide depth data for bokeh (portrait) mode photography. The Spectrum Black model will be launching soon on Amazon.
3. LG X Charge ($169.99)
LG is known for making high end camera phones, especially the G and V series devices. The LG X Charge is the second lowest priced LG device in the Amazon Prime Exclusive lineup at $169.99. The word Charge is in the device, but it means you will rarely have to charge it up with its massive 4,500 mAh battery that is unheard of in the smartphone world.
Unlike most of these low priced phones, the LG X Charge also works on the Sprint network, in addition to AT&T, T-Mobile, and other GSM networks.
The LG X Charge is powered by a MediaTek 1.5 Ghz octa-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB internal storage, and a microSD card. It has a rear 13 megapixel camera and 5 megapixel front-facing camera.
4. LG Q6 ($189.99)
The LG Q6 appears to be a flagship LG G6 in mini form factor with many similar design features, including a fantastic FullVision 18:9 aspect ratio display.
The LG Q6 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 processor with 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, and a microSD card slot (notice the pattern here below $300?).
Like the LG G6, the LG Q6 is built to pass the MIL-STD 810G drop tests so it has more durability than others. There is a 13 megapixel rear camera and 5 megapixel front camera on the Q6.
5. Honor 7X ($199.99)
If you are looking to spend $200 or less, I highly recommend this phone as a first choice and know a few friends who already ordered one based on my recommendation. You can find it in various colors, including a cool red. Like most of these low cost devices, storage can be inexpensively expanded via a microSD card too
It's rather stunning that the Honor 7X is only priced at $199.99 as it looks and feels like a device priced at least twice this cost. It's all metal body has an excellent fit and finish with minimal bezels, dual rear cameras, a fast Kirin 659 processor, 3340 mAh battery, FM radio, and more.
6. Moto G5 Plus ($204.99)
There is very little compromise on this device with snappy performance from the Snapdragon 625 processor and a very stock Android experience. It has splash resistant nano coating and a large 3,000 mAh battery. The 5.2 inch display device fits well in your pocket and even works on Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and others.
CNET awarded the Moto G5 Plus an 8.3/10 rating, making it the highest rated lowest priced phone available today.
7. Moto G6 ($234.99)
The Moto G6 just launched as an Amazon Prime Exclusive phone and may be one of the best available for just over $200.
Last month, ZDNet's Ross Rubin stated that the Moto G6 was the way forward for Motorola and then Sandra Vogel posted her full review of the G6 Plus. For just $234.99, regularly priced at $249.99, you can purchase the Moto G6 in black (ships today) from Amazon with Oyster Blush shipping later this summer.
The Moto G6 has a 5.7 inch display, dual rear cameras, an 8 megapixel front-facing camera, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage with a microSD card slot, and 3000 mAh battery. It is a mid-level phone available at an entry level price.
8. Apple iPhone SE (16GB) ($264)
You probably didn't expect to ever see an Apple iPhone in this sub-$300 list, but the 16GB Apple iPhone SE is available now on Amazon for $264.
Many people keep buying this iPhone because its the last of the small devices with a 4 inch display, but it still has all of the great iOS functionality. Other specs include a rear 12 megapixel camera, a front 1.2 megapixel FaceTime HD camera, a fingerprint scanner integrated into the front home button, and 16GB of internal storage.
The Apple iPhone SE is powered by the Apple A9 chip and M9 motion coprocessor for a fast experiences with a standard 3.5mm headset jack still present on the phone.
9. Moto G5S Plus ($279.99)
Moto released a successor to the Moto G5 Plus in the Moto G5S Plus. This upgrade offers a dual rear camera setup, a larger 5.5 inch display, more RAM, and an improved front-facing camera for a $279.99 price.
NFC is nearly always something left out of these lower priced devices and that is the case here as well. microUSB is also used as the charging standard, instead of the new USB Type-C port.
Thankfully, Moto offers a very stock Android experience with some Moto enhancements that make the device very responsive and efficient in daily use. This phone also supports Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and prepaid partners so you can use it without carrier bloatware.
10. Moto X4 ($279.99)
The Moto X line started off the modern Moto Androids a couple years ago and the Moto X4 is one of the best in this list of ten affordable phones. It offers an excellent glass sandwich design with a solid dual rear camera experience, IP68 dust and water resistance, and hands-free Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa support.
The Moto X4 uses the new USB Type-C port for charging and still retains a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. It has a front fingerprint scanner and that button can also be enabled for single button navigation in the settings. This is also one of the lower priced phones that has NFC so you can use it for Android Pay. You can have a lot of fun with the dual rear cameras too.