The 9 Best Budget Smartphones To Buy in 2018 For Under $300

Shop for the top budget smartphones on the market without breaking the bank

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The List

Best Overall: ZTE Axon 7 Mini at Amazon, "pairing great hardware and affordable pricing."

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Honor 7X at Amazon, "easily measuring up to high-end smartphone brands."

Best from Samsung: Galaxy J7 at Best Buy, "giving you a lot of bang for your buck if you still want that top-notch brand name on your phone."

Best New Release: Nokia 3.1 at Amazon, "a strong newcomer to the budget smartphone leagues."

Best Value: Motorola Moto G6 at Amazon, "striking that elusive balance between affordability, design, and function."

Runner-Up, Best Value: LG Q6 at Amazon, "basically a top-of-the-line phone without the top-of-the-line price."

Best Camera: Nokia 6.1 at Amazon, "a phone that's all about high-end visuals without the high-end price tag."

Runner-Up, Best Camera: Sony XA1on Amazon, "offering a mind-blowing 23MP of resolution, which rivals even mid-tier DSLR cameras out there."

Best Battery Life: Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom, "able to last, on average, for about two days on a single charge."

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: ZTE Axon 7 Mini

ZTE Axon 7 Mini
Courtesy of Amazon.com

When you pair great hardware and affordable pricing, you get a smartphone worth talking about. The ZTE Axon 7 Mini, the follow-up to the Axon 7, is a supremely capable device with a 5.2” display (1920 x 1080 pixels), a 1.5GHz Snapdragon 617 processor and 3GB of RAM. Suffice to say, there’s more than enough power under the hood with this smartphone. 

The hi-fidelity speaker offers superb audio quality, and the sleek and slim aluminum unibody design is excellent. The bezels feel ergonomic and comfortable in the hand and have an easy-to-reach fingerprint sensor. Inside, you’ll find 32GB of memory, a microSD slot for cards up to 128GB in size and LTE network connectivity that supports all four major U.S. carriers.

The 16-megapixel camera features max video resolution of 1080p alongside a suite of brightness and exposure tools to capture the perfect shot. The battery is said to deliver 15 hours of talk time, plus support for Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0, which offers a 50 percent charge in just 30 minutes. Between the premium-feeling hardware and affordable price, the Axon 7 Mini easily earns the top spot.

Take a peek at some of the other best ZTE phones  you can buy.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Honor 7X

The new Honor 7X model can easily measure up to the high-end smartphone brands. At a glance, it looks like any one of the top-brand Android phones, but it costs half as much. The 7X packs a 3GB RAM, a 2.36GHz Octa-Core processor, and 32GB of storage—with room for a micro SD card to fit an additional 256GB. With a six-inch screen, the device might not fit into your jeans pocket, but it offers crisp visual detail (2,160 x 1080 resolution) on an 18:9 widescreen display. In fact, the phone is so large that it offers a “split-screen” function that allows users to operate two apps simultaneously— a stand-out feature among competitors.

The Honor 7X includes a dual-lens 16MP and 2MP camera for capturing high-definition photos. For an additional level of professionalism, the camera offers Portrait Mode, which blurs the background and captures your subject in vivid detail. This phone is also built to last, with a 3,340 mAH battery that can deliver up to 1.5 days of power on a single charge. The Honor 7X is upgradable to Android 8.0 Oreo software and is compatible with GSM cellular networks like AT&T and T-Mobile.

Best from Samsung: Galaxy J7

Samsung - Galaxy J7
Courtesy of BestBuy.com

Okay, so you want a Samsung phone, but you don’t want to drop $600+ on it, right? The Galaxy S line gets all the press and all the hype, and for good reason – those phones are powerhouses. But the much more affordable J7 line gives you a lot of bang for your buck if you still want that top-notch brand on your phone. Let’s take a look at what this thing has to offer. For starters, it’s pretty powerful, thanks to an Octa-core, 1.6 GHz processor and 2GB of RAM. That’s enough to power the latest generation of Android, so it won’t feel like a budget phone. The 5.5-inch display offers HD 1280 x 720 Super AMOLED levels, and it gives you that at a cinema-friendly aspect ratio of 16:9 – great for watching flicks on your phone.

The rear camera isn’t really much to write home about at 8 MP, but the front-facing camera can go toe-to-toe with the more premium Galaxy releases at 5MP. There’s 16GB of internal storage, which is pretty limited compared to the other flagship models, but you can thankfully expand that storage via microSD, which is a standard value-add for a lot of Androids. It’s Bluetooth enabled, and at only six ounces, it’s a pretty light little phone for the premium features it packs in. The build quality, while not as premium-feeling as the flagship phones, fits nicely in your hand, and will look, to the untrained eye, like some of the previous Galaxy generations. All in all, this phone is an absolute steal with the Samsung name.

Still can't decide on what you want? Our round-up of the best Samsung phones can help you find what you're looking for.

Best New Release: Nokia 3.1

The Nokia 3.1 is a strong newcomer to the budget smartphone leagues. Though some cuts were made so it could be more affordable, like eliminating the finger sensor, the phone has a grippy flat plastic back and curved glass on the front that lends it an air of sophistication. Its 2990mAh battery capacity is deceiving: the phone can hold a charge for the entire day despite its relatively small size. The screen is surprisingly high-quality — the 5.2-inch 18:9 display has 1440x720 resolution — and it runs Android 1 software free from any bloatware that would slow it down, so it should receive updates quickly. Headphone users will be happy that the phone includes a headphone jack. Keep in mind that the octa-core Mediatek MT 6750 processor does not offer the best performance, and while a strong choice at its price point, the phone does suffer from sluggishness and only has 2GB of RAM, which can make multitasking difficult. However, MicroSD support for up to 128GB cards is available. 

Best Value: Motorola Moto G6

The Moto G6 strikes that elusive balance between affordability, design, and function. The curved, 3D glass back makes it comfortable to hold, and the thin bezels mean the 5.7” full HD display offers edge-to-edge visuals. The phone prioritizes speed with a 1.8 GHz octa-core processor and features an Android 8.0 Oreo operating system. Let your creativity loose with the dual-sensor setup of a 12MP and 5MP cameras, or switch to portrait mode, where you can focus on a foreground subject and apply three different editing effects to the photo, including a blurred background or a “color pop.”

Need assistance? The Moto G6 is Amazon Alexa capable with two hands-free options, whether you need to ask a question, use an app, or manage your other smart home devices. One of its only drawbacks is the life of its 3000 mAh battery, which falls short of its predecessors. 

To get the biggest bang for your buck, you can learn how to use an Android phone and all of its features, which differ from an iPhone's features.

Runner-Up, Best Value: LG Q6

If you’re in the market for a quality budget phone, then check out the LG Q6. By many measures, it's basically a top-of-the-line phone without the top-of-the-line price. LG's Full Vision tech powers a 5.5-inch, beautiful QHD+ IPS display that provides you with an 18:9 aspect ratio. The rear camera offers auto and manual focuses and does it with a pretty impressive resolution of 13MP. The front-facing camera gives you 5MP with a wide angle lens, selfie lighting and an automatic mode. They’ve even thrown in some flashy software aspects to the camera such as GIF mode and food mode. The hard metal sides have earned this thing a military-grade rating, having passed a dozen standardized tests in durability.

It’s shipped with Android 7.1, powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435, 1.4 GHz octa-core processor alongside 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage (specs that you’ll definitely find in the top phones out there). You can even expand the storage up to 2TB with an SD card slot. Add that to premium features such as face unlock and the Knock On tap-to-unlock function, and this thing feels a heck of a lot more like a $500 phone, rather than a sub-$300 one. But, to sweeten the pot even more, Amazon is offering a ridiculous deal, slicing that price almost in half if you include its normally Kindle-only feature of adding special offers at the lock screen.

Need some more help finding what you're looking for? Read through our best LG phones article.

Best Camera: Nokia 6.1

When it comes to a decent camera, affordability doesn’t have to mean compromise. The Nokia 6.1 is all about high-end visuals without the high-end price tag. Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 mobile platform with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, the smartphone features a high-contrast 5.5’” full-HD screen with a sculpted 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass display. But the Nokia 6.1’s main selling point? Its Zeiss optics 16MP main camera with 4K video recording and dual-tone flash. To truly capture a moment, Dual-sight mode engages both the main and 8MP wide-angle selfie cameras to fuse images into one file. Both of these cameras are able to function in low-light conditions.

For convenience when you’re on-the-go, the USB Type-C charging allows your phone to power up by 50% in 30 minutes, and the Android One software is easy to use, boasts Google’s newest technology developments, and offers free, unlimited high-quality photo storage. With no bloatware, the phone’s performance is strong, fast, and reliable.

Runner-Up, Best Camera: Sony XA1

Sony XA1 16GB 5-inch Smartphone
Courtesy of Jet.com

The Sony XA1 rear camera offers a mind-blowing 23MP of resolution, which rivals even mid-tier DSLR cameras out there. The F2.0 lens and the low light function give you an unparalleled performance for a smartphone, from a photo perspective. The display is five inches, and they’ve designed it with virtually no bezels to give users that ultra modern, borderless look. This model comes with 16GB of internal memory, but you can pack in up to 256GB more with the SD card slot, and Sony has even packed in a smart clean function that offers to remove bloatware and frequently unused apps to optimize your space and speed.

They’ve put in a MediaTek Helio P20 Octa-Core 64 bit processor that will clock 2.4 GHz of speed and paired that with a high-capacity 2,300 mAh battery. It’s compatible with the latest Android, but Sony has also loaded in some cool software features like the ability to learn your preferences as you use your phone and optimize its functionality as you go. It’s a great option for those who want a high-end phone, a higher-end camera and a budget-end price.

Read more reviews of the best Sony phones available to purchase online. 

Best Battery Life: Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom

Equipped with a whopping 5,000mAh battery, the Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom can last, on average, for about two days on a single charge. This power-saving technology is made possible with its energy-efficient 14nm Fin Field Effect transistors (FinFETs), which guarantee strong, reliable performance while using 35% less power. The Zenfone packs a small but powerful 64-bit, 2.0GHz octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor, 3GB onboard memory, and 32GB storage, with room to expand up to 2TB.

Another major draw lies in the phone’s outstanding picture quality. The Zenfone features a 13MP front camera (for detailed, flattering selfies), and a rear camera with 12MP, 2.3X optical zoom, and 4K UHD video recording. With a 5.5-inch display, rendered in full 1920 x 1080 resolution and 500-nit brightness, you can review your captured images or watch your favorite online videos in vibrant, true-to-life color. Even though the Zenfone 3 Zoom is featured for best battery, it’s certainly not the phone’s only pro. The device is compatible with GSM cellular networks, including AT&T and T-Mobile.

Want to keep exploring your options?