The 7 Best Smartphones To Buy in 2016 For Under $300

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

Not everyone wants to spend $600 for the fanciest smartphone on the market. What's more, people simply don’t need to spend that much. You can get a perfectly decent phone for less than $300, and you can even tailor your search to match specific preferences—preferences like camera quality, battery life and design. Lucky for you, we’ve done the research. Here’s a list of the five best smartphones that can be found for less $300.

1
Best Overall: BLU Pure XR

BLU Pure XR
Courtesy of Amazon.com

The BLU Pure XR is the company's flagship phone, and the Miami-based manufacturer brought its A-game this time, thanks to the device's sleek metal unibody design, 2.0GHz octa-core processor and 4GB of RAM. The XR is compatible with both T-Mobile and AT&T’s LTE networks right out of the box and has support for two SIM cards.

Doubling as a fingerprint reader, the home button sits right below the 5.5” display that offers 1920 x 1080 (401ppi) resolution. Protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, the display is tough enough that it can withstand basic scuffs and scratches. BLU also added “3D touch technology,” which allows for a press, long press, or push down on the screen to open up different menu choices through supported apps and options.

The 16-megapixel main camera offers a f/1.8 sensor assisted by 64GB of memory for capturing photos, plus an extra 64GB of memory through microSD storage. For the price, the camera is remarkably accurate in its color representation, macro mode and depth of field. The battery will get you through the day with room to spare, but if you're short on time to juice up, BLU included a quick charger that gets 60 minutes of talk time out of a 10-minute charge. Between the choice of carriers, great hardware and surprisingly great camera, the XR is more than worthy of its flagship title. Buy from Amazon »

2
Runner-Up, 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 runner-up, best value spot. Buy from Amazon »

3
Best Value: Motorola Moto G

Motorola Moto G
TechStage/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

The Motorola Moto G is the best smartphone you can get for less than $200. Unlike other phones on this list, it doesn’t excel in any particular category, but rather does better across the board than others. It’s a well balanced machine for general users—and it has some decent specs to back it up.

Available on AT&T and T-Mobile, it features a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon 61 processor with a battery that’s sure to last all day, but if you are short on charging time, you can get six hours of power in just 15 minutes, thanks to TurboPower charging. It comes with either 16 or 32 GB of storage space, but can offer even more through the microSD slot. It’s not the best sub-$200 phone you can buy for battery, camera (13MP rear-facing), or gaming performance—but that’s sort of the point. For the general population, it checks all the boxes. Buy from Amazon »

4
Best Battery Life: BLU VIVO 5

BLU VIVO 5
Courtesy of Amazon.com

If you’re the type of person who tends to forget to charge your phone, or if you simply make a lot of calls and watch a lot of videos, you probably want something with a robust, long-lasting battery. The BLU VIVO 5 is the best sub-$200 smartphone you can get when it comes to battery life. The lithium-ion battery is pretty powerful, even for phones that cost three times as much, and professional reviews show the thing lasting more than six hours playing HD video at maximum brightness.

This iPhone-looking device includes a 1.5GHz Snapdragon 617 processor, an impressive 2GB RAM, 32GB of expandable storage, a 13MP rear-facing camera, and a 5.5-inch HD display. Once again, those specs place the BLU VIVO 5 among the best performing smartphones at this price point. Some people may find the UI a bit frustrating and counter-intuitive, but for most folks it’s a solid budget smartphone for any purpose. Buy from Amazon »

5
Best Camera: Huawei Honor 5X

Huawei Honor 5X
Courtesy of Amazon.com

When you’re talking about the cameras on sub-$300 phones, you simply can’t expect the quality and versatility of an LG V10 or Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1. You just can’t. That said, for a phone that costs just $200, the Huawei Honor 5X has a pretty solid shooter. The rear-facing square lens features a 13MP, f/2.0, 28mm sensor with autofocus and an LED flash, and it shoots 1080p video at 30fps. Images come out sharp with impressive color reproduction—a solid phone camera by any measure. The front-facing camera is less impressive at 5MP, but it should still suffice for most people.

The phone itself is also pretty decent, with a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon 616 processor; 1,920 x 1,080 LCD at 401 ppi; 16GB of expandable storage space; and a robust 3000 mAh battery. It’s nothing to write home about, but if you want a solid phone/camera pairing in a sub-$200 package, this is your guy. Buy from Amazon »

6
Best Design: Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 (4.7-inch)

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 (4.7-inch)
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Here’s a nifty little design scheme you won’t find on any high-end phone: the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 has no top or bottom. It includes a reversible software interface that allows you to handle the device any which way you like. It’s 100 percent symmetrical and reversible—even when you’re taking a call. Some might find this a little gimmicky, but it makes for a clever design in a slim package. It’s a cool party trick, if nothing else.

Like most in its price range, the OneTouch Idol 3 features a middling Snapdragon 400, 1.2 GHz quad-core processor with 16GB of expandable storage space (up to 32GB). It also has a 1.5GB RAM, dual-front speakers, a 13MP camera, and a 2000 mAh battery—once again, all fairly middling. But, it’s a pretty little device, especially for the price point. Buy from Amazon »

7
Runner-Up, Best Value: Motorola Moto E

Motorola Moto E
Courtesy of Amazon.com

It seems silly to focus on value in a list of value phones, but some people really just want to spend as little as possible for as much quality as possible. For those folks, the Motorola Moto E is the way to go. This bare-bones little gadget has an MSRP of $120 and includes most of the features you should expect from a smartphone: A 1.2GHz Snapdragon 410 processor with 1GB RAM, 8GB of expandable storage space (up to 32GB), and a 2390 mAh battery. The 4.5-inch, 256 ppi (540 x 960) display isn’t particularly sharp or impressive, nor is the 5MP camera. (It doesn’t even have a flash or front-facing lens.) But remember, this thing starts at $120 and can be found unlocked for less than $100. If cost is your most important metric, you can’t get much better than this. Buy from Amazon »

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