We’re fast approaching the end of the year, and before we hit CES-season and look forward to some of the new devices hitting the market in 2016, it’s time to look back at some of the devices that won our hearts and impressed us during this year. First up, we’re starting with some of this year’s best budget phones…
If 2015 was the year of anything, it was the year of phones punching above their weight. Several manufacturers launched smartphones at affordable prices with components and specifications you’d previously have expected to cost way more.
It’s worth noting that if the phone has made to our list, we’ve tested it and reviewed it. If your particular favorite hasn’t made it to the list, that could mean we haven’t tested it, or that we just like and appreciate different things to you. One thing we did stick to was a maximum price of $250, no phone that costs any more (no matter how good) is on this list. Here’s our roundup:
Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 (5.5-inch) – $249
Alcatel OneTouch came out of nowhere right at the beginning of this year with its affordable, flagship specced budget smartphone. While many (including myself) overlooked the smaller 4.7-inch model, most who have used it were massively impressed by the 5.5-inch phablet. With its full HD screen, slim body, octa-core processor, long battery life and clean version of Android, there was a lot to love.
Initially, it went on pre-order for as low as $199, but has since returned to its normal full price of $249. I used it as a daily phone for weeks and noticed very few compromises except for the dropped frame rate when playing intense games. It was, and still is, a fantastic affordable device. I can’t wait to see what comes next year.
OnePlus X – $249
If Alcatel OneTouch kicked the year off, it was OnePlus who finished it in style. Although still (mostly) subject to the usual invite-only system for purchasing, the OnePlus X is an incredible phone for the money. What’s more, it’s arguably one of the only smaller phones with great specs and elegant build quality. Its metal frame combines with the obsidian-like glass front and back to create a phone which oozes elegance across the board.
The 5-inch AMOLED display is so full of color and deep, dark blacks that it’s almost impossible to take your eyes off. Sure, the camera could be better, but the battery life is superb, and it’s easily one of this year’s best-looking and best-feeling phones. You can pick one up for $249 providing you manage to get hold of an invite.
Moto G (3rd gen) – $179
Building great phones that don’t cost the earth is in Motorola’s DNA, and it was arguably the Moto G which originally set the bar for other manufacturers to meet, a couple of years ago. The third generation Moto G is here, and again shows that you don’t have to make too many compromises if you need to save on outlay.
Like the OnePlus X, it’s one of the smaller devices and features a 5-inch display. It’s not full HD, rather, it’s 720 x 1280 resolution and is powered by a Snapdragon 410 processor. You can get either 1GB or 2GB of RAM depending on whether you choose the 8GB or 16GB storage model, both of which can be expanded up to an extra 32GB. It runs Android 5.1.1 and is IPX7 water-resistant. Apart from the customization options, what makes the Moto G particularly appealing is the pure Android software experience. You’ll not only get a fast and fluid phone, but one that’s up to date.
The Moto G is available with a ton of customization options using the manufacturer’s Moto Maker tool, with prices starting from $179.
Wileyfox Swift (in Europe) – £129 (approx $185 USD)
A couple of months back, a company no one had heard of took us by surprise. British-based Wileyfox released two smartphones, both of which are affordable. The one that most impressed us when we reviewed it was the Swift. In the UK/Europe it costs just £129 full retail and comes with similar specifications to the Moto G, except it runs Cyanogen software to make the Android experience ultra-customizable. Even with the unfavorable exchange rates, it’s still good value for $185.
Like the Moto G, it has a 5-inch 720p display, a Snapdragon 410 processor and 2GB RAM alongside 16GB storage with the option to expand to 32GB via MicroSD. Its camera could be better, but the screen and battery life combine to make a phone that’s hard to criticize too harshly.
HTC Desire 626 – from $149
I checked out the Desire 626 earlier this year, and I like it a lot. It’s not the most powerful, or impressive phone, spec-wise. But its design, the way it feels in hand and its current price point make it a great option for anyone looking to spend up to $150 on a smartphone.
Like others mentioned in this list, it also features a 5-inch 720p display, Snapdragon 410 processor and 16GB storage with 2GB RAM. Its 2000mAh battery is capable enough of keeping it going all day, while the 13MP rear camera can take fairly decent shots in good light. What’s more, it comes in a choice of attractive colors.
It’s available as a Verizon-locked prepaid phone for $149 on Amazon, or you can buy unlocked from HTC for $179.
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