Seriously, why pay $1000 and more when you can get equally great smartphones at half the price? Here are some of the best smartphones under $500. They are as good as any other expensive device and strike the perfect balance between an affordable price and luxury features.
The best time to buy these affordable phones is during the New Year, as a lot of top brands release phones at the time. These days you can get a flagship feel and great performance even from phones below $500. In fact, you could call them the under $500 flagships. They offer amazing value for money and come in a good design/finish.
See also: Top Best Smartphones
Best smartphones under $500
For those Caught in the 18:9 Hype
Its highlight is that it is almost borderless 18:9 AMOLED screen 6.01 inches diagonally, making it one of the taller and aesthetically pleasing phones. It is a solid 162 g phone available in Midnight Black. It runs on Android 7.1.1 and delivers an almost stock Android experience with some customization.
The OnePlus 5T is a dual-SIM phone powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset with integrated graphics card Adreno 540. This variant comes with a 6 GB RAM with a storage of 64 GB. It offers support for VoLTE and 4G. The battery is powered at 3300 mAh and there’s a quick charging feature with Dash Charge.
The secondary camera has a low light photography facility. The primary dual LED camera has a resolution of 16 MP and 20 MP, giving excellent results. The battery life is great for people on the go. Video viewing and gaming is immersive but it doesn’t have weatherproofing features. It supports facial recognition and this is ideal for those looking for a quick way to unlock their phones. However, it is not very secure and you cannot use it for making purchases or banking applications.
- Ideal for playing HD games smoothly and for multitasking.
- Suitable for those who travel a lot, as the battery life is its bright spot, lasting for almost the whole day, including gaming; video streaming; photography and so on.
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Getting the Basics Right Every Time
Apple iPhone 6s ( Certified Refurbished)
It was released in September 2015. The rear camera is a 12 MP one and the front one is a 5 MP HD camera. It was originally released with the iOS 9 and it runs like a dream on the iPhone 6s, with improved Siri. It now runs on the latest iOS 12. It is powered by the A9 SoC with a new PowerVR GPU and 2 CPU cores clocking at a speed of 1.8 GHz and a RAM of 2 GB with internal storage of 16 GB. It is 7.1 mm in thickness and weighs 143 grams, somewhat heavier than the iPhone 6. The battery is a non-removable Li-Ion one powered at a modest 1715 mAh.
The iPhone 6s is an upgrade on the iPhone 6. The processor is faster, the camera resolution is higher and it brings in Live Photos feature and the 3D touch technology. The primary camera has been upgraded to 12 MP producing excellent images. iPhone 6s looks great and feels comfortable to use with a single hand. It is strong and durable made with the 7000 series aluminum with a glass panel that is less likely to get cracked or scratched.
- If you’re in the market for an iPhone but still wouldn’t wish to spend much, this is a great option. However, ask for an original receipt to make sure that the phone is genuine.
- The 3D Touch is an interesting feature, whereby the phone detects the pressure and triggers different actions in apps. Useful for peeking at a preview and popping for taking actions, in emails and messages.
- Are you a selfie lover? This is an excellent camera phone and very good in low light conditions. The flash system in the front camera makes it good for selfies as well.
An Alluring Buy
Motorola Moto X4
The dimensions are 5.84 x 2.89 x 0.31 inches and it weighs 163 grams. It comes with IP68 certification and is both water and dust resistant. This is a 4G LTE fingerprint touch phone of 5.2 inches with LCD panel running on Android Nougat 7.1. It is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 with an Octa-core chipset clocking at 2.2 GHz with Adreno 508 graphics card. The RAM is 4 GB and it has an internal storage of 32GB with expansion options up to 2000 GB. The battery capacity is 3000 mAh and includes Turbo Charging.
It is the first Android smartphone in the US, with Project Fi. This means that software updates are guaranteed, which is quite rare in phones of this price category.
The Motorola Moto X4 comes with slick dual cameras of 12 MP and 8 MP for the primary and a secondary camera of 16 MP for selfies. The Android interface is neat and the design is attractive. It has its own AI assistant Moto Voice along with Alexa.
It is an upper mid-range mobile phone with a stylish design and solid performance. It feels solid and premium and the performance is good thanks to the latest mid-range Qualcomm processor.
- Suitable for playing advanced 3D games that run smoothly
- Excellent for productivity with Outlook being one of the useful apps.
- It can be considered a business phone, with the LinkedIn app, positioned prominently.
Combining Looks with Power
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 comes with a stunning, scratch proof ceramic back and an eye-catching, premium, bezel-less design. The display screen is 5.99 inches, with full edge to edge FHD, 18:9 aspect ratio and weighs 185g. It is powered by the Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm chipset with a memory of 64 GB and a RAM of 6 GB.
It operates on Android 7 Nougat with an overlay of Xiaomi’s MIUI. There is no 3.5 mm jack, but it has the USB Type C that can be converted to 3.5 mm. The battery is a 3400 mAh non-removable one and can easily last a whole day with one charge. It offers a Quick Charge 3.0 feature as well for emergencies.
It has a 12 MP Sony IMX368 primary camera with HDR and face detection features. The front camera is a 5 MP one. Overall, the design is great and the performance is powerful for this price range. Sound output is loud and clear for listening to music.
- Gaming is smooth and it is suitable for multimedia fans, with a full HD screen edge to edge display and powerful stereo speakers. Gaming capabilities are also enhanced due to the flagship chip combined with 6 GB RAM. Battery lasts long enough even for those doing a lot of gaming and watching videos.
- The design is display focused and offers immersive content to those who love watching video content on their phones.
- Suitable for those who wish to multitask, apps load quickly and Android runs smoothly with several apps running simultaneously.
- If you want a good looking smartphone with a bezel-less design to flaunt around and one that does not compromise on the essentials, this one is for you.
Solid Chipset with a Classic Asus Look
Asus ZenFone 5 64GB
It combines premium appearance with an affordable price. The design is a mix of aluminum with toughened glass. The screen is a large and bold 6.2 inches IPS, LCD screen, with a notched design, and 7.7 mm thick, being very easy to carry around. The phone is powered by a mid-range Snapdragon 636 chip, with 8 Kryo 260 cores clocking at a speed of 1.8 GHz; an Adreno 509 GPU; a RAM of 4 GB combined with internal storage of 64 GB. The battery is powered at 3300 mAh and lasts a whole day. There is also a fast charging feature using the BoostMaster with AI charging that prevents overcharging.
The rear dual camera is 12 MP with a secondary lens of 8 MP. The front camera is 8MP and can render fine details. The software is Android 8.0 with a ZenUI skin offering plenty of customization options.
- The extra large screen makes it suitable for gamers and for watching movies. The Game Genie is an interesting feature of the ZenUI while playing games.
- Those interested in selfies will love this phone. It contains two different selfie applications. The Selfie Master for smoothing the skin and the ZeniMoji that replaces one’s face with 3D cartoon characters that can imitate your features. It’s a fun feature for children.
- Suitable for geeks who want to make a lot of tweaks to the interface.
- Perfect for someone looking for neat extras at a reasonable price.
Style and Classy Flair on a Budget
Motorola Moto G6 Plus
The Moto G6 Plus is a little bigger than the standard Moto G6, being a mid-range phone. It comes with a hard, acrylic frame with a solid feel. The IPS LCD display is a 5.9 inches in 18:9 aspect ratio with a resolution of 1080 pixels. It is powered by a Snapdragon 630 with a RAM of 4 GB, which is good enough for normal tasks. The internal storage is 64 GB and it can be expanded with an SD card if you have more demanding apps. It delivers a good battery life of 15 hours on an average, being powered by a 3300 mAh battery. In addition, it comes with 15W, TurboPower charger. It makes use of the USB C standard. It is a dual SIM phone with a headphone jack and the battery life is spectacular.
All the usual Moto set of software, such as gestures to smart assistant are present, but otherwise, it still gives an experience similar to stock Android with some tweaks. As for the camera, the primary camera is a dual setup with 12MP and 5MP sensors. As for the selfie camera, there is an 8MP sensor which is good for taking crisp and decent selfies.
- Buyers who wish to strike the perfect balance between style and price.
- It’s not for you if you’re looking for a really waterproof phone with IP rating. It is merely splash proof.
- Ideal for camera lovers, with the AI feature bringing in some software magic, such as Portrait; Cutout; Spot color and so on for additional effects.
Ticking all the Right Boxes
Motorola Moto G5 Plus
It comes with an oval fingerprint sensor and has a 5.2 inches IPS LCD display screen. It is 7.7 mm thick, weighing 155 grams. The dimensions are 150.2 x 74 x 7.7 mm. There is a micro USB port and a 3.5 mm audio jack. It is a dual SIM phone, both of which can be connected to 4G networks. There is a microSD card supporting up to 128 GB.
It is powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 625 chipset clocking at a speed of 2GHz combined with the Adreno 506 graphics card. The RAM is 2 GB and the internal storage is 32 GB. The battery is powered at 3000 mAh and it offers support for TurboPower for quick charging. It runs on Android 7.0.
It comes with a Nano coating that is water repellant, which gives it an edge against the competition. The screen is suitable for watching videos and movies and for playing games. It is perfect in many of the right categories: design; performance; battery power and of course, pricing.
There is a 12 MP rear camera and a 5 MP front camera. The professional mode is useful for making adjustments. The phone is powered by a battery of 3000mAh that can deliver up to 24 hours of usage. The TurboPower is particularly useful, as you can get 50% of the charge within 20 minutes of charging.
- Ideal for those looking for decent features at a competitive price.
- Those who would like the stock Android Nougat experience might prefer this phone, as others in the competition feature their own manufacturer’s skins, such as Xiaomi.
- Suitable for those who wish to do quick and smooth multitasking and open several apps simultaneously. There is also a Data Saver app that is very useful for those who want efficiency from their phones. It launches apps quickly.
- Gamers might also like this phone, as it is capable of handling heavy games smoothly.
- Useful for those who want a good camera on their phones. The low light performance is exceptional, as compared to many other phones in this price bracket.
Balancing Hardware and Software for a Phenomenal Battery
Moto Z2 Play
It is a budget-friendly phone, with a slim design and offering a decent performance. It is powered by the octa-core Snapdragon 626 chip clocking at a speed of 2.2 GHz. The screen is a 5.5 inches super AMOLED one with full HD, and it is slim at just 5.99 mm. It sports a premium look with metal instead of glass at the back. The RAM is 4GB and the internal storage is 64 GB. It has a USB Type C port along with an audio socket of 3.5 mm. There is a Turbocharger of 15W in the box and it is a battery powered at 3450 mAh. It can be used for quick charging.
The rear camera is 12 MP and uses dual pixel technology for a fast speed. The front camera is a 5 MP one with dual tone LED flash feature, which is useful for taking selfies under low light conditions. There are the usual software additions of Motorola, such as Moto Display. It is a dual SIM phone supporting both 4G and VoLTE. Performance is boosted for multitasking and browsing. The phone preserves apps in its memory, so it is very useful while multitasking, as you don’t need to wait for an app to reload.
- Suitable for those looking for additional functionalities. It is compatible with the Moto Mods accessories. For instance, you can add the JBL speaker or the Alexa speaker to offer more functionality to the phone.
- The battery life is excellent, so it is suitable for those who travel a lot.
- It is coated with a material for repelling water, which is useful for those looking for a phone that can be used in wet conditions.
- Purists will love the nearly stock Android experience.
- Selfie lovers will like this phone, as it comes with a beautification mode for improving skin tones in a subtle way. The front camera takes good pictures, as it supports HDR.
- Perfect for those looking for a sleek and stylish smartphone running on stock Android.
When buying smartphones for less than $500, it is best to avoid phones that were originally released before 2016. This is because these phones will stop getting software updates very soon, though it might be supported currently. The components might also be outdated. Check out whether the phone you purchase for under $500 works with your wireless carrier. It should also be an unlocked phone. Also, make sure that it is CDMA capable. Search the specifications of the model you are purchasing and ensure that it contains LTE bands for running with your carrier.
Phones under $500 are no frills devices. If you do not wish to spend thousands of dollars on a smartphone, the range of options offering decent features is great. They are competitively priced and can serve you as well as their more expensive counterparts. All the above handsets use good CPUs and run on the latest software and even offer features like bezel-less display. They may not have the cutting edge features of flagship phones, but can capably handle most of the routine tasks for work and play.