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Photo of the Apple iPhone SE, one of Low-Priced Smartphones With High-End Features
Photo: Apple

Low-Priced Smartphones With High-End Features

Can you get modern-day tech in a modestly priced phone? Absolutely, Consumer Reports' testers say.

Don’t think you can find a good smartphone that won’t cost you a small fortune?

You can, and some even come from well-known brands such as Apple, LG, and Samsung. A number of low-priced models offer many of the features people have come to expect in a premium phone, including high-definition displays, fingerprint sensors, and enough battery life to get you through the day.

While these phones might lack the fanciest cameras, they do offer plenty of compelling photo options, says Richard Fisco, Consumer Reports’ head of smartphone testing.

For instance, the LG G5 sports one of the industry’s first dual cameras, letting you take both close-up and faraway shots without using a telescoping zoom lens. It also lets you shoot video in 4K.

And, like the Sony Xperia X, the G5 comes with optical image stabilization, which helps you get better shots of running pets, fidgety children, and other fast-moving subjects.

On the flipside, you’re not going to find a low-priced phone with the latest processors and graphics chips. And don’t expect cutting-edge features such as wireless charging, water resistance, OLED screens, and Face ID, either.

And, Fisco says, some cheaper phones might not support all LTE bands, so you could lose your data connection in certain locations.

But if you’re willing to make a few trade-offs, you can get one of the sub-$400 smartphones that impressed our testers.

Once you get your new low-priced smartphone, check our reviews of the best cell-phone carriers and the top low-cost cell-phone plans.



This phone, which will run you about $260, has been on the market for nearly two years, but it’s still one of our top-performing models.

The G5 gets high marks for speed, battery life, and camera quality. It’s loaded with forward-looking features such as rapid charging, a USB Type-C port, and one of the market’s first rear dual-cameras, which allows you to take ultra-wide-angle shots.

The model can record Ultra High Definition video and comes with optical image stabilization. And, unlike many current phones, this one has a slot that lets you boost storage with a memory card and a battery that can be removed and replaced with a fresh one for extra power on the go.

But that means the phone isn’t watertight, so beware of puddles and beverages without lids.

    Sony Xperia X Performance

    Sony Xperia X Performance

    Sony offers a handful of budget-minded devices. This one—priced around $380—earns the highest rating from our testers.

    The Sony Xperia X Performance boasts a 5-inch touch screen with a high-quality display. The front and rear cameras both received good marks for still-image quality—and even better ones for video quality.


    But, at 16.5 hours, the model has one of the shortest battery life spans of the phones we’ve tested.


    On the upside, it’s watertight, which means no worries about an accidental drop in the pool.


    If $380 is still too steep, consider Sony’s $325 Xperia X and $350 XPeria X Compact.

      Huawei Honor 8

      Huawei Honor 8

      For about $380, this phone provides you with a beautiful 5.2-inch screen. The 12-megapixel rear camera features face detection, which comes in handy when you’re snapping pics of fussy children. And it produces solid still shots, much like the 8-megapixel front selfie camera, according to our testers.

      Another bonus: The Huawei Honor 8 supports dual SIM cards, which means you can field calls for two numbers—private and business—from one device.

      Battery life clocked in at a relatively modest 17.5 hours.

        Apple iPhone SE

        Apple iPhone SE

        Starting around $350, the iPhone SE is Apple’s lowest-priced option.

        Our testers say the rear camera performs very well in terms of color quality, exposure level, and sharpness. At 12 megapixels, it may seem minimalist to some Apple fans, but it offers face detection and records video in ultra HD.

        The 4-inch display gets admirable marks. The battery life is 19 hours. And the Apple iPhone SE affords you all that iOS has to offer in a pocket-sized package, including Apple’s app store and features such as iMessage and FaceTime.

          Samsung Galaxy J7

          Samsung Galaxy J7

          This entry-level Samsung—available at about $230—lacks the wow factor of its Galaxy S8 and Note8 siblings, but it will still meet the needs of many people.

          With its 5.5-inch screen, the Samsung Galaxy J7 is one of the bigger budget phones out there. And it has a big battery to go with it. The 29-hour life span rates among the best we’ve seen.

          The 13-megapixel camera—which has face detection—wasn’t one of our top performers, but it got respectable marks from our testers. The 13-megapixel front camera was a little subpar, though, so don’t expect to get stellar self-portraits for your Instagram feed.

          If you’re interested in this phone, make sure you invest in a good case. After 50 drops in our tumbler, the display on our test model was so broken it stopped functioning.

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            Bree Fowler

            I write about all things "cyber" and your right to privacy. Before joining Consumer Reports, I spent 16 years reporting for The Associated Press. What I enjoy: cooking and learning to code with my kids. I've lived in the Bronx for more than a decade, but as a proud Michigan native, I will always be a die-hard Detroit Tigers fan no matter how much my family and I get harassed at Yankee Stadium. Follow me on Twitter (@BreeJFowler).