The best smartphones under $500
As two-year service contracts go the way of the dodo, customers are left with two options: buy a new phone outright at full price, or split the cost into monthly installments.
Unfortunately, most of the latest and greatest phones are going to leave your wallet feeling threadbare. But the good news is that if you’re okay with cutting a few corners, there are plenty of reasonably priced phones to choose from.
Curious to learn more about a particular phone? Click through to read the full review. Otherwise, here is our take on the best smartphones you can get for under $500 that are available today.
While the Nexus 6 is no longer Google’s flagship, it still has more than enough to offer virtually anyone looking to pick up an Android phone. Inside and out, this phone is massive: a 6-inch QHD OLED display is backed up by a Snapdragon 805 processor and 3GB of RAM—a combo that can still go toe-to-toe with the best around. Phablets aren’t for everyone, but for media consumption there’s no better choice than the Nexus 6.
MSRP: $649 unlocked; as low as $349 online.
The iPhone 5s has been replaced by the iPhone 6 and 6s, but if you want to save a little money, the 5s remains a solid buy. Elegantly crafted from high-end materials, the 5s has enough heft to feel like it’ll last for years to come. It’s a sense of timelessness that’s matched by the well-honed iOS operating system, which is as well thought-out as the physical design, providing a reassuringly simple user experience.
MSRP: $649 unlocked; as low as $479 online.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, Samsung’s Galaxy S5 refined what was already a successful recipe. Boasting fantastic performance, a bright 5.1-inch AMOLED display, stellar battery life, and an IP67 water- and dust-resistance rating, the S5 is a truly impressive piece of hardware. If you can get past its plastic shell, you’ll enjoy top-tier performance in nearly every category that matters, at a very reasonable price.
MSRP: $479 unlocked; as low as $385 online.
The Moto X isn’t a benchmark-beater, but it proves that the best phones put brains ahead of brawn. Instead of going all-out with cutting-edge silicon, Motorola gave the phone just enough power for a near-stock Android experience, along with smart software customizations like Active Display. The option to customize your device with brightly colored, wooden, or even leather accents further sets the X apart from the field. .
MSRP: $499 unlocked; as low as $299 online.
When the G3 debuted in 2014, it blew us away with its raw power. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and 3 gigs of RAM make for a powerhouse of a phone, and the 5.5-inch QHD screen provides plenty of real estate for gaming and watching videos. But it’s the camera that truly defines the G3. Equipped with quick laser autofocus, a 13-megapixel sensor, and 4K video, the G3 is one of the best affordable shooters you can buy.
MSRP: $699 unlocked; as low as $255 online.