The Best Budget Smartphones: October 2017

Written by Tyler Rondman

The Best Budget Smartphones: October 2017

He, who did not check prices in unofficial markets, had no idea of how many really cool cell phones are coming these days. Here we chose the best budget smartphones and found for them the most “delicious” discounts.

We distinguish budget smartphones from “scrap metal”

It is hardly a conspiracy of Chinese manufacturers against the Middle Kingdom as they begin to provide high-quality and modern smartphones with a budget of $100. You can get famous brands in a lower price, but you must be satisfied with five years old features (800×480 screen resolution, weak processor, max. 3G communications etc.). Another option is – choose a less familiar model.

Chinese manufacturers are good with characteristics “on paper”, but we can’t ignore the unpredictable quality of each collected specimen. Because more affordable smartphones, in theory, often look bad.

With a budget of $100, you‘ll find bunches of options to choose.

LeEco Le S3 – the steepest in the ratio of price and performance

On a tight budget, yet expecting a smartphone that won’t come with traces of cheapness? We recommend considering the LeEco Le S3. Any person, who does not classify himself as a specialist of the “china phones”, has nothing to do with this set of letters and figures. But we will fix this gap now.

Few people can recall that smartphones LeEco was sold in Russia officially. The Chinese started in Russia very loudly – ordered a huge amount of advertising in the media and even “lit up” on TV. Very soon the money for promotion was over. Consequently, mobile phones, sold in Russia, were never brought. If you’re hearing about LeEco for the first time, know that– this is a manufacturer of televisions and mobile phones in China, which sells equipment at ultra-low prices. How do they earn profit then? This sector widely relies on paid broadcasts of TV channels and sports broadcasts (set several cameras on the field) from buyers on the home market.

Frankly speaking, none is interested in Chinese TV, but they are interested in smartphones. Price is also satisfiable. 

There is a catch, or rather two:

  • Le S3 is a modified version of the LeEco Le 2 smartphone. The problem is that Le 2 was certified for import to Russia, and Le 3 is not. Therefore, there is a risk that customs will “reverse” it in the opposite direction, since neither the seller nor the manufacturer has bothered to report to the FSB about the existence of the new model. This probability is small (less than 10%), but if anything happens to the smartphone within a month, the seller will return the money for the failed purchase.
  • If you accidentally break the screen or the battery wears, you can buy the spare parts for smartphones. Not to mention, they’ll will have to be delivered from China.

Xiaomi Redmi 4X – everything you need from a “budget” + a capacious battery

In unofficial market, any Xiaomi mobile can immediately be called the coolest mobile phone for its money. The “golden mean” among all budget smartphones is still the basic version of Redmi 4X. Unlike Redmi 4A, it does not have a stupid “saving on matches”. The cheap case and processor, not so much good camera, and the price difference with an eight-core metal model is ridiculous. And in comparison with the “empty” Redmi Note 4X 3/16 GB, the younger “four X” is cheaper. For consumers of an inexpensive smartphone, even Snapdragon 435 will seem like a super processor, but the cameras in “just Redmi” and Note are equally bad.

 Contrary to the “Chinese” price, Redmi 4X is quite tolerable.

Redmi smartphones are restored from the outlet a long time ago. The quality of the camera is not appreciable, we especially recommend no to use it for taking photos and recording videos at night. This smartphone is one of the most beautiful versions and it comes in a black box. Sounds little offensive, but this “sold out” model is breaking higher price. And yet, such qualified set in similar price is not found in any mobile phone on Aliexpress or other Russian cellular stores.

Huawei Nova – class cameras and the American processor

Chinese flagships and smartphones of the middle class are getting cheaper very quickly. For example, in 2016, Taiwan’s ASUS ZenFone 3 ZE520KL and Chinese Huawei nova came. Hence, its “second youth” began.

There’s no chance, you can say that there was something wrong with Nova – it was just “good looking”, average in all parameters, and the price was also reasonable. For the same reason, it was “taken off” in the US. In Russia, buying Chinese smartphones is considered a strange step as it’s considered from India. Half of Americans are purchasing (by installments) iPhones. The rest of them are choosing Samsung, LG, Motorola, HTC. No Juanes and other Xiaom. In Europe and Russia, Huawei is known and loved. But it seems irrational to pay 23 thousand for an absolutely average Nova, if you could take the flagship Honor 8 for 28.

Therefore, the smartphone became cheaper in the official retail, and even more quickly lowered the price in Chinese stores. Measuring from the processor’s power, today there are smartphones that can “tear it apart”. The design of the late Nexus 6P looks rather strange than beautiful. But the cameras in Nova distinguishes it from all comparable “fellow soldiers”.

In 2016, smartphones with middle-class camera do not know how to “cover up the camera section“. See the Samsung Galaxy S7 and OnePlus 3 in the attached photo. But they know very well how to photograph perfectly. Quickly focuses (sharpens), correctly determines the colors in the frame, promptly saves pictures, does not disfigure even night shots – the ideal smartphone for an economical lover to shoot photos. Selfi-camera is also cool.

Video recording causes a little complicacy – Nova supports only 4K-resolution, but in this mode, stabilization does not work. The video keeps jumping, as if an alcoholic was shooting with his shaking hands. At night, the video is either cloudy in Full HD, or with digital noise in 4K. But any other smartphone with a good camera is either much more expensive, or behaves like an idiot in automatic shooting mode. Huawei nova always behaves smart. Coupled with the compactness (5 inches evenly display) and a good screen, this is enough for a budget camera.

Lenovo P2 – 5100 mAh with a good camera

Have you decided breaking up with Lenovo smartphones? If yes, think again. Because the time has arrived to honor the memory of the mobile phone manufacturer, who informed the residents of Russia that Chinese technology can be of high quality.

No, Lenovo as a corporation lives quite well – computers and laptops disperse by frantic circulation. But the management decided to “bury” its mobile unit. It turned out that Motorola (bought from Google) knows how to make better phones, and the Chinese decided not to feed “two mouths”.

Honestly speaking, they did the right thing. The “golden age” of Lenovo smartphones fell on 2014-2015. Since then, engineers have been fooling around. Apart from some rare and exceptional sets, they have produced so gloomy consumer goods that they are completely tired of even undemanding customers. Lenovo, which in 2013-2014, was the third largest manufacturer of smartphones, dropped out of the top five, and continued to roll on slowly.

Over the past couple of years, the rare smartphone brand Lenovo did not upheld the question “who do you need?”. In comparison with Huawei, Samsung or ASUS, Lenovo P2 is just an exception. “Flagship among the long-livers” would be an excellent title for this model. Or if you like, you can it – the most enduring smartphone of the middle class. The filling matched the economical AMOLED screen itself (which does not consume energy if it displays a black color, for example). Then another cool and not gluttonous processor Snapdragon 625 (the newest 14 nm technical process, that makes the smartphone work fast without being heated). In 2016, not another mobile phone could offer 5000+ mAh battery capacity with a thickness of 8.3 mm. And with a screen of up to 5.5 inches, it’s truly unique. At the end of 2017, sale of Highscreen Power Five, ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom disappears.

Due to reputed models, Lenovo’s Chinese phones did not become cultic before death. And sell off as the remnants of mobile phones, with a margin like the vintage BlackBerry and Nokia. In order to sell off the stock in the warehouse, they lowered prices to a minimum. True, the Lenovo P2 is not ideal in many respects, but you can forgive all its shortcomings.

Motorola Z Play – last year’s “deputy flagship” at the price of a state employee

It’s wonderful that Lenovo did not let Motorola die and did not even interfere in the creation of new mobile phones till the last time. But $ 1.4 billion, which the Chinese threatened to the American company, must somehow be compensated, and Lenovo decided to do this at the expense of prices for smartphones.

And, if Americans patriotically continued to buy “domestic” Motorola at rather big prices, then the initiative did not go in Russia and Lenovo’s native China to put it mildly”. No one could understand who needs this Motorola with the live Huawei and Xiaomi. In Europe, things went well. But mainly due to the budget models, huge investments will not be repulsed.

For Moto Z Play, new owners of the brand broke the price of 500 euros. Turned out – our compatriots scratched their heads, sang, and said, “Fashion? Well, it’s cool. But why does one would purchase Snapdragon 625 for that kind of money? And why is the Samsung Galaxy A7 2016 cheaper with the same characteristics? And they left without buying. On the other hand, they could buy a Chinese flagship for this money.

Therefore, from the regions where Motorola sold poorly, they are imported by thousands and sold “out”. In China, Z Play didn’t gain much popularity and was give for 14-15 thousand (twice cheaper than Lenovo, hee-hee). Hearing such initial data about Z Play, you can fall in love for the second time with an ugly girl, when you are already quite drunk.

It’s good when you do not ask for much! Cool AMOLED-display, no worse than that Samsung offers. Ideally, Z Play with Snapdragon 625 provides flawlessly “licked” operating system. In terms of speed it is comparable with smartphones based on the steeper Snapdragon 820 processor. Even with 3500 mAh battery, the smartphone matches the level of its competitors with 4000- 4800 mAh battery.

Beautiful faceted glass-metal case. Unlike the flat back panel, which was more convenient to fasten the fashion, it’s sharp edges along the perimeter feel little bit inconvenient, but it’s beautiful. Fast charging and with regular Android updates – it’s such a beauty! Managing the camera, of course, is hellishly uncomfortable, but in itself it isn‘t that bad.

About the author

Tyler Rondman

When he isn't enjoying the beautiful Northwest outdoors, you can find Tyler on business and tech sites, writing about the latest news, analyzing trends, and generally making the Internet a more interesting place.