I get asked pretty regularly about the phone that I use, and what phones I’d recommend most people to buy. So that got me to thinking – what are the phones I’d recommend to most people? And the first question is usually “what is your budget?” The good news is that there are options for folks in just about every price range. So, what is the best phone you can get for your money? Let’s explore…
Super Budget: Under $300
Moto G5 Plus – for about $230 on Amazon, you get the 5th generation G device from Moto, which features LTE connectivity, 32GB of storage w/2GB of RAM, and micro SD card support up to another 128GB. It also includes Moto’s “Turbo charging” platform, front facing fingerprint scanner, and will run Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box. The Moto skin is really light and is one of the most like stock Android. It’s camera performance isn’t going to wow you and the battery life isn’t quite as good as its big brother (see below) but its still rock solid and its the version without the lock screen offers and ads.
Not bad for the price – and if you want to spend a little bit more (to $299) you can bump the specs up to 64GB of internal storage and 4GB of RAM. The design isn’t going to “wow” anyone but Moto devices usually bear solid build quality and slap a case on it and no one will notice the unsightly camera hump on the back. Comes in both Fine Gold and Lunar Grey.
Budget: Under $400
Moto Z Play – The Moto Z Play is the undisputed heavyweight battery champion of the world. With a generous 3510mah battery and the Snapdragon 625 processor, you’ll get solid performance with a 5.5″ Super AMOLED display at 1080p. Its also got SD card support up to 256GB. Not having a 2k display and running the Snapdragon 625 is how the Moto Z Play keeps on going from one day to the next without having to find a wall outlet. Its very common for folks to hit 7-8 hours of screen on time with this device, and I’ve seen that number pushed as high as even 10 hours. Probably using mostly WiFi and not LTE, that still is a very impressive amount of screen time for a device that comes in at $399 on Amazon with a US warranty. This is what I’d call the “sweet spot” for a lot of people.
It can connect to the “Moto Mods” group of add-ons, if that’s your thing. They have a projector, external speaker, and even a camera mod. The standard camera is okay in good light, but suffers when conditions aren’t ideal. At this price though, there isn’t a lot to complain about. It also bears a front facing fingerprint scanner, and the light touch approach to Android (although its shipping with Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box, it should see a 7.0 upgrade almost immediately after booting it up) Comes in Black.
“Honorable” mention here goes to the Huawei Honor 8, which if not for the Moto Z Play’s battery life, would take the recommended spot. The 64GB variant is the same $399 on Amazon, and it sports a really nice design, lightning fast rear mounted fingerprint scanner, solid camera, and is feature packed. The EMUI skin on top of Android isn’t as light as the Moto Z approach, but is tolerable with the latest update. The value prop for the money is every bit as good as the Moto Z Play, and is worth a look if you find yourself needing a new phone at this price point. Both the Moto Z and Honor 8 are GSM devices, meaning they will work on AT&T and T-Mobile only.
Value: Under $500
OnePlus 3T – This is a great choice for people who want 90% of a flagship phone for about 50% of the price. For your $439, you get a Snapdragon 821 processor with up to 64GB of storage w/6GB of RAM and a large 1080p display with a blazing fast fingerprint scanner and great performance. Spend $40 more and you can bump the internal storage up to a crazy 128GB. Forget about for the money for a minute; the 3T is a great phone full stop.
As with many of the phones that aren’t full top tier, there are a few compromises. There isn’t any expandable storage option, and there’s not any water or dust resistance to speak of. The camera is fine in regular lighting conditions, but drops a bit in quality in low light scenarios. All of these are more than fair trade offs for what you do get; a high performing nearly future proof device with great specs and runs better than stock Android. Gunmetal Grey and Soft Gold are your choices here. *As of the time of this writing, the 128GB variant of the OnePlus 3T is sold out online – its unclear if it will be back in stock with the OnePlus 5 rumored to be coming soon
Sub-premium: Under $600
Galaxy S7 Edge – it’s last years phone, but its still a really, really good phone. For your $599 on Amazon, you get a fully unlocked device with a Snapdragon 820 processor, 32GB of storage w/4GB of RAM and SD card support, a 3600mah battery, IP68 water and dust resistance and a crazy good camera. Fast charging and wireless charging round out a really solid package and a good value.
The dual curved edge display does take a bit of getting used to, but put it in a case and that mitigates it somewhat. Other than that minor issue, you are getting a pretty good phone. If you can wait a bit, or watch to search around a bit, you can probably even shave some money off that price. Honorable mention here goes to the Huawei Mate 9, which is also a really great phone for under $600, but its lack of CDMA support for Verizon or Sprint customers (and its somewhat phablet size at 5.9″) knock it out of the top spot at this price point. Get the Silver device – and thank me later.
Premium: Under $800
The Galaxy S8 – the future of mobile phones is here. And it looks pretty freaking awesome. The display of the Galaxy S8 alone would likely justify the $750 price tag, and that’s before you get to the rest of the goodies; 64GB of internal storage with SD card support, 4GB of RAM and the latest and greatest from Qualcomm – the Snapdragon 835 processor. A super slim bezel design creates the “Infinity Display” that Samsung is so proud of. After the amazement of the display and hardware design wear off, you realize you also get the same benefits that the S7 Edge offered; IP68 water and dust resistance, fast wired AND wireless charging, and really great camera. It doesn’t really get any better than this, the the Galaxy S8 even makes the iPhone 7 look like an outdated piece of mobile tech from 3 years ago (which it kinda is)
The S8’s only got a few weaknesses – the fingerprint scanner on the back is in an awkward spot for left handed folks (and some right handed folks too) and the price. That’s pretty much it. Everything else is a win. Each carrier has this device for around $750 on its website; depending on if you are a Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, or AT&T customer, there are a few deals that will get you the phone plus some extra goodies.
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