Best of 2016: Budget phones under $300

Lots of speed and fancy for not a lot of money

Funds not enough for a premium smartphone? No worries, there are plenty of excellent options on the cheaper end of the spectrum.

We’re in the golden age of smartphone parity, where fast specs and fancy features are no longer limited to Apple’s iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxies.

Take fingerprint readers, for example. They’re everywhere now, from China to Cupertino, upscale or down and dirty. In fact, four out of the five devices that make our list can tell fingerprints apart.

We’re in the golden age of smartphone parity, where fast specs and fancy features are no longer limited to Apple’s iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxies.

And that’s really just the start of it. In 2016, the budget phone market is so competitive that there are plenty of phones that can give you a premium smartphone experience for less. No compromises.

To give you a hand, we’ve picked the 5 best smartphones under $300 to choose from. Considering what phones in this price point were like a year or two back, having five to choose from is a luxury even the cash-strapped can afford.

Vivo Y55 ($165)

Vivo Y55

Vivo Y55

The Vivo Y55 is the cheapest offering on this list, but don’t let it’s value mislead you into thinking it’s categorically the worst of the lot. Far from it, actually. We thought it would make a fine addition to this page because of how surprisingly good it is for the price. For roughly $165, you’re getting an iPhone look-alike with an iPhone-inspired paint job, a decent 8-megapixel camera, and a capable processor. The Y55 isn’t a pity case; it’s one of the best items you can buy this side of Android land.

SEE ALSO
Vivo Y55 unboxing and review

ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser ($245 for Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 with 4GB RAM model)

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ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser

ASUS unleashed a boatload of ZenFones this year. And between the Max and the Laser, the latter takes photography more seriously, boasting a 13-megapixel camera that works well enough to occasionally maintain focus on the subject while blurring out the background. It’s good to see the fast laser autofocus system around the back, as well as the improvements ASUS has made under the hood. The healthy 4GB of RAM, in particular, stands out, and makes the Laser more future-proof than other budget blowers.

SEE ALSO
ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser hands-on

Moto G4 Plus (starts at $249 for 2GB RAM and 16GB storage)

Moto G4 Plus

Moto G4 Plus

A fantastic Android pick that comes in at a relatively low starting price of $249, the G4 Plus undercuts some big names yet offers much the same performance, not to mention near-stock Android Marshmallow (with Nougat on the way shortly). The uninspired design and copious use of plastic may turn off some people, but they’ll be missing a damn fine handset that embraces Google’s vision of Android.

SEE ALSO
Moto G4 Plus review

OPPO F1s ($265)

OPPO F1s back

OPPO F1s

China-based OPPO has once again impressed us with a bargain handset that goes beyond taking nice shots of people’s mugs. Slapping a 16-megapixel camera on the front should turn heads; but it is the other things that are likely to hold your attention in a positive way. The fingerprint sensor hidden under the home button works fast and offers extra functionality; the rear camera doesn’t let down the awesomeness of the selfie shooter one bit; the LCD display is large and colorful enough to enjoy movies and games on.

SEE ALSO
OPPO F1s review

Vivo V3 Max ($285)

Vivo V3 Max

Vivo V3 Max

A superb, reasonably priced smartphone, the V3 Max has the brawn and beauty to match the greats. A metal design that looks and feels better than it costs? Check. Solid battery life and quick charging? Check. All the hallmarks of a quality modern smartphone, particularly a good low-light camera, a fast fingerprint reader, and internals that would make most phones blush? Check, check, and — wait for it — check. Take a bow, Vivo. You’ve done it again.

SEE ALSO
Vivo V3, V3 Max Hands-On Review

(Note: All prices excluding that of the Moto G4 Plus are based off of suggested retail prices in the Philippines.)

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