Welcome to GadgetMatch’s list of the best smartphones priced below $300! Each month, we update our selection with the budget-friendly phones we believe are most deserving of your hard-earned savings.
Even though the spotlight has been on high-end smartphones since Mobile World Congress 2017 (MWC), there have been a few surprisingly good entry-level handsets coming out lately, as well. So good, in fact, that we had to knock out some of our favorites in our May list.
Here they are in no particular order:
Honor 6X / Huawei GR5 2017 / Huawei Mate 9 Lite ($250)
No matter what name it goes by in your region, Huawei’s borderline-midrange smartphone ticks all the right boxes in our ever-evolving criteria for what makes a handset great. We fell in love with its premium build and fun dual-camera mode, which are two features previously unheard of at this price point.
OPPO F1s (Updated Variant – $280)
While the F3 hasn’t rolled out yet and we’ve yet to review it, the updated F1s with 4GB of memory (up from 3GB) and 64GB of expandable storage (up from 32GB) is our top pick from OPPO. This selfie-centric midranger offers a sleek metal design, one of the fastest fingerprint sensors in the market, and a user interface anyone — even iPhone users — can appreciate.
ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 ($200)
ASUS has been releasing ZenFone 3 variants like there’s no tomorrow, but the one offering the most value for the price is the 5.5-inch ZenFone 3 Max. It’s the larger version of the original ZenFone 3 Max, and borrows the faster camera of the ZenFone 3 Laser.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X ($200)
We finally had to take out Xiaomi’s Redmi 4 Prime on this list to make way for the Redmi Note 4X. It’s bigger and more fun to play with; plus, it has all the same features we loved from its smaller sibling, including the large battery, efficient processor, and solid build quality.
Vivo Y53 ($140)
When you talk about great value, you must include Vivo’s Y53. Despite having no fingerprint scanner, its processor and build quality are among the things you used to find on phones twice the price of this handset — truly a serious consideration when you can’t spend more than $140.
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Is the Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro an upgrade vs Apple and Samsung?
We take a look at 5 categories
Smartwatches are slowly becoming an essential wearable, especially for those keen on monitoring their health and fitness. Luxury watches are cool and all, but wouldn’t it be nice if your precious timepiece can do more than just tell time?
To this end, several smartphone manufacturers have crafted their own versions of a smartwatch. Most of which are designed to perfectly match the phone they’re selling. And over the years, we have gone from counting steps, all the way to adding heart monitoring and even an ECG function.
With so many things to consider, how exactly do you decide which smartwatch is your match? In this article, we’re taking a look at the 46mm and 42mm variants of the latest from Huawei – the Watch GT 3 Pro. And we’re putting it up against the Apple Watch Series 7 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch4.
Specifically, we’re looking at five aspects to determine whether the Watch GT 3 Pro is an upgrade over the wearables made by Apple and Samsung. These are Design, Display, Battery Life, Health and Wellness features, and Active Lifestyle.
Design is probably the most subjective of all the categories we listed. After all, it will ultimately come down to your personal preference. However, there are undeniable facts about how these wearables look.
For instance, which of the smartwatches actually look like a premium timepiece?
The Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro, much like its predecessors, is designed to look and feel like the type of watch you ask for as a gift or reward. The leather strap, the sleek titanium body, and the dial; they all evoke luxury in just a glance.
You can’t exactly say the same for the variants of Apple Watch and Galaxy Watch4 we have on hand. Sure, you can buy straps to achieve a certain higher-end look. But you don’t have to do that with the Watch GT 3 Pro. This look is what you get straight out of the box.
Titanium and Ceramic
The Titanium Edition, as the name suggests, is made of titanium making it light but strong. And the three-dimensional finish adds edge and character to this looker of a smartwatch.
Meanwhile, the Ceramic edition was made with more than just the looks in mind. Ceramic is resistant to corrosion and heat. Premium attributes of a premium device.
For a feature-packed smartwatch, the Ceramic edition is incredibly lightweight. You’ll barely notice you’re wearing it during your activities, especially when you use the stylish white leather strap which gives a more polished appeal to anyone who wears it.
Here’s a quick glance:
- Titanium Edition, Watch GT 3 Pro – 1.43-inch AMOLED HD display, Sapphire glass
- Ceramic Edition, Watch GT 3 Pro – 1.32-inch AMOLED HD display, Sapphire glass
- Galaxy Watch 4 – 1.4-inch Super AMOLED display, Corning Gorilla Glass DX+
- Apple Watch Series 7 – 1.9-inch OLED display, Sapphire glass
What do these mean exactly? Well, as far as display tech is concerned, AMOLED is superior to OLED in terms of power efficiency. When it comes to durability, Sapphire glass can endure more than Corning Gorilla Glass DX+. And guess what, the Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro has the best of both worlds.
Tough, power efficient, and all around sharp, vivid displays. Huawei’s latest smartwatch easily takes this one.
On paper, the Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro promises the longest battery life – 14 days, to be exact. Meanwhile, the need to charge the Apple Watch daily has been well documented by plenty of reviewers. And the Galaxy Watch 4 lasts less than a day when you activate all the features + when you connect it to WiFi, Bluetooth, and background tracking/GPS.
In practice, the Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro doesn’t always reach the 14-day promise. However, it easily outpaces the smartwatches from Apple and Samsung.
The Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro (43mm) retained 80% of its battery life even after heavy usage – from tracking the workouts during the day, continuous connectivity to WiFi and Bluetooth, and always-on tracking of GPS.
This category might be the most runaway win, and the Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro is ahead of the pack by a mile and then some.
Health and wellness
All these flagship wearable devices have come to a point that they now share pretty much the same health and wellness tracking features.
The Apple Watch Series 7 finally added an always-on display missing in previous iterations. And then there’s heart rate monitoring as well as ECG. Plus, the well-documented helpfulness of the fall detection feature.
Samsung, for its part, added a unique body composition tool that uses a technology called Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) on the Galaxy Watch4. They’re basically little charges shot through your body to tell how much is fat and how much is skeletal muscle.
It helps in understanding your body to determine what adjustments you have to make in terms of workout, diet, and your lifestyle to achieve the best results you’re going for.
The Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro, on the other hand, provides a holistic approach to tracking your health and wellness features, bringing features that are essential to your everyday lives.
The Galaxy Watch4 and the Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro basically have the same tracking features. The Galaxy Watch4’s advantages include its unique body composition tool and its fast and accurate sensors.
The Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro, like the Apple Watch Series 7, offers measuring your ECG, temperature, stress levels, heart rate monitoring, and all day SpO2 monitoring. Built-in apps allow you to create a health plan, keep tabs on your sleep, practice breathing exercises, and your air pressure.
All three have a dedicated Health app providing an overview of your status and condition, based on the data collected by the smartwatch. It has data on your activities for the day, water intake, calories burned, heart beat rate, blood oxygen level, sleep status.
In this regard, you might be better off getting the smartwatch that’s made by the manufacturer of the phone you’re already using. Unless, of course, you don’t like how it looks or have issues with its battery life.
Like health and wellness monitoring, living an active lifestyle with the help of fitness tracking from each of these smartwatches should have you covered.
The Apple Watch Series 7 has a daily activity tracker that’s great for keeping you moving. On top of that, you can track activities like running, cycling, dancing, paddle boarding, and many more.
The Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro measures your running ability, has a barometer feature that lets you read atmospheric pressure to predict the weather which might affect your training. The same feature allows the watch to measure how many flights have been climbed throughout the day.
There’s even an all new diving mode as well as golf mode on top of the already sizable 100+ workout modes.
Huawei, in particular, is proud of its deep diving capabilities. The free diving mode lets the Watch GT 3 Pro function even at a 30-meter depth. This follows the EN 13319 engineering standard as well as the 5ATM water resistance. This is a feature Huawei is proud of and has been thoroughly tested on their end.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch4 auto-detects walking, running, and cycling. Inside the smartwatch, it can track 37 more workout modes which include swimming, hiking, circuit training, treadmill, arm curls and extensions, deadlifts, and even yoga.
Through the Samsung Health app, you can add more than 50 workout mode. These are primarily considered sports such as archery, badminton, beach volleyball, boxing, bowling, horseback riding, golf, scuba diving, snorkeling, and even tennis.
In this instance, it’s best that you look up if your preferred sport or activity is supported by the smartwatch you’re eyeing. At a glance, though, it would appear that all three support a wide gamut of workouts that whatever you do is bound to be supported.
Again, you’re left with choosing based on compatibility with your phone, battery life, and looks. The choice is ultimately yours.
Is the Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro an upgrade?
Based strictly on the categories we listed, it would appear that the Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro is an upgrade.
- Design +
- Display +
- Battery life +
- Health and wellness =
- Active lifestyle =
Its classic watch look may appeal to more people, its display is topnotch, and the battery life is far and away the best of the bunch. Everything else is just gravy at this point.
Any of the three are fine choices. And there’s a legitimate reason to just choose the one that matches best with your smartphone. But you’re getting more juice and a few extra value if you opt for the Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro.
Additionally, the Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro will work seamlessly with whatever OS your phone is using. Whether that’s Huawei’s own, Google, or iOS. And that’s not something you can say with all the smartwatches here.
The Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro Titanium Edition retails for PhP 16,999. Meanwhile, the Ceramic Edition is priced at PhP 24,999.
This feature is a collaboration between GadgetMatch and Huawei Philippines.
The marriage of engineering, technology, and design
The Mate Xs 2 reminded us of what we used to love about Huawei
Thin. Light. Flat.
These words got me ecstatic, knowing that it’s been years since the first foldable devices came out and these aren’t the words we used to describe them.
Huawei certainly has come a long way, fighting head-to-head with Samsung back in 2019 in bringing a taste of the future.
The company, pressing on after the US-Google-Huawei fiasco, strives to refine its portfolio of foldable smartphones.
Now, in case you’re confused, the first foldable — the Huawei Mate X — was launched in 2019. Huawei introduced the Mate Xs in 2020, and then the Mate X2 in 2021. Later that year, Huawei also brought the P50 Pocket, the direct rival of the Galaxy Z Flip 3.
In 2022, the Huawei Mate Xs 2 undoubtedly succeeds the Mate Xs, continuing its prominent outward-folding design. Let’s take a look at the world’s thinnest and lightest foldable yet.
Elegantly refined in a design that’s imperfectly perfect
One thing I like about Huawei’s smartphones is how they all look classy and elegant. The formula they’ve used to win many hearts over — as seen on the Huawei P and Mate line from a few years ago — is carried vehemently to its foldable lineup.
Up front, when folded, the Mate Xs 2 looks like your regular slate. Tall, boxy yet somehow curvy, and looks and feels sturdy. It has a 6.5-inch OLED display, much like the same slab you see today.
Behind that sleek glass is the folded, extended screen. It makes the device look thick when you check its bottom. But somehow, the cuts and edges fit perfectly, housing the speaker grilles, the SIM Card slot, and the USB-C port.
Flipping the device, you’ll find the extension of the screen. It snugs tightly, locking beside the camera strip together with a button that unfolds the Mate Xs 2.
When you press the button, it releases the lock and the screen rises.
Releasing the lock allows the device to stay in the same position. Yes, it’s still up to you to force it to get that large, square-like screen you expect out of a foldable device.
But let’s forget about that for a moment. Underneath, you can find a diagonal plaid pattern in a leather-like texture. While I loved anything and everything white, Huawei refined the way black smartphones should be. J’adore!
This one has more personality, looks sophisticated, and — beyond the marvelous appearance — has a sense of functionality, too. The texture aids the phone in keeping it durable and scratch-resistant.
A friendly reminder that style without substance is nothing. Don’t be fooled by grand showcases if it only exhibits lavishness without addressing the more important stuff.
Thin but not like ice
Upclose to its back, you can find the hinge gluing the screen together. Huawei attributes its precise and fluid movement to its new-generation Double-rotating Falcon Wing Hinge design.
With this proprietary technology, I’m still gobsmacked by how Huawei packed all the components tightly. This feels like the ASUS Zenfone 8 which shrank its components to achieve a compact form factor, but with a trickier and more intensive process.
Nevertheless, this fusion of engineering and design allowed Huawei to create the thinnest, flattest, and lightest foldable — with no visible crease.
Regardless of the angle and lighting condition, the Mate Xs 2 really doesn’t exhibit any crease on its display.
It makes the smartphone usage pleasant to the eyes — and even your fingers, simply because the crease is barely felt. And frankly, you’re more likely to swipe and scroll on the right side of the phone instead of the part where the hinge is.
While the Mate Xs 2 is pretty thin, weighing only 255g with a thickness of 5.4mm when unfolded, it’s easy to carry and hold.
Even when folded, which comes with a thickness of 11.1mm, the Mate XS 2 is easily gripped and fits your spaces like any slab smartphone.
Gorgeous, “sturdy” display
Besides the huge leap in engineering and design, the Huawei Mate Xs 2 is emblazoned with top-of-the-line display technology.
With already a creaseless screen, the unfolded device sports a 7.8-inch high-resolution OLED display. It reportedly packs a billion colors and supports P3 wide color gamut.
With an artistic rendition of Weathering With You through a 4K wallpaper, the Mate Xs 2 exhibited rich and vibrant colors.
Watching a show is quite different though, especially with its strange aspect ratio. It doesn’t provide a full-screen experience even if you rotate the screen.
But fold the phone back… and you can enjoy an immersive viewing experience. It was delightful to watch Encanto and sing along with Isabela and Mirabel Madrigal.
Aside from the beauty and grandeur of the Mate Xs 2’s display, Huawei made sure it’s durable. The Mate Xs 2 adopted a bulletproof Composite Structure screen with a protective film, support layer, and rotating shaft.
I haven’t had a chance to test its resistance to drops, crushing, or impact. I still believe foldables are fragile, even with their claims of being ‘sturdy’ and ‘reliable.’
What I worry about is the folded part of the screen, since, without a case, the surface directly touches the folded rear. While Huawei assures us with an aluminum alloy protective frame around the screen that keeps it scratch-resistant, I can’t help but feel anxious whenever I place it on any rough, hard surface.
Is there power under the hood?
Okay, let’s talk specs. Huawei, for most of its flagship devices, pushes the limits of its hardware. It runs on EMUI 12, comes with an 8GB RAM and 512GB of ROM, a 4600mAh battery capacity capable of 66W SuperCharge, and a 120Hz refresh rate.
The only drawback that got me taken aback is its processor. Sadly, the Huawei Mate Xs 2 houses a Snapdragon 888 4G. While we have the thank the US government for that, the processor is somewhat limiting especially in terms of future-proofing.
Don’t get me wrong, Snapdragon 888 is still powerful. But plenty of chipsets are going above and beyond, and this flagship foldable getting left behind.
As for the user experience and the lack of Google Mobile Services (GMS), this has been addressed multiple times — from ways to augment your experience to the improvements Huawei made, especially for HarmonyOS. But that’s a story for another time because there are plenty of features to talk about.
Are the cameras still flagship-grade?
The Huawei Mate Xs 2 houses a 50-megapixel True Chroma camera system, including a 13-megapixel ultra wide-angle lens, and an 8-megapixel telephoto camera. Upfront, it has a 10.7-megapixel selfie camera.
A few tests here and there made me think that the photos are color-accurate, detailed, and flagship-worthy. But that wouldn’t be fair to be this subjective when I hardly have any photos to showcase. Hang tight! As of this writing, we’re brewing something cool about its cameras.
Anyhoo, the Huawei Mate Xs 2 — like its previous iterations — comes with a Mirror Shooting mode where the photographer can take a photo while the subject can see how they look on the rear screen.
This is similar to most foldables nowadays. Frankly, it’s a handy feature that might come in handy when you travel or want to capture an iconic moment.
Remembering the love for Huawei
The Huawei Mate Xs 2 reminds me of everything we’ve loved about Huawei. Elegantly-designed smartphones. Sleek and vibrant display technology. Impressive hardware. Huge leaps in engineering and design. Actual innovation.
The only barriers that propel it from taking back its crown are the people who can’t adapt to a new user experience, and the geopolitical issues surrounding the company. Nevertheless, the Mate Xs 2 is Huawei’s proof that they can still be a trailblazer, and they’ll probably keep on doing so.
Price and availability
The Huawei Mate Xs 2 is available for pre-order for PhP 99,999. It comes with a free Huawei Watch 3 (worth PhP 18,999) and free App Benefits (worth PhP 1,195). More importantly, the Mate Xs 2 will come with its own screen protector film, along with these service offerings:
- 1-year warranty
- Free one-time screen protector film within the warranty period
- One-stop support
- 1-to-1 VIP Hotline service
- Free pick-up and delivery
- Free repair under warranty
Nokia G21: Stock Android experience
Guaranteed updates on a budget smartphone!
Nokia is refusing to throw in the towel as the company tries to keep its footing, at least in the budget segment. This year, the Nokia G21 found its way to the Philippines, promising a stock Android experience without breaking the bank. But will it deliver?
Nokia brings in what it’s good at — a robust design with a penchant for durability. The Nokia G21 looks and feels sturdy, although I’m sure it isn’t as strong as Nokia’s phones from two decades ago.
It’s painted in Nordic Blue, which seems Navy to me, and at certain lighting conditions, appears green-ish. There’s a striking, horizontal pattern that adds texture when you hold the phone and touch its rear.
The camera island is a little bit embossed, but it doesn’t protrude that when you place the phone on a flat surface, it’s almost even. The disparity isn’t noticeable.
More importantly, the heft is quite tolerable, even for those who have tiny, frail hands like yours truly. But when compared to other budget smartphones, it’s a bit light.
What most people enjoy about budget phones is their comfort features — stuff you’ve always wanted to stay in a smartphone.
On the right, you can find the volume rockers above the fingerprint scanner which doubles as a power button.
At the bottom, you’ll be glad to see a USB-C port along with the speaker grilles.
On the left side, you can find the SIM tray slot along with a quick button for Google Assistant. Up top, there’s a 3.5mm audio jack.
The tray offers an option for a single or dual SIM, along with a dedicated microSD card slot.
Running on Android One, the Nokia G21 exhibits a near-stock version of Android with few modifications. It puts a focus on Google services, housing essential apps you might need for your connected lifestyle while still running on Android 11. The operating system might be a bit late considering how Android 13 started rolling out.
Nevertheless, there’s still relief in knowing that a budget phone like this — which usually doesn’t get favorable treatments from smartphone manufacturers — will get two years of OS updates and three years of security updates. After all, running on Android One means Nokia gets the updates straight from Google.
Frankly, I missed seeing the cleanliness of Android One. It’s simple and efficient — easy to the eyes and to the user experience. Every app you’ll use is basically under Google. For instance, checking images would prompt you to check Photos app because there’s no Gallery. Gmail automatically becomes your mailing app. Chrome is the default browser. Entender?
Surprisingly, it comes with the Netflix app built in so you can enjoy worthwhile content when YouTube gets tedious for you. Furthermore, you can watch your favorite shows or continue using the smartphone from day to night with its humongous 5050mAh battery. It might take a while for it to fully charge though, given that the unit ships with a 10W charger. Although, the G21 can handle up to 18W of charging. If you have a third-party Power Delivery (PD) charger, it’s high time you use it.
At the very least, let the phone charge while you sleep. Think of it as the two of you bonding by recharging through the night.
The Nokia G21 sports a 6.5-inch IPS LCD display with a 90Hz refresh rate. With a 20:9 ratio, you can enjoy your favorite shows albeit the waterdrop cutout can get distracting when watching on full-screen mode.
I was catching up with The Rising of the Shield Hero and the experience is as budget as it gets. Nothing stellar, just a smartphone delivering what’s expected out of it. Visuals aren’t vibrant and audio isn’t as loud as most smartphones in the same category.
At the very least, this smartphone is totally acceptable for anyone looking for an affordable smartphone that they can use as a daily driver.
In terms of gaming and even multitasking, the G21 struggles. It runs on a Unisoc T606 chipset, an octa-core CPU inside, and a Mali G57 Mp1 GPU. The configurations for the smartphone are 3GB/64GB, 4GB/64GB, and 4GB/128GB.
IMO, even if you get the 128GB variant, it won’t be enough. There’s a considerable delay in accessing the phone after unlocking it with facial recognition or other security measures. The same goes for the fingerprint scanner, which you’d think is the faster option among all unlocking methods.
Opening the apps usually takes a while since the phone flashes the app’s logo for a second or two before it shows the interface. While the delay is minuscule for most people, it’s still puzzling since the slow, laggy experience happens even when I haven’t consumed most of the storage.
I only installed Roblox and Ni no Kuni to test the device and of course, get a dose of my favorite games. Playing Ni no Kuni is a real challenge, especially with its graphics-intensive setting.
I was able to play, of course, but it comes with annoyances when it doesn’t load as quickly as I would like it to be. I’d recommend not playing on this device unless you have the patience to deal with the inevitable delays.
Let’s get this out of the way. The Nokia G21 is equipped with a 50-megapixel primary camera, a 2-megapixel macro lens, and 2-megapixel depth sensor. Its selfie camera houses a single 8-megapixel wide lens. Here are some samples we’ve taken for you to peruse:
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The Nokia G21, by any means, can’t be considered a daily driver worth buying. It’s something you’d probably get if it’s the only phone available in the nearest stores and you badly need one. After all, it retails for PhP 9,990 and is available in a Nordic Blue colorway.
Its saving grace is the promise of OS and security updates, thanks to its Android One program. There’s a guarantee that Google will extend its lifespan as long as it can.
Ideally, there are different budget options you can get for under PhP 10,000. There’s the Redmi Note 11, the vivo T1X, and even the Infinix Note 12.
On the off chance that you already have a primary phone, the Nokia G21 has plenty of use cases as a secondary phone. For one, its long battery life and robust build give me the peace of mind that I can rely on it as a companion when I drive a motorcycle. It’s durable and can last longer when needed.
Just because it’s a budget phone with plenty of compromises doesn’t mean there are no use cases for it at all.
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