A smartphone has become a must-have for many people. I have one. So does everyone I know. Between the two major camps, iPhone and Android, iPhone gets more news coverage. Whenever Apple releases a new iPhone model, it’s all over the news. Whenever Samsung comes out with a new model, not as much, unless it catches fire. OnePlus? Most people never heard of it.
I have used both iPhone and Android. They both work. There’s hardly anything I can do on one that I can’t do on the other. If you are budget conscious you are better off on the Android side. More manufacturers and more models means you can pick a sweet spot between features and prices based on your needs.
In general, the latest and greatest “flagship” models cost $650 and up. Mid-range models cost about $400. Any models $250 and below are considered “budget” models. To me, the “budget” price point offers the best bang of the buck (surprise, surprise). If you choose the right model, you get 95% of the functionality at 1/3 the cost of the latest and greatest.
After testing multiple models, review site The Wirecutter (owned by New York Times) rated Motorola Moto G5 Plus as the best budget Android phone. I saw it at Costco selling for $220. The budget phones are less expensive because they use less expensive lower-spec components: slower processor, less memory, lower resolution display, less sharp cameras, and so on.
Alternatively, you can also buy last year’s flagship model at a similar price to this year’s budget models. To me it’s a better approach. Even though it’s one model year old, a last year’s flagship model still has better components than this year’s budget models, because the phone was designed to be a flagship. It’s less expensive now only because it’s now one year old.
This is similar to buying a one-year-old luxury car versus a new economy car. Except in the case of phones you can still buy last year’s model as brand new with full warranty, and the depreciation is much steeper in phones than in cars.
I recently bought a brand new LG G5 for $260 with full warranty. The LG G5 is a 2016 model. Now that its successor the LG G6 came out, the LG G5 inventories are dumped at very good prices. Here’s how it compares with the best rated budget phone Motorola Moto G5 Plus:
|LG G5||Moto G5 Plus|
|Processor||Snapdragon 820||Snapdragon 625|
|Memory||4 GB||2 GB|
|Storage||32 GB||32 GB|
|Expandable Storage||up to 2,000 GB||up to 128 GB|
|Rear Camera||16 mp||12 mp|
|Front Camera||8 mp||5 mp|
|Android Pay Support||Yes||No|
I bought the GSM unlocked RS988 sub-model. The same phone also comes in other flavors for each major carrier (H820 for AT&T, H830 for T-Mobile, VS987 for Verizon, and LS992 for Sprint). For only $40 more you get a much better phone in last year’s flagship model than this year’s budget model.
Whether something is good or bad has to be judged in the context of its price. At flagship phone prices when it came out a year ago, the LG G5 was probably not the best. One year later, at budget phone prices, it quite easily beats the best budget phone.
You can save even more money if you are willing to buy used. To me a brand new last year’s flagship model with full warranty already gives me good enough value.
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Bass Princess says
Except the Moto G5 plus phone works with Sprint one year unlimited free, the LG doesn’t. I recently bought the Moto G5 phone to get the deal so I pay only $2.39 a month for one year unlimited Sprint wireless til 7/31/18. It does what I need. Save close to $50 a month from Verizon 2 Gb. Nice to not worry about data overages. Have to transfer existing post paid number. For limited time only, looks like they extended the promotion.
Harry Sit says
Sounds good if Sprint has good coverage in your area. I pay $10 every 3 months with H2O. So not much savings for me.
James B says
I’ve been tempted to get one myself.
However it is hard to recommend the LG G5 though because of potential bootlooping. The price is probably rock bottom because of this. A similar age flagship like the samsung S7 new is more like $400. Hopefully yours will be fine. I’ve owned several models that are on the list of potential bootloop devices but fortunately none have caused me problems. At least buying new you get a warranty.
I bought new Samsung galaxy S7 on Cricket wireless at the black Friday promotion at half off for each of us – about $325 plus tax per line. At that time, they had Cricket rewards referral promotions etc, that resulted in about $200 in gift cards per line plus free VR sets – thankfully these were amazon, target, ebay, Walmart etc. After all was said and done, I spent about $200 per line I would say including new cases for the phones. After six months, Cricket unlocked them without any issues.
I am amazed at how much better the camera is on this phone and I also like the Samsung pay feature.
In the past I have used cheap one dollar smart phones like LG Risio with removable battery and microSD that can be mounted as internal storage etc. They actually do the heavy-lifting fine for all google apps and phone function. Camera and Facebook are a no go though.
My intended life for the S7 is 4 years but online I hear that the non-removable battery will give away at around 2 yr mark. We will see …
I didn’t mind spending that much on the phone as Cricket service has been cheap with the account credits for referrals.
Prepaid arena has been very competitive since last holiday season. Currently, Mint sim offers unlimited talk and text plus 2 GB data at $15/month on T-mobile network.
Google voice has worked as a nice back phone service nationally and internationally, Google duo app is also excellent both for video and audio.
That makes chasing and switching prepaid providers no brainer for the best deal as you do not care for the carrier assigned phone number – strangely you will need it for Google duo app. Weird!
What are the reports on the LG model for the battery life? Is it removable?
Moto G5’s universality is really appealing and will be its USP as carrier coverage with low MHz bands gets universal and is no longer a distinguishing feature.
Harry Sit says
The battery in the LG G5 is removable.
Two weeks ago I finally ditched Windows Phone and picked up Moto G5 Plus. International unlocked version which has dual sim and NFC, which the domestic version doesn’t. Runs Android 7.0 instead of the LG G5 which is 6.0. Being new to Android, I’m not sure how significant that is.
Harry Sit says
The LG G5 I received came out of the box with Android 6.0. After automatic software updates it went up to Android 7.0.
The Moto G5 Plus at Costco.com is an additional $40 off until Labor Day, for a total of $180.
Harry, I am curious what the cellphone specs mean in terms of real-world usability. I will preface that I am not a heavy cellphone user. I only recently transitioned to a MotoE cellphone that I bought for $35. My current plan is Real Mobile, $10 for 4 months and so far I have not had to add any $$ during the paid period. AFAIK, the performance seems fine. Any delays I notice seem to be due to cr*ppy cell signal not the processor. I don’t use the phone camera for any important photos–just occasional snapshots.
What user profile would benefit from the improved specs you list in your post?
Harry Sit says
The specs are for using apps on the smartphone, basically how well the smartphone works as a mini computer. They don’t affect how the phone functions as a phone for calling or texting.
How do you get H2O for $10 for 3 months? I looked and it looks like their cheapest plan starts at $30/month.
Harry Sit says
Under Pay As You Go plans. It’s actually $9 every 3 months with auto reload.
bob charles says
maybe I should get a cheaper phone so that I don’t spend so much time on my phone. It’s absolutely useful for things like maps and audiobooks. But endless stream of email, social media make it a distraction.
My logic was something I spent so much time on should better be good. But I’m starting to question whether one should spend so much time on the phone. It’s best to focus and be distraction free