It’s happened to virtually all of us. In a moment of poor judgment at a mall or electronics store, we let a salesperson talk us into a long term equipment contract. We’re lured in by low monthly payments, the latest features, and the fanciest bells and whistles. Of course, later, we realize that we don’t use all the features we paid for, and those monthly payments keep on coming.
Today, we’re going to talk about the smarter way to buy cell phones for you and your family. By researching your options and picking a phone that closely matches your needs, you will be guaranteed to save money and not pay too much for features you aren’t going to use. You may be able to even avoid contracts altogether.
How to Pick Out a Cheap Android Phone
When choosing the best cheap Android phone, you still need to look at the characteristics on paper, as they can have a major impact on how your device performs. At the same time, you also need to like the phone yourself, even if you don’t plan on making a big investment in the device. There are a few features and tips you can consider to make a choice for yourself.
Processor, RAM, and Internal Storage
The running speed of the phone is influenced by the processor and by the RAM memory. There are different solutions to consider for this purpose. In some cases, such as with the P10 Lite, the same design can even come with different RAM capacity. The more RAM memory you have, the less likely you are to see phone lag in various demanding apps.
Internal storage deserves a view of its own as it influences the extent to which you can use your phone with apps and multimedia storage. It is why users are often looking towards Android phones as they still allow you to use your own memory card to expand this memory.
Most phones have an internal memory capacity between 8 and 128GB, with the possibility of adding a MicroSD memory card. It is why you have the ability to choose a solution with expandable memory if you take many pictures or videos.
At the same time, you might play a lot of games. It is why the storage capacity of a phone can quickly become a limiting factor, even if the device itself runs great from other perspectives. Since good memory cards are not necessarily affordable, you might want to look for smartphones that come with the largest storage capacity from the factory.
Android Version and Apps
There are different versions of Android. Of course, the latest versions are the ones which are recommended. You can expect to find smartphones running:
- Android 11
- Android 10
- Android Pie (9)
- Android Oreo (8.0 and 8.1)
- Android Nougat (7.0 and 7.1)
- Android Marshmallow (6.0)
- Android Lollipop (5.0 and 5.1)
Some other versions are still running on smartphones. Earlier versions are available on older designs. But regardless of your Android version, you can make the most of your access to the thousands of dedicated apps. There are various solutions to consider when it comes to making the most out of the Android experience.
This experience is what gets overlooked when it comes to the most benefits from your smartphone. It is way beyond what you get in terms of features and pre-installed apps; you can always take your smartphone further with apps that can make your daily life easier.
There is an endless debate on the role of the camera on a smartphone. Arguably, the camera is often the first characteristic people inquire about, and this shows how important it is for most users. It is also why you need to choose the solution which works for your multimedia needs.
Most phones come with two camera options, a general camera and a front-facing camera typically used for selfies. Today, this camera is getting more important as well.
The way in which a camera is controlled is important as well. With different autofocus technologies, you can have a quick-acting camera or a slow-acting camera. The number of megapixels is not necessarily the most important characteristic, but it can be an indication of the level of detail you can expect.
While many cameras are common across multiple devices, a few solutions are made to be more exclusive. This is the case of the Zeiss cameras, which are seen on some of the latest cheap Android phones. At the same time, the way in which the camera performs in low light conditions is where the difference is being made.
Another important debate relates to the price you pay for a budget smartphone. From the perspective of camera optics and software, it really raises the question of how much you can really expect from the most affordable devices. It is important to compare camera results with other budget devices instead of comparing the results with those seen in flagship phones.
Battery Life and Fast Charging
One of the areas which actually put cheap phones in front can be the battery life. Since they come with basic screens, the energy requirements might be reduced. But even so, most batteries last between one and two days of regular use.
Some of the most important hardware which drains battery life includes the screen, WiFi, and GPS. These solutions are made for the ultimate connectivity and functionality. The average budget phone comes with a battery of around 3.000 mAh. But the battery can last differently from case to case. Even if you choose a budget device, you might still use it for navigation or location-activated apps. It is why you need to be realistic about the battery capacity from the start.
Design and Materials
There are various designs seen in budget solutions. In most cases, you can expect affordable materials such as plastic. However, there are multiple phones which use metal casing or various designs based on aluminum. It is why the weight of these budget phones is vastly different from model to model.
Metal designs are not necessarily more durable when compared to plastic alternatives. Since the biggest threat to smartphones comes with drops and damages to the screen, it is highly unlikely to see vast durability differences in the budget range.
The main difference is made by the way the smartphone looks and feels in your hands. You will also find that certain designs are made to be as affordable as possible, such as with the case of the phones, which have an oddly-placed fingerprint sensor. But at the same time, you also need to consider that these smartphones are not necessarily made to last a lifetime.
A smartphone is more than a simple phone, even on a budget. There are various sensors that can make them modern products with applications in multiple apps.
For example, a gyroscope helps the phone understand which way the device is orientated towards. It is used in various apps such as games or photo apps. Taking 360 photos is based on this sensor some budget phones come with.
The GPS sensor needs an explanation. It works with tracking apps and navigation apps, and it is at the core of Google Maps, which is one of the most important Android apps.
The proximity sensor, which is often placed at the top of the phone on the side of the screen, is used by some manufacturers to alert the phone when to switch the screen off or on. It does this to save battery life.
Ambient light sensors are also made to save battery life. They also have the role of adjusting the brightness of the screen in different light conditions. Of course, there are many other sensors, but budget phones usually come with one or multiple sensors as those described above.
Certain phones go the extra mile with unique characteristics. They can refer both to software and hardware characteristics. Unique Android adaptations refer to how the phone works and looks from the perspective of the operating system. Most phones run adapted versions of Android, which are not always as smooth as users expect. So phone carriers further personalize devices with their own selection of apps.
But unique hardware characteristics are seen the most. They can refer to Carl Zeiss cameras present in most Nokia devices, for example. In the case of unique software characteristics, they can also refer to hybrid functions such as P10’s autofocus system.
The durability of cheap phones is not the best, at least for most devices. But they can still have the same durability as some flagship solutions, especially when it comes to battery life, which is similar across multiple types of budget models.
Both new and refurbished phones need to come with a warranty. Most phones have a two-year warranty. However, particular policies can apply, especially when it comes to theft insurance. It is why you should also consider the type of additional coverage you can get for your phone. In many cases, it can cover an extended period of time, even more than the standard two years manufacturer’s warranty.
Dual vs. Single SIM
Many budget phones come with dual SIM capacity. It is where you need to establish the purpose of your phone. If you want a cheap Android phone as a second device, you can even consider a dual SIM design instead of carrying two phones. At the same time, you can continue using a single SIM card with a dual SIM phone.
Another aspect to consider when making a purchase comes with screen size. Most devices are made to offer a 5” screen, but larger and smaller options are available. In theory, smaller displays require less energy to run and can extend your battery life. Larger screens are recommended for a better user experience, especially when it comes to multimedia. You should also ask yourself how the phone’s size will fit in your pocket or handbag, as many people with large phones can have difficulty in the long-term.
Choosing the best cheap Android phone under $250 becomes a matter of characteristics and personal preferences. Many manufacturers now offer solutions that would not necessarily look cheap and offer plenty of advanced features for the average user. At the same time, there are many underwhelming designs in the class of budget solutions, and it mostly depends on your expectations when it comes to the best durability.
As there are many phones to choose from, the Android experience can be similar from device to device. Having a look at the basics of processor speed, RAM, and internal storage is a must. The same goes for camera hardware and even for the materials used by the manufacturer. Since there are variable plastic and metal designs to choose from, you can find the option which you like the most.
However, one of the main issues of smartphones is that they tend to be outdated quite fast, which applies to more expensive designs. It is why you should always take the time to look for a well-equipped device that will last at least a few years. Beyond these characteristics, having the right insurance is often recommended, especially if you plan to protect your phone from future defects or against theft.