When most people think of smartphones, they think of Apple or Samsung devices, but there are plenty of great alternatives out there that cost less and give you a lot for your money. Many of these phones are unlocked, which means they’ll typically work on GSM networks like AT&T, T-Mobile and MetroPCS, but our list also includes a Verizon exclusive and a phone that works with all major carriers.
The price might look like a typo, but it’s not. The OnePlus 3 gives you a rich 5.5-inch AMOLED screen, an impressive 6GB of RAM and an all-metal design, all for just $399 unlocked. The 16-megapixel camera takes pretty sharp pics, but the results in low light could be better. Add in very quick recharging, and you have a steal of a GSM Android phone. (An even speedier version, the rumored OnePlus 3T, should be on the way soon.)
The first thing that catches your eye about the Honor 8 is its sleek, 2.5D glass design and curved, metal frame. But this phone backs up those good looks with an impressive dual-lens camera and unique smart key for launching your favorite apps and programming other handy shortcuts. The specs on this GSM phone are good for the money, too, including an octa-core processor and 5.2-inch, full-HD screen.
Sony Xperia X Compact
Not everyone needs a big-screen behemoth. The Sony Xperia X Compact packs a 4.6-inch display into a design that measures 5.1 x 2.6 x 0.4 inches and weighs 4.75 ounces, making this device a cinch to use with one hand. The resolution is only 720p, but the screen is very bright, at 501 nits. You’ll also love the more than 11 hours of battery life on this GSM phone.
Moto Z Play Droid
If you want a phone with epic battery life, look no further than the Moto Z Play, which lasted close to 14 hours on our battery test. This Verizon handset is special in another way: It lets you attach mods magnetically to add various features, from louder speakers and a Hasselblad camera to, yes, even a battery booster.
ZTE Zmax Pro
Those looking for a big screen on a small budget should check out the ZTE Max Pro, which boasts a bright, 6-inch, 1080p screen for just $99 at MetroPCS. The Snapdragon 617 provides pretty peppy performance given the price, and you get a pretty solid 10+ hours of battery life. Just don’t expect great photos from the 13-MP camera.
Alcatel Idol 4S
The Idol 4S offers a gateway to virtual reality, shipping with its own VR headset. The 5.5-inch AMOLED display is quite colorful and bright, and you can create your own 360-degree videos. This GSM phone’s Snapdragon 615 processor isn’t the fastest, though, and the 16-MP camera struggles in low light. A Windows version of the Idol 4sadds a more powerful processor and 21-MP camera.
Moto G4 Plus
Selling for a very reasonable $249, the Moto G4 Plus is an unlocked phone that works on both GSM and CDMA networks, meaning you can use it with all the major carriers. You get a bright 5.5-inch screen, more than 9 hours of battery life and an impressively sharp 16-MP camera. The only real drawback is the G4’s plasticky design.