Best overall: Moto G5 Plus

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Motorola performed yet another pricing miracle with the Moto G5 Plus, the successor to the excellent Moto G4 series and a contender for the best affordable smartphone today.

It starts with the excellent 5.2-inch Full HD display, but the real benefit to the G5 Plus this year is the excellent performance and battery life from the combination of a Snapdragon 625 platform and a 3000mAh battery.

Also of note is the improved low-light performance from the 12MP camera, which boasts the same hardware as (and similar results to) the Galaxy S7.

Bottom line: This is the best sub-$250 phone you can buy today, and it's still a great device even if price isn't a factor.

One more thing: Motorola.com is offering the Moto G5 Plus with inexpensive financing if you don't want to pay up front.

Why the Moto G5 Plus is the best

Motorola has changed up the phone's design with the Moto G5 Plus, adding a metal back and a more compact, mature look that complements the Moto Z series, and the excellent 5.2-inch IPS display is easily manageable in one hand. Also improved is the improved shape of the front fingerprint sensor, which is turned oblong and considerably easier to activate.

Motorola has also bestowed a fantastic camera on the Moto G5 Plus, giving it the same 12MP sensor and lens combination that's in the Galaxy S7 — though the results aren't quite as good. The phone isn't perfect — there's no NFC on the U.S. model, and it still uses the older Micro-USB charging port — but it's close. It also works on all four U.S. carriers, so Verizon and Sprint users are still in the game.

While we're looking forward to the Moto G6 series — the Moto G5 Plus was announced over a year ago, in February 2017 — this is still the best sub-$250 phone you can buy, especially since the 4GB RAM / 64GB storage variant frequently goes on sale.

Best for T-Mobile and AT&T: Honor 7X

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A big upgrade to the Honor 6X is the Honor 7X, a capable and well-made all-metal budget phone coming in at $199. Launching with Android 7.0-based EMUI 5.1, the device takes everything that made its predecessor good and adds a great new design, an improved dual camera setup, and plenty of power from the Kirin 659 chip and 3GB of RAM. Best of all, the new 5.9-inch 2:1 screen is bright and beautiful, and provides plenty of space for, well, everything!

Bottom-line: A fantastic flagship-like experience at $200 — now with more Android 8.0 Oreo!

One more thing: If you're looking to save a bit of money, or get it from Amazon, the Honor 6X is a solid pick at $140.

Best for software: Nokia 6 (Prime Exclusive)

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The caretaker of Nokia's smartphone brand, Finnish upstart HMD Global, has made a name for itself over the past year by releasing phones that are reliably well-made and extremely enjoyable to use. The Nokia 6 is one such phone, and at $199 from Amazon's excellent Prime Exclusive program, you get a lot for the money here.

While the Snapdragon 430 processor lacks the power of the Moto or Huawei above, the rest of the experience, especially the pared-down Android 7.1-based software (soon to be based on Android One) is the perfect blend of power and simplicity.

Bottom line: If you can stand some Amazon app pre-installs, this phone will not disappoint.

One more thing: Even without Amazon Prime, this phone is relatively inexpensive at just over $230.

Best for even less: Moto E4

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The Moto E line has always been about getting a barebones smartphone experience in order to get a super low price, and that's where the Moto E4 still lands. The specs aren't amazing, nor is the physical design, but you get that core Moto DNA that means this is a slick little phone for a great price.

You get a 5-inch HD display, a Snapdragon 425 processor, and 2800mAh battery. But you also get nice-to-haves at this price, like an 8MP auto focus camera and a fingerprint sensor.

It all retails for just $129 brand new, and it's tough to argue with that. Amazon has a Prime Exclusive version for $99, and Verizon's prepaid service charges just $70 for this phone — both are a steal of a deal.

Bottom-line: For a bargain basement price, it's tough to get a phone that performs better or has the features of the Moto E4.

One more thing: Be on the lookout for better deals and sales — this is a phone that will be discounted regularly to entice budget buyers.

Best for battery: Moto E4 Plus

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Whereas you get a lot for your money with the Moto E4, its Plus variant is only slightly more expensive and gives you a bigger screen, slightly more power and, best of all, a massive 5000mAh battery that lasts, well, forever.

Aside from that two (or three) day battery life, you get a decent 13MP rear camera, a nice 5MP front-facing camera with a flash, and Motorola's excellent Android software. The phone is available for a reasonable $139.99 through Amazon's Prime Exclusive series, but its $179.99 MSRP isn't bad, either.

Bottom-line: The Moto E4 Plus is one long-lasting candy handset. Expect two or three days on a single charge.

One more thing: It's compatible with all four major U.S. carriers, including Verizon and Sprint.

Conclusion

If you don't want to spend over $250 and still want a great Android phone, the Moto G5 Plus is the best choice. You don't get the best looking or feeling phone, but it offers a top-notch experience, especially for the price.

Best overall: Moto G5 Plus

See at Amazon

Motorola performed yet another pricing miracle with the Moto G5 Plus, the successor to the excellent Moto G4 series and a contender for the best affordable smartphone today.

It starts with the excellent 5.2-inch Full HD display, but the real benefit to the G5 Plus this year is the excellent performance and battery life from the combination of a Snapdragon 625 platform and a 30000mAh battery.

Also of note is the improved low-light performance from the 12MP camera, which boasts the same hardware as (and similar results to) the Galaxy S7.

Bottom line: This is the best sub-$250 phone you can buy today, and it's still a great device even if price isn't a factor.

One more thing: Motorola.com is offering the Moto G5 Plus with inexpensive financing if you don't want to pay up front.

Updated March 2018: We've added the excellent Nokia 6 to this list of the best cheap phones you can buy.