I'm looking at getting a new smartphone, as my old one (a Sony Xperia E) has reached the end of its life. There are a few things it has to have:

  • not an iPhone - I have a personal hatred for the things (not through use, simply on principle)
  • enough RAM to play games with (I found the Xperia E, at its nominal 500MB, was too slow)
  • display resolution not below 200 ppi
  • all the standard communications stuff: texts, calls, and internet (plus their apps pre-installed)
  • a camera
  • absolute maximum £400 ($614.42)
  • fits in a pocket (I find that means < 6.0" total size)
  • decent screen size (>= 4.5")

And there are some things it would be nice to have, but I'd settle for something less.

  • Retina-resolution
  • the ability to create a portable hotspot
  • a decent camera, i.e. > 8MP
  • an SD card slot (no preferences on SD type)
  • the cheaper the better

I imagine there is a phone that satisfies all this; what do you recommend? Please include your reasoning in your answer, and any experiences you have of the phone you're recommending.

  • 2
    FYI: I'm half a mind to close this as too-broad. With exception of the non-root hotspot wish, almost every modern Android phone would really qualify, with exception of Samsung's 2015 flagships (no SD card) and some ultra-high-end models (which cost closer to $700 than under $600).
    – DVK
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 18:06
  • @DVK Close vote if you think it right - we need to establish scope at this point. Recommendations have a very strange status with regards to the standard close reasons, though.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 18:07
  • 1
    @ArtOfCode - I have a fair dinkum of experience on Software Recommendations.SE, most of that should apply here.
    – DVK
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 18:11
  • Most of the answers here are pretty obsolete - smartphone tech moves so fast that any answer here will be outdated within a few months. Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 19:57

7 Answers 7


The newly (August 2015) announced Motorola X Pure Edition costs $400, well below your price range, yet is a high-end modern smartphone. I think European branding is Moto X Style.

  • 5.7" 1440p Quad HD display and front-facing stereo speakers (515 pixels per inch - better than Retina).
  • 21 MP camera
  • 3GB RAM
  • microSD card (up to 128)

This phone matches and frequently exceeds 100% of your requirements.

Since this is as close as you get to raw Android short of a Nexus device, rootability is almost guaranteed so local hotspot should also be doable.

Also, as I noted, virtually every recent Android phone that's recent fits all your requirements, except from two 2015 Samsungs (Note5 and S6 have no SD card) and some late 2015 ultra high end flagships that edge higher than your $600 budget. If you include 2013/14 models that are now cheaper, you'll probably be happy with any of a couple dozen models.

  • @DVK ArtOfCode used the british pound so ill assume he lives in the UK and in europe(also UK) the Moto X Style isnt even realeased and the lower speced version, the Moto X Play already starts at £279.00/379€ and thats only the price if you dont add anything in the Moto Maker. The Moto X Style will start around 529€ if we can believe rumors. So its alot cheaper in the US and thats why i wouldnt buy it in europe beacause compared to devices at 400$ on the american market like the OnePlus Two it has some advantages but its in a completly other price range in the EU.
    – Nikusch
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 13:29
  • @Nikusch - I'm extremely surprised that Style would be 50%-100% more expensive in Europe vs US. I'll delete the answer if the actual pricing does start this high.
    – DVK
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 13:33
  • @DVK here you can see where the Moto X Play starts in the UK(motorola.co.uk/products/moto-x-play) and here what it costs in germany(motorola.de/products/moto-x-play). Both start at around 380€. Ok just found this: twitter.com/Motorola/status/626060529560350720 the starting price for the Moto X Style will be 500€ and you can preorder it 32GB on Amazon for these 500€ aswell. amazon.de/dp/B014699X30?tag=tablethype-21 . So 30€ less then i read last time when it still were rumors but still 100€ more then in the US
    – Nikusch
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 13:40

Well, based on your preferences, I would definitely recommend OnePlus 2. One of my friends bought it, and it's really awesome with the best features and at a reasonable price.

  • 13 MP with dual flash and of course laser-focused
  • Adreno 430 GPU
  • Octacore CPU, good for gaming

Comes at € 399. The only exception is you need to Buy with an invite. People can't just walk to the store and get one, so to buy/place an order, someone must send you an invite.

Who is that someone? - usually, the OnePlus team will send an invite to a few people and they can pass the stick to others, and this continues. To get a better understanding of the invite, visit the link Invite System.

  • Can you expand on this "buy with an invite"? What does that involve, and how might one go about it?
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 17:35
  • 1
    I'm not a OnePlus expert, but I seem to recall there were major pain points with invite system fro OnePlus 1
    – DVK
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 18:01
  • @DVK ya true, that's only issue with OnePlus
    – gimibarak
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 18:04
  • even as a OnePlus fanboy and someone that ordered the OnePlus Two three days ago i wouldnt recommend the phone. There are alot of things that arent clear like the response of the home button/fingerprint reader or the invite system and when you would even get the phone(was pure luck that i got an invite, it was from a friendly random dude). More a niche product. Dont get me wrong its a really great phone but its not a safe bet that it will do its job like you wish.
    – Nikusch
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 13:34
  • Ya I agree, it has got both pros and cons. Based on your requirement you can opt for it.
    – gimibarak
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 0:03

Look at Xiaomi (world's 4th largest smartphone maker) for reasonably priced phones with good specifications , they are often hard to beat price-wise.

E.g. the Xiaomi Redmi 2 Pro Smartphone meet all your required specifications and costs ~130 USD: 4G LTE, 2GB RAM, 16GB memory, MSM8916 64bit Quad Core 1.2GHz, Android 4.4, 4.7 inch HD OGS Screen, Dual Cameras. (all specs)

Check out this list of popular Xiaomi phones for a wider choice.

  • 1
    Also you can add pretty fast chinese phones like Teclast, Chuwi, Onda. Pros - they are pretty fast and have reasonable price. Cons - usually heavier than iPhones.
    – Jet
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 20:54
  • the problem with all these brands and even Xiaomi is that you can't buy most of there devices in Europe or the USA. Then you need to use a importer and he takes a margin. So for most of the devices you can rather add the extra money that you would need to spend as margin and get a phone thats available on your regional market.
    – Nikusch
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 13:19
  • 2
    @Nikusch A good chunk of the world population is in Asia. Don't forget to make the same comment for products that are more expensive to buy there. Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 15:21

I personally ordered the OnePlus Two, but to be honest I would go for the ASUS Zenfone 2 (version: ZE551ML, that's important!) if you can live with some bloatware (not that much) because:

  • It costs 300-350€/211-255£ and it's sold on Amazon.
  • It has 4 GB RAM. That's plenty of RAM for gaming
  • The processor (Intel Atom Z3580) is quad-core clocked at 2.3 GHz and it seems to have no/less heating issues than the Snapdragon 810 (e.g. used in the OnePlus 2)
  • It's a 5.5" phone with a 1080p/Full-HD resolution, so it fits in your pocket and offers 401ppi
  • It has a 13 MP rear camera (with dual-tone flash, autofocus, HDR) and a 5MP front facing camera and both do their job; compare it here: http://www.gsmarena.com/piccmp.php3?idType=1&idPhone1=6917&idPhone2=7247&idPhone3=6902). But it can only record videos in 1080p @ 30 fps
  • According to Gsmarena it can create hotspots
  • It can be ordered with 16/32/64 GB internal storage and you can add up to an extra 64 GB with a microSD card
  • It has a 3000 mAh battery combined with the fact that it's no QHD resolution it should should be plenty of battery life, so you'll most likely get through the day without recharging.
  • Some nice extras are FM radio with RDS, fast charging (60% in 40 mins according to Asus) and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for the protection
  • Runs Android 5.0 (Lollipop) with Asus ZenUi on top (some bloatware preinstalled but not much, and I think you'll be able to uninstall most of it)
  • Supports many carriers, but you should check at http://www.willmyphonework.net/ if it supports your carrier. I'll assume you come from the UK so the global/international version will most likely be the one that works
  • Full specification sheet: http://www.gsmarena.com/asus_zenfone_2_ze551ml-6917.php

Summary: So a great phone for a low price tag, and you can buy it quick and easy unlocked on Amazon. Some more expensive phones maybe offer a fingerprint scanner or QHD or wireless charging, but they are not on your criteria list and are just some extras that sometimes even come with a disadvantage (e.g. QHD-> higher resolution, but it drains more battery and needs a better GPU then a FullHD screen for the same gaming power)

Some other phones that you can look at too are the OnePlus Two and the upcoming Nexus 5x. Some will suggest the Moto X Style/Pure because it can be compared to the OP2 or Zenfone 2 specification-wise and cost around the same as the OP2 (both around 400€) in the US, but in Germany (most likely in the UK too) the Moto X Style/Pure costs around 600€ and the lower specificatied Moto X Play costs 400€ here. So I would neither recommend any of the Moto X phones nor the OnePlus 2 because it's hard to get (invite system), has some problems and nobody knows when they'll release updates for it and also no NFC if you need that.

And just one general thing: Watch/read a few reviews by yourself before buying the phone you want, because they include some more information that might be interesting or deal breaking, but aren't mentioned here!

  • I own a OnePlus One, Nexus 5, and a Asus ZenPhone2 (ZE551ML-23-4G64GN-BK). The ZenPhone2 is full of bloat-wear like 30+ apps most can not be uninstalled and continually nag me with notifications. It also crashes repetitively when using audio apps, not the plus side I do however enjoy the battery life and price point. May be worth it once/if they get the software in order.
    – Gram
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 15:58
  • @Gram Thats not so good but spec wise this phone is great, do you know if there are any good custom roms for the ZenPhone 2 so you could get rid of the bloatware.
    – Nikusch
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 16:44
  • It has the potential (specs) to be a good phone, if the software does not improve soon I am going to try a custom ROM, so far the Paranoid Android-L ROM looks ok.
    – Gram
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 18:04

Blueproducts has a great product line, I guarantee they will have a design you like. There are so many to choose from so I won't go into much detail here.

I personally have the Blu Studio 5.0C which is a bit older now but when I bought it brand new a year ago, for $125 plus shipping, it exceeded all expectations.

  • Android (4.4)
  • 5.0 inches
  • 720 x 1280 pixels
  • 294 ppi
  • 8 megapixel camera (rear)
  • 2 megapixel camera (front)
  • Quad core, 1300 MHz, ARM Cortex-A7
  • 1024 MB RAM / 4096 MB ROM
  • 2000 mAh battery
  • Dual sim card
  • GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
  • UMTS 850, 1700/2100, 1900 MHz
  • HSDPA+ (4G) 21.1 Mbit/s, EDGE, GPRS
  • The Pure XL could be a good phablet(6" so fcking big) but it isnt even out and the phones arent made by BLU i think they just rebrand devices or something like that. Better invest some more euros to get a future proof device that will do its job for some time and not a new low-midrange device every year or two.
    – Nikusch
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 13:13

The Nokia N9 (64GB version) goes for under €600. The exact price will vary depending on where you get it, I'm not a price expert. It's a bit of a niche phone since it has an uncommon operating system (MeeGo, a Linux distribution).

  • 3.9" AMOLED 16M display (251 dpi)
  • 1 GHz Cortex A8
  • 8 MP, 3264 x 2448 pixels, Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus, dual LED flash

For the rest of the specs, see the link. The screen is slightly smaller than requested, but it's not that big of a difference. I think it's definitely a noteworthy candidate.

Amazon currently lists 2 new ones between $400 and $500.

  • N9 is almost 4 years old.
    – 99tharun
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 19:40
  • 1
    @99tharun Age was not a requirement.
    – Mast
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 19:51
  • 1
    @Mast Okay, but it doesn't meet most of the requirements anyway.
    – 99tharun
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 10:39
  • +1, purely because I am still using my N8 and I've always wanted an N9, just for the OS, but I lack of SD slot always put me off. Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 0:29

Why didn't anyone recommend the nexus 6p?? It is the latest nexus out there and scores virtually in almost all the aspects you mentioned and even exceeds a few

Gorgeous display- boasts a QHD AMOLED and it is the best display on a smartphone and takes on samsung's flagships.

Awesome Specs- Android 6.0 Marshmallow with quickest software updates from Google
Quad-core 1.55 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A57, 3GB of RAM, Adreno 430 GPU; Snapdragon 810 v2 chipset

32GB, 64GB, or 128GB of storage

12.3MP camera with laser autofocus and dual-LED flash; 1.55µm pixels; 8MP selfie camera,

2160p video capture

Cat. 6 LTE (300Mbps); Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; Bluetooth 4.2; GPS/GLONASS; NFC; USB Type-C port with USB host

Fingerprint reader
Android Pay

3,450mAh Li-Po battery with fast charging

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