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Moto E and 7 other great smartphones at bargain-bin prices

The Motorola E (Motorola) The Motorola E (Motorola)

By Simon Hill
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Around 1 billion smartphones were sold across the world in 2013. One of the great things about the rush to upsell the last few remaining feature phone holdouts and break into emerging markets is that prices are going down. According to IDC the average selling price declined by more than 12 percent in 2013 to settle at $337. That makes buying a smartphone outright, without being locked into a two-year contract, a realistic possibility.

Join us as we scour the pre-paid deals and check out what the big carriers have to offer for $300 or less. These are the best budget smartphones right now.

Motorola Moto E

($130 on AT&T and T-Mobile)

The most remarkable thing about the Moto E is that price tag. The 4.3-inch 960 x 540 pixel resolution screen, 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200, and 1GB of RAM look a lot more impressive when $130 is all you have to pay. There’s a respectable 5-megapixel camera and 4GB of internal storage is backed up by a MicroSD card slot. The big attraction for a budget phone like this is Android 4.4.2, because you don’t generally find the latest version at the cheap end of the market. It’s also free of a manufacturer UI, so updates should come easy and Motorola is guaranteeing at least one more update. You can customize the back with a wide choice of colored covers. The only thing that’s missing is 4G LTE support. There are also plans for Verizon and Sprint compatible versions.

Apple iPhone 4S

($180 on Ting, $200 on Verizon and Sprint, $280 on Virgin Mobile, $300 on Boost Mobile)

If it has to be Apple then you can pick up the still respectable iPhone 4S without breaking the bank. The big catch on Ting, Verizon, and Sprint is that it’s pre-owned; the Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile deals are for a brand new iPhone 4S. There’s a 3.5-inch 960 x 640 resolution display, the A5 dual-core processor, an 8-megapixel camera, and 16GB of storage. You’ll be able to enjoy the latest iOS 7 update, and there’s a good chance it will get iOS 8 as well. Buying pre-owned is a bit of a gamble. You should inspect the iPhone carefully when it arrives and if you’re not happy you can always return it. Read our full iPhone 4S review.

Samsung Galaxy S3

($240 on Virgin Mobile, $270 on Verizon, $300 on AT&TSprint, and US Cellular)

It was many people’s pick for the smartphone of the year just two years ago and it’s Samsung’s best-selling smartphone to date. The specs are still impressive at this price. You get a 4.8-inch 720p screen, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage (with MicroSD card slot for expansion), and an 8-megapixel camera. It’s also packed with Samsung’s innovations and ships with Android 4.3 (some models will get the 4.4 update). It also supports 4G LTE. Read our full Samsung Galaxy S3 review.

Nokia Lumia 920

($300 on AT&T)

Anyone who likes the look of Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform could do worse than the Lumia 920. This is a 4G LTE phone with a 4.5-inch 1280 x 768 pixel resolution display, a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, and 1GB of RAM. You’ll also find 32GB of internal storage and a good 8-megapixel camera. The downside is the lack of apps on the platform and the lack of polish in the apps that are on offer, but that won’t be a priority for everyone. Read our full Nokia Lumia 920 review.

TC Desire 601

($235 on AT&T)

This stylish Sony smartphone with a premium look can be snapped up at a bargain price through Walmart right now. It has a 4.6-inch 720p display with a 1.7GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor inside. There’s 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage, with room to expand via the MicroSD card slot. The main camera is rated at 8-megapixels. It has a load of nice extras, including Sony’s app offerings, and it supports 4G LTE. This is a really nice, solid mid-ranger with one drawback – it ships with Android 4.1. The good news is that Sony has sent an Android 4.3 update out, but there’s still some doubt about whether it will get 4.4. It will run on AT&T’s network and probably a few others (check before you buy).

That’s our list of budget smartphones for now. If you can squeeze a little more out of your wallet, take a look at the Nexus 5 ($350) because in terms of performance it beats everything on this list hands down. You should also check out the $350 Moto X and the forthcoming OnePlus One, which appears to have flagship specs at an amazing $300 price point.

This article was originally posted on Digital Trends

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