Depreciation is great – not so much for people who purchase things new, but definitely for those of us who get to swoop in and grab a slightly-used item for a fraction of the original price. This is the case for cars, furniture, tools, and as we’ll be discussing today, smartphones. Whether you’re looking into the used market because you cracked your screen, you need to buy a phone for a relative/friend, or you just want the best performance for the money, this updated guide will help you find the best entrants at different price brackets. We made one for spring 2017, and here’s your fall 2017 edition.
The great thing about Android is that there’s just so much choice. With an iPhone, you can pretty much only choose between one of two screen sizes, one of three storage sizes, and a color. But with Android, there are so many different designs, software skins, screen types and sizes, cameras, and so on. The choices are endless. But while one person may prioritize battery life, someone else may just want sheer performance, and yet another may just want a fantastic camera. So to help you make an educated decision, we’ve compiled a few phones into each of four price brackets to help you make the best choice for your own unique use case.
Due to the nature of how sales of used things work, we cannot promise that a certain device will sell for exactly as much as the heading claims. These are estimates, although we’ve put our best efforts in to ensure that our numbers are accurate. However, the final selling price for a device depends on a number of variables, including condition, storage size, included accessories, and more. Just keep in mind that this is a general guide, not one that is tailored to each individual phone listing.
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As you might imagine, phones in this price range will not be the fastest or the most feature-filled. There’s a good chance they’ll be a little older, meaning that if you aren’t ready to flash a custom ROM on them, you’ll be stuck with outdated software without the latest security patches. Remember that no phone will be perfect, so you’ll have to be more willing to compromise.
Even when you decide on a particular model of phone, don’t be too choosey when it comes to different listings. Other people are looking for a good deal too, especially given the more budget-conscious nature of this category. Our recommendation? Set a limit for yourself and make a few offers, but if there’s one very well-priced listing, just buy it before anyone else does. I’ve learned this the hard way.
Moto E4 / Moto E4 Plus
You might have liked the Google-owned Motorola better Motorola in its current state, but it’s hard to deny that Lenovorola is still churning out some fantastic budget phones. The Moto E4 and E4 Plus are prime examples of this, which is why we gave them both rave reviews. MSRPs on both devices were already sub-$200, but the E4 Plus can even be found for sub-$150 for an unopened model. And if you’re on Verizon prepaid, you can even get an E4 for as low as $50. (One even sold for $25, but that was definitely an anomaly.)
The US variants of the 5.0″ Moto E4 and 5.5″ Moto E4 Plus come with a Snapdragon 425 and 427, respectively. Both have 720p displays, 2GB of RAM, and fingerprint sensors. They also do pretty well for themselves in terms of battery; the E4 has a removable 2800mAh cell, while the E4 Plus has a positively massive 5000mAh fixed unit. The 8MP camera on the E4 is below par, but the E4 Plus’s 13MP shooter is actually quite decent. The front-facing cameras come equipped with flashes, should you need to take selfies in the dark. Both are running stock-ish versions of Android 7.1.1 Nougat, but they’re unfortunately not slated to get Oreo. At least there is some development going on.
Our advice? Grab either an unlocked Moto E4 (Verizon prepaid) or a Moto E4 Plus. Many of the Verizon prepaid E4s are unlocked for GSM use, making them fantastic for $75 for a brand new unit. For the E4 Plus, aside from the 720p display and the slightly slow Snapdragon 427, you’d never know you were using a budget phone. The camera is good, battery life is incredible, there’s a fingerprint sensor on board, and the software is clean. Both the E4 and E4 Plus work on all four major carriers in the US, so there’s no need to worry about compatibility.
Nextbit may be owned by Razer now, but before its team created the highly-anticipated Razer Phone, it made the Robin. For a 2016 phone that blurred the lines between mid-ranger and flagship, it’s pretty nuts that two of the five most recently sold units on Swappa have gone for $85. Plus, updates have gone as high as 7.1.1 Nougat, with great aftermarket support should you not enjoy Nextbit’s cosmetic modifications. We even re-reviewed the phone at its updated $130 price point (yes, it was $130 new).
The Robin is powered by a Snapdragon 808 and 3GB of RAM, which combine to provide a pretty smooth experience. The display is a 5.2″ 1080p LCD affair, and it’s nothing special. I’m personally a fan of the unique design, though I’ve seen many people hate it as well. Dual front-facing speakers are a nice touch, as are USB Type-C and Quick Charge support. It’s also unlocked with a ton of bands, including T-Mobile’s band 12. Unfortunately, the camera isn’t great indoors, and the power button and fingerprint sensor are both a bit finicky. The chassis is also a bit weak, so don’t sit on it or anything.
Pricing for the Robin has been low for a while, with the phone even costing just $130 brand new on Amazon at one point. The lowest we saw for a brand-new unit was $109.99, which is incredibly low for a phone that started at $400 just a year ago. There’s only one Robin on Swappa at the moment and the price is a little on the high end, but you can subscribe to receive email notifications for when other Robins get listed.
Moto X Pure Edition (2015)
Motorola’s 2015 Moto X was in our $150-250 category a few months ago, but prices have dropped to the point where it makes sense to include it in the sub-$150 category, even if it’s sitting at the upper end. The company took forever to roll out Android 7.0 Nougat to this phone, though it finally arrived a little over a month ago. And custom ROM support is decent as well; my personal Moto X Pure prototype is sitting at Android 7.1.1 Nougat beautifully, thanks to LineageOS.
The Snapdragon 808 inside isn’t Qualcomm’s greatest triumph, but it still moves the device along fine with the 3GB of RAM. The camera is pretty good, though it’s not the best since it doesn’t have OIS and the app is a bit annoying. Battery life is solidly above average, though, and the front-facing speakers produce great sound (for a phone). The 5.7″ 1440p LCD display is pretty good, even if it meant ditching the AMOLED tech that the previous gen had. microSD expansion and Quick Charge are present, which is great.
Moto Maker is a bit of a double-edged sword for used phones, though; you can either get a nice color combo with the possibility of even a wood or a leather back, or you might end up with a horrifying color combo and someone else’s name printed on the back. That being said, most devices for sale feature pretty standard combos, so you should be fine. For $150, there are a number of devices for sale, most of which are 16GB. Play your cards right and you might even get a wood back or 32GB of storage as a bonus.
The LG G5 got an insurmountable amount of hate when it debuted. It wasn’t entirely unexpected given the device’s poor build quality and overall design, but if you can look past that (let’s be honest, you’ll probably slap the phone in a case anyway), you can have yourself one of the greatest bargains of the century. You won’t find these specifications for this price anywhere else. If you’re looking to flash custom ROMs, though, you should probably go with the previously-mentioned Moto X instead.
Panel gaps and paint jobs aside, the G5 is actually a pretty nice phone. I used one for a few months and had no real complaints. The Snapdragon 820 and 4GB of RAM combine to provide a nearly lag-less experience. The 5.3″ 1440p display is nice for the most part, even if it didn’t get bright enough for my liking. The dual cameras on back were fast and left me satisfied, even if there was a bit too much processing in photos when you zoomed in. The 2800mAh battery didn’t provide for the best longevity, but since it’s removable, that’s not a huge deal.
You can get a T-Mobile G5 for as low as $129, and a Verizon (unlocked) model as low as $142. The Sprint model’s lowest is currently $155, though previously sold listings have gone as low as $125. Prices are still dropping on these puppies, so don’t be surprised if you see the AT&T and unlocked models drop below $150 soon as well. These prices are simply astonishing for a 2016 flagship with a Snapdragon 820.
$150-250: Middle of the pack
This category will feature newer devices with fewer compromises, though you obviously shouldn’t expect perfection. These phones are generally a bit newer, and depending on just how much depreciation has occurred, you might even be able to get a flagship that’s still only a generation old. More features like NFC and USB Type-C will be present. They might even still have a year of updates remaining, so you won’t have to try to tinker your phone and risk messing something up.
Huawei isn’t very well-known in the US, but its Honor line actually has some pretty good phones. The Honor 8 in particular is an almost-flagship with fantastic hardware, though it does have EMUI. However, EMUI 5.0 made the UI a lot more tolerable, and there is some development going on. This was a great phone for the money new, and even though people have all but forgotten about it, it still is now. There’s a 3000mAh battery underneath that gorgeous glass back, and it can take two SIMs at once.
The Honor 8 is powered by a very capable in-house Kirin 950 (seriously, these chips are actually good) and 4GB of RAM. 32GB of storage comes by default, but it has a microSD slot. The display is a 5.2″ 1080p LCD that is unimpressive, but still good. The dual 12MP sensors take above-average pictures, though still not on the level of something like the Galaxy S7’s single camera. There have been some connection issues, such as poor WiFi range or a refusal to connect to LTE, and we’re not sure if those have been sorted out. There’s a 3000mAh battery underneath that gorgeous glass back, and it can take two SIMs at once. The rear-mounted fingerprint sensor not only senses fingerprints, but also reads gestures.
These days, you can get an Honor 8 for as little as $150, putting it at the bottom of this price range. If you’re okay with EMUI, this is an excellent buy. If you’re not, there’s an unofficial LineageOS ROM floating out there for the brave (get it? Because Honor’s slogan is ‘for the brave’?). If you’d rather not install a ROM, a different launcher is always plausible.
Moto Z Droid / Moto Z Force Droid
The Moto Z and Moto Z Force are so similar that we reviewed them together. At $624 for the Z and $720 for the Z, it’s understandable why we didn’t recommend them. But at a quarter of those prices, everything changes. Both should still be updated by Motorola for another year, which is good since the more common and affordable Verizon “Droid” models have locked bootloaders that are pretty much impossible to root/ROM.
Both devices are powered by the Snapdragon 820 and 4GB of RAM and come with 5.5″ 1440p AMOLED displays. They came in 32GB and 64GB storage variants, but the 64GB models are rarer and noticeably more expensive. Both have passable cameras, even if they aren’t class-leading. The near-stock software, along with the powerful processor and RAM, provide for one of the smoothest Android experiences you’ll ever see. Fingerprint sensors up front are quick as well, and if you take a lot of selfies, there’s a flash up front. The Moto Z is razor-thin but only has a 2600mAh battery, and the Z Force has a larger 3500mAh battery but has a very easily-scratched ShatterShield display. The Moto Mods are mostly useless, but the battery one can come in handy if you buy the standard Z.
Interestingly, the Moto Z Force, which retailed for nearly $100 more than the Moto Z, can actually be found for cheaper than its skinny counterpart. This is likely owing to the easily-scratched screen, but it is possible to find ones in good condition. If you find one with a relatively untainted screen, I’d go for the Z Force. The plastic screen can feel cheap, but a glass screen protector will fix that. The novelty of having the regular Z’s super thin body wears off after about a day. Keep in mind that the Droid models are GSM unlocked for use on AT&T and T-Mobile as well. At prices this low, it doesn’t even make sense to recommend the Moto Z Play, which is actually more expensive on the whole.
HTC’s flagship for 2016 was a good phone, but it was overshadowed by the Galaxy S7. That’s not to say that the S7 was necessarily better, but they each appeal to different audiences. The 10 received Nougat last year, and it does have a decent developer scene. The unlocked and T-Mobile models are easier to tweak, but they also go for a premium. The Verizon model is your best bet for GSM and Verizon use alike, and S-OFF/root can be achieved through the $25 Sunshine service.
Like a few other phones on this list, the HTC 10 is powered by the Snapdragon 820 and 4GB of RAM. That, combined with the relatively light HTC Sense skin, makes for a quick UI. The display is a 5.2″ 1440p LCD, which isn’t the best, but isn’t bad either. The metal build feels very premium with its dual chamfers and overall heft. The 12MP OIS-equipped camera is actually the same sensor that was in the Nexus 6P, and it does alright. The dual speakers aren’t stereo, but they’re still better than a standard bottom-mounted speaker. The selfie camera also has OIS, in case you’re planning on livestreaming from your phone. The fingerprint sensor is okay, but the powerful amp powers more high-end headphones through the 3.5mm jack than other phones can. WiFi range can be a little poor, though.
If you have AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon, go for the Verizon model. Verizon LTE phones have been unlocked for some time now, making the Verizon 10 a good buy even if it may be missing a few less crucial GSM carrier bands. Just keep in mind that if you want to have root or a custom ROM, you’ll need to cough up the $25 fee that Sunshine charges.
When they launched, the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge seemed like the most perfect smartphones ever released. Samsung combined the feature set of the Galaxy S5 with the stylish design of the S6, making nearly the perfect phone. The AMOLED displays are gorgeous, build quality is premium, the cameras are class-leading, battery life is decent, and water resistance is on board. Virtually the only downside is performance, thanks to Samsung’s heavier skin. We’ll be focusing on the regular S7 here, as the S7 edge still commands a bit of a premium (and it’s hard to use without a case).
The Galaxy S7 got the standard Snapdragon 820 + 4GB RAM combo that every other 2016 flagship did. Initial performance was alright, but these phones do bog down over time. The 5.1″ 1440p AMOLED panel is still fantastic today, as is the 12MP camera. IP68 water resistance is present, so you won’t have to worry about dropping it in the toilet. The fingerprint sensor is built into the home button, and it’s flanked by home and recent capacitive keys. Battery life from the 3000mAh cell is above average, though you will unfortunately have to charge it via microUSB. There’s next to no development for the US Snapdragon model due to just h0w locked down the phone is.
Since the S7 was sold on all carriers, purchase whichever model was originally sold for your carrier for optimum band compatibility. The unlocked model isn’t worth the extra money, as its updates were actually slower than many carriers’. Stay away from ones that were previously repaired, as this may have compromised their water resistance. If you can deal with some occasional slowdowns (especially while apps are updating), this phone offers great bang for the buck.
$250-350: Reaching higher
This price range is where you start to wonder if you really need to drop $800+ on a brand-new flagship. Devices in this range generally have very few compromises, with great performance and lots of the manufacturer’s update period remaining. These phones could realistically stay with you for a year or two, so long as you don’t start yearning for the latest and greatest. In fact, one phone on this list is a flagship that is barely six months old. Man, I love depreciation.
Sony phones don’t sell very well in the United States for two reasons: they’re not marketed or sold in any carrier stores, and they tend to be a bit overpriced given their specs. At $700, nobody wanted an Xperia XZ. But when you pay less than half that amount, things get more interesting. Hell, you can even buy a brand-new Xperia XZ in blue from Amazon for just $320 right now. And if you’d like to save even more money, you can look to the used market.
The XZ sports a handsome metal build, a Gorilla Glass 4-covered 5.2″ 1080p display, a Snapdragon 820, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage with microSD expansion, a 23MP camera, USB Type-C, and IP68 water resistance. Front-facing speakers are also here. The display resolution and RAM aren’t the best in the biz, but these won’t really be noticeable in day-to-day use. What will be noticeable, however, is the absence of a working fingerprint sensor stateside. But if you’re handy with a computer, you can flash international firmware to enable it. There does seem to be quite a bit of development for the XZ, though Sony’s skin is already pretty light.
The US only got the 32GB model, though that’s not a huge deal since there’s a microSD slot. There is, however, one 64GB international dual-SIM XZ listed on Swappa right now, so you might want to jump on that if 32GB isn’t enough. The XZ is a great choice if you’re just looking for a decent phone all around.
There’s no other way to put it – the LG G6’s value just plummeted. The G6 is still the face of LG’s smartphone division alongside the V30, and yet you can already grab one for less than $300. This is likely due to the love that the Galaxy S8 and S8 plus got, and those two are still holding their value relatively well. Some development is there for the unlocked US997 model, but that’s not the best value. The real deals can be found in the carrier variants.
Part of the reason why the G6 may not have fared so well in the market is its Snapdragon 821, compared to the S8’s much improved 835. It’s still no slowpoke, though, with 4GB of RAM backing the performance end of things up. 32GB of storage is on board, but it’s expandable with a microSD. The display is a 5.7″ 1440p 18:9 LCD, making browsing and multitasking easier. There are two great cameras on back: a regular 16MP and a wide-angle 8MP, which is great to have in the right circumstances. The 3300mAh battery gives it decent longevity, and US models have wireless charging built-in. Plus, it’s IP68 water resistant. There’s virtually no development on anything but the US unlocked and international unlocked models, which will bring the cost out of the $350 bracket.
If you’re going to buy a G6, just grab the appropriate carrier model and you’re good to go. It’s new enough that it’ll support all of the latest carrier technologies possible (even Sprint’s Calling PLUS). You’d be hard-pressed to find a more feature-filled phone at the $300 price point. I’m considering buying one myself purely because of how cheap these have gotten.
Make no mistake about it: OnePlus is an enthusiast brand. That’s been obvious since the OnePlus One, and the company has continued to make spec monsters that don’t cost a lot of money. And because of how open the devices are, there’s a ton of development for these phones. I’d imagine that many of you already have 3Ts, but I’d encourage those of you who don’t and like messing with customization options to grab one as well.
The 5.5″ 1080p AMOLED display is virtually the only aspect of the 3T that wasn’t top-end when it debuted, but it’s still not a bad panel by any means – not suitable for VR, but good enough for daily use. The Snapdragon 821 is backed up by an incredible 6GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of storage. The front and rear cameras are both 16MP units, and both are pretty good. The large 3400mAh comes with OnePlus’s very fast proprietary Dash Charge, and the fingerprint sensor/home button is flanked by two capacitive keys. It’s impressive that OnePlus was able to cram all this into a 7.35mm-thick frame.
You’ll have to settle for “only” 64GB at this price point, but that’s more than enough for most people. Do note that there isn’t a microSD slot, though, so you’ll be stuck with that 64GB forever and ever. It also doesn’t work on Verizon or Sprint, but if you’re on a GSM carrier and like to mod your phone, this is the one to get.
$350+: Last year’s hotness
This category is made up of flagships that are a maximum of one year old. These are generally phones that have been well-received by the public, and have almost no flaws. Even when compared side-by-side with the newest models, these will have almost everything. They’ll also continue to receive updates for a good amount of time, so you won’t be forced to flash a ROM instantly to get the latest software.
Pixel / Pixel XL
Until the Pixel 2 and 2 XL debuted, most of the AP team was using a Pixel or Pixel XL when they weren’t reviewing anything. While this phone isn’t perfect, it’s just such a pleasure to use that you can forgive its minor downfalls. It doesn’t have the most top-notch specs, nor does it have niceties like water resistance or wireless charging, but it delivers a silky smooth experience with updates straight from our overlords at Google.
The Pixel has a 5.0″ 1080p AMOLED panel, while the Pixel XL gets a 5.5″ 1440p AMOLED unit. Both are great to look at and get decently bright outdoors. Power comes from the Snapdragon 821 and 4GB of RAM, and both were available in 32GB and 128GB storage configurations. The 12MP camera on back is one of the best in class. The Pixel’s 2770mAh battery gives it average battery life, but the XL’s 3450mAh makes it go for quite long. The speaker is pretty meh, though, and there’s no water resistance to be found. But the software experience is truly enjoyable, and Google gives the Pixel software little touches here and there to make it special.
If I hadn’t just purchased a Pixel 2 XL, I’d absolutely be going for a Pixel XL. For some unknown reason, the larger and generally better XL is barely more expensive than its smaller counterpart. Considering how the XL has a nicer screen and noticeably better battery life, it’s a no-brainer unless you just can’t hold the 5.5″ display comfortably. Aside from the larger bezels (yes, I had to mention them), you’d never know you weren’t using a brand-new phone from the sheer smoothness of the software.
Galaxy S8 / Galaxy S8+
After the debacle that was the Note7, Samsung had to come up with something good for its 2017 Galaxy S phones. Lo and behold, it managed to build upon the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge’s successes and produce a pair of awesome phones in the Galaxy S8 and S8+. The S8 and S8+ were some of the first phones with an 18:9 display and the Snapdragon 835, yet they still cling onto fan-favorites like water resistance and wireless charging. Like their predecessors, though, they do suffer from lag issues as time goes on. Supposedly the Oreo beta makes things smoother, but we’ll have to wait and see for confirmation of that.
The Galaxy S8 uses a curved 5.8″ 18:9 1440p AMOLED display, and the S8+ uses a 6.2″ unit. Both are powered by the Snapdragon 835, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage with microSD expansion. The 12MP cameras on the backs of these puppies are as good as ever. The S8’s 3000mAh and S8 plus’s 3500mAh both offer great battery life, with the S8+ offering even better endurance. Wireless charging, IP68 water resistance, and Samsung Pay MST capabilities round out this pair. The iris scanner on the front of each works as a decent substitute for the poorly-positioned fingerprint sensor. Of course, we’d be remiss if we neglected to mention the stunning glass sandwich design.
Both phones have dropped more than I personally expected them to given their MSRPs, but that’s a good thing for you guys. Unlike with the Pixel and Pixel XL, the difference in price between the S8 and S8+ is larger. I’d go for the S8+ (well, I already have one) for the better battery life and bigger, beautiful-er display, but the S8’s screen is already plenty big. It doesn’t really matter which model you buy as you can just flash the unlocked firmware through Odin, but it’d obviously be less of a headache to just buy the right carrier model.
As of publishing time, the OnePlus 5 is still the Shenzhen-based company’s latest phone, but that’s going to soon change. That, along with the fact that it can be found for a great price on the used market already, is why we’re giving the OP5 a spot on this list. As is traditional for OnePlus, this phone has all the latest specs and few to no downfalls. For the stock Android lovers out there, this is a good alternative to the Pixel XL if you want some more powerful hardware.
OnePlus continues its trend of throwing the best hardware aside from the screen in. The Snapdragon 835 is available with either 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage or or 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, depending on which configuration you opt for. The 20+16MP camera setup on the back takes nicer photos than you might expect for its price, and the 3300mAh battery allows it to last for a long time. Once that’s depleted, OnePlus Dash Charge will get you back to 100% quickly. The only “downside” is the 5.5″ 1080p AMOLED display; we think it’s time for OnePlus to move onto 1440p.
Chances are that you’ll be satisfied with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (let’s be honest, nobody needs 8GB of RAM), but the 128GB option is there if you need it. Keep in mind that there’s no microSD slot, so what you see is what you get. With the crazy amount of development for OnePlus phones, this phone is truly an enthusiast’s wet dream.
Huawei Mate 9
In our review of the Mate 9, we proclaimed that it wasn’t just good for the price or good for a Huawei phone, but a legitimately good phone. Here, EMUI has been refined, and the great specs don’t hurt. This is one of the first Huawei flagships officially sold in the US with real US support, and we’re glad it’s made its way here.
The Mate 9 sports the excellent Kirin 960 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage with a microSD slot. The display is a massive 5.9″ 1080p LCD that looks good and gets bright. The combo 12MP RGB and 20MP monochrome sensors on back produce excellent shots, and the 2x optical zoom is neat. We got nearly three days of usage out of the massive 4000mAh battery – that’s as good as it gets. The fingerprint sensor is fast, and EMUI 5.0 is a huge improvement over the previous 4.1. It also comes with Amazon Alexa support, if that’s something you’re looking for.
All this is $600 new, but it can be had for a little over half that on the used market. That’s a great deal for a phone as nice as this one, and you won’t find battery life this good in virtually any other phone. It’s unfortunate that it doesn’t work on Verizon or Sprint (it’s GSM unlocked). Just make sure you’re looking at the regular Mate 9 and not the uber-expensive Mate 9 Porsche Design.
You’ve reached the end of our fall 2017 buyer’s guide. We unfortunately couldn’t recommend the Nexus 5X and 6P due to the former’s bootloop issues and the latter’s battery problems, despite their low pricing and stock software. If this list missed a particular phone you think should’ve been included, feel free to post it up in the comments below.
Hopefully these phones give you a good idea of what to expect when you’re looking for a used phone. And hey, feel free to direct those friends who always ask for your advice on phones straight to this guide.