Here's why you shouldn't pay more than $100 for your next phone

Xiaomi redmi 3 front
© Xiaomi

Once upon a time, it cost US$4000 to buy a terrible phone. Now an excellent device costs as little as US$100. While developers struggle to produce new gimmicks and technology for their top-end handsets, the quality of entry-level smartphones is improving at an incredible pace. Here's why you should consider a 100 dollar smartphone for your next device. 

xiaomi redmi 3 back
You can get a great smartphone for 100 bucks these days. / © Xiaomi

They support the same apps as expensive phones

There are some apps that I consider essential to a good smartphone experience, and if a US$100 phone couldn’t run WhatsApp, Skype or a web-browser, I wouldn't even be writing this article. 

But most modern smartphones run most of the same apps equally as well, whether they cost US$800 or US$100. A cheaper phone might struggle with some of the more graphically intensive games, but the majority of popular or common apps are built to work with as many devices as possible, and that includes sub-US$100 smartphones. 

They now have good cameras

Even a couple of years ago, it was hard to find a cheap phone with a good camera. Even cameras on mid-range phones struggled occasionally, producing poor, grainy images in low light conditions (I still think the Nexus 6 camera is substandard).

Thankfully, manufacturers soon became aware of the importance that most people placed on the cameras in their phones, and set about solving the problem. As we plunge into 2016, the just-over-US$100 Xiaomi Redmi 3 is set to arrive with a 13 MP rear camera and 5 MP front camera.  

Like the phones themselves, entry level camera technology is improving fast, and if you want to do is take simple shots to share with your friends and family, you can now do that on a budget.

test moto e 2015 1
This shot was taken with the Motorola Moto E 2015, which is currently US$89 on Amazon. / © ANDROIDPIT

They can look just as good

Phones costing US$100 or less aren't exactly new, but in the past, cheap handsets often looked terrible. That's not the case anymore and the introduction of the US$106, metal unibody Xiaomi Redmi 3 is arguably the tipping point where the low-end goes premium.

This would have been unheard of just a couple of years ago. Whether Xiaomi is really profiting from the Redmi 3 or if it is part of a huge marketing campaign, I don’t know. But it’s great for us consumers because we're being offered well-designed, aesthetically appealing devices at more attractive prices than ever.

Xiaomi redmi 3 front
The Xiaomi Redmi 3 offers premium quality for less than 100 bucks. / © Xiaomi

To sum up

If you want to use your phone to play HD games, shoot 4K movies or watch Full HD video, or you're serious about photography, you will need to spend more than 100 bucks. But if you just need a phone to take suitable pictures, install the latest apps and look good? Well, it’s 2016, people, and now you can have all that and more for a very reasonable price indeed.

That’s my take on phones in the sub-US$100 price bracket. What’s yours? Let me know in the comments.

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  • Nigel Falls Jan 26, 2016 Link to comment

    I've yet to find xiaomi at the price quoted on the article

    • hotspring21 Mar 4, 2016 Link to comment

      Yes Xiaomi will cost more if imported outside of China. Instead of Xiaomi, how about ZTE ZMAX 2 for $69 at walmart? This is pretty good phablet with 2GB of memeory, and even beats Xiaomi in bang for bucks!

  • ellie greenhill Jan 16, 2016 Link to comment

    I am in the UK and I am loving my Lenovo K3 Note I bought for around a £100. Lenovo phones sell well in the UK as people are use to the Lenovo tablets. I would not buy Samsung again after having my K3 Note it is fabulous. It runs Lollipop 2Gig of ram, 16 GB hard space, Quad Core something or other. Decent specs and camera seems fine.

  • Christopher Tilley Jan 13, 2016 Link to comment

    Personally, I think that the number of really good phones in the $100 range is very low. There are the occasional gems but most aren't.
    There are a lot more really good phones in the under $200 range and that's where I'm going to be looking for next phone.

    • hotspring21 Mar 4, 2016 Link to comment

      I thought so too, but ZTE ZMAX 2 is just amazing phone for $69 (at walmart - no contract). Completely destroys conventoinal wisdom what you can't get a great smart phone for less than $100!

  • Trevor Holyoak Jan 13, 2016 Link to comment

    So are any of these Chinese phones actually going to be available in the US?

    • GT Ohh Jan 16, 2016 Link to comment

      Hey Trevor they're all available in the US right now.

      All you have to do is go on-line pick out your shiny new device and order one.

      The best part is most sellers even offer free delivery right to your front door!!!

    • hotspring21 Mar 4, 2016 Link to comment

      ZTE ZMAX 2 is available at walmart for $69. And it's better bang for bucks than Xiaomi Redmi.

  • David Newton Jan 13, 2016 Link to comment

    I'd be happy to buy a lower cost phone, but it seems none have comprehensive support (telephone, software, accessories etc) outside of China.

    So, as a European Samsung user who has thus far had to send back every phone I've ever owned, and experienced appaling delays even though they have so called local support, I cannot see myself spending out on a cheap one until I am confident I can get it sorted quickly WHEN it goes wrong (rarely IF!).

    Perhaps they should put in place a simple replacement service strategy where they send you out a new one BEFORE you have to ship yours back. This obviously needs then a decent backup strategy for all your data so the list goes on...

    I totally agree we are being ripped off, but low price is just the tip of the iceberg of mobile phone ownership.

  • Peter Harwood Jan 13, 2016 Link to comment

    I know top end smartphones are to much money, but I've bought alot of cheaper Chinese products, they look good and have most of what the top end phone's have but they invariably go wrong and don't work as they should so i don't bother now, the old saying you get what you pay for?

  • Hendrik Bosman Jan 13, 2016 Link to comment

    The article does only one thing for me and that is to confirm that Apple, Samsung, etc are just a rip-off. Most phones are made in China so labour costs are really more than bargain low. Even so-called higher spec components are made by machines in the millions which really does not have to translate into much higher end user pricing. The other problem is the inherent vanity of end users. Just like 4X4 SUV`s not even 5% of the features and abilities of high-end phones and gadgets are used. it is just to be able to say "I have........."

    • GT Ohh Jan 16, 2016 Link to comment

      Hi Hendrik, the reason the BIG brand products cost so much more is sadly because of their huge advertising expenses which they so generously pass on to us the lowly end user.

  • Michal Horna Jan 12, 2016 Link to comment

    Yes, the perfect comparison
    I agree with you

  • William K. Jan 12, 2016 Link to comment

    it is unbelievable to me how good, looks and specs, the redmi 3 appears to be. I can't imagine being disappointed with this phone and I for one plan on buying it.

  • dasari Venki Jan 12, 2016 Link to comment

    I love ghe xioami redmi3 coming soon im wait for that

  • Larry R. Jan 12, 2016 Link to comment

    Scott, I'm a U.S. citizen born and raised. But I'm also an Expat living in Panama and I often wonder if we here are ever going to get certain Phones. Is there a way to find out? I live in David, Panama I have a Note 2 but I want to upgrade to a 4g phone but not over $200

    • Bob Moreno Jan 13, 2016 Link to comment

      Hi Larry, I read your comment about cellphone prices and your right ... $200.00 cell phones are hard to find, I refurbish Samsung Galaxy S 4 to new condition ( new lcd/screen, new housing ect.) clean ESN/IMEI for $200.00, I'm in California, This is my hobby, I'm almost 70.. I was selling on ebay morenorem we might be able to help each other .... contact me .... thank you. Bob

    • GT Ohh Jan 16, 2016 Link to comment

      Hey Larry,

      All you have to do is go on-line pick out your shiny new device and order one. 

      The best part is most sellers even offer free delivery right to your front door!!!

  • Azer Aliyev Jan 12, 2016 Link to comment

    But 100 buck phone has no NFC,usually no support for software updates,and some assembling issues usually

    • Faizan Jan 12, 2016 Link to comment

      check out Xiaomi phones. Devices launched even 2yrs ago are getting Marshmallow update and those devices cost below 150$.

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