Cam’s Top 5 – Unlocked Budget T-Mobile friendly phones

top 5 budget phones
T-Mobile sells some of the best – and most expensive phones – on the market. But perhaps what’s surprising is that there are a bunch of affordable phones on the market that can (almost) give those devices a run for their money. And they’re not available on T-Mobile’s store shelves.

While that means that they don’t come with services like Wi-Fi Calling baked in, it does mean that they’re factory unlocked and free of any of the magenta bloatware. Here are my five favorite devices under $300, all of which are compatible with T-Mobile’s LTE bands.

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1. Alcatel OneTouch IDOL 3 – $249.99


Regardless of price, the Alcatel OneTouch has been one of my favorite phones released so far this year. Perhaps it was the surprise of having such a great experience with a brand that had a bad reputation. Or perhaps it was just that I loved the thin-ness and performance of this Android budget flagship.

It boasts a full HD 5.5-inch IPS LCD display that sits so close to the glass surface that it makes content appear to be floating on top. It has an octa-core chip, a decent 13MP Sony camera sensor and an impressive battery. What’s more, it runs an almost-stock version of Android Lollipop. More importantly, it comes equipped with support for all three of T-Mobile’s LTE bands. You can pick one up for $249.99 on Amazon. At that price, it’s an absolute steal. You can read my review of the phone here.

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2. Microsoft Lumia 640 XL – $244.78

Another device to impress me greatly during MWC was one of Microsoft’s latest mid-range phablets. The Lumia 640 XL shows off everything that’s good about entry level Windows Phone devices. It performs well in almost every way. It has a huge 5.7-inch 720p display which is great for consuming media. Its Snapdragon 400 chip takes care of the operating system and any apps with ease, and its 13MP Carl Zeiss camera is unbelievably good. If you want a great Windows Phone, you should definitely consider picking one up. It’s available for just $244.78 on Amazon.

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3. Moto E (2nd gen) LTE model – $149.99

By far the cheapest on my list, the Moto E is the only one under $200 and shows how good Motorola is at releasing great devices that cost little money. At just under $150, the second generation Moto E outperforms its price point admirably. It has a 4.5-inch display with a resolution of 540 x 960, giving it a pixel density of 245ppi. The LTE model uses a Snapdragon 410 chip and comes with 1GB RAM and 8GB storage as well as a 5MP main camera and a 2,390mAh battery. You can pick it up for $149.99 on Amazon.

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4. Huawei P8 Lite – $249.99

huawei p8 lite

The Huawei P8 Lite is – sort of – the odd one out in this list, as it’s the first one to come with dual-SIM support. This means you could potentially have a T-Mobile SIM and a SIM from another carrier in use at the same time. It has a 64-bit octa-core processor, 720p 5-inch screen, a 13MP camera and is only 7.6mm thin. They’ve only gone on sale very recently, but you can grab one for just under $250.

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5. BlackBerry Classic – $332.32

Like the Huawei, the BlackBerry Classic is an unusual inclusion in this list. Partly because it’s the only phone with a physical keyboard. But mostly because it’s the only one that costs more than $300. Don’t let that fool you in to thinking that it’s an expensive device though. Its price has dropped to $332 on Amazon. That’s more than $100 cheaper than what T-Mobile sells the same device for.

Those are just a few of my favorite mid/low-end phones. If you’re looking for a backup device, or don’t have the budget to fork out the cash for a specced-out flagship, any of these should serve you very well. Let us know what you think of them and – of course – shout at me if I’ve forgotten one of your favorites. Use the comments or grab me on Twitter: @CamBunton.

 

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  • brybry

    I got the Alcatel Idol at the promo price of $199.99 but I think I may end up returning it. I have a company device (iphone 5s) and I just dont want to go back and forth with 2 devices.
    Also the game i’m currently playing runs better on ios. (SimCity Buildit).

    • gabriel

      I will buy it from you for $180 (with free shipping) as long there’s NO damage at all.

      Thanks…

    • Only thing you’ll be missing with the iPhone 5c is that it does not have LTE band 12. Where as the Idol 3 has all three of T-Mobile’s LTE bands.

    • steveb944

      Try and find someone to sell it to, people keep requesting the one I purchased but my relative is already using it.

      • brybry

        yep im open to selling it at the promo price otherwise i’ll just return it to amazon.

  • The Moto G LTE, though it lacks band 12, is retailing between $165 and $179 at Amazon: amzn{dot}com/B00K0NRZSW

    • Cam Bunton

      Good deal!

    • taxandspend

      It has band 12. Sorry I meant the Moto E as band 12.

    • gmo8492

      I actually got a amazon warehouse deal for $130 on the moto g lte, its coming tomorrow and giving it to my dad for father’s day.

  • justanormalguy13

    What about zenphone? Is it good with T-Mobile’s radios?

    • JJCommonSense

      I think so.. I dont know why but I’m leary of Asus.. its weird.

    • Stefan Naumowicz

      The Zenfone 2 only supports T-Mobile LTE band 4

      • gmo8492

        The U.S. model supports band 4 and 2…it just doesn’t have band 12 support.

  • reader

    How did the writer miss OnePlus One? It’s $249 (16GB) and $299 (64GB)!

    • JJCommonSense

      Wasnt one of his favorites lol

    • the2000guy

      Because he said budget friendly phones as low-mid range performance phones. Although, the One plus one is a high performance phone at a budget price indeed.

      • orlando duran

        One plus one should never be in the same sentence as high performance or ” flagship” or premium handset. That was a crapshoot. Oneplus 2 maybe better, but doubtful. I had that phone, was a piece of crap. The galaxy s3 smokes that phone. Welcome to 2012-2013

    • C. B.

      It only supports 1 of the 3 t-MO let bands, so a bit of a let down there

    • Chris

      Like C. B. said it only supports 1 of the 3 T-mo LTE Bands.
      I have Oneplus and I haven’t really gotten full use of T-mo’s LTE. My max down was 20 mbps, I used to get 70 mbps on my G2 that I gave to my mom.

      • In Minnesota, due to Wideband LTE I have gotten over 70Mbps down with the OnePlus in certain locations. But since i don’t get full potential of T-Mobiles LTE network I switched to the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3.

    • Cam Bunton

      It only supports band 4. I wanted to include devices that supported all or at least 2 of T-Mobile’s current LTE bands.

  • JJCommonSense

    Thank u for sharing this! I have been tormenting myself trying to decide on an upgrade my moms phone from her current GS3.. She just wants a new phone with a better camera and a bigger screen. I dont want to break the bank for a phone that she doesnt even use 500MB of data on in a month. I got her a Blu phone with LTE that i thought was good but she didnt like the pic quality. How about the LG G Stylo? Any1 have experience W/ that?

    • GersonT1000

      Apart from #s 1, 2 and 4 on this list, you may want to look into the Lenove Vibe Shot or a Galaxy S4 or S5 (S4 can be found for 200-something once in a while, and I’ve seen the S5 in the $300s).

  • Marianne Myers

    I have the Moto E 2nd Gen. The digitizer on my Moto X 2013 broke back in late March and I went budget to replace it rather than spending $600 immediately on a new high end handset.

    I’m generally happy with it. This phone gets updates regularly. I’m on 5.1. The build quality is what you would expect for that price point. The screen leaves a bit to be desired. It is a bit more tactile than my Moto X, so I’m not as worried about dropping it. It has 700 MHz (Bands 12 and 17), which not many handsets can claim now. I am regularly hitting the storage limit and have to move apps off to the SD card often. That’s my biggest complaint lately.

    It’s a solid phone for the price. I’ll be hanging on to it as backup handset when I ultimately replace it.

  • pseudoswede

    The lack of wifi calling is an absolute deal breaker for me. I hope the wifi calling feature being implemented for Nexus 6 can be propagated to any Lollipop phone.

    (And, no, I don’t want to forward my phone number to Hangouts/GV.)

  • macman37

    How about the iPhone 5C? It’s $0.00 down, $18.74/mo, and a total of $449.76! That’s from t-mobile.com.

    • Pray tell, which figure do you have mind when suggesting that the 5c is a budget phone? For the only figure that matters, $450, does not make it a budget phone.

      • Cam Bunton

        Yep. I was trying to keep the figure below $300. With the BlackBerry, I let it off for having such a discount.

    • GersonT1000

      You’re joking, right? You can get 3 Moto E’s for that. Or a OnePlus One AND a Moto E.

      • orlando duran

        One plus one, is a crap phone

        • Cole Toler

          Easy there, don’t bash it unless you’ve used it.

  • User123

    Did you just make a list of “best phones under $300” with a phone that costs more than $300?

    • Cam replied to another comment below saying “Yep. I was trying to keep the figure below $300. With the BlackBerry, I let it off for having such a discount.”

    • Cam Bunton

      Yep.. it’s close enough. ;-)

  • iMotoXperiaGalaxy

    Everyone should have a Moto E as a back up.

    Haha!

  • ALUOp

    How could you forget about Asus Zenfone 2. I bought two for my friend and my other friend also bought one. They’re amazing!

  • I saw a Lumia 640 XL for $231.81 on Never MSRP. And that was the RM-1096 model.

  • Arnold Shoon

    How many of these phones have WiFi Calling?

    • BOlieve in AJ’s EMMAlution

      Pretty sure most of them do. Hell, the Lumia 435 I bought (while I factory reset my HTC M7) for $50 has Wi-Fi calling.

      • Nogitsune

        Isnt wifi calling on applicable to tmobile branded phoned

  • AS118

    The Blackberry classic in particular is useful for people who need fast touch typing on the go. Like the ones who have to e-mail or write a lot, and can’t always use voice type or swype what they need.

  • Mike

    I’ve read reports that the 5.1 build broke band 12 on the xt1527 Moto E LTE, which was the only reason I bought this phone, Cam have you heard reports of this? https://forums.motorola.com/posts/ecb8265dfc

  • Ralph Afatania

    Any thoughts on the LG Leon LTE? Under $100 and supports LTE Cat4 700/1700/1900 (Bands 2,4,12)

  • Mike

    Cam, you should update and remove the Moto E, it officially doesn’t receive band 12 anymore. It used it, it was marketed as receiving it but now, as of June 30, the motorola website does not show it as band 12 capable. I’ll never buy another motorola phone, can’t trust them

  • taxandspend

    I didn’t see that. Wow.