It's possible to get a decent Android experience, even on a shoestring — and unsurprisingly Motorola dominates this field.

Best overall

Moto G Play (with ads)

Moto G Play

See at Amazon

The Amazon-exclusive Moto G Play is a $150 phone reduced to $100. The catch? You'll get ads and offers from the retail giant on your lock screen, which may or may not be a deal-breaker depending on how you like to use your phone. (We've got a good breakdown of what it means here).

Otherwise, you're getting a decent entry-level Android phone for not a lot of money at all. The Moto G Play (a.k.a. Moto G4 Play) packs the same soft-touch polycarbonate body as its big brother, the Moto G4, and runs a Snapdragon 410 processor, which has plenty of power to run Android 6.0 Marshmallow on a 5-inch 720p display. There's a reasonable 16GB of storage, expandable via microSD, and an 8-megapixel camera that handles the basics well.

Bottom line: Putting up with lock screen ads allows you to get a $150 phone for $100. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than you'd otherwise get for the cash.

One more thing: It's unlocked, so you can use it on any carrier of your choice. And if you know where to look, there are some places on the Internet that'll help you take care of those pesky ads.

Why the Moto G Play is best

Amazon plugs the price gap with offers on your lock screen.

With ads from Amazon, or without ads from Verizon, the Moto G Play gets you a great core Android experience — fast software, thanks to Motorola's hands-off approach towards customization, and decent specs all-round.

It's not the flashiest or showiest smartphone, with a relatively generic design, but you don't expect pizzaz when you're paying less than a Benjamin for a full-featured smartphone. Same deal with bonus features like water resistance and swappable backs, like you might get from last year's Moto G (third generation).

Instead, the Moto G Play is just a solid all-round phone for not a lot of cash.

Best ad-free

Moto E LTE

Moto E LTE

See at Amazon

The unlocked Moto E LTE can be used on any supported network, and doesn't come with any of the bloatware you'd expect from the U.S. carriers. And better still, it's only $81. It's powered by the same Snapdragon 410 chip that's inside the Moto G Play, however you do lose a few important features compared to that phone — a smaller 4.5-inch screen with a less impressive qHD (960x540) display. And there's only 8GB of storage, so an SD card will be an essential purchase.

Bottom line: You're getting less phone than a Moto G Play, but also at a lower price without bloatware, carrier locks or ads.

One more thing: You'll definitely want to snap up a microSD card.

Best on Verizon

Moto G Play Droid

Moto G Play

See at Verizon

If you're settled on Verizon as your carrier of choice, you can get the Moto G Play (Droid) for $85 without the need to see any ads on your lock screen. Droid branding aside, this is the same phone as the Amazon version, just running on Verizon's network with the expected loadout of pre-installed bloatware apps. On paper it's close to last year's third-gen Moto G, with a Snapdragon 410 processor, a 5-inch 720p display and 16GB of storage.

The main trade-offs between last year's G: Lack of water resistance and a less spectacular camera. The Moto G Play is splash-resistant however, which means you won't need to worry about using it out in the rain.

Bottom line: Trading ads for bloatware gets you Moto's best super-cheap phone for less — if you're on Verizon.

One more thing: Don't expect software updates to be as quick as the unlocked version.

Best on AT&T

Samsung Galaxy Express Prime (GoPhone)

Galaxy Express Prime

See at AT&T

In AT&T's GoPhone range, the somewhat ridiculously named Samsung Galaxy Express Prime stands out as offering the best bang for your buck. You'll get Android 6.0 Marshmallow and the latest version of Samsung's TouchWiz UI on a 5-inch 720p SuperAMOLED display, powered by Samsung's own Exynos quad-core processor. And an ample 2,600mAh battery should be enough to see you through the day.

The Galaxy Express Prime also looks a little more eye-catching than other devices in this range, appearing like a shrunken-down Galaxy S5. Other specs aren't the greatest — only 1.5GB of RAM and a mere 5-megapixel camera, but at least there's a reasonable 16GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD.

Bottom line: Probably the best Samsung phone you're gonna find for under a hundred bucks.

One more thing: Don't expect an update to Android Nougat anytime soon, if ever.

Best on T-Mobile

Samsung Galaxy On5

Galaxy On5

See at T-Mobile

A distant cousin of the AT&T Express Prime, T-Mobile's Galaxy On5 packs in the essentials for a good deal less than $100. Once again you're dealing with Samsung's own Exynos 3475 Quad processor and 1.5GB of RAM and a similar style of chassis.

The biggest difference is the network — if you're in a great location for T-Mobile coverage, you'll get largely the same experience as the AT&T GoPhone offering, only for less cash on a network that might suit you better.

Bottom line: The Galaxy On5 is about a year old at this point, but still a decent buy for the money.

One more thing: You'll need to buy a refill pack to get the On5 for this price, which nudges the price a little over $100 in total.

Best on Sprint

Virgin Mobile Moto G (third gen.)

Moto G3

See at Virgin Mobile

The third-generation Moto G is getting a bit long in the tooth, but it's still a fantastic budget phone, and for under $100 on Virgin Mobile, well worth considering. For starters, it's the only phone on this list boasting water resistance, and Motorola's swappable back covers let you easily add some flair to the device.

On the inside, you're looking at a Snapdragon 410 processor and 2GB of RAM, along with 16GB of storage — all standard entry-level stuff. The display is a passable but not spectacular 5-inch 720p panel, while around the back you've got a surprisingly good 13-megapixel shooter.

Storage-wise, there's 16GB internally, with the option to expand via microSD.

Bottom line: The Moto G has aged well, runs great on Marshmallow and is definitely worth a hundred bucks, even in late 2016.

One more thing: The Moto G is now more than a year old, so don't hold out for timely updates to future Android versions.

Conclusion

You'll need to put up with the occasional ad, but Amazon's offer of a Moto G Play for under $100 is really hard to beat.

Best overall

Moto G Play

Moto G Play

See at Amazon

The Amazon-exclusive Moto G Play is a $150 phone reduced to $100. The catch? You'll get ads and offers from the retail giant on your lock screen, which may or may not be a deal-breaker depending on how you like to use your phone. (We've got a good breakdown of what it means here).

Otherwise, you're getting a decent entry-level Android phone for not a lot of money at all. The Moto G Play (a.k.a. Moto G4 Play) packs the same soft-touch polycarbonate body as its big brother, the Moto G4, and runs a Snapdragon 410 processor, which has plenty of power to run Android 6.0 Marshmallow on a 5-inch 720p display. There's a reasonable 16GB of storage, expandable via microSD, and an 8-megapixel camera that handles the basics well.

Bottom line: Putting up with lock screen ads allows you to get a $150 phone for $100. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than you'd otherwise get for the cash.

One more thing: It's unlocked, so you can use it on any carrier of your choice. And if you know where to look, there are some places on the Internet that'll help you take care of those pesky ads.