Equip yourself with a solid set of specs for the bare minimum.

Best overall

ZTE Axon 7 Mini

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The ZTE Axon 7 Mini's price tag has finally dipped below $300. This stylish aluminum device is essentially a mini-me of its regularly-sized flagship, the Axon 7, but don't expect to move mountains with its mid-range hardware.

At the very least, the Axon 7 Mini's 16-megapixel camera is capable enough to capture the dazzling colors of a winter sunset. Its vibrant 1080p display and capable stereo speakers will also fool anyone into thinking this thing costs more than it does. But before you bring home this seemingly all-for-less package, remember that you'll have to contend with is ZTE's MiFavor UI, which isn't the best translation of the Android operating system.

Bottom line: All the basics are available in the ZTE Axon 7 Mini if you're aching to upgrade but you're desperate to avoid spending an arm and a leg.

One more thing: Unfortunately, the ZTE Axon 7 Mini does not work particularly well with CDMA networks like Sprint and Verizon.

Why the ZTE Axon 7 Mini is the best

One of the bummers of purchasing a budget device is that you're often trading in form for functionality. The ZTE Axon 7 Mini gives you the best of both worlds, however: It comes outfitted in a stylish silver or gold aluminum dressing, complete with perforated speaker grills for added flair. And not only is it actually pocketable, its 5.2-inch display is just as watchable as the one your friend looks at on her iPhone.

The Axon 7 Mini may not be the kind of workhorse you'd find exhibited by its flagship counterpart, but it is a worthy consideration precisely because it can keep up with everyone else. And sure, it may not have the most user-friendly interface available, but with a little love from a third-party launcher, you can easily fake the Google experience while relishing in the fact that you paid a fraction of the price.

Best for naval-gazing

Honor 6X

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If your lifestyle is living loudly, wildly, and all over the internet, the Honor 6X should be your first choice for a budget smartphone. It's equipped with all the necessities, including a dual rear-facing 12-megapixel and 2-megapixel camera that's packed with a bevy of camera modes, a substantial 3000mAh batter pack, and a 1080p display for editing all those photos before posting them online.

Bottom line: The Honor 6X is truly a smartphone made for the kids: It has great battery life, camera hardware that's substantial for social media, and a non-partisan design that will blend in with the rest of 'em.

One more thing: Like the Axon 7 Mini, the Honor 6X is not compatible with the major CDMA networks in the U.S.

Best for really tight budgets

Moto G4 Plus

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Here's a phone that's truly unlocked: the Moto G4 Plus boasts compatibility with all four of the major networks, including Verizon and Sprint. You won't get near the kind of performance you'd get with a pricier device, but you will get plenty of storage, a 5.5-inch 1080p display, a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a 3000mAh battery pack.

Bottom line: The Moto G4 Plus is the practical way to go if you're interested in just the basics.

One more thing: There are two options for the Moto G4 Plus: a 32GB variant, which only comes with 2GB of RAM, and a 64GB variant, which comes equipped with 4GB. At the time of writing, there is around a $30 price difference between the two on Amazon, but we'd suggest springing the cash for the extra memory.

Best overall

ZTE Axon 7 Mini

See at Amazon

The ZTE Axon 7 Mini's price tag has finally dipped below $300. This stylish aluminum device is essentially a mini-me of its regularly-sized flagship, the Axon 7, but don't expect to move mountains with its mid-range hardware.

At the very least, the Axon 7 Mini's 16-megapixel camera is capable enough to capture the dazzling colors of a winter sunset. Its vibrant 1080p display and capable stereo speakers will also fool anyone into thinking this thing costs more than it does. But before you bring home this seemingly all-for-less package, remember that you'll have to contend with is ZTE's MiFavor UI, which isn't the best translation of the Android operating system.

Bottom line: All the basics are available in the ZTE Axon 7 Mini if you're aching to upgrade but you're desperate to avoid spending an arm and a leg.

One more thing: Unfortunately, the ZTE Axon 7 Mini does not work particularly well with CDMA networks like Sprint and Verizon.