The Nokia 2 is about as good as it gets for $100 or less, offering a completely barebones version of Android, great built quality with an aluminum unibody enclosure, and a quad-core processor. Best of all, it's unlocked to work on any GSM carrier — but CDMA shoppers will want to look elsewhere.

Our Pick

Nokia 2

Clean software and speedy performance for just a Benjamin

Right on the dot at $99, the Nokia 2 is simply the best low-cost phone you can buy. It features a sleek and sturdy design with a metal frame, along with a 1.3GHz quad-core processor and a near-stock build of Android.

Who should buy this phone

Shoppers on a GSM carrier like AT&T or T-Mobile who value simple software and good build quality. The Nokia 2 isn't the flashiest phone around, but you don't expect pizazz when you're paying a Benjamin for a full-featured smartphone. The only thing it's missing — and this is a big one — is a fingerprint sensor, meaning you'll have to revert back to using a PIN for security.

Is it a good time to buy this phone?

Not necessarily. The followup Nokia 2.1 was released globally earlier this month, though it hasn't made its way to the U.S. just yet. It brings some welcome spec updates that might be worth waiting for.

Reasons to buy

  • Clean software experience
  • Nice aluminum design
  • Large 4100mAh battery
  • Decently quick performance

Reasons not to buy

  • New model coming soon
  • No fingerprint sensor or NFC
  • Doesn't work on Sprint or Verizon

There are other great sub-$100 phones

If you're on Verizon, Sprint, or any of their prepaid subsidiaries, the Nokia 2 won't do you any good since it's a GSM-only phone. Even if you are on a GSM network like T-Mobile, sometimes there are better options offered by your carrier — you might also just not like the Nokia 2's design or specs.

In any case, there are plenty of other good phones to choose from that are priced below $100.

Runner-up

Alcatel 1X

At just under $100, the Alcatel 1X is a good alternative to the Nokia 2.

The Alcatel 1X doesn't look like much, but its tall 5.3-inch display is great, and it's got all the specs necessary to power Google's version of Android that's optimized for entry-level smartphones.

The Alcatel 1X doesn't have the the Nokia 2's nice metal build, but it does feature an 18:9 display, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and Android Oreo. Like the Nokia 2, it's only compatible with GSM carriers, but it serves as a good alternative to Nokia's offering with more modern hardware features.

Best on Verizon

Moto E5 Play

The Moto E5 Play is a great prepaid phone for Verizon customers.

The Moto E5 Play doesn't have the 18:9 display or huge battery of the rest of Motorola's refreshed lineup, but it still features a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of microSD-expandable storage.

The Moto E5 Play is largely unchanged from last year's Moto E4 — but we liked the Moto E4 too, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. This is one of the few remaining phones with a user-replaceable battery, and the included Moto app allows for some software conveniences that other phones in its price range lack, like the ever-useful Moto Display.

Best on Cricket Wireless (AT&T)

LG X Charge

The X Charge's huge battery will outlast any other phone in Cricket's lineup.

AT&T's Cricket sub-brand has a great selection, including the LG X Charge for $79.99 (at least for new lines). It's got a big 5.5-inch HD display, a quad-core processor, Android 7.0 Nougat, and a massive 4500mAh battery.

The X Charge doesn't run as clean of software as some of the other options in this list, but its 5.5-inch display is the largest of the bunch, which makes it great for watching YouTube and scrolling through social media on, and the massive battery will keep it running all day.

Best on MetroPCS (T-Mobile)

LG K20 Plus

Decent specs and speedy performance at an affordable price.

With the K20 Plus, you get a 1.4 GHz Snapdragon 425, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. The 5.3-inch 720p display barely draws any power from the 2700mAh cell inside, and the 13MP camera isn't half bad either.

The K20 Plus is a bit of an older device now, but it still touts a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor and decent specs. The removable back is textured to keep the phone from slipping out of your hand or pocket, and like the Moto E5 Play, the battery is removable, so you can carry a spare on a busy day and stay charged up.

Best on Boost Mobile (Sprint)

Moto E5 Play

Your best bet for clean, modern software for cheap on Boost.

The Moto E5 Play is one of the few phones under $100 that still runs a current version of Android, and while its specs aren't anything mind-blowing, they're enough to keep the phone running smoothly.

One of the Moto E5 Play's biggest advantages is its wide network availability. The phone works just as well on Boost as it does on Verizon (or unlocked), and comes even cheaper than usual; Boost seems to have the best deal on the Moto E5 Play, running you just $60.

Bottom line

Whether you're shopping for a phone made just for your network or you want an unlocked phone that you can take with you to the next carrier, there's a surprising amount of good phones under $100.

Customer discounts could land you a better deal depending on your carrier, but for most people on a GSM network, there aren't many deals better than the Nokia 2.

Updated August 2018: The Moto E5 Play has become our top pick on Verizon and Boost.

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