Back to school phones

The school year is barreling down towards you like a freight train laden with knowledge and the last thing you need is the headache of figuring out which new phone to get. Hopefully we can pare down the decision-making process for a you a little bit with these suggestions. We're going to be looking at budget-conscious phones with a sense of style and enough horsepower to get through a busy courseload.

Moto E 2015

For students, the budget is often the bottom line, and you'll have a hard time finding anything that offers better value for money than the latest Moto E. For a pittance you get a fully capable 1.2GHz processor with 1GB of RAM, 4.5-inch 549x960 display, 5MP rear camera, and software running on Android Lollipop. The interchangeable bumpers provide a nice amount of hardware customizability, though maybe not as much as other Motorola handsets. Keep the price tag in mind when looking at those specs rather than putting the Moto E next to the top-of-the-line alternatives. For what you pay, you get an outstanding overall experience.

ASUS ZenFone 2E

The ZenFone 2E manages to offer a whole lot of phone for the price. It's got a 5-inch 720x1280 screen, 1GB of RAM, and a dual-core 1.6GHz processor. You'll find plenty of settings tucked away inside, though the ZenFone 2E is a tad heavy on extraneous preloaded software. Luckily it can all be disabled with relative ease. In the U.S. this is currently an AT&T GoPhone exclusive, which may limit your options. There's the bigger brother, the ZenFone 2, which you can use more liberally and even enjoy a second SIM card slot.

Moto G 2015

The latest Moto G is just as well-suited for the back-to-school crowd as its smaller cousin, the Moto E. Though it's a bit more expensive, you'll get some more hardware customization, expandable SD storage, a 5-inch 1280x720 display, 13MP camera on the back, 1GB of RAM and 1.4GHz quad-core processor. Big spenders can upgrade it to have more built-in storage and twice the RAM for $40. The Moto G's stock Android software is very well-finished, and overall performance exceeds expectations for most phones in the price range.

OnePlus 2

If you have a bit of wriggle room in your budget, and need more horsepower than the lower-end phones can provide, the OnePlus 2 is a solid pick. It can handle your gaming needs, and the off-contract price is right. Under the hood is 4GB of RAM, a 64-bit octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor, with a 5.5-inch 1080p display on top. On the downside, you'll need to find an invite somewhere in order to buy one. Better start making some friends. A slightly lower-end version with less internal storage will also be available for $330, as soon as it's in stock.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3

The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 is a slim, smooth phone with some solid front-facing speakers. All told, the Idol 3 offers 16 GB of local storage plus microSD, 2GB of RAM, a 64-bit octa-core processor, 5-inch 1080p screen, and a generous 13MP camera.

Anyone on a CDMA carrier will be out of luck getting one of these, but if you're in the U.S. on T-Mobile or AT&T (or any of its prepaid branches), the OneTouch Idol 3 is great bang for buck.

Your picks for back to school Android phones?

Those are our favorite phones for students, but we're eager to hear your picks. Drop a link — along with your reasoning — in the comments!

This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure policy for more details.