The $400 Android phone showdown!

Today's flagship smartphones are so bombastic and feature-packed, it's easy to forget that many cost upwards of $700. As I was recently reminded when a certain company announced pricing for a certain device I was planning to buy, that's an awful lot of money. In 2016, you can get a lot of smartphone for less than half that – and the proof has been sitting in MrMobile's studio for several months.

Join me as I take today's top $400 Android smartphones for a test drive! From the strange innovation of Alcatel's IDOL 4S to the build quality of ZTE's Axon 7 to the sheer beauty of Huawei's Honor 8, we'll see what each phone brings to the table ... and where each falls short. You may come away with some new additions to your holiday shopping list, or at least a revived appreciation for your $700 flagship.

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63 Comments
  • This is just awesome! Edit: I also liked how he pointed out different things that each phone is nice at, They are all nice choices, it just depends on what you want/need the most in a phone personally. Honor 8 is it for me for what it offers, and it's also smaller than the OnePlus 3. OnePlus 3 is a solid all-around device.
  • I watched a video comparing how hot phones got compared to the Note 7. The Honour 8 got extremely hot. I personally would buy this phone looking at the temperature it got to. https://youtu.be/AWqWMvII34c
  • Interesting video. In the month or so I have had the Honor, it's never been too hot to touch. Maybe when charging, but otherwise nope.
  • Winter is coming. You will need a hot phone.
  • When I check thermals on my Honor 8 with CPU-Z or AIDA64 the SoC cluster temps report as high.
    Actually everything measures higher compared to other phones.
    The Honor 8 CPU runs at 108 degrees idle according to AIDA64 the 117 degrees reported by CPU-Z. I'm wondering if the sensor utilities have difficulty with accuracy since the Honor is using the Kirin chip?
    The Honor 8 I own has never felt warm to me so I'm curious about this high temp thing now.
  • Oneplus 3 for me
  • one+ 3 ;-)
  • Also, used/refurb/nearly new flagships in great condition are often around $400 or less. So that's another option.
  • That's usually my preferred option. A used Galaxy S7 right in this price range in the UK.
  • Excellent point. I've not done it with a smartphone yet but pretty much all my PC's have been refurbs, don't think I've had a single problem in any of the 4/5 I've had over the years.
  • I would go Oneplus 3 > Axon 7 > Honor 8.
  • OPO still has a bad dac chip lawd they still don't have micro SD support ugh.
  • Nexus 6P can be bought for $400 on Amazon right now. Brand new.
  • Really like the suggestions based on what the viewer might value the most. I'd like to see a camera comparison between some of these mid-priced standouts and the top flagships. I keep hearing the mid-level phone cameras are getting close to the top spec phones, but without direct comparisons it's impossible to tell how much quality or reliability of good exposures, speed, etc. you give up when moving from something like a Galaxy S7 to a OnePlus 3.
  • I like the honor a lot. It's great looking, has a very good camera, and pretty good battery life. It's the one that I'd buy. I like the oneplus as well, but I just don't trust them for updates. I know honor aren't great on that front either, but probably better.
  • Honor 8 for me, the deal I got was impossible to beat. Plus, it just works, I don't feel the need to tinker. OP3 wasn't available through Amazon except through insanely priced 3rd party resellers, and the Axon 7 connectivity issues made me wary of it, plus it wasn't available at times to order. The size of the Honor 8 suits me better, I've used 5.5 inch devices and they felt awkward. And to the people saying Used/Refurb/etc, depends on how much faith you have in the previous owner. And the Nexus 6P doesn't really compete with these, except maybe for the OP3 since that's a tinkerer's device.
  • The places I buy used phones from come with a year's warranty, so there's not much to worry about. If you get a dud you can just send it back for a refund or replacement.
  • Where do you buy them?
  • I buy from a company called CEX in the UK, they sell online as well as having stores all over the country, so it's easy to go try them out in person before buying, or return them in person. I've bought 4 phones and 2 tablets from them, and will probably buy my next phone from them too.
  • I know the shop you use. However I find them quite expensive. I have even seen used phones in there that are more expensive than you can buy them on the High Street in places such as Argos. You really do have to be look around before you buy.
  • With brand new phones, you're absolutely right, and I've seen the same thing. E.g iPhone 7s currently selling for more than retail. Occasionally with others, that really don't make sense, but they're rare. However, give it 6 months to a year and the prices really come down, especially for android phones. For example you can get a GS7 as low as £350 depending on network and colour. That will be under £300 for most models by the time the S8 comes out, easily. That happened with the S6, at least. That's when I'm buying, probably.
  • Think most people referring to refurbs from reputable companies with warranty etc. O2 do a refresh deal in the UK where you can upgrade your phone 12 months in to a 24 month deal and the return phones are refurbished and resold. Great idea in principle. Can generally by cheaper on eBay but you're trying your luck on an independent retailer with no idea of the quality of the warranty.
  • Oh sweet. Been waiting for this video to drop. Watching now!
  • Since I didn't want to go rush and buy another flagship after I return my Note 7, I went with the Moto Z Play. For $348 before tax and a free battery mod, it was an easy choice for a short-term device, especially since I really enjoyed the Z Force. I'll likely get the Pixel XL later this year from the Google Store after stock settles in.
  • I'm in for the Moto Z Play as well. I just like the look of it and my 1st gen Moto X never r let me down. Where did you find it for $348 before tax?
  • I ordered it directly from Moto's site and used two promo codes to bring the price down. Moto is including a free Incipio battery mod with every Z Play purchase. It probably won't be needed for the phone due to its already amazing battery life, but I won't say no to more. haha
  • With all the rave reviews, and the fact that a phone isn't much unless you have the battery life to use it ... I'm gonna pull the trigger on a Moto Z Play too. Now I've just got to find those promo codes ;)
  • You will not be disappointed. I go days where the drive to work plugged into my car for Android Auto is the only time I do plug it in. Insane battery life for me. Love the style shells too and speaker mod. Best phone I have owned hands down.
  • Black Honor 8 here.
    Very satisfied with it.
  • All of these lists that I've been seeing keep leaving the Moto X Pure Edition (2015) off of the list, despite putting phones on there that cost more and have lower specs. I get that it's - technically - last year's phone, but Moto still sells it as a brand new model, still offers Moto Care protection, and it currently can be had for less than $300. QHD screen, 801 processor, 3 GB ram, 32/64 GB storage, microSD storage, 20MP camera, runs Android 6.0 with the expectation of upgrade to 7 by next quarter.
  • *808
  • The X is a great phone but I gave it up for the idol 4s. The 652 benchmarks better than the 808. The idol has a better screen IMO, fingerprint scanner, better speakers, better battery life (although they're both 3000mah, the idol just lasts longer). Best part is that idol doesn't even come close to the heat issues that i've experienced with the X.
  • To me there's no just no comparison for the 808 to the 820 or the kirin950 in the honor 8. I owned a pure edition and sold it due to camera lag and gaming stutter.
  • Axon7 allows for dual sim or sdcard.
  • Honor 8 does as well.
    Op3 has dual sim but no as card.
  • I might actually get a Moto Z Play.. Some users are reporting 10 hours SOT without the battery mod. Are you kidding me? Why can't all phones be like that?
  • That's one thing that draws me to that phone. My current phone can get that kind of battery life (sometimes) and it's one of those things that once you have, you don't want to go back.
  • Go for it! This is the first legit 2 day battery phone I've used. I love mine.
  • I have 14 hours SOT with my Z play. very nice feeling not have to think about batterylife anymore, I can do what I want I can't kill it's battery in just one day :)
  • I just watched this video before seeing this post. I have to say it was one of the more in depth looks at each phone. I hadn't yet seen an in depth look at the AXON and I considered buying it for a while, but knowing that it didn't have a polished version of android definitely turned me off.
  • Love my axon 7
  • My Axon 7 has been flawless for me. I use Nova Prime as my launcher. I'm not exactly sure what people want when they say "polished".
  • To me the only competition I had when deciding was between the axon 7 and the op3. I went with the op3 and it is officially the best phone I've owned.
  • Wow. How much do these guys get paid to praise a phone to the public.
  • Nothing. Aside from the fact it would ruin his hard earned and well regarded professional credibility - do you think if Michael was getting paid to endorse a phone, he'd talk so highly of it's 4 main competitors? Of course not.
  • How dare you diss the king of all smartphone reviews! Michael Fisher is anything but biased and anything but a sell out. While everyone was flocking to Samsungs he was an avid supporter of Motorola.
  • +1
  • The implication there being that those "flocking" to Samsung were sellouts? Because I don't believe that either.
  • I'm happy with my axon
  • Yes
  • Me too. After two weeks I still have not run into any issues.
  • I'm a huge fan of the Galaxy note line. I ran across an article on the Oneplus 3, being the spec junky I am, I had to buy one at its price point. I tried not to like it, as it wasn't a note lol, but I have absolutely fallen in love with the OP3!!! I can easily rant on as to why but I'll stop here. I hope OnePlus lives on for a very long time!
  • What are people wanting to see when they say they want a "polished version of Android"? I use the Axon 7. I came from the Note 4 and the LG G4. All three of these phones are running MM. The Axon 7 blows the other two away in performance and battery life. The camera is better in the G4. The Note 4 has the s-pen. Interface seems to be similar in all three. I mean, I can find what I need in the settings etc without too much trouble. Reasons I went with the Axon 7 over the OP3 are QHD screen and SDCard storage. Akso I can go to the local Best Buy and look at it instead of trusting a random review that claims it "feels great to hold".
  • I love my op3 and they have been great with updates since it has come out. My gf just got the honor 8 a couple weeks ago and loves it. The two of them are imo the best, the honor 8 being best under 5.5 That's just me though. I'm apparently an odd duck, considering that I switched from the s7 to the OP3 and consider it to be an upgrade.
  • Nice job - as always. The value offered by these phones is all the more remarkable when compared to the Google Pixel offerings, which cost $250-$400 more but whose main selling point (when compared to Samsung, LG, Apple, etc. flagships) is fast software updates.
  • moto Z play , the very best, no competition, own league, nice job.
  • If I had to pick, it would be the Axon, mainly due to its audio prowess. But here's the breakdown. Axon 7 for media and audio (and VR with Daydream)
    Honor 8 for features and looks
    Idol 4S for VR and also media
    Moto Z Play for battery life and modular accessories
    OnePlus 3 for being a great all-rounder
  • I've had a Moto Z Play now for 2 weeks. It's incredible. Feels like any flagship phone performance wise to me. The only negative I can find is the camera but it's not that big a negative. It takes good pics in most circumstances. It looks like it will be getting N before the year is up too. Highly recommended phone.
  • Declaring the Oneplus 3 the winner here is an absolute cop-out. Don't get me wrong, it's absolutely, unapologetically AMAZING, but it's way too OVERHYPED considering the facts that... 1/ it does not have a microSD slot, which is unacceptable for a mass market, midrange device - I mean, Samsung repented after removing them with Galaxy S6 and Note 5 and people LOVED them for bringing it back with Galaxy S7. And while 64GB is plenty, remember Asus released a 128GB Zenfone 2 (and 3) and that STILL supported microSD cards! Why Oneplus omitted it (even with a hybrid slot) is ridiculous.
    2/ The camera chops is middling compared to the Honor 8 with its more granular controls and tricks with the additional Monochrome sensor, and
    3/ when the other midrange phones get updates, they actually fix things. OxygenOS 3.2.4 BROKE LTE AND ANDROID PAY for virtually ALL Oneplus 3's, as supposed to a few complaints about stability issues with say, Idol 4S. Ultimately, I'd get the Axon 7 because literally only the LG V20 has better acoustic capabilities than the Axon. But Michael is right, now's never been a better time to buy a mid range Android phone that runs amazingly well and make the flagships squirm and get scared...
  • I only see one problem with all these "under $400" phones I've tried, Idol, OP3, Axon 7, Honor 8, and that is, at least from my own personal experience here in the US, on AT&T, is the cell signal strength, reception, LTE data signal are all much weaker than any other phone I've owned. I like a lot of things on all these phones, liked some of the different software tweaks on each, the design, the screen quality, build quality, but if I can't depend on the phone to actually be reliable as a PHONE, then the price, camera, great screen quality, looks, software all start to not matter when you can't make a phone call, or miss important calls. All returned except the OP3 because I missed the 15 day return policy by 1 day. Back to using my Nexus 6 and happily not missing phone calls or constantly looking to see if I have a signal. The Oneplus 3 is going on eBay or Swappa.
  • and to any run on Verizon...
  • the Moto Z Droid runs on VZ
  • They all seem to be pretty good. It's a difficult choice I'm trying to make now. But I think I'll wait to see what LeEco brings.