A Nexus 5X from Project Fi is the best $199 Android phone you can get

A few weeks ago, my mother's scratched, cracked and generally destroyed Moto X 2014 finally gave up the ghost — the screen turned off, and it wasn't coming back on again. Being that she bought it at a discount already, it wasn't worth paying upwards of $150 to have the screen replaced. Instead, she sent me looking for the best phone for her around $200. It had to be relatively compact, have simple software she was familiar with and work on T-Mobile.

I thought about maybe what T-Mobile could offer in its prepaid store. I looked around eBay and deals sites for refurbished phones. I considered "budget" offerings like the Moto G4 and Honor 5X ... and then I realized the best phone for the money was right under my nose: I could buy a Nexus 5X from Project Fi for the fantastic price of $199.

At its original list price of $349, the Nexus 5X doesn't make sense for too many people — it can get a little slow sometimes, the hardware isn't top-notch and the speaker is weak. But when you cut that price by over 40% to $199, sold directly by Google brand new, the situation changes a bit.

The Nexus 5X offers the best $199 phone experience.

For $199 the Nexus 5X is a stunner. The external hardware isn't too visually interesting, sure, but it's built well and the screen is better than the price indicates. The speakers aren't as good as the Nexus 6P, but they're again better than this class of phone. The camera is slow, but the end results challenge flagship phones and leave other $199 models in the dust. Best of all (especially for my mother) is the clean and simple software experience, where it's not loaded up with tons of carrier bloat and cruft that just gets in the way and becomes confusing. And I can rest assured she'll get monthly security updates and platform version bumps for the next couple of years.

And not only is $199 an amazing price, Project Fi offers no-interest financing to make it even easier to buy. Just $8.29 per month for a great phone; $10.38 per month if you opt for the 32GB version.

Sure not everyone has a friend or family member with a Project Fi account to buy them a discounted Nexus 5X (or wants to sign up themselves, though I'd recommend you consider it), but if you have that option available I'm not sure how you can pick another phone for $199. When you're looking at phones in this price category there will always be compromises aplenty, so it's all about choosing the phone that does what you need — in this case the solid, affordable phone with a great camera and known software upgrade path wins. And my mom is loving her new Nexus 5X.

Andrew Martonik

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.