I love flagship phones, but I’m always a little concerned when I take one with me, say, kayaking, or to a concert. Summertime is full of such potentially phone-ruining events, so if you’re worried about the safety of your thousand-dollar pocket computer, consider grabbing one of these cheapo alternatives as a backup.
Moto e5 Play — $130
The sun may be slowly setting on Moto’s smartphone empire under Lenovo’s stewardship, but the brand is still a big name in the budget space. For just $130, you can snag a Moto e5 Play, equipped with a Snapdragon 425 and two gigs of RAM. It’s a bit of an odd duck in that the unlocked and various carrier versions have hardware variations; the model Verizon sells has a fingerprint scanner, for example, while most others don’t. It also charges over microUSB, which isn’t ideal. Still, it does all the basic phone stuff you’d need while you’re camping or whatever.
Nokia 3.1 — $139
The Nokia 3.1 is in the same performance boat as the above e5 Play. It’s about as basic as a smartphone gets, with a low-powered chipset (this one’s a Mediatek, though) two gigs of RAM, and a microUSB port. It’s still plenty capable of making calls, sending texts, and streaming media through apps like YouTube and Spotify, though.
In his review, Corbin praised the 3.1’s build quality and battery life — two key factors in a device expressly meant for using while you’re out and about. And it’s so cheap, you won’t lose much sleep over the thing falling into a ravine.
Nokia 6.1 — $184
It’ll cost you a bit more than the 3.1, but the Nokia 6.1 is a bit larger and a bit more capable, with a Snapdragon CPU and an additional gig of RAM. Plus, it’s got USB-C. The 3.1’s strong suits carry over here — the 6.1 is solidly built and will see you through a full day of use with ease. It’s still got a lackluster camera, but good luck finding a new phone under $200 that doesn’t. You can read Jordan’s full review here.
- Best Buy
Moto G7 — $230
The Moto G7 might not be as exciting prior generations — Ryan said it lacks the G-series magic — but at $230 unlocked (or cheaper with carrier activation) from Best Buy, it’s a strong contender for backup phone duty. With a handsome design and solid performance, the G7 would serve a lot of users well even as a primary device, and it makes for a pretty luxurious knocking-around phone.
Pixel 3a — $399
If you’re buying a $400 phone as a backup, odds are good you’re not too worried by the prospect of having to replace a flagship anyway. But for a certain type of consumer, the Pixel 3a makes a lot of sense as an on-the-go second-tier device: it’s got a killer camera to take pictures of all your outdoor activities, and its plastic build makes it more durable than a lot of high-end glass phones. Be advised that it’s not water resistant, though.
The 3a isn’t the type of device you’d mindlessly throw around, but its more rugged build and lower price mean you don’t have to baby it the way you might a device that costs twice as much. For more info, head over to David’s full review.
If you’ve never lost or busted a phone, the notion of buying a secondary, cheaper device that you half-expect to destroy might seem silly, but think of it like an insurance policy: hopefully it won’t happen, but if it does, you’ll have saved yourself a lot of trouble. Plus, if you break your regular phone in the course of your normal activities, you’ll have another to fall back on. Pick one of these up and don’t stress out while you’re on vacation.