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The ReviewGist pick for the best cellphone under $500 is the OnePlus 3. The OnePlus 3 is the third iteration from the nimble Chinese upstart OnePlus and by the looks of it they have finally managed to nail a flagship offering at a budget-to-premium price. The OnePlus 3 displays flagship capabilities across the board and is retailing right now at a decidedly mid-range $400 price point.

The OnePlus 3's flagship slaying credentials include a 6GB RAM, 64GB storage, a capable 16-megapixel camera, and a stamp by ExpertReviews:

With its blistering speed, incredible battery life and mid-range price, the OnePlus 3 shows other flagship smartphones how it's done

And CNet goes on to recommend it as the Best budget Android phone ever:

Best budget Android phone, period.
At $400, the OnePlus 3 is the best budget Android phone you can buy, with a premium look and feel, and performance fast enough to go head-to-head with any high-end handset on the market.

The runner up to our list of the best smartphones under $500 is the Apple iPhone SE. The iPhone SE is the latest horse from the Apple stable and looks as good as the rest of its fabled peers. It has a relatively smaller footprint at 4 inch wide and a cheaper price point, but is to the money with respect to everything else.

Browse All Top Cell Phones Under $500 - 2016 »

Top Contenders for the Best Cell Phone Under $500 - 2016 Compared:

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OnePlus 3
Apple iPhone SE
Huawei Nexus 6P
Xiaomi Mi 5
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+
OnePlus 3
Apple iPhone SE
Huawei Nexus 6P
Xiaomi Mi 5
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+
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Release Date
Jun 2016
Apr 2016
Sep 2015
Mar 2016
Aug 2015
Digital Camera Resolution
16.0 MP
12.0 MP
12.3 MP
16.0 MP
16.0 MP
Installed RAM (GB)
6.0 GB
2.0 GB
3.0 GB
4.0 GB
4.0 GB
Screen Size(Diagonal)
5.5 inch
4.0 inch
5.7 inch
5.15 inch
5.7 inch
Front Webcam Resolution
8.0 MP
1.2 MP
8.0 MP
4.0 MP
5.0 MP
Processor Type
Dual-core 2.15 GHz Kryo & dual-core 1.6 GHz Kryo
Dual-core 1.84 GHz Twister, A9
Quad-core 1.55 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A57
Dual-core 1.8 GHz Kryo & dual-core 1.36 GHz Kryo - Standard edition, Dual-core 2.15 GHz Kryo & dual-core 1.6 GHz Kryo - other editions, 1.3GHz  quad-core, Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2.1 GHz Cortex-A57
Battery Capacity
3000.0 mAh
1624.0 mAh
3450.0 mAh
3000.0 mAh
3000.0 mAh
Operating System
Android OS, v6.0.1 (Marshmallow)
iOS 9.3, iOS 9.3, iOS 9.3.2
Android OS, v6.0 (Marshmallow)
Android OS, v6.0 (Marshmallow), Android 6.0
Android OS, v5.1.1 (Lollipop)

  • The Chinese startup has improved on a number of issues fans had with its predecessor, wrapping the OnePlus 3 in a new premium suit and managed to keep the price low enough to worry the established names in the market.

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    But probably the best thing about the OnePlus 3 is that this dualistic nature doesn't really leave much room for major dilemmas. If it is right for you you'll know it and there's little to no fine print.


  • After three previous attempts, OnePlus has finally managed to get everything right with the OnePlus 3. This is a phone which excels in every department, and OnePlus has even fixed the issues we had with reliability and build quality on some of its previous devices. The inclusion of important features such as NFC, an accurate fingerprint sensor, an excellent Amoled screen and fast charging also finally means that this is a phone that checks all of the boxes.However, the OnePlus 3 isn't completely perfect. Although 64GB of internal storage will in all likelihood be enough, a lot of people will have an issue with the fact that storage cannot be expanded.


  • One of the most unique things about the Apple iPhone SE is that it's in a class of its own: there is no other phone of such size that's even remotely as powerful. It's the only high-end mini phone you can find on the market, safe for the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact. So why is that? Is it because people no longer want small phones, or is it because people who fancy small phones today usually don't need them to be fast and powerful? I think there's definitely place on the market for high-end small phones.


  • Apple's really dialled back the screen and design to hit the price point - but it's still a brilliant phone for the subset of people that still crave a small phone.

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    The fans got what they wanted - an updated iPhone 5s. Apple got what it wanted - depleted stocks, millions waiting to get the SE model. Like it or not, the company got it right once again, and there is little to dwell on - the iPhone SE may not be perfect, but it is pretty awesome in Apple kind of way. It's also everything that it says on the tin - big on the inside, and small on the outside.


  • Huawei, in the end, stands to greatly benefit from the Nexus 6P. Its name on the back of the phone might be overshadowed by the humungous Nexus moniker that’s splashed on there as well, but it very well has deeper implications to its reputation. The Nexus 6P is without question, the single best designed Nexus device since the series’ genesis.


  • The Google Nexus 6P is one of the best unlocked smartphones you can buy, thanks to a heady combination of powerhouse hardware, an excellent camera, a reliable fingerprint scanner, and the promise of the latest Android updates.


  • Google's Nexus 6P is easier to hold and easier on your wallet, compared to the Nexus 6 from a year ago. New features, like a fingerprint sensor, reversible USB-C port and a better camera, are the selling points for this all-metal Android phablet.


  • While the Xiaomi Mi 5 is a great all-around smartphone, only customers in China and India will be able to score it at bargain prices, starting at the equivalent of around $300 for the 32GB model. Shoppers from the rest of the world can buy the Mi 5 from eBay and other web stores, but chances are they'll end up paying a higher price.

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    Build quality is excellent; the metal frame makes up for the dual Gorilla Glass 4 tenderness for slippery. The lightweight body and slim profile, plus choice of materials make for a stunning looker.
    The display is great: it offers 600+ nits of brightness, high contrast, and very good sunlight legibility. The minimum brightness is superb for night reading, the blacks are deep enough, and the viewing angles are decent.
    Battery life is excellent with an endurance rating of 92h.
    Rich wireless connectivity options.


  • The Xiaomi Mi 5 is a fantastic, affordable device that should have the big boys quaking in their boots.


  • The Galaxy S6 Edge+ shows some of Samsung's best, and worst, tendencies. It's a gorgeous phone with some of the finest hardware available right now, but its key feature is relatively useless, and still somewhat experimental. 


  • - It comes down to this: The Note 5 and Edge+ are great phones.
    - With about 10 minutes of customization—downloading the right theme and hiding the right apps—they’re exceptional phones.
    - The camera bumps out of the back in such a way that the phone wobbles every time I touch it while it’s resting on a flat surface, and the glassy back feels pretty slippery.


  • A year ago, the conversation about Samsung revolved around design. Or more specifically, the lack of it. Devices such as the Galaxy S5 were technically solid and performed well, but were just plain ugly. Samsung’s insistence on sticking with plastic materials didn’t help either — nothing makes an ugly phone worse than when it feels as cheap as it looks. A year later, the conversation is completely different.


More tips on picking the best smartphone under $500

The latest feature to come in the best smartphones below $500 is the quad/octa core processor capability. Now available in limited number of high end phones, this feature offers four/eight processors to divide the processing task and hence offers very powerful multitasking capabilities. This feature is not required by basic users, but offers faster web browsing and quicker response times with multitasking.

Top 5 cell phone under $500 - 2016:

  1. OnePlus 3
  2. Apple iPhone SE
  3. Huawei Nexus 6P
  4. Xiaomi Mi 5
  5. Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+