Three Solid Android Phones for Around $500

Olde Timey $500 Bank Note

Today’s post from yours truly is not about the Nexus 6P, despite the fact that I got to play with Howard’s loaner from Huawei over lunch yesterday. Today’s post is about some other phones that were on the table.

It was around this time last year that Google announced the Moto-made Nexus 6, a gargantuan phone with a gargantuan price tag—well past the $500 I’ve traditionally budgeted for my annual purchase of an unlocked phone. This year a 128GB 6P is again right up there at $849 CAD, which begs the question: What can $500 get you nowadays?

Moto X Play – $400 CAD (plus unlock code)

I believe this is currently Howard’s favourite mid-range Android device. It’s also the only variant of this year’s Moto X line that you can get in Canada. It features solid Moto build quality and a camera that’s vastly improved over last year’s models—possibly even the Nexus 6.

The 16GB of onboard storage can be expanded to 128GB via microSD. The bootloader can be unlocked with a code from Motorola. The bad news is that you’ll only be able to purchase it from your carrier, and will have to pay extra if you want to free it from your carrier’s SIM.

For our American friends, the Moto X Pure Edition is the no-brainer purchase at $400 USD unlocked.

OnePlus 2 – $479 CAD (64GB version)

It’s hardly a 2015 flagship killer (and certainly not a 2016 one), but now that I’ve actually seen it I can say that it’s not actually such a bad choice for your hard-earned $500—provided, of course, that you can make do without NFC.

In addition to the 64GB of storage out of the box, the OP2 offers some more unique features that you won’t find on the Moto: a fingerprint reader, dual SIM support and, perhaps most importantly, a camera with optical image stabilization. From what I’ve been reading it’s a big improvement over the non-OIS camera on last year’s OnePlus One.

The bootloader can be unlocked without anyone’s permission, and the availability of custom ROMs will likely be second only to Google’s Nexus line.

There is, of course, the matter of securing an invite, and also legitimate concerns about the company’s future. OnePlus’s bombastic marketing has really backfired this time around, and the fact that the company’s co-CEO wants to intern at Samsung is just… weird.

Nexus 5X – $559 CAD (32GB version)

Though technically more than $500 (in Canada), and not present at yesterday’s lunch, I’m adding the 5X to this list after reading Ron Amadeo’s exhaustive review at Ars Technica.

There’s only 32GB of maximum available storage and 2GB of RAM, but the camera and sensor on the back are identical to the much more expensive Nexus 6P. And even this “budget” Nexus does better in benchmarks than the still-available Moto Nexus 6.

Throw in the unlockable bootloader or, alternately, the straight-from-Google updates and you’ve got an astonishing value here. I’m seriously considering it for my 2016 device… and I haven’t even seen one yet!

So there you go, three recommendations for a reasonably-priced Android phone. Oh, and one more thing… Howard has three OnePlus 2 invites to give away. If you want one, leave a comment below!

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