Best overall

Moto E4 (with ads)

See at Amazon

The Amazon-exclusive Moto E4 is a $130 phone reduced to $100. The catch? You’ll get ads and offers from the retail giant on your lock screen, which may or may not be a deal-breaker depending on how you like to use your phone. (We’ve got a good breakdown of what those ads look like).

Otherwise, you’re getting a decent entry-level Android phone for not a lot of money at all. The Moto E4 looks a lot like the Moto G5, but tones down some of the specs, offering a quad-core Snapdragon 425, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and an 8MP camera powering the 5-inch 720p display. It all runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat with some great Moto adds-ons.

Bottom line: Putting up with lock screen ads allows you to get a $130 phone for $100. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than you’d otherwise get for the cash.

One more thing: It’s unlocked, so you can use it on any carrier of your choice. And if you know where to look, there are some places on the Internet that’ll help you take care of those pesky ads.

Why the Moto E4 is best

Amazon plugs the price gap with offers on your lock screen.

With ads from Amazon, or without ads from Verizon, the Moto E4 gets you a great core Android experience — fast software, thanks to Motorola’s hands-off approach towards customization — and decent specs all-round.

It’s not the flashiest or showiest smartphone, with a relatively generic design, but you don’t expect pizzaz when you’re paying a Benjamin for a full-featured smartphone. The phone also retains the impressive features of its more-expensive Moto G5 counterpart, including a great autofocus camera and a front fingerprint sensor.

Best ad-free

Moto E LTE

Moto E LTE

See at Amazon

The unlocked Moto E LTE can be used on any supported network, and doesn’t come with any of the bloatware you’d expect from the U.S. carriers. And better still, it’s only $70. It’s powered by an aging but still-capable Snapdragon 410 processor, and you get a 4.5-inch qHD (960×540) display. And there’s only 8GB of storage, so an SD card will be an essential purchase.

Bottom line: A great, small phone that may be older than the Moto E4 but doesn’t come with any ads for under $100.

One more thing: You’ll definitely want to snap up a microSD card.

Best on Verizon

Moto E4

See at Verizon

If you’re on Verizon prepaid, you can snag our best overall pick, the Moto E4, for even less than the ad-filled one from Amazon. While this version will be locked to Verizon, it’s also just $70.

Bottom line: Trading ads for bloatware gets you Moto’s best super-cheap phone for less — if you’re on Verizon.

One more thing: Don’t expect software updates to be as quick as the unlocked version.

Best on Cricket Wireless (AT&T)

LG Harmony

See at Cricket Wireless

If you want to get a prepaid phone from one of the big four carriers, your choices are limited, but AT&T’s Cricket sub-brand has a great selection, including the LG Harmony for $100. It’s got a big 5.3-inch HD display, a quad-core processor, 2800mAh battery, and Android 7.0 Nougat.

Bottom line: LG’s got a strong prepaid game these days, and the Harmony is no exception.

One more thing: Don’t expect many updates with this phone. That’s the price of prepaid.

Best on MetroPCS (T-Mobile)

Samsung Galaxy J3 Prime

Galaxy On5

See at MetroPCS

MetroPCS’s Galaxy J3 Prime packs in the essentials for a good deal less than $100. You’re dealing with an entry-level quad-core processor, at 1.4GHz, 1.5GB of RAM, and a familiar Samsung-style chassis.

The biggest difference is the network — if you’re in a great location for T-Mobile coverage, you’ll be able to take advantage of this decent phone at MetroPCS.

Bottom line: You’ll get Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box, which is rare for a phone this cheap.

One more thing: The phone is also available on T-Mobile, but it’s over double the cost for some reason.

Best on Sprint

Samsung Galaxy J3 Emerge

Moto G3

See at Sprint

Deja vu? Sprint’s Samsung Galaxy J3 Emerge is basically the same phone that’s sold on T-Mobile, only in a slightly different color, and running older software. You get the same core experience and feature set, only with a less up-to-date operating system and on a network that may be more convenient for you.

Bottom line: Unlike its Tmo-toting counterpart, the Galaxy J3 on Sprint ships with Marshmallow not Nougat.

One more thing: Virgin Mobile stopped selling Android phones, so your only bet is to get this phone on Sprint.

Conclusion

You’ll need to put up with the occasional ad, but Amazon’s offer of a Moto E4 for under $100 is really hard to beat.

Best overall

Moto E4 (with ads)

See at Amazon

The Amazon-exclusive Moto E4 is a $130 phone reduced to $100. The catch? You’ll get ads and offers from the retail giant on your lock screen, which may or may not be a deal-breaker depending on how you like to use your phone. (We’ve got a good breakdown of what those ads look like).

Otherwise, you’re getting a decent entry-level Android phone for not a lot of money at all. The Moto E4 looks a lot like the Moto G5, but tones down some of the specs, offering a quad-core Snapdragon 425, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and an 8MP camera powering the 5-inch 720p display. It all runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat with some great Moto adds-ons.

Bottom line: Putting up with lock screen ads allows you to get a $130 phone for $100. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than you’d otherwise get for the cash.

One more thing: It’s unlocked, so you can use it on any carrier of your choice. And if you know where to look, there are some places on the Internet that’ll help you take care of those pesky ads.

Update June 2017: We’ve replaced the previous top choice, the Moto G Play, with the newer and better Moto E4, and have revamped some of the carrier choices because they were either no longer available, or no longer the best options.



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