Cheap Cell Phones On Sale for College Students

Though routinely short on cash, college students are always looking for a cool and powerful smartphone for basic phone calling, internet, music and other phone apps. Here are a bunch of cheap cell phones on sale with price discounts that are also durable and  have many satisfied customers.

Review Guidelines

Overall I’ve chosen these four smartphones that are in an affordable price range of between $90 to < $200. All of these phones support the 4G standard and therefore have good speed and many basic apps come pre-installed.

I intentionally did not review any of the higher-priced phones are these phones already have great features. Why would you want to spend more when all the great features you need are already available in these lower-priced phones?

Since all of these smartphones are unlocked, you are not tied to any particular cell phone carrier and can easily switch the cell phone provider by simply replacing the SIM card. It is usually preferable to have an unlocked phone so that you are not limited to one carrier and can switch the phone company in case of any issues.

There are two technology standards used by cell phone companies, one is GSM and the other is CMDA. GSM stands for Global System for Mobile communication and CMDA stands for Code Division Multiple Access, Don’t worry about what that means technology-wise.

Just know that most lower-priced phones will only support one of them and not the other, but a few may support both the standards. Therefore, once you purchase your unlocked phone, you should choose a cell phone company that is compatible with the standard that your smartphone supports.

If all of this is confusing, just visit a cell phone showroom and ask them to test your phone with a trial SIM to see if your phone is supported with their service.

Moto E5
(2018) 16GB

  1. Smartphone Model: Moto E5 (2018) 16GB
  2. Look and Feel: Very
    Cool/ Gray
  3. Carriers: GSM
    Carriers Like AT&T T-Mobile etc
  4. Durability: Great, It is a good for Rough Use
  5. Call Quality: Good
  6. Pros: Great Phone for the price, Easy setup, Waterproof, Good
    graphics and camera
  7. Cons: May not work internationally, Will not support CDMA
    Carriers Such as Verizon, Sprint
  8. Overall Rating: 4.8

This Motorola smartphone is my TOP pick and it is also one of the most affordable ones in this price range. It has a cool finish and look-and-feel and the best part is that it has a sturdy finish and does not get damaged even if accidentally put in water.

The only thing I don’t like about it is that it has a non-removable battery so it may be more difficult if you need to fix the phone by disconnecting and then re-inserting the battery. That is not possible in this phone.

LG Stylo 5

  1. Smartphone Model: LG Stylo 5
  2. Look and Feel: Stylish/ Silvery White
  3. Carriers: All Major US Carriers
  4. Durability: Good
  5. Call Quality: Good
  6. Pros: Light-weight, Alexa and Amazon apps, Stylus for precision drawing
  7. Cons: Camera quality is inferior to similar price-range phones
  8. Overall Rating: 4

The best thing about this smartphone is that it supports all major US carriers whether they are GSM ones or CMDA providers. In any case, always test your phone with the service before signing up for any phone service contracts.

There are a few other details about this phone that make it really attractive. It has a fast processor at 1.8 GHz which gives it good speed and performance. If you like drawing with precision, it comes with a nice stylus and even has a coloring book app where you can import pictures and edit them to your liking!

This phone also comes with many Amazon apps including Amazon Alexa which you can start simply by double-clicking the power button. Alexa is basically a virtual assistant just like Ask Google and you can ask questions and have the pp search the internet and read out the answer to you almost instantaneously.


  1. Smartphone Model: BLU VIVO X5-5.7″ HD
  2. Look and Feel: Professional/ Black
  3. Carriers: CDMA Networks like Verizon, Sprint and Boost Mobile
  4. Durability: Average
  5. Call Quality: Good
  6. Pros: Great Phone Features for the price, 2 SIM Card slots (including 1 Nano card slot), Camera is good
  7. Cons: It has some Bluetooth issues, Does not support GSM Carriers such as AT&T or T-Mobile
  8. Overall Rating: 4.5

 The best part of this smartphone is the affordable price which is less than about $100. The other amazing thing is that it has slots for 2 SIM cards and one of them is a Nano slot. Nano SIMs are smaller and thinner than regular SIMs and are found nowadays the Nano slots are found in many phone devices.

The look-and-feel is also very professional and it is a nice sized smartphone for the price and quite comparable in features to many of the higher-priced smartphones. The additioanl storage memory is also a nice feature to have.

Samsung Galaxy J2 Core

  1. Smartphone Model: Samsung Galaxy J2 Core
  2. Carriers: GSM Carriers Like AT&T, T-Mobile, MetroPCS
  3. Look and Feel: Regular look/ Black
  4. Durability: Flimsy, can get damaged if dropped
  5. Call Quality: Ok
  6. Pros: Works great internationally with many GSM Carriers
  7. Cons: Phone might hang and may need restarting periodically, calls get dropped
  8. Overall Rating: 3.5

I would recommend this phone if you are looking for a smartphone that can easily used both in the US and while traveling internationally. In case some of your family lives abroad or you have a need to travel overseas during college holidays, then this is the best phone for you to have.

Then you will not miss any calls when you are traveling and can continue to use the same phone without having to go to the trouble of purchasing another phone and service while traveling.

Also, the default storage is higher than the other listed phones here at 16GB+ 64GB. So you will be able to store more pictures and so on before having to buy another micro-SD chip for extending the storage capacity. Other than that, this is an ok phone but you would be far better off with one of the other phones mentioned above if don’t need the additional 64GB storage and if you do not intend to travel anyway.

Feature-by-feature Comparison

Galaxy J2 Core (16GB)
Moto E5
(2018) 16GB
VIVO X5-5.7″ HD
Stylo 5
No Yes No Yes
Dual SIM
(Micro-SIM, dual stand-by)
SIM (Nano-SIM)
1 Nano
SIM slot + 1 more SIM card slot
Camera 8MP Main
Camera f/1.9, 28mm, 5MP Front Camera
Camera 8 MP f/2 0 1 12µm Front Camera 5 MP f
13MP A.I
Main Camera with Flash + 8MP Front Camera with Flash
MP PDAF Rear Camera +5 MP
wide-angle front-facing camera
Processor Exynos
Quad-core 1.4 GHz
1 4 GHz
1.6GHz processor
1.8 GHz
Storage 16GB +
64GB SD Bundle
16GB 64GB
Internal memory
32 GB
Display 5.0-inch
HD540 x 960
5 7″
Max Vision 720 x 1440 pixels
HD+ 18:9 Curved Glass Display
FHD+ FullVision Display (2160 × 1080)
Galaxy J2 Core (16GB)
Moto E5
(2018) 16GB
VIVO X5-5.7″ HD
Stylo 5
8.0 (Oreo)
Android 9
9.0 (Pie)
Black Gray Black Silvery
Li-Ion 2600 mAh battery
4000 mAh
Removable 2800 mAh
3500 mAh
Weight 8 ounces 14.1
8 ounces 1.64
gets damaged if dropped
Rugged Average Somewhat
Unlocked? Yes Yes Yes Yes
cards including AT&T, T-Mobile, MetroPCS, Etc.
Carriers Like AT&T T-Mobile etc
Networks including AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket, Metro PCS, and
with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon and all major US
Not Supported
Carriers Such as Verizon, Sprint, Boost.
Carriers Such as Verizon, Sprint
Networks like Verizon, Sprint and Boost Mobile
No Yes No No
Bluetooth Yes Yes No No
No Yes Yes Yes
Yes Yes No No
Memory slot
up to 256 GB
up to 128 GB
Micro SD
up to 64GB
Can add
up to 2 TB of microSD


As you have seen so far, the Motorola Moto E5 (2018) is the top pick and a cool, sturdy and rugged phone to have. For international travel, go with Samsung’s Galaxy J2 Core.

If you want a phone that supports both CMDA and GSM technology, then the LG Stylo 5 is your best choice. It also has good speed at 1.8 Ghz frequency for the phone’s processor. It is also the most light-weight among these four affordable smartphones.

The BLU VIVO X5 comes with 2 SIM card slots where one of them is a Nano slot, so you may want to take advantage of this feature.

I wish you the most affordable and durable smartphone for your college needs. If you have any additional questions, just let me know via email or FB so I can take a look.

Happy shopping!

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12 thoughts on “Cheap Cell Phones On Sale for College Students”

  1. This is really perfect for me right now. I wanted to get a phone for my son. He just broke his iPhone and I am not financially capable of buying another for him right now. Hence, this is really great for me. I will possibly just order one of these. The prices are unimaginably very cheap and that’s really great. Thanks so much

  2. First, I must admit that these products are some of the finest I have seen in the market and their quality is very okay for anyone to make use of. Going by these cheap prices for which they come, anyone would gladly jump on the offer.  Smartphones have become a necessity in our current world and with these products for cheap prices, anyone can afford for himself. 

  3. I remember the time when I was a student and the money never came to me. I dreamed of having a performance phone but it was very expensive and I couldn’t afford it. Reading your article I realize how much technology has advanced and that there is no longer a weak phone. All are high performance, have a touchscreen, powerful processor, high memory, etc. I really like the LG Stylo 5 with Alexa Push-to-Talk – Unlocked – 32 GB – Silvery White and I think I’d buy it now. The LG guys have always made good phones and at the price of only $ 160 this phone is all I would need. 

    • Yes, technology has advanced quite a bit and a great phone for an affordable price is definitely possible nowadays! Thank you for your feedback :))

  4. First of all thank you so much for sharing such an excellent article with us. Your article is really informative and I gained a lot of knowledge from here. I am a college student so I needed the most affordable and durable smartphone and I purchased the LG Stylo 5. Because it is the most affordable and durable smartphone for me, it also has good speed and it is the lightest weight. This phone supports both CMDA and GSM technology. All in all, this is my best choice.

    • Shanta, I’m glad you like the LG Stylo 5 and I wish you a great experience with your new phone :))

  5. Hello Padma Subramanian,

    Thanks for sharing this article with us. Actually my younger brother looking for a cell phone in cheapest price because he is a student and can not  afford expensive phone now. And I just got your article, I’m so happy! Samsung Galaxy is my all time favorite brand and I think Samsung Galaxy J2 Core is perfect for him. Specially he has habit to taking photo a lot so, 16GB+ 64GB is more than enough to store it. I just love your article keep sharing!

  6. Wow, thanks so much for this accurate and very beneficial information for our college kids Padma. I really love the Samsung galaxy because of its international flexibility. And your description really matches one of similar qualities which helped me a lot as I traveled to another country. Do you think the Samsung Galaxy J2 core could improve to a 3GB RAM while maintaining the same price? That would be great news to its consumers, what do you think?

    • Akon, adding RAM to a phone is not possible for most folks including myself. Instead I would look at why you need more RAM. Is it to install a new app? If so, for adding new apps you only need additional SD storage which is easily achievable with a micro SD card. This Samsung Galaxy J2 already has 16GB+ 64 GB of storage by default.

      Or if an application is slow and you think it could be due to Ram, just make sure to close all other apps before running this high-Ram-usage application. The only other and probably the most practical option is to just choose a different phone. The LG Stylo I’ve highlighted has 3 GB RAM and the other two Moto E5 and BLU VIVO X5 have 2 GB of RAM each.

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