Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy lines are some of the most popular smartphones on the market, but they’re also pricey. Unless you get some sort of discount from your carrier, the latest models will easily cost you $600 or more.

However, it’s still possible to find a great phone from a lesser-known manufacturer with tons of features, often at a lower price. Here are four essential steps to take when trying to find the perfect off-brand phone for you.

1. Commit to Android

When it comes to smartphones from lesser-known brands, you’ll get the most for your money by choosing a model that uses the Android operating system, for two main reasons.

The first reason is variety. There are a huge number of Android devices on the market — in the third quarter of last year, 88 percent of all smartphones shipped were Android.

The second reason you’ll want to go Android is the weakness of the other options. There is no non-Apple iOS phone on the market, so that’s not a possibility. Also, Android devices receive much greater support from app developers than the likes of BlackBerry or Windows phones.

Unless you can’t get away from BlackBerry’s physical keyboards, or you’re devoted to using Microsoft products, Android should be a no-brainer when choosing an off-brand phone.

2. Factor in your carrier

The second thing to consider when looking for an off-brand phone is your service provider. Are you using a traditional carrier such as Verizon or T-Mobile, or taking the pre-paid route with no annual contracts?

If you’re using a traditional carrier, signing a contract can get you great discounts on Android phones from companies such as LG, HTC or Motorola.

For example, Verizon offers the HTC Desire 530 for as low as $6 per month when you sign a contract, or you can get an LG Stylo 2 V for free.

If you’re using a pre-paid service provider, browsing big-box outlets such as Walmart is a good way to get a feel for the phones that are available and how much they cost. There are so many Android phones on the market, and this is a good way to compare them head-to-head based on your wants and needs.

3. Determine your price range

The next step is to figure out your budget, and how you’d like to pay for your phone.

If you don’t mind signing a contract with a carrier, you can get a very good phone for between $5 and $10 per month. That typically spreads your payments out across two years, however, and some people prefer not to make that commitment.

The good thing about pre-paid options is you don’t have to sign a long-term contract, but the tradeoff is you need the money for your phone up front. The newer and higher-quality the phone, the more you’ll have to pay. That said, it is possible to find newer-model used phones that cost far less than the brand new models, which could save you some of that up-front cost.

4. Prioritize your features

The final step to finding an off-brand phone is to ask yourself which features are most important to you. Do you want more onboard memory so you can save lots of photos, songs and videos on your device? Or do you place a higher premium on processing power so your apps run lightning-fast?

No matter your preferences, there’s a good chance you’ll want a quality camera. Many websites rate and review smartphone cameras to help you determine which device might be right for you.

Apple and Samsung are the staples of the smartphone industry, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only two companies that make great phones.

Follow these four steps, and it won’t take long for you to find an off-brand phone you love.

If you’re still not sure where to start, check out some of these:

Images by Jack Moreh, UnsplashAlok Sharma, Rawpixel and Jack Moreh

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