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Best affordable Android smartphones already on Lollipop

According to official Android distribution numbers harvested by Google during the week leading to May 4, a measly 9.7 percent of all devices with the world’s most popular mobile OS inside run 5.0 or 5.1 Lollipop.

Android Lollipop

That’s certainly disappointing, given 5.0 source code was freely disseminated back in early November 2014 and Android M’s “final” release is a few months away, tops. Ecosystem fragmentation clearly remains an issue, nay scourge in dire need of a universal cure.

But alas, there’s no such thing. The best we can do to fight the widespread epidemic is probably not commit to a handheld or tablet for over a year, and replace them as soon as they show their first signs of wear, tear and imminent software oblivion.

Lollipop

Either that, or resign ourselves to the lag of fresh OS flavor distribution. Not in a million years? We didn’t think so, which is why we’ve compiled a list of ten low-cost phones flaunting Lollipop goodies today. All available under $300 off-contract stateside, these can be replaced with M-powered newcomers in the fall or winter sans remorse:

10. Samsung Galaxy S4 – $290

Well, hello there, old friend! Good to see you looking so young past your conventional prime, despite launching when Jelly Bean was still a thing. We wouldn’t hold our breath for a forthcoming 5.1 update, but 5.0 will do, as long as memory bleeds are a thing of the past.

galaxy-s4-lollipop

Remember, the GS4 is a couple of generations behind the times, so it can’t afford to waste a single MB of RAM. It’s “only” got 2 gigs in total, plus a decrepit octa-core 32-bit Exynos 5410 chip in tow.

9. Samsung Galaxy Alpha – $284 AT&T unlocked

Something old, something new, something metallic, something… dazzling white. Pre-installed with 4.4 KitKat, but upgradeable to 5.0.2 Lollipop worldwide. Endowed with a generous 32 GB of native storage space, though unfortunately short of microSD external expansion possibilities.

samsung_galaxy_alpha_lollipop

Still a great bargain, offering fingerprint recognition support, octa-core Exynos 5430 power, 12 MP photography skill and a wasp 6.7 mm waist.

8. Sony Xperia Z Ultra – $280 factory unlocked

As is the case with most gizmos on our list today, the Z Ultra has recently begun its global Lollipop spread, so certain territories may need to give it some time. A few weeks, worst case scenario. LTE-enabled on US GSM networks, the 6.4 incher was a big deal, literally and figuratively, when it debuted on store shelves.

Xperia Z Ultra

Almost two years ago, that is, so part of the phablet’s mojo dwindled. Not the Snapdragon 800 muscle, IP58 waterproof robustness, 6.5 mm delicacy or stylus, pen and pencil functionality. Bottom line, it’s a must-buy for folks who believe size matters.

7. Sony Xperia C3 – $255

It really would have been outrageous if Sony squarely brought Lollipops to Xperia Z family members, considering the C3 is one of the most feature-packed phablets in its price range. 5.5-inch 720p screen, 8 MP rear cam, 5 MP selfie shooter, quad-core Snapdragon 400 SoC, 1 GB RAM, microSD card slot.

Xperia C3

What more could you want at a little over a third of Galaxy S6’s no-contract costs?

6. Sony Xperia T2 Ultra – $235

To answer our own question, 13 megapixel camera dexterity is certainly better than 8 MP, and many will also favor T2 Ultra’s gigantic 6-inch IPS LCD panel over C3’s “minuscule” footprint. Of course, this is no selfie champ, with a humble 1.1 MP snapper slapped on its face, and the odds of scoring a 5.1 promotion, let alone 6.0 (5.2?) Marshmallow seem microscopic.

Xperia T2 Ultra Lollipop

5. LG G2 – starting at $208

A fellow Galaxy S4 classic, LG G4 and G3’s ancestor is rapidly closing in on its demise, so don’t be surprised if the handful of lingering Amazon listings begin to vanish before long. The rear physical button pioneer, this ultra-compact 5.2 incher that’s nearly 76 percent screen is at the end of the software support road, so in a way, it’s the perfect transitional device while you wait for “Macadamia Nut Cookie” treats.

LG G2 Lollipop

4. Asus ZenFone 2 – $199 with 2 GB RAM and 16 GB storage; $299 in 4/64 gig configuration

First, a piece of advice. If you can afford to choose, go with the upper-tier version. It’s totally worth it, sailing through multiple graphics demanding games at once like no other Android soldier before it. Besides, 300 bucks is a ridiculously low tag for what’s ultimately a high-end product.

Asus ZenFone 2

Full, not Quad HD, with frugal Intel Atom inside, a 13, not 16 or 20 MP camera, but the best multitasker the mobile landscape has to offer at the moment. And yes, guaranteed to jump on the M bandwagon soon after merely seeing the light of day last month powered by Lollipop.

3. Motorola Moto G (2nd generation) – $179.99

Budget mobile tech consumers, things can’t get much better than this. Stock, up-to-date software, the solid promise of additional support, wide American carrier compatibility (no 4G LTE, though), spacious and sharp 5-inch HD display, punchy quad-core Snapdragon 400 CPU, 1 GB RAM, microSD capabilities, 2,070 mAh battery juice.

Moto G 2014 Lollipop

Seriously, what are you waiting for? Go ahead, buy the 2014 G, get one for your parents, GF and best friend. It’s so cheap yet so awesome that you won’t spend much, but still look like a hero.

2. Motorola Moto E (2nd generation) – $143

Willing to trade screen real estate and great pixel count for “universal” LTE connectivity? Meet the 2015 4.5-inch 960 x 540 E. Already upgradeable to Android 5.1, this is no doubt on its sure way to battery efficiency-enhancing M.

Moto E 2015

Not that it needs radical autonomy enhancements, what with its more than respectable 2,390 mAh cell. Granted, the cameras are pretty crappy (5 and 0.3 MP), but on the bright side, the S410 processor is 64-bit Lollipop-ready, contributing to superior speed and system stability.

1. Motorola Moto G (original) – $139.50

Bet you forgot all about the non-expandable 8 GB storage-packing 4.5 incher released in late 2013. We don’t blame you, and while it’s not inexpensive enough to return under the limelight… yet, it definitely has more discounts in the pipeline.

Moto G

Then, at, say, $120, maybe $100, you’ll surely move past the 5 MP cam, 2,070 mAh battery and outdated design inconveniences. Remember, 720p display resolution, Snapdragon 400 heat and AT&T and T-Mobile 3G access.