X
CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Best phones to take back to school

Want a new phone that looks good, helps with study, but maybe doesn't cost as much as your brother's new haircut?

Jennifer Bisset
Jennifer Bisset
Jennifer Bisset
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
Jennifer Bisset
payphone1
1 of 9

Phones, like laptops and notepads, can make great study companions. They just happen to make calls and send Snaps too. Here's a list of phones to help you succeed in the new school year.

samsunggalaxya801.jpg
2 of 9

Samsung Galaxy A8 and A8 Plus

While excellent, the Samsung S8 is more expensive than a small car. For a midrange price with similar premium touches, the Samsung A8 and A8 Plus will be your go-tos once Samsung officially makes them available in January.

lg-stylo-30969
3 of 9 James Martin/CNET

LG Stylo 3

Damn. You've forgotten your laptop and your backup notepad, but at least you have your LG Stylo 3. With its built-in stylus and 5.7-inch screen, you'll look like you're actually taking down notes, not playing a Pokemon emulator. Best Buy and Boost Mobile sell this phone for AU$120.

motorola-moto-g5-plus-5.jpg
4 of 9

Motorola Moto G5 Plus

I'll have a flat white with a side of CNET's current best budget phone to go. The Moto G5 Plus comes with Android 7.0 Nougat, Google Assistant, a really good camera and 4K video. It feels like a much expensive phone than its AU$339 price tag from Officeworks.

moto-x4-8809-006
5 of 9 Josh Miller/CNET

Motorola Moto X4

The Moto X4 is a phone that's just right for anyone looking to spend some of their pocket money, but not all of it. Its two rear cameras, onboard Amazon Alexa voice assistant and a 5.2-inch screen skew it toward the premium end. JB Hi-Fi is selling it for AU$699.

htc-u-ultra-product-13.jpg
6 of 9

HTC U11 Life

See that? That's one beautiful blue, squeezable body, at a bargain price. The HTC U11 Life has the flagship U11's squeezable sides that quickly bring up your favourite app, one for taking notes, for instance. This is the phone to grab for good looks. Look for it when it launches in Australia, which HTC confirmed it would do, possibly running with Android One.

iphone-7-un-ano
7 of 9 César Salza / CNET

iPhone 7

The Apple logo blares in lecture theatres from everyone's MacBooks, so why not go for the iPhone 7 as well? Especially now that the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X are encouraging price drops. The iPhone7 is AU$799 on Kogan.

But what about those slowed batteries? Apple is attempting to make amends. It's making replacement batteries cheaper and creating software that tracks battery health. Keep calm and battery on.

galaxy-active-s8-8918-027
8 of 9 Josh Miller/CNET

Samsung Galaxy S7 Active

If you're so sleep-deprived from school that you keep forgetting to charge your phone and accidentally dropping it, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active is for you. It has long battery life, shatter resistance and a durable body. Hope you like the army look. You can get it for AU$539 on BecexTech Australia.

iphone-se-34
9 of 9

iPhone SE

If you really want an iPhone but not the price, get your hands on the iPhone SE, Apple's cheapest of the line. It's retro, fast, pocket-friendly and has a solid camera. Kogan has it for AU$499.

More Galleries

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera
A houseplant

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera

20 Photos
Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra
magic-v2-2024-foldable-1383

Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

10 Photos
The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum
Samsung Galaxy S24

The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum

23 Photos
Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design
The Galaxy S24 Ultra in multiple colors

Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design

23 Photos
I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites
img-0368.jpg

I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

34 Photos
17 Hidden iOS 17 Features You Should Definitely Know About
Invitation for the Apple September iPhone 15 event

17 Hidden iOS 17 Features You Should Definitely Know About

18 Photos
AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?
img-1599-2.jpg

AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

17 Photos