The ultimate Android buyer’s guide: Top 15 high-end smartphones priced between Ksh 25,000 and Ksh 50,000

A few years ago, we only had a handful of Android smartphone makers in the Kenyan market selling high-end phones, but today, things have changed.

Many Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) have now started seeing the massive potential in the market and this has led to an influx of smartphones that offer top-notch specs and features. While this means smartphone buyers are spoilt for choice, it also means that deciding which phone to buy is now much harder than before, but there’s little to worry about because we’ve got your back.

Without wasting too much of your time, let’s dive right into the top 15 flagship smartphones (2017 and 2016) that you can buy right now priced at under Ksh 50,000, with some selling for as little as Ksh 26,000.

Nokia 8

Unless you were born on Mars, Nokia shouldn’t be a new name at all. The tech giant has already unveiled several budget Android phones that include Nokia 3, Nokia 5 and Nokia 6, but with the Nokia 8, you’ll be getting HMD Global’s top-tier flagship for 2017. Although the phone is officially selling in Kenya priced at Ksh 60,000, it’s also available through several third parties priced at Ksh 49,500 or even a little cheaper if you dig deeper.

Nokia 8

For this price, you’ll get a Nokia 8 phone featuring a 5.3-inch LCD display screen with QHD resolution and protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. The camera on the back has two Carl Zeiss-inspired 13MP lenses with OIS, PDAF, and dual-tone LED flash, among a myriad of other features, while the front has a 13MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture, PDAF and a wide angle view of 78.4 degrees.

The Nokia 8 has Android 7.1.1 Nougat running the show out of the box and it has already received the beta version of Android Oreo. The battery capacity is a 3090mAh unit and supports fast charging via a USB-C port, but you still get a 3.5mm audio jack. The fingerprint scanner is front-mounted.

Xiaomi Mi 6

Let’s be honest. Xiaomi is not that popular in Kenya, but the company has some really nice phones. In fact, the best, powerful smartphones in Kenya that are also affordable are without a doubt Xiaomi’s, if you ask me. And the first example is the Xiaomi Mi 6, one of the company’s 2017 flagships. Unveiled a few months ago, the Mi 6 replaces last year’s Mi 5 (more on this later) and with it comes an amazing package with massive raw power, yet priced at an unbelievable price, especially compared to the competition.

Like the Nokia 8, the Xiaomi Mi 6 also ships with this year’s top-tier processor, the Snapdragon 835. However, the phone has a superior 6GB RAM alongside 64GB of non-expandable storage. It’s a little more compact with a 5.15-inch full HD LCD display screen that is protected by Gorilla Glass 4, but it has the same Android 7.1.1 Nougat out of the box, although a little heavier than Nokia’s. Still, it should get Oreo, but the date is not yet known.

Xiaomi Mi 6

The Xiaomi Mi 6 also comes with a dual 12MP camera on the back with 4-axis OIS, 2x optical zoom, PDAF and dual-tone LED flash while the front has an 8MP unit. Keeping it alive is a much better 3350mAh battery unit that supports fast charging via a USB-C port, which also doubles as the audio port – there’s no 3.5mm audio jack. The fingerprint sensor is front-mounted.

Right now, the Xiaomi Mi 6 can be yours for Ksh 49,999, but there’s a high-end model with 128GB storage priced at Ksh 57,000.

HTC U Ultra

HTC hasn’t been getting much credit for the latest efforts it has directed towards its smartphone division. But you’ll agree that there’s just something about the new HTC U series, which kicked off with the HTC U Ultra. Unveiled in January, the U Ultra was actually among the first flagship smartphones to be released this year.

Since it came at a time when the 2017 Snapdragon 835 processor had not been released, HTC went for the most immediate version, the Snapdragon 821. This processor was released towards the end of 2016 as the successor, albeit more powerful, to the Snapdragon 820 that powers most phones released in the first half of last year.

With this in mind, the HTC U Ultra is still among the best when it comes to performance hardware. Alongside the Snapdragon 821, you also get 4GB RAM and 64GB of expandable storage while the cameras have a 12MP sensor on the back with f/1.8 aperture, OIS, PDAF and dual-tone LED flash; and a 16MP front sensor with support for auto-HDR and 1080p video recording. There’s Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box with a planned upgrade to Oreo.

Keeping the HTC U Ultra alive is a 3000mAh unit that supports fast charging via a USB-C port. There’s no 3.5mm audio jack, which is a disappointment you’ll have to learn to live with, but you get a front-mounted fingerprint scanner. As for the display screen, the U Ultra has a 5.7-inch Super LCD5 panel with a QHD resolution and Gorilla Glass 5 on top. To get this package, you only need Ksh 38,599, which is one of the best deals on this list, if you ask me.

Best Android phones in Kenya

But there’s even more for you, especially looking at the best phones from 2016. Read on!

Xiaomi Mi 5/Mi 5S/Mi 5S Plus

As noted earlier, Xiaomi is not that popular in Kenya, but the company is slowly making its way into the market through unofficial channels, bringing with it some of the most powerful yet affordable smartphones you can think of. For instance, the latest Xiaomi Mi 6 packs more powerful hardware than the Galaxy S8, HTC U11, LG G6 and others, yet it is much cheaper than any of them. It gets even better when you check out the phone’s predecessors – the Xiaomi Mi 5 series.

The OG Xiaomi Mi 5 was released in early 2016 alongside the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. Being a flagship, the Mi 5 packs high-end specs and features similar to other high-end phones released in H1 2016. These include a 5.15-inch 1080p display screen, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 3GB RAM, 32GB of non-expandable storage, a 3000mAh battery with support for fast charging, a 16MP lens on the back with 4-axis OIS, PDAF, dual-tone LED flash, a 4MP selfie camera, and a front-mounted fingerprint scanner. The phone comes preinstalled with Android Marshmallow, but an update to Nougat is already available. We also expect Xiaomi to update it to Oreo, but we cannot guarantee this.

Then there’s the Xiaomi Mi 5s and Mi 5s Plus. These two are immediate successors to the Mi 5, more so the former, which comes with the same 5.15-inch 1080p display screen, but gets snappier with a Snapdragon 821 processor, 3GB RAM and 64GB of non-expandable internal storage. The camera on the back has a 12MP lens with PDAF and dual-tone LED flash while the front gets the same 4MP unit. To keep it alive is a bigger 3200mAh battery unit that supports fast charging technology. You also get a front-mounted fingerprint scanner.

The Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus, as the name suggests, is the bigger version of the Mi 5s. The phone keeps some of the specs, but it has a bigger 5.7-inch display screen with a 1080p resolution, a dual-lens 13MP camera on the back, 4MP for selfies, 4GB RAM, a bigger 3800mAh battery unit with support for fast charging and runs Marshmallow out of the box. Unlike the Mi 5s, you get a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner.

Best Android phones in Kenya

The Mi 5 can be yours for Ksh 28,000 while the Mi 5s is priced at Ksh 30,000 via Phones Arena Kenya. As for the Mi 5s Plus, it’s priced at Ksh 38,000 for the base model while the high-end variant, which has 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, is priced at Ksh 44,500 on Avechi.

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Xiaomi Mi Note 2

When Samsung Galaxy Note 7 failed to live up to its hype, Xiaomi attempted to fill the void left behind with the Mi Note 2, a Galaxy Note 7 look-alike that didn’t live up to its expectations. Perhaps it’s why the Mi Note 3 looks so different from its predecessor, but it’s not as powerful. Being a phone that came to take the place of the flagship Note 7, the Xiaomi Mi Note 2 packs the same design language with curved edges and a 5.7-inch AMOLED panel, but with a full HD resolution.

The hardware specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC, 4GB/6GB RAM, 64GB/128GB non-expandable storage, a 22.5MP camera on the back with EIS, PDAF and dual-tone LED flash and an 8MP unit for selfies, which also includes autofocus. The battery is huge at 4070mAh and supports fast charging and for the OS, you get Android Marshmallow out of the box, but it’s upgradable to Nougat and hopefully Oreo. As expected, the fingerprint scanner is front-mounted, same as the Note 7.

To get your hands on the Xiaomi Mi Note 2, you need Ksh 40,000, which is a decent price tag for such a powerful smartphone.

HTC 10

The HTC 10 is the last flagship phone from the company with a metallic unibody design and a 3.5mm audio jack. At a discounted price tag of just Ksh 36,899, you won’t regret a thing about the 10. As you would expect from any flagship phone, the phone has the best hardware from 2016, including a 5.2-inch SuperLCD5 display screen with a QHD resolution and Gorilla Glass 3 protection, a Snapdragon 820, 4GB RAM and 32GB of expandable storage. The phone’s camera is among the best even today – a 12MP unit on the back with all the bells and whistles while the front gets a 5MP unit, which is only one of the few phones that have optical image stabilization (OIS) on the selfie shooter.

To keep the HTC 10 alive is a 3000mAh battery unit that supports fast charging and for the software, there’s Marshmallow out of the box, but you can expect updates up to the latest Android Oreo. The 10 has a front-mounted fingerprint scanner and as pointed out earlier, it also happens to be the last flagship phone from the company to feature a 3.5mm audio jack.

Best Android phones in Kenya

LG G5/LG V20

Like HTC, LG’s smartphone business hasn’t been enjoying the best of times in recent years. This can be seen by the sharp discounts already hitting the LG G6, but it gets even better when looking at last year’s LG G5 and LG V20.

The LG G5 is unique in that it comes with a modular design – a design that allows users to add accessories to the phone to enhance the performance, for instance, battery life or camera quality, among others. Other than this, the G5 has the same hardware specs as other 2016 flagships, including a 5.3-inch QHD display screen with Gorilla Glass 4, a Snapdragon 820 SoC, 4GB RAM, 32GB of expandable storage and a 2800mAh removable battery with support for fast charging. There’s a dual-lens 16MP+8MP camera on the back with laser AF, 3-axis OIS and LED flash while the front gets an 8MP unit. Software-wise, you get Marshmallow out of the box with a ready update to Nougat. The fingerprint scanner is on the back.

As for the LG V20, you get the same internals, but there are notable differences. For instance, the V20 is not modular, it has a bigger 5.7-inch QHD screen with a secondary display on top, a bigger 3200mAh battery (although still removable), 64GB of expandable storage and comes with Nougat out of the box. The camera setup on the back remains the same, but you get a better 5MP sensor for selfies. These are top-tier phones and as such, you can expect all the top features you see in other flagship smartphone cameras.

For the price, the LG G5 will set you back Ksh 37,499 while the LG V20 can be yours for Ksh 47,399.

Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge

I know there are Samsung fans out there who really hoped for a flat-screen version of the Galaxy S8, but this isn’t happening, at least for those in markets that don’t sell the S8 Active, including Kenya. If this is you, the best you can do is the 2016 Samsung Galaxy S7, which has a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display screen with a QHD resolution and Gorilla Glass 4 on top. Under the hood, the Kenyan variant of the Galaxy S7 has an Exynos 8890 processor paired with 4GB RAM and 32GB of expandable storage.

The back of the S7 has a 12MP camera while the front gets a 5MP unit. In terms of software, the Galaxy S7 comes pre-installed with Marshmallow, but an update to Nougat is already available. The phone will also be updated to Oreo, probably early next year. To keep it alive is a 3000mAh unit that supports fast charging. To buy the Galaxy S7, you need about Ksh 47,399, which is a little too expensive for a 2016 flagship smartphone, if you ask me.

If you still want to get your hands on those beautiful curves but the price of the Galaxy S8 is still too high, the Galaxy S7 Edge has the same specs as the S7, but it gets a bigger 5.5-inch QHD display screen with curved edges and an even bigger 3600mAh battery unit. This will set you back Ksh 49,999, which is the better deal, if you ask me.

OnePlus 3 and 3T

Known to few, OnePlus is the new kid on the block. The company has been around since 2014, but it’s only until recently that OnePlus phones have started coming to Kenya through third-party sellers. The latest OnePlus 5 is the best, but it goes for no less than Ksh 55,000. On the contrary, the slightly less powerful OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T can be yours for Ksh 39,999 and Ksh 43,999, respectively.

For either price tag, you’ll be getting some of the most powerful smartphones to be released in 2016. Both OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T ship with a 5.5-inch AMOLED display screen with a full HD resolution, a Snapdragon 820 on the former and Snapdragon 821 on the latter, 6GB RAM, 64GB non-expandable storage, a 3000mAh battery on the former and a 3400mAh unit on the 3T. Both have support for Dash Charge fast charging technology.

The duo has a near vanilla Android experience that is based on Marshmallow out of the box, but an update to Oreo will be available before the year ends. For the cameras, you get 16MP shooters on the back of both phones with OIS, PDAF and dual-tone LED flash, but the OnePlus 3 has an 8MP selfie shooter while the 3T has a 16MP selfie sensor. The fingerprint scanner is front-mounted on both phones and the button doubles as the home button.

BlackBerry DTEK60

Like Nokia, BlackBerry also decided to join Android after numerous failed attempts to beat the Google-owned platform. The BlackBerry Priv was the first to be released with Android, but there’s an even better BlackBerry DTEK60, which came out last year.

Best Android phones in Kenya

Yes, I know the name sounds weird for a phone, but this is not about names, rather, it’s about the bang you get for your shilling. The DTEK60 is a flagship phone that packs high-end specs and the current price of Ksh 40,199 makes the deal even sweeter. The phone has a 5.5-inch AMOLED QHD display screen with a scratch-resistant glass, a Snapdragon 820, 4GB RAM, 32GB of expandable storage, a 21MP main shooter and an 8MP sensor on the front.

BlackBerry says that the software running on the DTEK60 makes it one of the most secure smartphones on the planet. It’s easy to believe BlackBerry’s claim given that the company has earned itself a reputation for writing some of the most secure software applications. Keeping the BlackBerry DTEK60 alive is a 3000mAh battery that supports fast charging and for the fingerprint scanner, it’s rear-mounted. The DTEK60 runs Android Marshmallow out of the box, but you should receive an update to Nougat, at least.

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Huawei P9/P9 Plus

Huawei is a household name in Kenya. This year’s Huawei P10 and P10 Plus have already been released, but their price tags are nowhere near what we are looking for. As a result, your best chance of owning a recent Huawei flagship that is priced at below Ksh 50,000 is last year’s P9 or P9 Plus.

Where the Huawei P9 ships with a smaller 5.2-inch display screen, the P9 Plus has a bigger 5.5-inch panel. However, both have a full HD resolution and Gorilla Glass 3 on top. There are more similarities on the inside, where the two have a Huawei-made HiSilicon Kirin 955 processor paired with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage on the P9 and 4GB RAM and 64GB storage on the P9 Plus. The dual cameras on the back are the same Leica-powered 12MP units, but the 8MP selfie shooter on the P9 Plus is better than the 8MP unit on the standard P9.

Best Android phones in Kenya

Due to the bigger size, the Huawei P9 Plus also gets a bigger 3400mAh battery unit compared to the 3000mAh unit used on the standard P9. Both support fast charging, have Marshmallow out of the box (upgradable to Nougat and possibly Oreo) and have rear-mounted fingerprint scanners.

Right now, you can have the Huawei P9 for Ksh 34,199 while the P9 Plus can be yours for Ksh 40,199.

Sony Xperia X Performance/Xperia XZ

Sony launched a new X series in 2016, which kicked off life in the flagship end with a Sony Xperia X Performance. If you want a compact phone that is also very powerful, the X Performance offers just that. The phone has a 5-inch 1080p display screen with a scratch-resistant glass on top, a Snapdragon 820 SoC, 3GB RAM, 32GB of expandable storage and Android Marshmallow out of the box, which is upgradable to Oreo.

For the optics, the Xperia X Performance has a massive 23MP shooter on the back with PDAF and LED flash while the front gets a 13MP shooter for selfies. The battery keeping the X Performance alive is a 2700mAh unit, which isn’t bad considering the screen size. You also get a side-mounted fingerprint scanner, support for fast charging and a 3.5mm audio jack. This will set you back Ksh 40,799.

On the other hand, the Xperia XZ is slightly bigger at 5.2 inches, but the same full HD resolution is retained alongside a Snapdragon 820, 3GB RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. The software is the same as the X Performance and so is the main camera, which has a 23MP unit, but it adds electronic image stabilization (EIS) and 4K video recording. The selfie shooter also gets a 13MP lens and the battery is slightly bigger at 2900mAh with support for fast charging. Like any other Sony phone, the fingerprint scanner is side-mounted. To get your hands on the Xperia XZ, you need Ksh 44,599.

ZTE Axon 7/ZTE Nubia Z11

ZTE, just like a good number of OEMs on this list, is not popular in the Kenyan smartphone market, but the Chinese OEM has a good number of affordable handsets rocking top-notch specs and features. The ZTE Axon 7 and Nubia Z11 are two great examples and even though the pair has totally different looks, you get just about the same raw power.

For instance, there’s a 5.5-inch screen on either phone, but the Axon 7 has an AMOLED panel with a QHD resolution while the Nubia Z11 has an LCD panel with a full HD resolution. The latter has Gorilla Glass 3 on top while the former has Glass 4. Under the hood, you find the same Snapdragon 820, 4GB RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, but the Axon 7 has a bigger 3250mAh battery unit compared to the 3000mAh unit on the Nubia Z11.

In terms of software, both phones ship with Marshmallow out of the box and while the Axon 7 has already received an update to Nougat, the Nubia Z11 is expected to get the same treat, but we don’t know when. The back of the Axon 7 has a 20MP sensor with PDAF, OIS, dual-tone LED flash, fingerprint scanner while the front has an 8MP unit. As for the Nubia Z11, there’s a 16MP unit on the back with PDAF, OIS and dual-tone LED flash, a fingerprint scanner while the front has an 8MP unit.

Best Android phones in Kenya

The ZTE Axon 7 is priced at Ksh 46,499 while the Nubia Z11 is priced at Ksh 49,999.

LeEco Le Pro 3/LeEco Le Max 2

Another not-so-popular smartphone maker in Kenya is LeEco, formerly known as LeTV. Like any other Chinese OEM, LeEco has powerful smartphones that are very affordable. The LeEco Le Pro 3, for instance, can be yours for just Ksh 37,999. For this price tag, the Le Pro 3 packs a 5.5-inch LCD display with a full HD resolution, a Snapdragon 821 processor, 6GB RAM, 64GB non-expandable storage, Marshmallow out of the box and a decent 4070mAh battery unit.

The back camera has a 16MP unit, PDAF, dual-tone LED flash and 4K video recording. The fingerprint scanner is also rear-mounted and for the selfies, you get an 8MP sensor. Unlike most phones from 2016, the Le Pro 3 has no 3.5mm audio jack, but at this price tag, this is something you can live with.

The LeEco Le Max 2, on the other hand, is priced at Ksh 34,999 for the base model and Ksh 35,999  for the high-end variant. As the name suggests, the Le Max 2 has a bigger 5.7-inch display screen with a better QHD resolution, but the Snapdragon 820 used is slightly less powerful than the 821 on the Le Pro 3. This is then paired with a 4GB RAM and 32GB storage on the base model and 6GB RAM and 64GB storage on the high-end variant.

Other than the memory differences, the two variants of the LeEco Le Max 2 have the same specs and features. These include a 21MP camera on the back with OIS, PDAF and dual-tone LED flash, rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, 8MP selfie camera, no 3.5mm audio jack and a 3100mAh battery unit, which supports fast charging technology. Both phones are powered by Android Marshmallow out of the box and there’s no word of when – or if – Nougat and Oreo will roll out.

Lenovo ZUK Z2

The most affordable flagship on this list is the Lenovo ZUK Z2, a phone that was released in June last year. In fact, this is one of my favorites, not just because of the affordable price tag, but because you get the best value for your money.

At just Ksh 25,999, the Lenovo ZUK Z2 gives you a compact 5-inch display screen with a 1080p resolution, a Snapdragon 820 processor mated with 4GB RAM and 64GB of non-expandable storage. Software-wise, the ZUK Z2 has Android Marshmallow out of the box, but it’s upgradable to Nougat and hopefully Oreo. The optics are not bad either, a 13MP sensor on the back with PDAF, LED flash, 4K video recording and an 8MP sensor for selfies, which supports 1080p video recording.

Best Android phones in Kenya

The Lenovo ZUK Z2 also ships with a front-mounted fingerprint scanner and a 3.5mm audio jack, but the best part of this phone is the battery capacity, which is a massive 3500mAh unit. For a phone that rocks a 5-inch 1080p screen, you should get two full days of use on a single charge or even more with moderate use.

Note that these prices are subject to change. In fact, with Black Friday shopping craze a few days away, don’t be surprised to see these prices discounted even further. Meanwhile, which of these phones are you buying? Let us know in your comments below.

Hillary Keverenge

Still working on my bio. Meanwhile, you can trust me, I'm a tech-savvy dude. Find me on Twitter @raskeverenge