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The best cheap 5G phones for 2022

It's no longer just buzz, rather just plain fact — 5G is now the present and the future. Even if 5G network coverage hasn't yet overtaken 4G LTE in your area, there is an increasingly wide range of 5G smartphones now available that support 5G as the network swiftly builds out worldwide. Some of these are expensive flagship devices that boast all the latest specs, yet others are more affordable models, offering decent specs while throwing in 5G support. We identify the best cheap 5G phones out right now, covering major manufacturers from Apple, Google, Samsung, and more. If you're open to spending a bit more money on a 5G device, be sure to check out our best 5G phones article.

iPhone 12 mini 64GB Green AT&T
Apple iPhone 12 Mini
Best overall cheap 5G phone
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Apple iPhone SE (2022)
Apple iPhone SE 2022
Best cheap new 5G iPhone
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Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
Best cheap 5G Samsung phone
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OnePlus Nord CE 2,​ 5G Unlocked Android Smartphone EU Version, 8GB RAM+128GB Storage, 90Hz Fluid AMOLED Display, Triple Camera (Gray Mirror)
OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G
Best cheap 5G OnePlus phone
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Google Pixel 6a
Google Pixel 6a
Best cheap 5G Android phone
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Nokia G50
Nokia G50
Best cheap 5G Nokia phone
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iPhone 12 Mini
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

Apple iPhone 12 Mini

Best overall cheap 5G phone

Pros
  • Compact size and small display
  • Same color options as regular iPhone 12
  • Crisper resolution than iPhone 13
Cons
  • Small display might not be for everyone

The iPhone 12 Mini is not a classic low-end "cheap" phone, but it's cheap compared to other Apple iPhones with 5G, and it's now available for $599 directly from Apple.

While Apple has released an upgraded 2021 slate of iPhones — including the smaller, lower-priced iPhone 13 Mini, it's very similar to the iPhone 12 Mini model, having the same display, camera, and water resistance. Apple's last-generation A14 Bionic chip, coupled with 4GB of RAM, is more than enough to handle all of your apps and games, although the phone's one slight disadvantage is that it comes with only 64GB of internal memory as standard.

As a 5G-compatible smartphone, the iPhone 12 Mini also supports the faster mmWave 5G band in the U.S. in addition to the standard — and longer-range — sub-6Hz band.

The iPhone 12 Mini is an almost flawless device, even if it isn't a flagship phone. Its 5.4-inch OLED display packs 2340 x 1080 pixels, offering a clear and vibrant visual experience. It offers wireless charging and a dual-lens camera that is one of the best of any phone available. At the same time, it offers all the perks that come from owning an iPhone, most notably a user-friendly operating system and regular updates. It may not be the cheapest 5G phone, but its current price is competitive, and it really is the best cheap 5G phone you could hope to buy.

iPhone 12 mini 64GB Green AT&T
Apple iPhone 12 Mini
Best overall cheap 5G phone
iPhone SE 2022

Apple iPhone SE 2022

Best cheap new 5G iPhone

Pros
  • Compact and light
  • Very powerful
  • Touch ID works really well
  • Wireless charging
  • IP67 water resistance
Cons
  • Poor battery life
  • 60Hz screen
  • 64GB won't be enough

Apple's iPhone SE (2022) is the cheapest new iPhone you can buy right now, and despite some limitations, it's a great handset. The iPhone 8 design is dated, but the front is covered with the same glass used on the newest iPhone 13. It's a great choice for those who want a smaller phone that's compact enough to operate with one hand.

Under the hood, you get Apple's brand-new A15 bionic chip, the same one in the iPhone 13 lineup, plus 4GB of RAM and 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB of onboard storage, plus a large battery. It's small screen is impressive and includes a single-lens 12-megapixel camera on the rear and a 7MP selfie camera.

There’s plenty of processing power too, and because of that processing power, there’s also Apple’s 16-core neural engine to run advanced photo processing. Even the home button, while old school, provides users with a favored feature — a fingerprint reader. The 2022 iPhone SE features 5G, though only sub-6GHz (and C-Band) 5G are supported.

Apple iPhone SE (2022)
Apple iPhone SE 2022
Best cheap new 5G iPhone
The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G leaning against a tree.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G

Best cheap 5G Samsung phone

Pros
  • Pretty design
  • IP67 water-resistance
  • Camera is great for social media
  • Vibrant screen
  • Two-day battery life
Cons
  • Performance can be sluggish
  • Not an upgrade to the A52 and A52S

The Galaxy A53 5G is a fine value for its quality, camera, and software. It's a great choice for anyone interested in a reasonably priced, reliable, capable smartphone. It’s 8.1mm thick and weighs 189 grams, and it's made of plastic with Gorilla Glass 5 covering the screen.

It's the camera that sets this phone apart. The Galaxy A53 5G has four cameras: A 64MP main camera with an f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilization, a 12MP wide-angle camera with a 123-degree field of view, and a pair of 5MP cameras for macro and depth. Features include Night mode, Pro mode, Samsung’s Single Take mode, video recording up to 4K and 30 frames per second, built-in Snapchat Lenses, and augmented reality effects.

It’s available with 6GB or 8GB RAM and 128GB or 256GB of storage and is one of the rare phones that has a slot for a microSD card. A 6.5-inch Super AMOLED screen with a 2400 x 1080 pixel resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate facilitates pleasant viewing.

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
Best cheap 5G Samsung phone
OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G showing a tweet.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G

Best cheap 5G OnePlus phone

Pros
  • Great, eye-catching design
  • Battery charges in 30 minutes
  • Two days use from the battery
  • Headphone jack on board
  • Dual 5G SIM and microSD card slot
Cons
  • Android 11 isn't the latest version
  • No IP rating
  • Poor single speaker

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G is an excellent value smartphone. It is gorgeous, with a 6.43-inch AMOLED screen and a 90Hz refresh rate on the front, and Gorilla Glass 5 over the top. OnePlus has made the Nord CE 2 5G a bargain by updating some screen and camera components and giving it a flashy new design. It’s light by modern phone standards at 173 grams, and the modest 73mm width and 7.8mm thickness make it comfortable for single-handed operation.

OnePlus relies on software updates and enhancements from the MediaTek processor to augment the phone’s photographic ability. It features a 64MP main camera with an f/1.7 aperture and electronic image stabilization, plus an 8MP wide-angle camera with a 119-degree field of view and a 2MP macro camera. The selfie camera is 16MP.

The phone performs well. A new, fast battery-charging feature is useful, and that's in addition to an eye-catching design that gives the Nord extra character in the looks department.

OnePlus Nord CE 2,​ 5G Unlocked Android Smartphone EU Version, 8GB RAM+128GB Storage, 90Hz Fluid AMOLED Display, Triple Camera (Gray Mirror)
OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G
Best cheap 5G OnePlus phone
Google Pixel 6a in hand.

Google Pixel 6a

Best cheap 5G Android phone

Pros
  • Compact, lightweight design
  • IP67 water resistance
  • Flagship-grade performance
  • Excellent cameras
  • Clean software
  • Years of guaranteed updates
Cons
  • Display is only 60Hz
  • Tensor chip runs hot
  • Lacking battery life

Google's Pixel A-Series is an affordable, pared-down version of the company's flagship phones, with high-quality camera hardware and software performance, characteristics that also define the Google Pixel 6a. Google's Pixel 6a, measuring 152.5mm high and weighing 178 grams, is easy to handle and comfortable for one-handed use. The Pixel 6a’s petite form factor is derived from its screen, a 6.1-inch OLED panel with a Full HD+ 1080 x 2400 resolution, 60Hz refresh rate, and covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

The camera is 12.2MP with an f/1.7 aperture, optical image stabilization (OIS), and phase detection autofocus. It features a 12MP ultrawide camera with a 114-degree field of view, plus an 8MP selfie camera. Where the Pixel 6a falls short is the 4,410mAh battery, which is minimal.

The Pixel 6a ships with Android 12 and will receive three years of OS upgrades and five years of security updates. Google's Tensor chip facilitates new performance capabilities and software features, all at a reasonable price.

Google Pixel 6a
Google Pixel 6a
Best cheap 5G Android phone
nokia g50 review blue back
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Nokia G50

Best cheap 5G Nokia phone

Pros
  • Long battery life
  • Strong build quality
  • Fuss-free, reliable software
  • Guaranteed software updates
  • 5G for the future
Cons
  • 60Hz refresh rate screen
  • Low-resolution screen
  • Big and heavy

The Nokia G50 is a big phone, featuring a huge 6.82-inch screen. The body is nearly 9mm thick and 174mm tall and weighs 220 grams. The design features a circular camera module, simple branding, and an Ocean Blue color.

Nokia is promoting the G50 as an affordable 5G phone, and it does deliver via a Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 processor and modem. You get Sub6 5G, but not mmWave.

There is a 48MP main camera, a 5MP wide-angle camera, and a 2MP depth camera with output that's similar to other phones; the main camera produces colorful, shareable images. The screen brightness, resolution, and refresh rate do not measure up to some of the better smartphones. Despite that, the G50 is a serviceable phone that provides adequate ability for the price and wins with its great software and long battery life.

Nokia G50
Nokia G50
Best cheap 5G Nokia phone

Frequently Asked Questions

How we test

Why should you pay attention to our recommendations? We've tested and reviewed nearly every major smartphone brand released, from the original iPhone to the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. This includes almost all of the 5G phones available in recent years, encompassing both premium and affordable models.

We're phone users ourselves, so we know what most people are looking for when shopping for a new smartphone, whether it's a cheap 5G phone or a flagship camera phone. We also know that investing in a new device isn't a casual undertaking, so we focus on what truly matters when reviewing devices and avoid getting swept away by the hype. As a result, you can be confident that we assess smartphones as objectively as possible while retaining our excitement for really innovative tech.

As such, we know how to evaluate the latest phones and compare them to the past, present, and future. We know how to compare new devices to their predecessors and rivals, and we know what to look for when reviewing devices.

We live with phones when we review them, using them as our main phones for at least a week before writing up our impressions. Because of this, we find out how phones actually perform in the real world, learning their strengths and weaknesses.

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