A new smartphone can cost a lot of money. But you don't always have to buy the most expensive flagship smartphone. If you just use your phone to accomplish basic tasks and can’t justify buying a brand new flagship model, there are some budget options to consider. An entry-level smartphone might not take stunning photos, but there are no differences when it comes to calls and texts. One of the best on our list, the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G, offers exceptional battery life, a capable camera, and good looks that defy its low price tag.
When you're looking for an inexpensive phone, nowadays you don't have to give up 5G. Our top pick here has 5G, as do a number of the phones featured above a certain price, and we've also compiled a list of the best cheap 5G phones if high-speed mobile internet is a requirement for your next purchase.
We’ve compared different budget phones and selected the best devices in different price ranges. Our top picks are a great place to start if you’re in the market for a new phone and don’t want to overspend.
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
Best cheap phone
- Pretty design
- IP67 water-resistance
- Camera is great for social media
- Vibrant screen
- Two-day battery life
- Performance can be sluggish
- Not an upgrade to the A52 and A52S
Why you should buy this: It's the complete package at less than half the asking price for most flagship phones.
Who it’s for: Anyone looking for a great phone at an even better price.
Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G:
Samsung has really ramped up its mid-range efforts in recent years, and the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G is the culmination of those efforts. Sure, it's not a massive departure from the Galaxy A52 and A51, but it didn't have to be, and the most recent update sports a two-day battery life, a capable camera, a gorgeous AMOLED display, and a great looking design too.
We'll start with the design. It's made from plastic, but it doesn't feel cheap. Instead, it feels quite nice in the hand, and the IP67 rating for water resistance means you won't need to worry too much about its durability either. It's on the larger size for a smartphone though, and one-handed use may be a challenge, especially if you have smaller hands. The in-display fingerprint sensor is improved, though, and is much more reliable than the sensors on previous models.
The phone does take a hit for its sluggish performance, though. The Exynos 1280 octa-core processor isn't the fastest, and we noticed multiple hitches and sluggish app boots during our review period. If it's struggling from new, expect it to only get slower onwards. Still, it's not a deal-breaker, even if you're likely to notice it when it happens. You have the option to have 6GB or 8GB of RAM, and 128GB or 256GB of storage — and there's also a microSD card slot, so you can boost that storage as well.
There's a quad-lens camera setup on the back, and it's solid. There's a 64-megapixel main lens, a 12MP wide-angle, and a pair of 5MP lenses for macro and depth. Around the front, there's a 32MP selfie lens. It's a solid set of cameras, and while it's plagued by Samsung's oversaturation, it takes pictures you're likely to be very happy to share on social media. There's a Night mode, Samsung's fun Single Take mode, and video recording up to 4K and 60 fps at FHD.
The Galaxy A53 comes with Android 12 standard, and Samsung has promised four years of software updates and five years of security updates. That's a very welcome boost to Samsung's previous promises, and it means this is a phone that could potentially last you a very long time. The battery life, as mentioned above, is a particular highlight, managing two days of moderate use (without any gaming, mind you). It supports 25W fast charging for topping up, but there's no wireless charging.
At under $500, it's a real bargain that takes a deserved place at the top of this list. The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G is a must-buy.
Google Pixel 5a 5G
Best Android phone under $450
- Excellent camera performance
- Smooth, clean software
- IP67 water and dust resistance
- Affordable price for its capabilities
- Standard, somewhat boring design
- No high-refresh display
Why you should buy this: The Google Pixel 5a 5G offers a bigger battery than the Pixel 4a, plus an awesome camera that you would expect from a Pixel device, and 5G to boot.
Who it's for: Anyone with a budget of $450 who simply wants the best 5G phone they can buy.
Why we picked the Google Pixel 5a 5G:
The Google Pixel 5a 5G costs $449, and it's an impressive package for the money. Under the hood, there's a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor with 6GB of RAM. Everything runs smoothly, and it even handles demanding games like Genshin Impact, though you won't find the Pixel 6's 90Hz refresh rate here, just 60Hz. You also get a 6.34-inch, 2400 x 1800 resolution, OLED screen that looks great indoors and out.
Perhaps the biggest attraction is the camera, which (on paper) is identical to the Pixel 4a: A single-lens 12.2MP camera with all the same A.I. features you'll find in the Pixel 5, a front-facing camera 8MP camera, and a 16MP ultrawide lens with a 117-degree field of view. But it's the software here that makes the cameras stand out. Low-light photography, in particular, is the 5a 5G's strong suit, with Night Sight automatically enabled in darker conditions. There's astrophotography for vivid night sky shots and 1080p and 4K at 60 frames per second video recording, too.
Battery life's a step up over the Pixel 4a, with a 4,690mAh battery that should give you between one and a half to two days of regular usage. There's 18W fast wired charging but no wireless charging to be found here.
The Pixel 5a 5G comes running Android 11 and is guaranteed to get three years of OS updates and security updates. You'll also get Google Assistant smarts and integrations like "Hold for Me," which lets Google Assistant screen calls and put callers on hold.
This phone packs 128GB of storage and has an IP67 water- and dust-resistance rating, meaning it's fine for a day at the beach or a quick dunk in the bath. There's also a headphone jack, sub-6 5G, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, and NFC.
If you're on a $450 budget, the Pixel 5a 5G really delivers what it promises and offers improved battery life compared to the 4a 5G, excellent camera performance, and waterproofing.
Apple iPhone SE (2022)
Best cheap iPhone
- Compact and light
- Very powerful
- Touch ID works really well
- Wireless charging
- IP67 water resistance
- Poor battery life
- 60Hz screen
- 64GB won't be enough
Why you should buy this: Apple continues to update the cheapest iPhone with top-tier hardware, and, as a result, it's a great smartphone.
Who it’s for: Apple iPhone lovers who want a solid phone for a low price.
Why we picked the iPhone SE (2022):
It's not the best-looking smartphone on this list by far, but it's one of the most powerful. Apple's iPhone SE is now powered by an even more powerful processor and has a capable camera to boot. If you're looking for a cut-price iPhone to pick up, then the iPhone SE (2022) is the one to grab.
The jewel in the iPhone SE's crown is definitely the A15 Bionic processor powering it. This is the same chip you'll find in the iPhone 13 Pro, and it's incredibly powerful. The result is a budget smartphone that can handle the latest and most demanding 3D games, and pretty much anything the latest flagships can do. It's a strong advantage and one that only Apple's iPhone can really boast of.
However, it doesn't inherit the iPhone 13 Pro's good looks. The iPhone SE continues to reuse the iPhone 8 chassis, and so, it's an incredibly outdated phone that throws back to 2019, and not in a good way. It has chunky bezels, and a relatively small display for the size, and while it performs like a flagship, it looks older than any other phone on this list. It's made from glass and aluminum, though, which does mean it doesn't feel cheap, even if it looks old.
There's only a single 12MP lens on the back, continuing the somewhat outdated design. However, it does have some excellent post-processing, thanks to the A15 Bionic processor, which helps the situation a lot. As a result, the iPhone SE still takes good shots. Unfortunately, there's no Night mode, which means you'll need to rely a little more on good lighting.
The battery life isn't really anything to write home about. Unfortunately, it's really hampered by the A15 Bionic processor, and as such, can struggle to really show off what it should be able to do. We managed a day out of the iPhone SE in our review period, but it's unlikely to stretch much further than that, and you're likely going to need to top it up on particularly hectic days.
Prices for the Apple iPhone SE (2022) start from $429 for 644GB of storage and rise up to $579 for 256GB of storage. We recommend buying the $479 to upgrade your storage to 128GB at least, as 64GB really isn't enough these days.
Best phone under $300
- Long battery life
- Strong build quality
- Fuss-free, reliable software
- Guaranteed software updates
- 5G for the future
- 60Hz refresh rate screen
- Low-resolution screen
- Big and heavy
Why you should buy this: It's big, it's strong, it sports excellent battery life and a solid software update future.
Who it's for: Someone who wants a big, cheap phone that's likely to last.
Why we picked the Nokia G50:
It's not a perfect phone by any means, but few are at this price range — and the Nokia G50's strengths help to make up for its shortcomings. This Nokia smartphone is big, strong, and has everything you need if you're looking for a solid and reliable phone that's likely to last you for years.
The first thing we'll highlight is a strength and a weakness at the same time. The Nokia G50 is absolutely enormous. It has a 6.82-inch display, it's almost 9mm thick, and it weighs 22 grams. Heck, it's even 10mm taller than the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. Make no mistake, it's massive and totally unsuited to being used with one hand. As such, it can be unwieldy, but all of that size does mean it's solidly built and durable to match. The big screen and low budget do mean the display's low resolution is very disappointing.
It does have 5G though, which is a big win for a $300 smartphone, even if it's only Sub6 5G and not mmWave. The Snapdragon 480 processor isn't fast, but it is acceptable for everyday use, and can even handle 3D games. On the plus side, it comes with 128GB of storage as standard and has a headphone jack as well. Android 11 was installed at launch, and it has since been updated to Android 12. Nokia has promised two years of OS updates, so expect Android 13 too. The battery life is similarly impressive and lasted between two to three days without a top-up charge. That's very impressive, and a genuine reason to buy the phone.
The camera is comprised of a 48MP main lens, a 5MP wide-angle lens, and a 2MP depth camera. The main lens is good, and even if it sometimes needed a little editing, it's still a good camera for the price. The wide-angle is much less impressive. It's dark, and detail is lost in shadows. The depth lens also struggles to provide good portrait modes. But avoid both of the rubbish secondary lenses and the main lens is a good one.
Sure, 5G isn't really worth buying for just yet, but the Nokia G50 has the guts to last for a good while, so it's good to have at this stage. At just $300, this is an excellent buy.
Moto G Power (2022)
Best phone under $200
- Amazing battery life
- Accurate biometrics
- Decent amount of ROM
- Good camera system and software
- Water repellent
- No 5G connectivity
- Comes with Android 11
- Plastic backing
- Slow responses at times
Why you should buy this: It's a well-sized, decently powered $200 smartphone with incredible battery life.
Who it's for: Someone who wants a rock-bottom-priced smartphone with strong battery life.
Why we picked the Moto G Power (2022):
Motorola has long made some of the best budget smartphones, and the new Moto G Power takes the lowest spot on our list. But being low on the list doesn't mean it's a bad phone at all. It has some downsides you'll want to be aware of before you buy it, but if you're looking for a smartphone under $200 (which can be difficult), the Moto G Power (2022) is the one to grab.
We'll start by highlighting the phone's strongest point, and its namesake: The big 5,000mAh battery tucked inside it. This battery is a real beast and can power the Moto G Power for about three days — an exceptional battery life, and one that's way beyond most phones that cost five times as much as the Moto G Power. If you're often out for days at a time, or just hate battery anxiety, the Moto G Power is a strong pick. Of course, other phones, like the above Nokia G50, can rival its battery life, but definitely not at this price bracket.
The budget restraints do start to become obvious at this point though. The Mediatek processor is perfectly capable of handling everyday tasks like emails and social media, but try and push it into some 3D games and it's likely to struggle. The 720p display is good though, especially with the 90Hz refresh rate that we would not have expected to see on a $200 smartphone. The speakers aren't all that, but there's a Bluetooth 5.0 and a 3.5mm headphone jack to make up for it, so that's not so bad.
The phone comes with Android 11, and there's an upgrade to Android 12 in the offing too, though it hasn't surfaced yet. The main system has a 50MP main lens that's good enough, especially for the price, but don't expect too much from the 2MP macro lens and 2MP depth lens.
You'll get the 64GB model of the Moto G Power (2022) for $200, with the 128GB model up for $250. 64GB may be enough if you're not planning on loading the phone down with media, but it could be a tight squeeze. Thankfully, there's a microSD card slot as well, so you can offload videos, pictures, and similar storage hogs.
You can always find bargains at online retailers, but be careful to do your research and order the model number you need. In particular, check that the model you are buying supports the bands your carrier operates on. The major carriers sometimes run good promotions, but if you find a phone you like in-store it's worth doing a quick search online to see if you can find it for less. You'll often find cheaper options at MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) and we have a list of the best MVNOs to check out.
There are lots of different cell phone plans out there, so take your time and do some research before picking a plan. We have a breakdown of the best cell phone plans to help you get started. If you go for a family plan, then you can often secure good deals on additional lines. Consider the coverage in your area before deciding on a carrier.
The most obvious way to score a bargain is to buy second-hand. If that appeals to you, then we have a guide on how to buy used smartphones that you’ll want to read. You may also consider online retailers, just make sure that you check the model of the phone you are buying supports the bands your carrier operates on.
Flagships have been climbing in price recently, but if you're willing to wait and look at flagship phones from a year or two ago, then you can get them much cheaper. Almost all Android phone manufacturers offer discounts on older flagships and those discounts get deeper the older the phone gets. On the other hand, the general quality of budget phones has improved greatly in recent years and phone design moves very quickly, so a midrange device today will likely match a two-year-old flagship on performance and may boast a more modern design.
We’re fanatical about our phones here at Digital Trends. Every phone we test serves as our main device for at least a week, often longer, so we can get a real feel for what life would be like living with it. We read on them, game on them, shoot videos and photos, navigate, organize, and occasionally even make calls. Every facet is explored, every manufacturer claim is challenged, and we’re careful to take the intended audience and price tag into account when judgment time comes.
Debates on the best phones in different categories are a regular occurrence and no one on the mobile team is shy about sharing their opinion. When we find flaws, we tell like it is. Ultimately, we’ll never recommend any phone that we wouldn’t be happy using ourselves.
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