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What are the best cheap phones? We tested 44, here are our top 8
Choosing the best cheap phone ultimately comes down to a few simple questions:
- How far can you stretch your budget?
- How important are cameras? Performance?
- Will you buy unlocked or via a carrier?
- Do you want an Android phone or an iPhone?
High-end Android phones may come with all the bells and whistles, but if you temper your expectations you can get an excellent phone for much less. Our team has tested countless smartphones in all price ranges over the years, and for this list, we’ve picked out the eight very best budget smartphones on the market. These phones offer the best value for your money, ranging from $500 all the way down to $0 (with carrier deals). Check out our buyer’s guide if you’re unsure what to look for, or just keep reading to see our picks for the best cheap phones to buy in 2023.
The best cheap phone is the Pixel 7a
The Google Pixel A series is now known for offering some of the best bang for the buck in the smartphone market. The Pixel 6a offered a near-high-end experience at just $449 (now $314 at Amazon). In 2023, Google is ready to take its budget series to a new level that gets even closer to high-end territory. The Google Pixel 7a starts at $499, which is a price increase. It’s actually now only $100 cheaper than the Pixel 7, but the difference with the Pixel 7a is that it sacrifices very little to reach the slightly lower price point.
For starters, it has a few notable upgrades the community has long been asking for. The display now features a 90Hz refresh rate. While it’s still not quite as good as the 120Hz most flagships offer, it’s a nice improvement over the Pixel 6a. The older phone had a 60Hz screen, which was really starting to feel dated. It also features wireless charging. We’re not fans of the 7.5W wireless charging speeds, but at least the feature is available now. This wasn’t the case with the Pixel 6a. Additionally, the primary camera has been upgraded with a nice 64MP sensor. We found to perform exceptionally well, thanks to pixel binning and the nice 0.8μm pixel size.
You’ll find this to be a near-premium handset in every other department, too. There is a Google Tensor G2 chipset inside, which we still find to get pretty hot, but it performs beautifully and works miracles with the camera quality. The 6GB of RAM isn’t too high, but it’s more than good enough for most casual users, as we didn’t experience any hiccups during our tests.
The battery is a tiny bit smaller at 4,385mAh (4,410mAh on the Pixel 6a), but we still managed to take the phone through a whole day of normal use, with 20% left over at the end of the night. The 18W charging speeds aren’t amazing, but they are pretty good. The display is pretty nice too, pairing a 6.1-inch OLED panel with a 1,080p resolution. It even has an IP67 rating.
Overall, we believe this is Google’s most polished mid-range phone yet — check out our Pixel 7a review for more info. And there is now very little to complain about. The only issue we find is that it takes very little money to upgrade to the Pixel 7, which has a better build quality, faster 20W wireless charging, and faster 20W wired charging. There are other very close competitors that cost less, too. We’ll talk more about them later in this list but know that it’s still very hard to beat the Pixel 7a if you’re looking to get a high-end experience without spending too much.
Another complication is that with the release of the Pixel 7a, the Pixel 6a dropped in price to $349 ($314 at Amazon). That’s a crazy good value, and you can often find it for even less on sale. This is one of the hottest deals in budget smartphones at the moment, so if you can do without the latest and greatest, it’s a fantastic value.
What makes it stand out
- Great value: The Pixel 7a isn’t the cheapest phone you can buy, but it does offer the most value for the money. It has features and performance that you’ll only find on much more expensive devices.
- Excellent camera performance: With an easy-to-use camera app and Google’s proprietary smarts, the Pixel 7a is easily among the best camera phones you can get in this price range.
- Powerful Tensor chip: Previously only found in the Pixel 7 lineup, the Tensor G2 chip gives this budget phone flagship-level performance.
- Clean software: Coming straight from Android’s source, the Pixel 6a’s software is as clean as it gets. Plus, it will get additional software features for years to come.
- One-handed use: In an age when most phones are massive, the Pixel 7a keeps it manageable. It’s comfortable to use with one hand, easily pocketable, and highly portable.
The best of the rest: 7 other cheap phones worth considering
We recommend the Pixel 7a for most users, but it might not be right for everyone under the sun. To broaden your choices, we’ve picked seven other cheap phones that might better suit your needs, whether budgetary or otherwise. Here’s the best of the rest:
- Galaxy A54 5G: Samsung’s best mid-ranger is one of the only options that gives the Pixel 6a a run for its money.
- Moto G Stylus 5G: This Motorola phone has its flaws, but it offers something no other cheap phone can: a built-in stylus.
- Moto G 5G (2023): After a significant price drop this year, the basic Moto G 5G is a great budget starter phone.
- iPhone SE: iPhones are typically well out of the budget range, but the 2022 iPhone SE bucks that trend, offering a cheap entry point into Apple’s ecosystem.
- Galaxy A14 5G: Offering great battery life and solid performance, the A14 5G is a fantastic value — especially if you can get a good carrier deal.
- TCL 40 XE 5G: If you can do without long-term updates, the TCL 40 XE 5G offers a lot of bang for your buck.
- Galaxy A03s: The cheapest phone Samsung offers isn’t perfect, but you won’t find anything like it under $200.
The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G is the best cheap phone for Samsung fans
Samsung has long dominated the budget segment in the US, and for good reason. The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G is one of our favorite affordable phones, giving the Pixel 6a some stiff competition. Although it’s still on the higher end of the budget range at $450, we found it to be one of the best-rounded phones you can buy, with industry-leading five-year software support that will keep it going far longer than alternatives.
If you’ve ever ogled one of Samsung’s flagship S23 phones, we’re happy to report that the Galaxy A54 5G gets most of the way there at a much more accessible price. It now has a Gorilla Glass 5 finish on the front and back, adding extra durability and a nicer hand feel than plastic. The smooth-scrolling 120Hz AMOLED panel also impressed us, with more than enough brightness to use in full daylight.
While it doesn’t exactly have the Pixel 6a beat when it comes to camera performance, it did take consistently good photos in our review period. The primary shooter is the real star here, with the weaker ultrawide and macro lenses providing some niche backup. We were a bit sad to see that Samsung has returned to its highly saturated color profile for the A54 5G, although the results might not bother you if you want a little extra punch.
As for battery life, we averaged a respectable day and a half on a single charge in our week-long test period. Charging speeds cap off at 25W if you have a USB Power Delivery PPS Charger, but unfortunately, there’s no charger in the box. This took about 85 minutes to fill from empty in our tests. We were a bit disappointed in the lack of wireless charging, but it isn’t too surprising for phones at this price point.
The Exynos 1380 performed just fine for light gaming and social media, but it doesn’t quite have the smarts of the Pixel 6a’s Tensor chipset. Still, the phone has other advantages, like a microSD card slot and a host of One UI software features.
What makes it stand out
- Versatile cameras: A solid main shooter, capable ultrawide camera, and admittedly niche macro camera make this one of the most versatile camera phones in this price range.
- Gorgeous display: The 120Hz Super AMOLED display is crisp, fluid, and bright in all environments.
- Excellent battery life: Expect the beefy 5,000mAh battery to last for a day and a half, even without battery-saving measures activated.
The most interesting cheap phone is the Moto G Stylus 5G
If you’ve always wanted to try super-premium smartphones with a stylus like the Galaxy S23 Ultra but never had deep enough pockets, the Moto G Stylus 5G might be for you. It’s actually one of our favorite S23 Ultra alternatives on the market. Even if it’s coming in at well under half the price.
The eponymous stylus slips neatly into the body of the phone, which is pretty large with a 6.6-inch display. We also liked the sharp 1080p panel, which comes with a 120Hz refresh rate.
It also has a nice design and pretty decent performance for the price, thanks to the addition of the Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 processor and 6GB of RAM. Battery life is pretty good too. We managed to make it last a bit over a day on a single charge.
This device is also a bit more budget-friendly, retailing at $400. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s a decent phone, and you get the added benefit of a stylus.
What makes it stand out
- Built-in stylus: Very few phones offer this as a feature and those that do cost more than twice as much. It’s a handy little accessory that’s easy to keep track of, thanks to the in-phone housing.
- Nice battery life: The large 5,000mAh battery regularly beat a day of battery life in our testing.
- Nice display: It’s good to see a large screen with a 120Hz refresh rate from a budget phone.
The Motorola Moto G 5G (2023) is a great budget starter phone
Motorola’s Moto G line has always been aimed at the true budget crowd, but the Moto G 5G (2023) really stuck the landing. It nails the basics that most people care about while also lowering the price to a very accessible $250. Plus, the near-stock Android is light and easy to get used to.
The upgraded 120Hz display was crisp and speedy in our testing, although at this price, the resolution and brightness aren’t the best. Still, those sacrifices combined with an efficient processor mean it got a full two days of battery life on a single charge.
Although it’s no longer considered an essential feature, the Moto G 5G also sports a headphone jack and expandable storage. These two features are no longer found on most flagship phones, but on budget phones like this, it can help keep accessory costs down, particularly when it comes to Bluetooth headphones if you don’t have any.
Motorola has always been a big player in the budget phone market, and the Moto G 5G has the widest appeal of all of its smartphones. The biggest downside is the company’s commitment to updates, which is limited to one year of version updates and three years of security updates. There’s also no NFC, so contactless payments aren’t possible with this phone.
What makes it stand out
- Nails the basics: If you just want a simple smartphone that works, this is it.
- Great battery life: The massive cell lasted for two full days in our testing.
- Good value: This year’s model is a full $150 cheaper, making it a great value.
The iPhone SE is the best budget phone from Apple
The iPhone SE (2022) has nothing in common with Apple’s flagship iPhone 15 series physically, but it’s what’s inside that counts. It has the same A15 Bionic processor as the previous generation’s iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, and in our testing, it performed nearly just as well. However, it might be time to start waiting for an updated version with the A16 Bionic chipset — and hopefully not the iPhone 7’s body. It only takes a minor hit in GPU scores, but it still punches far above its weight. Needless to say, it’s the most powerful phone on this list.
That power is put to good use with Apple’s renowned ecosystem. We primarily write about Android here at Android Authority, but we remain impressed with what Apple has achieved with iOS. Not only is the app ecosystem extremely developed at this point, but hardware like the Apple Watch and AirPods Pro is regularly among our favorites. All of Apple’s products seamlessly integrate into one another in a way that Android hasn’t matched to date (sorry, Samsung).
However, the design of the iPhone SE is decidedly stuck in the past. The screen is a mere 4.7 inches, with sizeable bezels on the front. We were disappointed to find that the design is identical to the already-dated version from 2020, including the Lightning port. That said, we did love how small and light the phone is. It’s actually one of the smallest and lightest we’ve ever tested, weighing just 144g.
Another problem is that the base version comes with just 64GB of storage. The 128GB version jumps up to $479, which is pretty pricey for what it is. No matter which version you buy, however, you’re getting an incredible level of support. Apple doesn’t officially say how long support lasts, but we’ve found that it averages five to seven years. That’s more than a lifetime in the smartphone industry.
What makes it stand out
- Unbeatable performance: The Bionic A15 is the same found in the iPhone 13, and simply put, it blows the competition out of the water.
- Robust ecosystem: Get more out of your phone thanks to a huge variety of apps in the App Store and some of the best hardware on the market from Apple.
- Long-lasting support: The iPhone SE will get years of software updates, including new features and more.
The Galaxy A14 5G is a great budget carrier phone
If you want a true budget phone from Samsung, the Galaxy A14 5G is a great pick. Without making any major concessions, it managed to hit an even lower price than its predecessor, the A13 5G, dropping below $200. Even better, you can often get this phone for free or nearly free if you get it from a carrier.
In our testing, the basics were all there: good main camera performance, two-day battery life, and the eponymous 5G connection that should keep it going for years to come. Combined with Samsung’s promise of two years of Android updates and four years of security updates, there’s a lot of value to be had here for budget-conscious buyers.
Of course, there are some inevitable drawbacks to such a cheap phone. For example, the plastic back isn’t the sturdiest (buy a case to solve this) and the screen is a bit dim. Other issues, like the poor speakers and paltry 64GB of storage, are made up for with the inclusion of a headphone jack and microSD card slot.
We think the 5G version of this phone is the one to get, but in some regions, there’s also an LTE version that’s slightly cheaper. Again though, check with carriers before you buy this phone unlocked, as there are great deals to be had.
What makes it stand out
- Affordability: While it’s very affordable unlocked, carrier deals bring this 5G phone’s price down to little or even nothing.
- Solid main shooter: The 50MP main shooter takes very nice photos in good light.
- Two-day battery life: The 5,000mAh is capable of lasting two days before needing a top-up.
The TCL 40 XE 5G offers a premium aesthetic at a budget price
If you’re looking for a cheap Android phone that looks much nicer than its price implies, the TCL 40 XE 5G is worth a look. It’s a very barebones device, but retailing at just $170 (currently $169 at Verizon), it’s hard to complain.
This phone offered a basic, but overall good, experience during our testing period, with great battery life and a decent main camera. At this price point you can’t expect too much, but it does manage to avoid the pitfalls of bloatware with a clean, near-stock Android software that’s a joy to use. However, TCL doesn’t offer any Android version updates, so you’ll be stuck on Android 13 for the foreseeable future.
This phone’s biggest selling point (apart from price) is its premium look and build. It’s a cut above other budget devices, even though it only comes in one color.
What makes it stand out
- Cheap 5G: This is one of the cheapest 5G phones you can buy.
- Great battery: Expect nearly two days of battery life with standard use.
- Clean software: TCL offers a near-stock Android experience, which is nice to see at this price.
The Galaxy A03s is the cheapest phone we recommend
When you start digging into very cheap phones, the Galaxy A03s is the only one we can recommend. Coming in under $200, you’re making some key sacrifices. But we think this can still provide a decent experience as your first smartphone.
Although we did find performance and build quality to be lacking, we did get exceptional battery life out of the A03s. We could make it last two days with moderate use. Don’t expect to play the latest games or anything. But for streaming, we found the screen to be large and more than adequate. We also found the main camera to be serviceable, although the other lenses didn’t quite get the job done.
Perhaps our favorite thing about this phone is Samsung’s commitment to updates. It’s slated to receive at least two years of Android version updates, plus four years of security updates. That’s an incredible achievement for a device at this price point, although, in all honestly, you’ll probably want to upgrade before then.
What makes it stand out
- Price: This is the cheapest phone on the list, and in our opinion, the cheapest phone you should even consider buying.
- Battery life: The 5,000mAh battery lasted for two days of moderate use, although there’s no charger in the box.
- Updates: Samsung’s signature five years of security updates will keep this phone running for far longer than cheap alternatives from other companies.
The best phones under $500
If you have a specific budget in mind, the next few sections will help you narrow down your options. Let’s start with the best phones under $500.
- Google Pixel 7a ($477 at Amazon): At $499, the Pixel 7a is just a hair under the $500 limit. It’s definitely our favorite phone at this price range, though, featuring great performance, outstanding cameras, and an overall great experience.
- Samsung Galaxy A54 5G ($449.99 at Samsung): If you’re more of a Samsung fan, the Galaxy A54 5G is slightly cheaper at $449. It still has a nice design, good specs, capable cameras, and a large battery.
- Apple iPhone SE 2022 ($429 at Amazon): We may be an Android-focused website, but we know many of our readers may also like iPhones, and this is definitely a great device at $429. It has a nice design, pretty powerful specs, and makes little sacrifices to achieve this price point.
- Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G 2023 ($299 at Amazon): The 2023 Moto G Stylus 5G is great for those who want a stylus, but would rather not pay for something like the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Performance is fairly good, the screen is large, and the battery is juicy.
The best phones under $300
If you want to stick below the $300 mark, here are the best options.
- Google Pixel 6a ($314 at Amazon): The Pixel 7a may be Google’s hottest budget offering, but the Pixel 6a is still around. It’s also cheaper now, at $349, but you can often find it for $299.99.
- Samsung Galaxy A23 5G ($299 at Amazon): This phone is getting older, but it is still a good deal at $299 MSRP. It features a sturdy design, a nice display, good performance, and a hefty battery.
- OnePlus Nord N30 ($299 at Amazon): At $299.99, this device is just a bit under $300. We liked its fast-charging capabilities, good battery life, and sharp display with a 120Hz refresh rate.
The best phones under $200
If you want to stick below the $300 mark, here are the best options.
- Samsung Galaxy A14 5G ($199.99 at Samsung): At $199, this device is a total steal. It features a pretty sharp display, good battery life, reasonable performance, and a great update commitment.
- Samsung Galaxy A03s ($124.99 at Samsung): This may not be the fastest phone, and it feels a bit cheap, but it is definitely a good deal at $159.99. It also has pretty nice battery life and OK specs.
- Motorola Moto G Stylus 2023 ($169 at Amazon): Want a stylus? The Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G is great, but not everyone needs 5G speeds. Especially if you want to save money, as this one costs $199.99.
The best cheap phones outside of the US
While all of the phones above are sold in the US (and most outside of the US), there are several more great options available to international buyers. Even if you are in the US, importing some of these can be relatively easy, although you will be giving up warranties and ongoing support. Be sure to check networks as well to make sure they’ll work in your local area. Here are our picks for the best cheap phones outside of the US:
- OnePlus Nord 2T ($389 at Amazon): One of many Nord phones that didn’t make it to the US, the Nord 2T impressed us with speedy 80W charging and clean software that’s hard to find in this price range.
- POCO X5 Pro ($415 at Amazon): Like the F4 above, the POCO X5 Pro impressed us with a speedy 120Hz OLED screen, and it benefits from a solid processor upgrade over the X4 Pro.
- Sony Xperia 10 V ($415 at Amazon): Sony may not be known for affordable phones, but the 10V is actually not too pricey and offers a good experience. It has a gorgeous OLED panel, a Snapdragon 695 processor, and up to 8GB of RAM, as well as a large battery.
What to look for in a cheap phone
Some of you may be looking to purchase your first smartphone. Others may just want to save some money by buying a cheap phone. No matter where you’re coming from in your buyer’s journey, there are several key elements to consider when it comes to budget phones:
Value over price
It can be tempting to buy the absolute cheapest phone you can find. That said, doing so may give you a phone that needs replacing every year. Buying a good phone with a solid update promise will save you money in the long run. Even if it does mean an initial hit to your pocketbook.
Simple camera performance
How important are cameras to you? You do have a few good options in this price range. Though, for the most part, they’ll be limited to one good camera. Even if the phone has multiple lenses, the main shooter will be pulling most if not all of the weight. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, though.
Unlocked or carrier
When buying a phone, you always have the option of saving a lot of money by buying through a carrier. However, this typically limits your choices and locks that phone to a single carrier for the lifetime of the device. Buying an unlocked phone costs more upfront, but allows you to change carriers whenever you like.
Android vs. iOS
Which platform do you have the most experience with? Changing from Android to iOS or vice versa isn’t too difficult these days, but relearning everything will take time. Apple’s devices tend to cost a bit more. They also last longer and receive better software support than anything on the Android side, although Samsung is getting close.
5G was previously limited to just flagship devices, but now even cheap phones are getting in on the game. Speeds are limited to sub-6Ghz. Regardless, it’s still a nice way to futureproof your device as new networks roll out nationwide.
One key area where phone makers typically reduce costs is build quality. Budget phones drop the glass sandwich builds found on flagships and instead employ plastic backings or older Gorilla Glass options. There are a few exceptions. But if you’re going to slap a case on it anyway, plastic builds shouldn’t be a deterrent.
Not necessarily. However, cheap phones will have fewer features and not last as long as their flagship counterparts.
In our testing, we haven’t found cheap phones to have worse reception than more expensive phones. However, most cheap 5G phones do not support mmWave connections.
Cheap phones can cost anywhere from $150 to $500. You can get them for significantly cheaper via carriers.