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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 a great phone for a lot 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 $450 to as low as $140. Check out our buyer’s guide if you’re not sure what to look for, or just keep reading to see our picks for the best cheap phones to buy in 2023. If you’re looking for just phones that are lower than $450, we also have a list of the best phones under $300.
The best cheap phone is the Pixel 6a
The Pixel 6a might be stretching the definition of a cheap phone at $450, but we found it was absolutely worth the premium. We loved how fast and fluid the phone was, often to the point we’d forget it was a budget handset. We were also impressed with Google’s commitment to updating the phone, which means this is an investment that will last you for years to come.
The camera is also the best you can find at this price range and even compares well against flagship phones. Every picture we took was bright and sharp, with a dedicated Night Sight mode that doesn’t disappoint. We were even pleasantly surprised to discover that the secondary ultrawide camera supports Night Sight, which isn’t the case for most phones we’ve tested in this price range. We also found the camera app to be barebones, but this is great if you just want good point-and-shoot performance without unnecessary bells and whistles.
A big reason why the Pixel 6a is able to get such excellent results is Google’s proprietary Tensor processor. Without going into details, this is the most powerful processor we’ve tested on this list, with the exception of the iPhone SE (but no Android phones can compete there). We experienced virtually no stuttering while performing daily tasks like email and social media. However, we found that it does heat up very quickly, even under light loads.
All of this power does come at a cost, and that cost is battery life. In our testing, the 4,210mAh battery struggled to last a full day, typically needing a recharge before bedtime with normal use. When gaming or streaming content for hours on end, expect to need a mid-day top-up. The Pixel 6a maxes at 18W charging, which in our testing filled up in roughly an hour and 45 minutes. However, there’s no charger in the box, so if you don’t have one check out our wall charger guide for compatible options. There’s no wireless charging here, either.
In terms of actually using the phone, Google’s software is as clean as it gets. You won’t find any bloatware or advertisements anywhere (unless you count YouTube Premium). You can even delete some pre-installed Google apps to free up some of the 128GB of storage, which can’t be said for most competitors. We found the streamlined Pixel UI very easy to adjust to, even if you’re new to Android phones. This phone even has Pixel-exclusive features like Magic Eraser to touch up photos, real-time offline translation, voice captioning on videos, and more. The list of exclusive features will also grow over time as Google pushes updates to the software with the Pixel 7 and beyond.
The Google Pixel 6a pulls some of the best flagship Pixel 6 features into a much more affordable package.
Physically, the Pixel 6a is a fairly small phone by modern standards with a 6.1-inch display. We found it more than small enough to use comfortably with one hand. We also liked the decision to go with a flat panel instead of a curved waterfall display. It makes it even easier to use with one hand since you don’t have to worry about accidental taps on the sides of the screen. The screen itself has nice colors, but we thought the 60Hz refresh rate is a bit low at this price point. The Galaxy A53 5G below offers a 120Hz display for the same price.
On the networking side, the Pixel 6a is ready for 5G connections, although the unlocked model is limited to slower sub-6GHz connections. There is a mmWave-compatible version available from Verizon, but it comes at a $50 premium. Outside of major US cities, this is unlikely to make a difference, so we recommend picking up the standard model. This chipset also supports Bluetooth 5.2, but there is no physical headphone jack to be found.
Ultimately, the Pixel 6a is our top pick for anyone looking for an affordable phone. It isn’t the cheapest you can buy, but it offers excellent value and a host of features that you can’t find on any other phone, regardless of the price.
What makes it stand out
- Unbeatable value: The Pixel 6a 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 6a is easily the best camera phone you can get in this price range.
- Powerful Tensor chip: Previously only found in the Pixel 6 lineup, the Tensor 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 6a keeps it manageable. It’s comfortable to use with one hand, easily pocketable, and highly portable.
Best of the rest: 7 other cheap phones worth considering
We recommend the Pixel 6a 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 A53 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.
- Galaxy A32 5G: While the Galaxy A53 5G is a better overall phone, the A32 5G offers much of the same at an even lower price.
- 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 A13 5G: Offering great battery life and solid performance, the A13 5G is a fantastic value — provided you can get a good carrier deal.
- Nord N200: The Nord N200 is one of the cheapest phones on our list, and the cheapest 5G phone we recommend.
- Galaxy A03s: The cheapest phone Samsung offers isn’t perfect, but you won’t find anything like it under $200.
The Samsung Galaxy A53 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 A53 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.
While it doesn’t exactly have the Pixel 6a beat when it comes to camera performance, it does have a four-camera setup that we consider one of the most versatile in this price range. The camera hardware is very good, and although it’s lacking some of the Pixel’s smarts, we were left impressed by the color accuracy. It also had none of the oversaturation that has plagued Samsung phones in the past. That said, the macro lens isn’t as useful as the primary, ultrawide, or telephoto lenses in everyday use.
Another thing we loved about this phone was the battery life. In our testing, we got nearly two full days of use out of a single charge. That’s mostly thanks to the beefy 5,000mAh battery. Charging is also quite fast at 25W. It came out to roughly 85 minutes to top off in our testing, which is impressive considering the size of the cell. However, once again there’s no charger included in the box, so you’ll have to buy a compatible charger.
One area where the Galaxy A53 5G has others in this price range unequivocally beat is the display. We found the 120Hz Super AMOLED display to be crisp, bright, and speedy, with an extra option in the settings to reduce performance and save battery life — not that we ever found battery life to be an issue.
The only real downside is performance. The Exynos 1280 processor didn’t really deliver in our benchmarking tests, although we did find it fast enough for everyday use. It also comes with 128GB of storage on the base version, with the added benefit of a microSD card slot for easy expansion.
What makes it stand out
- Versatile cameras: A solid main shooter, capable ultrawide camera, decent telephoto lens, 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 well over 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 S22 Ultra but never had deep enough pockets, the Moto G Stylus 5G might be for you. It’s actually one of our favorite S22 Ultra alternatives on the market, despite coming in at well under half the price.
The eponymous stylus slips neatly into the body of the phone, which we noted was quite large in our review with a 6.8-inch display. We didn’t think the FHD+ LCD display itself was particularly impressive, although the 120Hz refresh rate provided a smooth scrolling experience in everyday use.
One thing the Moto G Stylus 5G really does right is battery life. Like the option above, it features a 5,000mAh battery that consistently lasted a day and a half in our testing. Performance was also solid, with the Snapdragon 695 5G providing smooth performance and solid framerates in demanding games like Asphalt 9 or Genshin Impact during our testing period.
This device is also a bit more budget-friendly, retailing at $400. However, Motorola has a number of carrier partners in the US that are likely to offer the phone for significantly less than the sticker price. If you’re set on getting an unlocked phone, the non-5G version of the Moto G Stylus is also a decent budget option at $299, although it comes with additional downgrades apart from networking.
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.
- Excellent battery life: The large 5,000mAh battery regularly beat a day and a half of battery life in our testing.
- Clean software: Forget about bloatware and ads, since Motorola’s software is clean and smooth right from the get-go.
The Galaxy A32 5G hits the right price point for budget phones
The Galaxy A53 5G might offer the best overall experience when it comes to budget Samsung phones, but the Galaxy A32 5G really hits the sweet spot when it comes to price and features. In fact, we consider it to be the best value in Samsung’s entire A-series lineup, despite being a bit long in the tooth.
Although it’s still firmly in the budget category, we found the Galaxy A32 5G to offer solid performance, decent cameras, and over a day of battery life in our testing. We were also very impressed with the inclusion of Gorilla Glass 5 on the screen, which is far more resistant than the Gorilla Glass 3 on our top pick, the Pixel 6a.
We also really liked the elegant look of the Galaxy A32 5G, although we did find the backing material to be quite slippery. Given the phone’s large physical size, we’d recommend buying a case for it to prevent any accidental drops. Either way, the extra resistance from the stronger glass will help keep your device just a bit safer.
Ultimately, we recommend this phone because the $279 price tag is right on the money when it comes to budget phones. Dip any lower and you’re making significant sacrifices. A newer version of this phone, the Galaxy A33 5G, was released in 2022, but not in the US. Even so, we still think the Galaxy A32 5G is a good buy in 2023.
What makes it stand out
- Impressive budget cameras: While they’re not going to win any awards, the Galaxy A32 5G offers some of the best camera performance in its price range.
- Classy design: The A32 5G design really shines through, and we compared it favorably to even modern flagship designs.
- Fantastic value: As far as budget phones go, this one hits the perfect balance between price and features.
The iPhone SE is the best budget phone from Apple
The iPhone SE (2022) might not have much in common with the latest iPhone 14 lineup physically, but it’s what’s inside that counts. It has the same A15 Bionic processor as the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, and in our testing, it performed nearly just as well. 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 A13 5G is a great budget carrier phone
The Galaxy A13 5G didn’t impress us as much as the Galaxy A32 5G or Galaxy A53 5G, but it does have one big advantage: carrier deals. The affordable phone is frequently available at huge discounts through carriers in the US, and despite its budget trappings we still think it’s a solid contender.
In our testing, the basics were all there: good main camera performance, excellent battery life, and the eponymous 5G connection that should keep it going for years to come. Combined with Samsung’s unmatched update commitment in the Android space, we think there’s a lot of value to be had here for budget-conscious buyers.
Another thing we really liked was the simplicity of buying the device. Its predecessor, the Galaxy A12, had a whopping 12 different models and configurations to choose from. The Galaxy A13 5G only has one. It’s limited to 64GB of onboard storage, but a simple microSD card can solve that problem on the cheap.
We’re recommending the 5G model here, and although the unlocked price is simply too high in our opinion, you can pick this up for free via T-Mobile or for just $2 a month from AT&T. If you don’t live in an area with 5G or just don’t need the speed, there’s also a slightly tweaked version called the Galaxy A13 LTE that’s a bit cheaper.
It’s also worth noting that this phone’s successor, the Galaxy A14 5G, was released in early 2023. We’re currently putting it through the ringer for our review, and will update this list as soon as we’re finished.
What makes it stand out
- Affordability: While it’s a bit pricey to buy 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 Nord N200 offers affordable 5G
If you want a cheap phone with 5G, check out the OnePlus Nord N200. After reviewing all of OnePlus’ budget lineup of Nord phones, it’s the cheapest 5G phone that we can wholeheartedly recommend.
The design itself isn’t anything innovative, but we were impressed by the screen. It isn’t quite up to the level of AMOLEDs in more expensive devices, but we found it to have deep blacks, bright whites, and excellent viewing angles. It also has a 90Hz refresh rate for extra-smooth scrolling.
In our testing, the cameras performed fine for a budget phone, especially in bright, outdoor conditions. Dimmer indoor photos were a bit more mixed, and led to uneven results. Still, we liked that the camera app was simple to use, and there is the added benefit of a macro lens if you like niche close-up shots.
Battery life was stellar during our review period. The relatively low-power processor and huge 5,000mAh battery gave us easily two days of battery life on a single charge. We also loved the simple and bloat-free software in OxygenOS, which is the same you’ll find on flagships like the OnePlus 10 Pro.
What makes it stand out
- Cheap 5G: Need 5G on a budget? The Nord N200 is one of the cheapest ways to get blazing speeds.
- Good screen: It’s not AMOLED, but the N200’s screen is bright, speedy, and offers great viewing angles.
- Clean software: OxygenOS is close to clean Android, with none of the bloat and some interesting new features.
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 — 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 features the same five-year update guarantee as Samsung’s flagship devices, some of which cost ten times as much. 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.
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:
- Nothing Phone 1 (~$489): The Nothing Phone 1 is one of the most interesting phones we’ve reviewed in years. In addition to all-around solid budget performance, its unique “Glyph” on the back is sure to turn heads wherever you go.
- Nord 2T (~$405): 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 F4 (~$405): Xiaomi-affiliate Poco makes several excellent cheap phones with flagship-level power. The Poco F4 is our favorite of the bunch, with a snappy 120Hz screen and a powerful Snapdragon 870 processor.
- Poco X4 Pro ($~335): Like the F4 above, the Poco X4 Pro impressed us with a speedy 120Hz OLED screen, but drops the flagship processor to come in at an even lower price point.
- Redmi Note 11 (~$179): The cheapest phone in the Redmi Note 11 series is also the one that we most highly recommend. It offers a lot for the money, even though it’s a budget phone. In our testing, we found an excellent screen, great battery life, and unexpectedly good performance.
What to look for in a cheap phone
Some of you may be looking to purchase your first smartphone, and 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, but 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, but 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 (and that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing).
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, but 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, but it’s still a nice way to futureproof your device as new networks roll out across the country.
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 $450, although you can get them for significantly cheaper via carriers.