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Are you buying too much phone? Here's how much you should spend on your device.

Do you really need that 200MP camera or bleeding-edge processor? Probably not.
By

Published onJune 28, 2024

samsung galaxy s24 ultra case hero with phone
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Spending too much money on the best smartphones on offer is incredibly tempting. It’s even easier to get allured by features and specifications you’ll probably never use. While money buys you a lot of kit, not every buyer needs everything and the kitchen sink. Many users can get by with a modest glass slab. If you’re searching for a device for a particular purpose or are a particular type of buyer, we explain below how much you should spend on a smartphone.

Importantly, the recommendations below consider the best value phone for a particular user, not necessarily the most affordable. You could consider pricier or cheaper phones to match your budget and requirements.

How much should you spend on a smartphone?

How much should power users spend on a phone?

How much should you spend? Around $900 or more, depending on your demands.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra S Pen
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
Galaxy S24 Ultra

For power users, the question isn’t how much they should pay but how much they want to spend. Like supercar shoppers, power users only care about acquiring the superlatives, whatever the cost. These buyers will likely know how much they’ll need to spend for that specific design feature or specification.

That being said, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for power users. Everyone is different, even if they all maximize their phone usage. Some might gravitate towards cutting-edge designs, like the best foldables. Others may make extensive use of their phone for emulation or mobile development. While others want to own the best of the best, this diversity means that recommending a single device at a single price point is tricky.

Depending on your device’s form factor, you can spend anywhere from $900 to $1,800 as a power user. You’ll find “cheap” flagships like the Google Pixel 8 Pro ($999 at Amazon) and the Galaxy S24 ($859.99 at Amazon) starting around the $1,000 mark or less, with more premium options, like the Galaxy S24 Ultra further above this threshold.

For those wanting the bleeding edge, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 ($1799 at Amazon) or OnePlus Open ($1699.99 at Amazon) should appeal to you.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
AA Editor's Choice
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
Powerful, flexible cameras • Excellent update commitment • Brilliant flat display
MSRP: $1,299.99
The best of the best in the S24 series
Samsung's true flagship device, the Galaxy S24 Ultra offers the very best specs and features from any Galaxy phone to date. Ai and camera functions are the name of the game, with a 200MP primary camera, 50MP 5x telephoto, 10MP 3x telephoto, and 12MP ultrawide shooters. Smaller display bezels, 2,600 nit display, 5,000 mAh battery, an advanced cooling vapor chamber, up to 1TB of UFS 4.0 storage, and 12GB of RAM make for a powerful mobile computing system. The new ProVisual Engine offers AI-powered camera tools for photo and video capture.

How much should general users spend on a phone?

How much should you spend? Not more than $600.

Google Pixel 8a screen on table with screen on stock photo
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

If you’re heavily reliant on your smartphone but don’t require unique features, you could consider yourself a general or an average smartphone user. You use your phone to send emails, for digital banking, browsing social media, mapping purposes, and messaging. Notably, you can find these features on practically every modern phone, but you might also want a touch extra, be it a good screen to watch TV shows or movies or a camera kit to snap decent photographs when required.

The best budget phones are more than adequate nowadays, but you might want to spend a little more on storage, a better camera phone, or a better display. It’s also likely that you won’t upgrade your smartphone annually, making a device with lengthy support a must. If this is the case, we favor Samsung and Google’s mid-range models, hence our recommendation of the Google Pixel 8a. You can spend even less if you sacrifice software support, a reliable camera, and solid build quality.

Google Pixel 8a
Google Pixel 8a
AA Editor's Choice
Google Pixel 8a
Rich OLED display • Tons of Tensor G3-powered features • Pixel-pedigree cameras
MSRP: $499.00
Best possible Pixel experience for the price.
With the Pixel 8a, Google put all of its focus on value. A 6.1-inch display is backed by the Tensor G3 chip and decent specifications, a 64MP main camera is backed by most of Google's latest AI-powered features, and a 7-year update promise will keep this moderately priced phone ticking for years to come.

How much should elderly or less demanding users spend on a phone?

How much should you spend? Not more than $300.

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G Front - The best cheap phones
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
Galaxy A14 5G

On the other end of the spectrum, we have less demanding users. This group requires a phone for basic communication, the odd game of Wordle, scrolling through social media, or following global events through a news app or browser. In simpler terms, they don’t require a powerhouse phone or anything approaching it. All that’s required is a smartphone that can accomplish the bare minimum without fuss.

Older users may also need a larger screen, a durable body, and a reliable loudspeaker. For both parties, the Samsung Galaxy A14 5G fits the bill.

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G
Samsung Galaxy A14 5G
AA Recommended
Samsung Galaxy A14 5G
Sharper display • Good battery life • Very affordable
MSRP: $199.99
A well-dressed budget Android phone.
The Samsung Galaxy A14 5G is a great starter smartphone with a price you don't have to stress over.

How much should mobile gamers spend on a phone?

How much should you spend? Around $500.

Nubia REDMAGIC 8S Pro Game Space Genshin Impact
Nick Fernandez / Android Authority

Now, to address a more specialized use case. The gaming phone market offers a lot of wiggle room regarding budget. The most important features are display refresh rate, chipset performance, and heat dissipation. If the device comes with fast charging and a long-lasting battery, that’s even better.

I’d recommend fishing in the $600 range for starters. At that price, you can get the nubia REDMAGIC 8S Pro. It’s not the brand’s latest model but excels as a value proposition and should easily run most modern titles. The 8S Pro packs all the gaming phone paraphernalia, including RGB accents and capacitive triggers. Importantly, as gaming demands increase yearly, its limited software support period won’t affect those planning to upgrade.

Of course, those with cash to splash could invest in the ASUS ROG Phone 8 ($985 at Amazon) and gain hardware buttons, an upgraded chipset, and even faster screen.

Nubia RedMagic 8S Pro
Nubia RedMagic 8S Pro
Nubia RedMagic 8S Pro
Powerful gaming unit • Fun RGB lighting • Big specs
MSRP: $649.00
High-performance mobile gaming
Equipped with an active cooling system, the Nubia RedMagic 8S Pro is a powerful gaming device with a 6.8-inch display, big battery life, and next-gen connectivity. The 8S Pro has 8GB or 12GB of RAM, look for the 8S Pro+ if you want up to 24GB of RAM.

How much should you spend on a phone for children?

How much should you spend? Not more than $200.

galaxy a03s display and buttons - The best cheap phones
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

A child’s first smartphone may resemble the device I recommended for less demanding users, but a more rugged device is often required. A large screen, long-lasting battery, and reliability are three key features to consider, but you needn’t spend more than $200 to find all this.

A device that fulfills this role is the Samsung Galaxy A03s. It offers a broad display for easy reading, a surprisingly good main camera to keep in touch with family, and good battery life for kids who forget to charge their device regularly. Teenagers may demand something trendier and pricier, like the iPhone SE (2022) ($429 at Amazon), but there’s little reason to spend more than $200 on a phone for children.

Samsung Galaxy A03s
Samsung Galaxy A03s
Samsung Galaxy A03s
Solid battery life • Long-term software support • A fingerprint reader
A solid starter phone
Samsung's Galaxy A03s comes with a fingerprint reader and updated base RAM and storage compared to its predecessor, which gives it a little bit of extra punch. It also features decent battery life and great software support, just like most other Samsung phones.

How much should jotters and students spend on a phone?

How much should you spend? Around $400.

Moto G Stylus 5G (2024) cameras
Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

Those who use their phone for writing and note-taking will see the stylus as an important tool. A digital pen makes handwriting much easier and is perfect for students or artists. Generally, phones with styli come with a premium, but affordable options exist.

There’s little doubt that Samsung dominates the smartphone stylus market, formerly with its Note range and now with its premium S Pen-toting Galaxy S Ultra models. However, there’s no reason to spend over $1,200 if you want to write on your device. The Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G (2024) isn’t the obvious choice, but it is among the cheapest phones with a built-in stylus you can buy.

Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G (2024)
Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G (2024)
Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G (2024)
Good 1080p OLED screen • Built-in stylus • Long battery life and fast charging
MSRP: $399.99
Stylus-tastic.
The Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G (2024) is a mid-range phone with a Stylus tucked away inside the chassis. It represents an upgrade for Motorola's long-running Stylus line, with a 6.7-inch 1080p OLED screen, 8GB of RAM, and a Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 processor. It has a 5,000mAh battery and 30W wired and 15W wireless charging, which is faster than Motorola's other budget offerings.

How much should casual photographers spend on a phone?

How much should you spend? Around $300 or more, depending on your demands.

Samsung Galaxy A25 5G cameras
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

More budget phones are receiving features formerly limited to flagships, including high-resolution cameras and multiple lenses. While flagships offer impressive processing tricks and larger sensors, cheaper phones can still snap great photographs. You don’t need a flagship camera if you only plan to snap the odd photograph of a birthday party, your lunch plate at a brunch with friends, or the odd selfie for social media. You also won’t require a device with the best processor or titanium body.

In these situations, a device around the $300 mark will more than satisfy your modest photography requirements. The best example is the Samsung Galaxy A25 5G, which punches well above its weight with a 50MP primary camera.

Of course, you’ll get a lot more if you’re willing to spend more, but this equation doesn’t always represent the best value. The Google Pixel 8a ($499 at Amazon) is the best camera phone you can buy on a budget.

Samsung Galaxy A25 5G
Samsung Galaxy A25 5G
Samsung Galaxy A25 5G
Excellent stereo speakers • Class-leading software commitment • Sharp 120Hz display
MSRP: $299.99
Good budget buy.
The Galaxy A25 5G sits right in the middle of Samsung's budget-friendly A series, replacing a Galaxy A24 that never made its way to the United States. It offers a smooth, 6.5-inch AMOLED with a 120Hz refresh rate, an in-house Exynos 1280 chipset, and a triple camera system captained by a 50MP primary sensor. Oh, and it still has a headphone jack!
See price at Amazon
Samsung Galaxy A25

How much should outdoor workers or adventurers spend on a phone?

How much should you spend? Around $500 or less if you invest in a good case.

Nokia XR21 green official resize
Supplied by HMD Global

Outdoor workers or adventurers require a rugged phone — that is, one that’ll stand up to the elements, survive drops, and be water resistant. These facets usually come at a premium, but alternatives are at lower price points.

Every smartphone can be rugged if you pair it with a good case. However, for those who want a dedicated outdoor device that can brave bumps and knocks, the Nokia XR21 is a solid budget option. It costs around $500, which is a fair investment for a rugged phone that won’t look out of place in the boardroom. Alternatively, spend a little more, and you can find the CAT S62 Pro ($187.5 at eBay) — a more traditional rugged phone.

Nokia XR21
Nokia XR21
Nokia XR21
Solid rugged construction • Good battery life • Non rugged-looking design • Good upgrade promise
MSRP: $499.99
Performance could be improved | Not the best cameras

FAQs

An average smartphone user or those who don’t require all the bells and whistles of a top-end device can spend as little as $200 on a smartphone.

With the average price of smartphones rising year-on-year, smartphone buyers are spending more on their devices. However, this isn’t necessary, especially as budget phones are packing more and more features previously reserved for flagships.

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