There's a fierce battle for the best cheap phones title, and who you pick comes down to how much you want to pay for your phone. The Google Pixel 7a delivers premium features in a sub-$500 phone, but it costs more than its predecessor. And with the Galaxy A54 also offering a top experience for $50 less, it's hard to deny that phone's appeal to budget-minded shoppers.
No matter which of those devices you ultimately pick, you can't really lose. And that underscores what we've been saying for some time: Opt for one the best cheap phones, and you'll find enough high-end capabilities to make you feel like you're getting plenty for your money.
After testing multiple phones that cost less than $500, we believe that most shoppers can find everything they need in these lower-cost devices, whether you're looking for an affordable iPhone or an inexpensive Android handset. No matter the model, no one needs to spend upwards of $800 on a flagship device when you can easily find a handset that delivers comparable features while costing hundreds of dollars less.
You'll need to make some trade-offs to get a cheap phone — forget about the most powerful processors or versatile zoom cameras — but in many cases, you'll find cameras that are good enough to get the job done and even big displays with adaptive refresh rates. And 5G connectivity is basically a given these days.
Here are our picks for the best cheap phones under $500. If that's still too much to pay, check out our guide on the best cheap phones under $300. And with Black Friday looming, there are more incredible deals you can find in our best Black Friday phone deals guide, that can snag you a generous discount on some of the phones below, along with past flagship devices. Don't forget to check out our other phone sale roundups like the best Black Friday iPhone deals and best Black Friday Samsung Galaxy phone deals.
The Quick List
Best for most people
The Samsung Galaxy A54 offers everything we want in a cheap phone: a larger and bright screen, long battery life, and a sharp main camera.
It's packed with pretty much the same set of premium features found in the Pixel 7, but at a much lower cost. It's perfect for shutterbugs.
It may be over a year, but you'll appreciate the additional savings by choosing last year's top contender in the Google Pixel 6a.
Best cheap iPhone
Best cheap iPhone
Don't let its small size fool you because the iPhone SE (2022) packs a punch for what it can do. It's responsive, has good camera, and packs a lot of savings.
Best phone under $300
Best under $300
Impressively, it delivers outstanding battery life that rivals bigger phones with larger batteries. It also doesn't take long to charge either.
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Excellent note taker
Best for note-taking
For that traditional paper meets pen experience, you won't have to spend a fortune on getting it with the Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G (2023).
The best cheap phones you can buy today
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Best cheap phone overall
As good as last year's Galaxy A53 was, the Galaxy A54 improves upon that midrange device in all the critical areas for smartphone users. The main camera is now the same 50MP shooter that Samsung uses on the more expensive Galaxy S23, and that helps the Galaxy A54 take on the Google Pixel 6a's impressive cameras. In head-to-head shots, the Galaxy A54 holds its own, even surpassing the output of the Pixel 6a in some cases, particularly when it comes to low-light shots.
The 6.4-inch OLED panel is brighter than the Galaxy A53's screen, and it's as colorful as ever. Battery life is better, too, as the Galaxy A54 outperforms the average smartphone on our battery test by half-an-hour. (Battery life improves even further when you turn off the Galaxy A54's adaptive refresh rate.) We also like the colorful look of the Galaxy A54, particularly the Awesome Violet variant.
We wish the Exynos 1380 processor boosted performance more than it does, and as good as the Galaxy A54's display is, those bezels are very noticeable. Still, with the Galaxy A54 price holding at $449, this is an impressive phone that delivers plenty of value for bargain hunters.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A54 review.
The Google Pixel 7a sees a $50 price hike from its predecessor — and more crucially, it costs $50 more than the Galaxy A54. But you can see how Google's justifying that price. The budget phone now has a bright display with a 90Hz refresh rate and it supports wireless charging, too. Even with those additions, it still costs less than $500 even though it runs on the same Tensor G2 chipset that powers the more expensive Pixel 7.
The best change of all involves improved cameras, specifically the 64MP main shooter on the back of the phone. That's a larger sensor than what you get with the Pixel 6a, so the Pixel 7a thrives in low-light settings. It's a neck-and-neck competition with the Galaxy A54 as to which phone takes the better photos, but you won't be disappointed with the Pixel 7a's efforts, particularly with Tensor-powered tools like Magic Eraser and Photo Unblur at your disposal.
If you absolutely want to spend the least amount of money for top features, the Galaxy A54 is the best cheap phone to get, but the Pixel 7a offers the most premium features for the money.
Read our full Google Pixel 7a review.
The Pixel 7a may be here, but that doesn't mean the Pixel 6a has to go away. Google's keeping the phone around for $349, so you can still get an excellent if older devices, provided the 7a's new features don't matter to you. Some Pixel 6a deals allow you to save even more on the phone.
The Tensor G1 chipset inside the Pixel 6a adds to its appeal. That’s the same silicon inside Google’s more expensive Pixel 6 flagships. As a result, the same AI-powered tricks Google’s flagship phone can pull off are available to the Pixel 6a, too, including the photo-editing Magic Eraser tool and on-device translation.
Even as an older device, the Pixel 6a provides excellent photos that measure up well against other budget devices. Android OS support will run out in two years, so this phone won't have the shelf life of the Pixel 7a, but it's still a viable option among the best cheap phones.
Read our full Google Pixel 6a review.
Best cheap iPhone
The iPhone SE 2022 takes cheap phones to the next level of performance by including Apple's powerful A15 Bionic chip. This is the same processor found in the iPhone 13 series and the iPhone 14, and it blows all Android phones away, whether you're playing games or editing video on the go.
This chip also gives the new iPhone SE 2022 a number of photography powers that the previous model lacked, including Smart HDR 4, Magic Fusion for better detail and Photographic Styles. In fact, in some scenarios the iPhone SE takes better pics than the Google Pixel 6a, as you can see in our Pixel 6a vs. iPhone SE 2022 face-off. Unfortunately, Apple didn't include Night mode for low-light situations.
The latest iPhone SE features the same design as before, so that means a small 4.7-inch display and big bezels, but some may prefer the old-school Touch ID button for quickly unlocking the device. Despite some trade-offs, the iPhone SE 2022 is a great choice for people who like small phones. With rumors circulating that an iPhone SE 4 likely won't ship until 2024, it may be your best option for a cheap iPhone for the foreseeable future.
Read our full iPhone SE 2022 review.
Best phone under $300
The OnePlus Nord N30 5G isn't as capable as the phones we've ranked above it, but it also isn't as expensive, either. At $299, this is the phone to get for people with a hard budget of $300, as OnePlus' budget phone nails the important details people look for in a mobile device.
You get a big screen with a 120Hz refresh rate, and while the OnePlus Nord N30 isn't a performance powerhouse, it does manage power efficiently. The Nord N30 lasted 12.5 hours on our battery test, with its display in adaptive mode, which is a very impressive result.
The 108MP main lens looks good on paper and captures more detail than you may be used to from a budget camera. But it's inconsistent camera performance that keeps us from being more enthusiastic about the OnePlus Nord N30. Nevertheless, for less than $300, you get a very capable phone that delivers more value than you might imagine.
Read our full OnePlus Nord N30 5G review.
Best for watching video
All on its own, the Motorola Edge 2022 would be a fine choice for a midrange phone that delivers some premium features without costing you more than $500. Yet, at $498, it's brushing up against the ceiling for what the best cheap phones should cost. (Many retailers list the 256GB version of the phone, which costs $599.) Even more worrisome, it can't really top the Pixel 6a or Galaxy A53 — let alone the successors to those phones — making it hard to pick over those phones.
And that's a shame because the Motorola Edge does get a lot of things right. Its 6.6-inch display is both big and bright, and it supports wireless charging — a feature you don't always find in cheaper phones. While MediaTek chipsets haven't fared well in our testing, the Dimensity 1050 powering the Edge turns in very solid performance, particularly when it comes to graphics. And Motorola offers more generous software support than it has with other devices.
If only the cameras didn't struggle with color, we'd be a lot more enthusiastic about the Motorola Edge 2022. As it is, this is a decent midrange phone that is outflanked by more impressive devices that cost even less.
Read our full Motorola Edge 2022 review.
Best for note-takers
Both the Moto 5G Stylus 5G (2023) and Galaxy S23 Ultra ship with a built-in stylus. The difference is that Motorola's phone costs $800 less than Samsung's flagship. And while the stylus that comes with the Moto 5G model isn't as feature-rich as Samsung's S-Pen, it's still good for jotting down notes and editing photos more precisely. If you're looking for a way to boost your productivity on a budget, this year's edition of the Moto G Stylus 5G fits the bill.
You'll get some inconsistent camera performance, and we wish Motorola provided more than one guaranteed Android OS update, but we were pleased with how long the Moto G 5G Stylus lasts on a charge. It's also a pretty slender design that's much easier to type on than a lot of today's phones. Be sure not to confuse this 5G-capable model with the regular (and less expensive) Moto G Stylus (2023).
Read our full Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) review.
Verizon customers who want a long-lasting 5G phone that's capable of taking advantage of the carrier's fastest speeds should consider the TCL 30 V 5G. It's another example of a 5G phone that won't break the bank, as you can find this particular handset for less than $300.
As is typical of TCL phones, you get a big, expansive display with accurate colors. The Snapdragon 480 5G silicon powering the phone doesn't exactly offer blazing performance, but that's a trade-off you make for a cheaper device. You will be pleased with the phone's battery life, which hit 11 hours and 46 minutes in our testing.
The TCL 30 V 5G isn't an option if you prefer other wireless carriers, but if you're committed to Verizon and don't mind buying the TCL 30 V 5G straight from the carrier, this is a solid budget buy.
Read our full TCL 30 V 5G review.
What to look for in the best cheap phones
After you've found a phone at the right price for your budget — that's why you're considering one of the best cheap phones in the first place, after all — consider what features one of these devices has to offer and which ones you're sacrificing for a lower price tag. Battery life, the number and types of cameras, display refresh rate and the type of chipset powering the phone are all ways that cheap phones can distinguish themselves.
In some cases, you'll be able to compare phones to more expensive options to help crystalize what compromises you're making for a lower-cost model.
Generally, one area in which phone makers cut back for budget models is materials. They'll use plastic for the phone's case instead of metal and glass. Cheaper phones may also turn to LCD panels instead of OLED screens, though that's becoming less frequent among some of the best cheap phones running Android.
One other area to consider is software updates and support. We've seen cheaper Android phones either ship with older versions of Android or promise very few upgrades to future versions. Samsung has one of the better upgrade policies with its Galaxy A lineup, and the iPhone remains a standout for usually supporting five years of iOS updates.
How we test the best cheap phones
We evaluate budget-priced phones the same way we do flagships. We perform real-world testing and synthetic benchmarks over several days to evaluate it's performance and value. This includes our own battery test, which involves continuous web surfing over cellular at 150 nits of screen brightness. The devices that make our best phone battery life list tend to last over 11 hours.
In terms of performance, we use Geekbench 5 to measure overall speed and compare versus phones in the same price range. And the same thing goes for 3DMark's Wild Life Unlimited for graphics testing. We also perform our own video editing/transcoding testing using the Adobe Premiere Rush app to gauge real-world speed.
For evaluating cameras on cheap phones, we will take multiple photos in different conditions and will use other affordably priced phones in the same scenarios in order to make side-by-side comparisons.
For more information, check out our how we test page for Tom's Guide.