The best cheap phones won't give you premium features like the 200MP main camera on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. But you will find enough high-end capabilities to make you feel like you're getting plenty for your money by opting for a less expensive handset.
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 phone. 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.
Those on a budget will find that the best cheap phones offer capable cameras, big-enough displays for watching video and playing games and plenty of battery life to get you through most of the day. And 5G connectivity has become standard for cheap phones, so you're not sacrificing connectivity for a lower price.
You will need to make some trade-offs when choosing a phone in this price range, as you won’t always find the most powerful processors, displays with adaptive refresh rates or versatile zoom cameras. But overall you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what the best cheap phones deliver.
Expect a shakeup among the best cheap phones, with new models slated to appear in the coming months. Galaxy A54 specs have already leaked, giving us a hint as to what Samsung's planning for its next midrange phone. The Pixel 7a from Google should follow later this spring.
Until those phones arrive, though, 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.
The best cheap phones you can buy today
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The Google Pixel 7a will likely arrive by the midway point of 2023, but until then, the Pixel 6a remains the best cheap phone to beat (though you will have to overlook this model's disappointing battery life). Credit the cameras, which always stand out on Google’s budget devices. Like its predecessors, the Pixel 6a relies on computational photography to deliver some of the best images in this price range — its photos can even challenge those produced by much more expensive phone. And unlike the iPhone SE (its closest competitor on the cheap camera phone front), the Pixel 6a supports a night mode.
You’ll also find a Tensor chipset powering the Pixel 6a. That’s the same silicon inside Google’s Pixel 6 flagships, which start at $150 more than the Pixel 6a. 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.
For $449, you get a lot of value with the Pixel 6a. It’s the phone to get if you place a premium on camera capabilities and special features. The biggest question these days is whether to pony up an additional $150 to get the affordably priced Pixel 7 that's powered by a newer Tensor chipset. (Our Pixel 7 vs. Pixel 6a comparison looks at what's different besides the price.) But if you really want to stick to that sub-$500 budget, the Pixel 6a is the way to go, especially if you can find any Pixel 6a deals that lower the price even further.
Read our full Google Pixel 6a review.
We're anticipating a spring release for new Galaxy A series phones, with the rumored Galaxy A54 replacing the Samsung's Galaxy A53. Still, the likely arrival of its successor doesn't mean this $449 handset does just about everything well. It has a nice 6.5-inch AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate. (Our Pixel 6a vs. Galaxy A53 face-off goes into greater detail on the differences between these best cheap phone contenders for Android fans.)
Of course, the cameras could be better, especially in light of the Pixel 5a. However, they do just fine if you're okay with Samsung's characteristic oversaturated look. The performance won't wow you like the iPhone SE (2022), but it's good enough for most daily tasks.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A53 5G review.
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, 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 (opens in new tab).
Forget about the disappointing OnePlus Nord N300 — the older OnePlus Nord N20 is the phone to get when your strapped for cash. That's even more true now that you're not limited to buying the phone at T-Mobile (though you will need to use your Nord N20 with a T-Mobile MVNO to enjoy 5G speeds). This is a sub-$300 phone that looks like it'd cost way more. It has a beautiful AMOLED display, even though it's locked at 60Hz. There's also an in-display fingerprint sensor, not something you typically see on a phone this cheap.
Sure, the cameras are pretty underwhelming, but for $282, you can't expect too much. You do, however, get 33W fast charging, which outpaces even some of the top flagships like the Galaxy S22 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro Max. That's saying something.
Obviously, there are better phones under the $500 mark, but if $300 is your cap, then the Nord N20 should be your top consideration.
Read our full OnePlus Nord N20 5G review.
A really long-lasting phone endures for more than 11 hours on our battery test. This edition of the Moto G Power blows them away with a runtime of 14 hours and 4 minutes. That's among the best phone battery life we’ve ever seen, which is really remarkable when you consider the Moto G Power debuted for less than $250. It's even cheaper now that the phone has been out a while, especially if you opt for the version with less RAM and storage.
But a long-lasting battery isn't the only reason this device is on our best cheap phone list. The Moto G Power offers a large 6.6-inch display with full HD resolution, and fairly capable cameras with triple lenses, including a 48MP main camera, a 2MP macro lens and 2MP depth sensor.
There's a newer model, the Moto G Power 2022, that also lasts a long time on a charge. But our testing found that its processor isn't as adept as the one powering the 2021 model. The older version's simply a better value, though it's beginning to show its age, especially with Motorola providing just a lone Android update.
Read our full Moto G Power 2021 review.
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, 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 feture 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.
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 (opens in new tab), 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.
In UK, there are options like the Oppo Reno 2 Z, Huawei Nova 5T, Honor 20, Mi 9T. There are various excellent compilations on Youtube (i.e. for one, Tech Spurt's "Best Smartphones under 400 pounds (Spring 2020)") which set out the key features of each.
Excellent cameras, multiple cameras, long lasting battery, HD OLED screens, high screen to body ratio, high quality bodies (sometimes metal/glass) are par for the course now. Some have flagship chipsets, but others have fast upper mid range chipsets, but should be more than sufficient for everyday use.
Its clear that most of the phones on your above list will not be competitive in that space. Even 2 of my top picks in your list have big gaps i.e.
Apple SE has a great chipset and decent camera, but everything else is so 2015. Maybe if the antique look is coming back, it becomes stylish again ?
Pixel 3a has a good engine and camera, but in a $100 android phone body.
Rather, 'Tom's' could (and should starting soon) strive to separate your reviews of handsets and Smart devices by going outside the norm and telling 'The People' about lesser known brands and companies who are Truly putting fantastic value and major Bang for the buck into their devices and enlightening the people to these emerging options here in our market, and not just overseas.
Androidchap laid down some good examples, and noted the UK market also, and I would quickly emphasise other Asian companies who are putting out Beautiful designs with awesome specs for less than half the cost of even these "mid-range" value B.S models on the list.
Again, I'm not picking on you, your list is just like PC mags, cnet, techgurus, etc... you all have the same models but just in slightly different order as to your "best of-pick".
So piggybacking on the manufacturer's Androidchap noted, I would additionally offer up for 'the People' to check out: Xiaomi and their entire Mi line of electronics, such as the Mi 9, REDMi 9/Note 9s/9 Pro, 10 ... you get the idea. Add to that a newish player called Elephone (who's latest offering in the "value" space can now be had in pre-sale for the apsurd low cost of $130-$170 US and is spec'd more like a "flagship" phone in our market. Crazy.
Just look at the build quality, color choices, camera options galore (like 48 & 64 mp, 4 lens, with macro and good night vision capability) and you begin to see the vast differences out there. And did I mention the value? The bang for the buck that truly can be had if people just knew what to ask for? Oh yeah... I Did mention that.
Here's another- ASUS, who some should recognize for their Chromebooks, laptops, tabs, etc, ...well, turns out they make really killer phone designs too! Soon to launch should be the next ZenPhone 7 plus a higher-end (they claim) option in their Logic line I believe they call it?
Doesn't matter, the point is that you guys (Tom's) should be the ONES telling us about these alternatives, instead of just re-presenting the same year-over-year options which Anyone who's owned a Smartphone should already kinda have a feel for OR could get the same generic dialog from walking into a Verizon, AT&T, t-Mobile, or Sprint store and chatting it up with the sales kid. Just my opinion, but if I were you I would try to do something New to separate yourself from the other "big boys" in the Consumer Electronic Review space and make a name for yourselves AS PROGRESSIVE.
Your list sucks. The phones are ugly and mostly lame.
(sure, some of the Mi models I mentioned aren't 5G capable at the SUB-$350 range! (no duh), but who cares! Spend just a little more with them, like still under $500, $600, $700 and guess what- comes Standard with a Snapdragon 855 and All the bells and whistles to boot. That's a hell of a lot better than the stupidly ridiculous price that Apple & Samsung have "trained" most of us to expect for their "elite" models... give me a break. The iPhone hasn't barely had a 'sexy' or interesting design change in like... Forever!
Sadly, the phone scene in the States in largely boring and homogenized like most things.
Just take a moment to Go Look at the beautiful design Aesthetics of some models available in UK, Europe, and for certain Korea, Japan and China and you will see what I'm seeing...
America is sadly NOT a leader or out in front in the CE (electronics) marketplace at all.
We lag; big time.
Anyhow, that my 2 cents and a little more for you and some readers perhaps.
Take my suggestion and reinvent what you're bringing to the rest of us here in the USA and begin covering the "Cutting-edge stuff" and leave the lame re-runs and slow to change models and brands to others. (Obviously, you still need to cover Apple, Samsung, HTC, ONE, Moto, etc.,) but bring some new blood into the mix is all I'm getting at.
I'm off to order a totally KIck Ass Smart (and stylish) modern handset... it just isn't represented on Your or most anyone else's "Review" lists circulating here in the States.
It unfortunately crossed my mind that maybe you're promoting and writing about the 'regular' stuff because it helps drive your affiliate/partner advertising and links for readers to go purchase from the "Samsung's of the world" as their only or 'best' current option?
Maybe it would be a lot more fun and add A Lot more valuable to your audience if you covered the Latest and (Less well Known) Greatest, rather than just the same-ol', same 'ol brands and models.
Give it a thought?
Lastly, your site or blog or forum or whatever this is happens to way too busy with large flashy Ads, pop-ups and general distractions, which also under value your potential to be taken more seriously. I know it helps pay the rent and expenses, but maybe take back some control and tone down the mass advertising on-slaught here. Thanks for the consideration.
Take care and Best of luck starting to cover "The Good Stuff". See Ya boys and girls!
Yeah, NO. That's not what i was saying AT ALL in my long post... maybe you didn't fully give it a read or failed to understand my points?
Please Forward my message to the author of the Article: @Mark Spoonauer. and CC Tom or anyone else in Upper Management please. I would like to know how they feel towards my actual points, which include Tom's Guide stepping out of the "box" and exploring and reviewing all the other emerging Brands and offering readers a much broader and more informative review of tech and our Best Value Buys.
I never said Cheap. The article has that title, but some of the phones I mentioned could compete as PHone of the Year in some cases, especially with OVerall Value is taken into consideration. Your list does NOT do that nearly as well as it could have if the author explored and dug a little deeper for All the options that are emerging.
- Have them write a comment if you can?
Was great reading your opinion and I agree with you pretty close to 100%. Thanks for posting.
I normally use forums to find answers to whatever hardware/software related problems I experience at that particular moment, rarely comment under articles and almost never reply to other comments. But, after having read this comment, I wanted to sign up & let the author know how much I appreciated what they've written - and not just in terms of its content, but also for the passionate tone that conveys that they really care. I do hope that tom's guide does also appreciate the fact that one of their readers put in the time & effort to write this well thought out, constructive criticism full of salient points & good, practical suggestions.
I had never heard of elephone before. Just checked & discovered that they are sold in my homeland. Would probably have skipped them without a second glance, had I not read your comment @HelloJelloFellow, but will research them now. So thanks & all the best.
I was looking at the Pixel 6a in it and saw a link to it being compared to the Pixel 7
That post talked about the 7 as if it wasnt out yet, no prices and other data. But had a link to 7 vs 7pro
Turns out the 7 is already out and the price has since been dropped to $499 (you can see this in the 7 vs 7pro article)
Thought I'd make my first reply letting them know that the 7 can replace the 6a on the list
But turns out the article was from 2020 and now locked