Finding the best cheap phones under $300 can require a lot of searching before you uncover a handset that's up to snuff. Yes, phone makers produce all sorts of devices that cost just a couple hundred bucks — but there aren't that many that are worth your time.
Still, search long enough and your patience will be rewarded. The pickings are slim for devices that cost $300 or less, but we've found a handful that excel in a few key areas so long as you're willing to compromise on other features.
As you can see from our picks for the best cheap phones under $300, you can only get Android devices in the price range. You could probably pick up a used iPhone under $300 elsewhere, but the cheapest new iPhone that Apple sells is the $429 iPhone SE (2022).
And as you might expect, phones this cheap have to cut corners. Some have serious drawbacks, such a poor performance or lackluster cameras. We included phones that scored at least three out of five stars in their reviews, which means that phones like the OnePlus Nord N300 or Moto G Play (2023) don't make the cut.
Fortunately, the following phones do measure up.
Best cheap phones under $300 right now
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The OnePlus Nord N20 is a beautiful phone with a great price-to-performance ratio. It sports a great 6.4-inch AMOLED display with rich colors and deep blacks. The Snapdragon 695 is a reasonably fast little chip, making the Nord N20 the most powerful phone on this list.
While the cameras are underwhelming at best, the Nord N20 features great battery life. It lasted for 11 hours, 20 minutes on our battery test. At $299 unlocked ($282 through T-Mobile/Metro by T-Mobile), you could do a lot worse. It works on sub-6GHz 5G networks.
We're keeping an eye out for the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite, a phone OnePlus just released in Europe that includes a 108MP main camera and 67W charging despite a low price tag. There's rumors the phone could ship in the U.S. later this year as the OnePlus Nord N30, a low-cost successor to the N20. If so, then we could see another addition to the mix of best cheap phones under $300.
Read our full OnePlus Nord N20 5G review.
The TCL 30 V 5G is typical of the trade-offs you make when shopping for a cheap phone under $300. But if you want a phone that can last a long time on a charge, TCL’s $299 handset delivers. The phone averaged 11 hours and 46 minutes on our battery test, and when we turned on its smart refresh mode, which scales down the refresh rate to extend battery life, results improved to more than 12 hours.
You’ll need to get your phone service from Verizon to use the TCL 30 V 5G, but if you do, you can take advantage of that carrier’s faster C-Band 5G network, as the phone is compatible with that expanding 5G technology. We wish the TCL 30 V 5G had a little more processing muscle and that its cameras yielded better pictures, but these are sacrifices you have to make sometimes for a less expensive phone.
Read our full TCL 30 V 5G review.
While we're not fans of Motorola's new direction in 2022, you can't deny that its G Series phones are pretty affordable. The best of the bunch is the Moto G Power (2022), even if this year's edition doesn't live up to the heights of previous models.
For less than $300, the Moto G Power does the basics. It makes calls, browses the web and takes pictures, albeit mediocre ones. It also lasts quite a while on a charge — 13 hours and 15 minutes in the Tom's Guide battery life test. Just be ready to make compromises with this one, particularly when it comes to performance. We'd also expect a 2023 edition of the phone to arrive at some point this year.
Read our full Moto G Power (2022) review.
How to choose the best cheap phone under $300
Picking the best cheap phone under $300 can be tricky, because it's really all about figuring out which trade-offs you're willing to live with. But it's important to start with the basics.
Take the camera. Budget phones will typically feature one or two lenses, but that's starting to change. The megapixel count doesn't matter that much; pay more attention to the capabilities of the camera, such as a night mode for low-light pictures. See if the phone can shoot ultra-wide shots, which is becoming more common on cheap phones. But don't expect optical zoom; digital zoom is the norm under $400.
As for storage, 64GB is preferred for budget phones and seems to have become the norm, though some phones come with 128GB of base storage. If possible, see if the cheap phone you're considering offers a microSD card slot for expansion. Battery life is a huge concern regardless of price, so check the battery capacity on the phone. In general, anything above 4,500 mAh is preferred. Our best phone battery life list can also tip you off as to which phones did the best on our battery test.
5G used to be reserved for expensive flagships, but these days, high-speed connectivity is fairly standard, even on phones that cost less than $500. Some cheap 5G phones only feature compatibility with sub-6GHz 5G networks instead of faster mmWave-based 5G. C-band coverage is also iffy on phones this cheap.
Once you've found the best cheap phone, you can also look at our tips on how to save money on your cell phone bill.
How we test the best cheap phones under $300
For this best cheap phone overview, we limit our search to phones that cost less than $300. (Our other best cheap phones roundup expands the search to sub-$500 phones, where you'll have more to choose from if your budget allows.) Even with the limitations of cheap phones, any device that makes this list needs to stand out on the different tests that we run on every handset. We perform some of these tests in our labs and some in the real world.
When it comes to performance, we rely on such synthetic benchmarks as Geekbench 5 and 3DMark to measure graphics performance. These tests allow us to compare performance across iPhones and Android devices. We also run a real-world video transcoding test on each phone using the Adobe Premiere Rush app and time the result. (We unfortunately have to skip this test on some phones due to app compatibility issues, but we attempt this benchmark with each device we get in to review.)
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Geekbench 5 (single-core / multicore)||3DMark Wild Life Unlimited (FPS)|
|OnePlus Nord N20||696 / 1995||7|
|TCL 30 V 5G||521 / 1776||6|
|Moto G Power (2022)||177 / 1011||Could not complete test|
To measure the quality of a phone's display, we perform lab tests to determine the brightness of the panel (in nits), as well as how colorful each screen is (DCI-P3 color gamut). In these cases, higher numbers are better. We also measure color accuracy of each panel with a Delta-E rating, where lower numbers are better and score of 0 is perfect.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||sRGB (%)||DCI-P3 (%)||Delta-E|
|OnePlus Nord N20||179 (Vivid) / 103 (Gentle)||127 (Vivid) / 73 (Gentle)||0.34 (Vivid) / 0.3 (Gentle)|
|TCL 30 V 5G||122 (Vivid) / 112 (Natural)||86 (Vivid) / 79 (Natural)||0.23 (Vivid) / 0.24 (Natural)|
|Moto G Power (2022)||95||67||0.23|
One of the most important tests we run is the Tom's Guide battery test. We run a web surfing test over 5G (or 4G if the phone doesn't have 5G support) at 150 nits of screen brightness until the battery gives out. In general, a phone that lasts 10 hours or more is good, and anything above 11.5 hours makes our list of the best phone battery life.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Battery life (Hrs:Mins)|
|OnePlus Nord N20||11:20|
|TCL 30 V 5G||12:14 (Adaptive) / 11:55 (60Hz)|
|Moto G Power (2022)||13:15 (Adaptive) / 13:20 (60Hz)|
Last but not least, we take the best phones out in the field to take photos outdoors, indoors and at night in low light to see how they perform versus their closest competitors. We take shots of landscapes, food, portraits and more, and also allow you to be the judge with side-by-side comparisons in our reviews.