If you're looking to save money, the best cheap phones we've tested will make you wonder why people spend $800 or more on a new flagship. Based on our reviews, you can get a very good phone for under $500 with all the features most buyers need, whether you're an iPhone fan or prefer Android.
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.
You do need to make some trade-offs in this price range, as you won’t always find the most powerful processors, 120Hz displays or versatile zoom cameras. But overall you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what the best cheap phones deliver. Read on for our top picks under $500.
What are the best cheap phones?
Based on our testing, the best cheap phone you can buy right now is Galaxy A53. But that could change over the summer.
One of our top picks, the Google Pixel 5a, is about to make way for a new phone. The Pixel 6a arrives at the end of July, and it features a Tensor processor that enables a number of AI-powered experiences. Even with the more powerful chip, the Pixel 6a costs the same as the 5a (and the A53). So we expect a potential shake-up at the top. Google is also looking to unseat the iPhone SE (2022), which costs $20 less and features the same fast A15 Bionic chip that's inside the iPhone 13.
If you want a 5G phone for less than $300, we recommend the OnePlus Nord N20. It might have some of the typical budget phone drawbacks, but it looks nice and has some premium features like an AMOLED display and 33W fast charging.
If you want to spend even less on your phone, get the new Moto G Power, which features outstanding phone battery life for less than $200.
The best cheap phones you can buy today
If you want the best mid-range phone for early 2022, then look no further than the Galaxy A53. This is a great handset at $449 that does just about everything well enough. It has a nice 6.5-inch AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate.
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 5a. Unfortunately, Apple didn't include Night mode for low-light situations.
The new 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 one of the best cheap phones around for people who like small phones.
Read our full iPhone SE 2022 review (opens in new tab).
Providing everything you could want for surprisingly little cash, the Google Pixel 5a costs half as much as the typical flagship phone, but delivers better photos than more expensive devices. You also get a decent display and an IP67 water/dust resistance rating that's important for keeping your device safe for as long as you own it.
So why not recommend this phone more enthusiastically? First off, you can only buy this phone in the U.S. and Japan, so tough luck to U.K. readers who might have thought about picking this up. More significantly, the Pixel 6a hits stores July 28. It has a Tensor chipset, addressing the under-powered processor that was one of our few Pixel 5a complaints. We're expecting photos as good or better as what the Pixel 5a produces (the camera setups are essentially the same), and the Pixel 6a retains the Pixel 5a's $449 price.
If you can hold out another couple months, the Pixel 6a figures to be a great value. At this point, the Pixel 5a is only worth getting if you need a great sub-$500 camera phone right now.
Read our full Google Pixel 5a review.
If you're strapped for cash, then be sure to check out the OnePlus Nord N20. 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. The new Moto G Power blows them away with a runtime of 14 hours and 4 minutes. That's among he best phone battery life we’ve ever seen, which is really remarkable when you consider the Moto G Power costs under $250. (And there's a $199 version if you can live with less RAM and storage.) But that’s not the only reason this Android phone made our best cheap phone list.
The Moto G Power also features 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.
At 7.3 ounces, the beefy 5,000 mAh battery inside the Moto G Power certainly contributes to its weight. And the screen on this phone could be brighter. But overall the Moto G Power is easily one of the best cheap phones around.
Be aware that Motorola has come out with a more recent version, the Moto G Power 2022. And while it lasts a long time, its processor isn't as adept as the one powering the 2021 model, making the older version a better value.
Read our full Moto G Power 2021 review.
We're starting to see more and more affordable 5G phones popping up, and one of the best of the bunch is the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G. At $280, it's one of the best bargains on this list, if you're willing to put up with a mediocre display. However, if you're strapped for cash and want a phone with decent cameras, the Galaxy A32 5G is one you should consider.
With its big 6.5-inch screen, the A32 is not a small phone. But it packs a 5,000 mAh battery that lasts a really long time — almost 12 hours in our testing with its adaptive refresh rate enabled. You can also expect the Galaxy A32 to last longer overall than many other budget options, with Samsung promising three years of Android updates and four years of security patches.
It's worth noting that the Galaxy A33 — a successor to the A32 — is now available in Europe, but we haven't gotten one in for review yet. It's unclear if that model will reach the U.S.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A32 5G review (opens in new tab).
You won't find too many 5G-capable devices on the list of best cheap phones — 5G modems can be a pretty pricey add-on. And yet, here's the TCL 10 5G UW, which can connect to Verizon's super-fast 5G network while still costing you less than $400.
There's more to 5G to explain the appeal of TCL's phone. The 6.53-inch display, while a little dim, produces great colors and gives you a lot of screen real estate. The TCL 10 5G UW has the same Snapdragon 765G processor you'll find in more expensive phones, delivering comparable performance. That 5G connectivity doesn't impact battery life, either, as TCL's phone lasted more than 11 hour on our battery test.
Read our full TCL 10 5G UW review.
How to choose the best cheap phone for you
Picking the best cheap phone 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. Do you prefer a bigger screen? Opt for a cheap phone with a display over 5.5 inches. Those who want to use a phone comfortably with one hand will likely prefer a phone under 5 inches.
Next up is 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. 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, 32GB is okay but 64GB is preferred for budget phones. And if possible see if that handset 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.
While the TCL 10 5G UW means that 5G compatibility is coming to phones under $400, don't expect 5G speeds as a rule. That's likely to change in the coming year, now that 5G modems are included on chipsets aimed at cheaper phones. Lastly, check to see which carriers the phone supports. Ideally, the handset should work with both GSM and CDMA networks all the big four providers in the U.S.
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 GFXBench 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.