The iPhone SE Is Dead, So What's the Best Cheap iPhone?

At $349, the iPhone SE was a great phone for those on a budget or for pre-teens or teens who need their first smartphone. I know, because like many parents, I gave an iPhone SE to my daughter as her first phone.

Well, get ready to pay more, because Apple has discontinued the iPhone SE. In fact, the "cheapest" new iPhone in the lineup — the iPhone XR — starts at $749.

The good news is that Apple has also dropped the prices on some of its older iPhones. And you can get good deals on refurbished models.

iPhone 7 ($449), iPhone 7 Plus ($569)

If you don't mind having a lower-resolution display, the 4.7-inch iPhone 7 and 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus will satisfy. The A10 Fusion chip is an upgrade from the A9 processor inside the iPhone SE, and it should prove plenty snappy for most tasks and playing games, although you shouldn't expect the best performance when using AR apps.

The iPhone 7 sports a 12-MP rear camera, and the iPhone 7 Plus boasts dual rear shooters so you can get a 2x optical zoom. You can also record 4K video up to 30 frames per second on both handsets.

Because these are traditional designs, you won't be able to use Face ID for unlocking your phone; instead, you'll have to rely on the Home button and its Touch ID sensor. This should be more than adequate for most people.

MORE: iPhone Xs vs iPhone Xs Max vs iPhone XR - Which Should You Buy?

In our testing, we found that the iPhone 7 Plus lasted 1.5 hours longer on a charge than the iPhone 7, thanks to it larger battery, so you may want to spend more for that model if you really care about endurance and don't mind a larger screen.

Alas, you won't find a headphone jack on these older iPhones, and you'll also have to put up with somewhat thick bezels around the screens. But overall, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are still worthwhile investments.

Refurbished iPhone 6s ($221) or 6s Plus ($353)

Apple also discontinued the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, but you can still get your hands on them through resellers like Back Market. For example, you can pick up the 4.7-inch iPhone 6s for $221. This is for an unlocked handset that comes with 64GB of storage and a 6-month warranty.

The iPhone 6s has a somewhat slow A9 processor, but it does benefit from such innovations as 3D Touch on the display for activating various shortcuts. The Live Photo feature, which debuted on this phone, is also nifty, adding motion and sound to your photos.

MORE: Maybe It's Time to Get Out of the iPhone Upgrade Rat Race

The iPhone 6s Plus goes for about $265 for 16GB but I would jump up to 64GB for $353, so you'll have more room for photos and videos. The 6s Plus also delivers a bigger 5.5-inch display along with more battery life.

Neither the iPhone 6s or 6s Plus offer dual rear cameras, but both phones come with a headphone jack.

Bottom Line

If you're not wedded to iOS, there are plenty of great cheap phones out there. For example, the OnePlus 6 is one of the fastest Android phones we've tested and it starts under $550. There's also several good Android phones under $250. That includes the Moto G6, which offers a 5.7-inch display and snappy performance for the money.

But if you really want an iPhone and don't have the dough to lay out for one of the newest iPhones, you have some solid options.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.