The Best Budget Smartphones for Every Type of User
Smartphones seem to be getting more and more expensive by the year. Even Apple’s middle-market iPhone 14 comes in at a starting price of $799. Prospects don’t get better on the Android side either, with the Samsung Galaxy S22 also starting at $799.
With prices like that, can you even find an affordable smartphone anymore? One that has solid, essential features but doesn’t hurt your wallet?
Actually, you can — and one of our picks is only $99. We’ve rounded up the five best cheap smartphones on the market to help you find a deal that works best for your lifestyle and budget. Here are today’s best deals:
Best Budget Smartphones
5 Smartphones That Don’t Break the Bank
Apple iPhone SE: Best Budget iPhone
- Access to Apple software and services
- Excellent 12 MP f/1.8 rear camera
- Among the best built of selected budget phones
Apple produces some of the best smartphones in the world, but that quality typically comes at a high price. Apple has been offering a budget phone, the iPhone SE, since 2016 though. Now in the third generation, it just keeps getting better each year.
The iPhone SE has a slightly outdated design with a 4.7-inch screen featuring thick top and bottom bezels and a Touch ID sensor to unlock your iPhone via fingerprint. However, iPhone SE continues to offer a vibrant display that makes browsing photos or watching videos a joy.
Internally, the iPhone SE offers Apple’s A15 Bionic chip. That’s the same chip as the iPhone 13. That means the processing power won’t leave you wanting, even with a budget iPhone. You’ll be able to play all of the latest games without worrying about a slow experience.
For photos and video, the iPhone SE offers a solid camera system on the rear with a 12MP f/1.8 lens that still shines when compared to more expensive options. You’ll even get portrait mode and lighting built in, so you can take photographs with blown-out backgrounds and simulate perfect lighting conditions. There’s no night mode for extremely dark shots though.
Other features include splash, water and dust resistance (IP67) to protect your phone, a 5G radio for super-fast cellular connectivity and three color (red, white or black) options. All starting at $429.
Once you know which smartphone you want, there may be even more ways to save, like picking a phone with less storage space or a refurbished phone.
Google Pixel 6a: Best Budget Android
- The best Android smartphone under $500
- Camera delivers great photos with AI processing
- Battery can last over 24 hours on a charge
When it comes to budget smartphones, Google continues to impress us with its Pixel lineup. The Google Pixel 6a is our top budget Android smartphone for 2023, replacing our previous year’s pick, the Google Pixel 5a. A solid iteration of the company’s last budget offering, the Pixel 6a provides a smooth Android experience in a smartphone that’s less than $500.
The Pixel 6a features a 6.1-inch OLED display that sports bright, vivid colors — perfect for watching movies or bingeing TV shows on the go. If you need to jump into a video call, you’ll find a capable 8 MP f/2 front camera at the top center of the display. Flipping over the device reveals a smooth backing available in three colors — sage, chalk or charcoal.
When you want to capture a bit of your everyday life, the Pixel is ready to jump into action. Thanks to a dual camera system featuring a 12.2 MP f/1.7 standard camera and a 12 MP f/2.2 ultrawide camera, you can capture the action, near or far. We particularly like the Pixel’s AI features that allow you to remove unwanted objects from images and unblur faces.
Other Google Pixel 6a features include a Google Tensor processor for a speedy experience, an all-day battery that can last over 24 hours and a built-in fingerprint scanner. Sadly, you won’t find an SD card slot on this smartphone, so you are limited to 128 GB storage.
OnePlus Nord N20 5G: Best Under $300
- Large, vivid display for movies and photos
- 4500mAh battery that lasts longer
- Fast 33W charging
We know that the term “budget” is subjective. For some, a budget phone is about $500. For others, it’s even lower, which is why we’re happy to recommend the Nord N20 5G by OnePlus. While the brand might be a bit unfamiliar, hard-core Android fans know OnePlus as a brand that’s always trying something new.
With the Nord N20 5G, OnePlus has hit an excellent combination of price and value. This affordable phone features a 6.43-inch AMOLED display that makes colors pop, and users can unlock the device using the high-tech in-display fingerprint sensor.
The camera system on the Nord N20 5G isn’t our favorite among our budget smartphone picks. (That award still goes to the Apple iPhone SE and the Google Pixel 6a.) However, the 64 MP f/1.8 camera on the back holds its ground for capturing everyday moments. There is even a smaller 2 MP macro camera on the rear — a fun addition if you love taking up-close photos of plants or other things.
Other features on the OnePlus Nord N20 5G include the large 4500mAh battery and 33W fast charging ability, which help keep you topped up if needed — great for travelers and concertgoers. For those who prefer wired headphones, OnePlus kept a headphone jack on this phone, unlike many phones being released today.
Need help financing your next smartphone? Check out our guide on how you can use your old phone to pay for your next upgrade and save some money.
Motorola Moto G Power: The Best Battery
- Battery lasts up to three days
- Fast charging: a few minutes = 1 hour of use
- Low price tag
If battery life is one of your top priorities, you may want to consider the Moto G Power, which — if you couldn’t tell from the name — puts an emphasis on great battery life.
The Moto G Power isn’t just a one-trick pony though. Featuring a gray, silver or blue finish, the Moto G Power is crafted around a massive 6.6-inch display that makes watching the latest episodes of your favorite show fun, but the colors could be more vivid.
The camera system is decent, with the primary rear camera based around a 50 MP f/1.8 sensor and lens pairing that will help capture important moments, but don’t expect the best in the photo and video quality. As with the Nord N20 5G, the Moto G Power also features a 2 MP f/2.4 camera for capturing extremely up-close shots.
But the showstopper of the Moto G Power is the battery. Motorola claims the Moto G Power can last up to three days on a single charge. That’s quite an impressive feat for a smartphone. The battery can recharge up to an hour of power in only a few minutes, too.
All that energy is used to power a Qualcomm Snapdragon octa-core processor for a more enjoyable, lag-free experience — though the processor, which is a bit outdated, may not have the best longevity. All starting at $199.
BLU G51S: The Best Under $100
- A decent smartphone under $100
- A large 6.4” display for easy web surfing
- Available in four colors
It is not easy to find a good smartphone for under $100, but if you’re on an extremely tight budget, the BLU G51S is likely your best choice. BLU is a company known for focusing on the lower end of the market and occasionally offers a cheap phone worth purchasing — if you can make some sacrifices.
Featuring a 6.4-inch display, the G51S provides a large screen experience perfect for writing emails, checking your calendar and sending out a few tweets. But an underwhelming processor may not handle much beyond the basics. We don’t recommend the G51S if you are planning to do much beyond web browsing, texting, calling and other basic functions.
The BLU G51S has a camera, but it’s nothing special compared to other devices. The 13 MP camera may work best for those who need to snap the occasional photograph or document. We don’t recommend the G51S if taking high-quality photos is a priority for you.
If the BLU G51S sounds like a poor option, it isn’t necessarily. But at this price point, you do have to sacrifice higher-end specs and abilities. For a bit of fun, the G51S comes in an assortment of colors, including blue, bronze, green and red. This all starts at $99.
How We Chose the Best Budget Phones
To choose the best affordable phones for your life, we researched all of the options on the market and performed select hands-on testing. We focused on the price first but kept other important features in mind, including battery life, camera system and display.
- Price: While mid-range Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy devices are close to $800, we considered only phones that cost less than $500 and offered the best combination of savings and features. We also included cheap phone options as low as $99 for readers seeking extreme savings.
- Battery life: We wanted to ensure every smartphone we recommended wouldn’t die on you halfway through the day. We also included a few options, such as the Moto G Power, that focus primarily on battery life, so you can go longer between charges. Wireless charging isn’t a feature on these cheap phones though.
- Camera system: For most everyday users, the smartphone has replaced the compact camera, allowing us to easily capture important moments. Putting the best affordable tech in your hands to take quality photos was a priority. Our top selections feature stellar cameras, and we note when a camera — such as the BLU G51S — may not live up to your expectations.
- Display: Because the display is integral in everything you do, we wanted to ensure the screen always looks great and recommended only the best options for each price range. Since many people prefer larger displays, we emphasized smartphones with the largest screens.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
After reviewing Android phones, we found the best value is the Google Pixel 6a ($449). The Pixel 6a offers a solid balance of features, including a great display, an excellent camera system and a stellar 24-hour battery. The Pixel 6a even offers fast charging abilities for topping up your battery at a moment’s notice.
Our top affordable pick from Apple is the iPhone SE ($429). This budget smartphone still features a solid display, a superb camera and the fast A15 Bionic chip, just like higher-end models.
Low-end devices focus on the low end of the price spectrum. Our budget smartphone roundup includes middle- and low-end devices for those looking to save a little or a lot — like those folks who simply need a no-frills phone to get them through the day.
The right budget smartphone for you depends on what you want and how much you want to pay for those features. If you can afford a higher price point, go with the Apple iPhone SE or Google Pixel 6a. They both offer excellent value.
If your primary focus is battery life, pick the Moto G Power for its three-day battery life and super-fast charging abilities. If price is your main factor, check out the OnePlus Nord N20 5G and the BLU G51S.
Michael Archambault is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder specializing in technology.