Fall phone launches are kicking into high gear, but don’t overlook the best cheap phones if you’re in the market for a new handset. We’ve tested multiple models that cost less than $500 and found that these phones deliver just about everything you need, whether you’re an iPhone fan or prefer Android.
In fact, we’d go so far as to say that after you try out the best cheap phones, you’ll wonder why anyone needs to spend $800 — or more — on a flagship device, when a sub-$500 handset delivers many of the same essential features.
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. And if that’s still too rich for your blood, check out our guide on the best cheap phones under $300.
What are the best cheap phones?
Based on our testing, the best cheap phone you can buy right now is the Pixel 6a. But coming in second is the Galaxy A53. Despite its inferior cameras and performance, it has a lot going for it like better battery life and a 120Hz display. So we expect a stiff Pixel 6a vs. Galaxy A53 battle.
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. (Here’s our preliminary Pixel 6a vs. iPhone SE 2022 comparison.)
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. To spend even less, consider the 2021 edition of the Moto G Power, which features outstanding phone battery life for less than $200.
Speaking of Motorola, the company has also shown off its new Motorola Edge 2022, a $498 phone that figures to go toe to toe with the Pixel 6a and Galaxy A53. Look for our full review soon, but our Motorola Edge 2022 hands-on finds a contender for the title of best cheap phone, thanks to its 144Hz display and 5,000 mAh battery.
The best cheap phones you can buy today
If you’re willing to overlook its disappointing battery life, the Google Pixel 6a is hard to beat as the best cheap phone overall. 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.
Read our full Google Pixel 6a review.
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).
If you’re strapped for cash, then be sure to check out the OnePlus Nord N20, especially now that this phone is no longer limited to just T-Mobile. (You will need to use it 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. The new 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 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.
More affordable 5G phones are arriving all the time, but don’t lose sight of the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G. It’s more than a year old at this point, but with a sub-$300 price, it’s still a great bargain if you’re willing to put up with a mediocre display.
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, though it’s unclear if that model will reach the U.S.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A32 5G 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, 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. A Pixel 6a vs. Pixel 6 comparison, for example, can reveal what you’re giving up should you opt for the $449 Pixel 6a.
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 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.