This year, many big-time phone makers launched affordable phones, like the iPhone SE, the Pixel 4A and the Galaxy A51. Now more than before, phone buyers on a tight budget have more options to choose from. In addition to those new phones, there are plenty of reliable handsets from 2019 as well — and all of them cost about $500 or less. And despite their low prices, budget smartphones are getting more advanced and pack features akin to a premium phone, like amazing cameras, fast processors and modern-day software features.
To see our top picks of the best budget smartphone, check out the list below (which we’ll be updating regularly), and read CNET’s reviews. Note that we’ve linked to the unlocked version of each phone, and they should run on most of the big four US wireless carriers, unless specified otherwise.
Best cheap phones to try now
With a four-year gap between the 2020 iPhone SE and the previous one, Apple packed its latest budget phone with a bunch of upgrades. That includes wireless charging, better camera specs and water resistance. (Unfortunately, for wired headphone users, it doesn’t have a headphone jack.) If you’re looking for a new iPhone but want to save as much money as possible, the $399 (£419, AU$749) iPhone SE is your best bet.
Google’s Pixel 4A costs $349 (£349, AU$599). The 5.81-inch phone only comes in one color (black) and one size (as in there’s no Pixel 4A XL unlike past years). It features a headphone jack, a slightly larger screen and a bigger battery than the Pixel 4 and 128GB of storage right off the bat.
In addition to its main Galaxy S20 phones, Samsung has a more cost-conscious A series line of phones. This year it launched the Galaxy A51, another phone that costs $399, though we’ve seen it go on sale for as low as $280. (There is also a 5G variant that costs $499). The device has four cameras, an in-screen fingerprint reader and expandable memory.
Motorola One 5G
The $445 One 5G is one of the best, most affordable 5G phones available. It has a total of six, yes six, cameras, a 90Hz high-refresh rate display and fast-charing technology. It’s available now in the US on AT&T and on Verizon at a later date.
Although the Galaxy A50 came out last year (and is the predecessor to the A51 phone mentioned above), it’s still a great phone for $350. This Samsung phone has a 6.4-inch AMOLED screen, an in-screen fingerprint reader and a headphone jack.
If you’re looking for a cheaper Note 20 alternative, the $270 Moto G Stylus features a stylus that you can store inside the phone along with a built-in Notes app to help with productivity. The phone also features triple-rear cameras, 128GB of storage and a robust 4,000-mAh battery.
The Moto G Power is a tad cheaper than the G Stylus at $230, but it packs a robust 5,000-mAh battery. During our testing, it lasted an impressive four days without a charge. The phone has three rear cameras (one of which is a macro lens), a 6.4-inch display and expandable memory.
It’s been two years since its launch, but the Galaxy S9 is still worthy of consideration. Discounted at about $400 to $500 from Samsung and other retailers, the phone is water resistant, has wireless charging, expandable storage and a headphone jack. Plus, its curved OLED display screen lends the phone a modern-day look that still endures.
More phone advice
- Best Android smartphone of 2020
- Samsung Galaxy S20 vs. S20 Ultra vs. S20 Plus: Which you should buy
- Best prepaid phones of 2020
- Samsung’s Galaxy phones: Which should you buy?
- Best gaming phone for 2020
- SIM card swap fraud: What it is and how to prevent it
- Phones under $200: Top picks and new budget phones
- Best phones to gift to your grad in 2020
- Best iPhone charger for 2020