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We live in a world where good and cheap phones are not in short supply. Prices have dropped considerably, the hardware keeps getting better and better and so does the software. This means that you can find a cheap phone that can do everything you need or want.
How to choose a cheap phone
Choose a smartphone that has a display with a size that is suitable for your portability needs. A phone over 6″, for example, offers a lot of real estate for content but can be cumbersome in your pocket.
From a technical point of view, pay attention to the resolution and the type of panel. The resolution indicates the number of pixels that make up the content shown on the display: more pixels there are sharper the image will be.
Don’t just look at the resolution (HD, FHD, UHD or QHD) but take into consideration the PPI (pixels per inch) which indicates pixel density i.e. the number of pixels in each inch of the display. The higher the value, the sharper the content on the screen.
Finally, check the type of panel. Cheaper devices have an IPS LCD panel, but there are also some, which use an AMOLED panel. IPS LCD panels require backlighting, ensure a faithful color reproduction and good visibility under sunlight. AMOLED displays, on the other hand, do not require backlighting, and therefore ensure deeper blacks (the individual pixels can be turned off), lower energy consumption and a better contrast ratio. They are however less visible in direct sunlight.
Some ultra cheap phones are equipped with TFT LCD displays which are similar to IPS but have narrower viewing angles. In any case, these are general considerations: the quality of a panel must be assessed case by case, smartphone by smartphone.
Last but not least you have to evaluate the presence or absence of a notch.
Processor and RAM
The SoC (System on Chip, includes the processor, the graphics chip and other components necessary for the operation of the device) and RAM are the two components that determine the performance of a smartphone and its ability to “run” multiple apps simultaneously (multitasking) – the degree of software optimization also plays a key role but more on that later.
Internal memory and expandability
The internal memory of a smartphone is where all the data gets stored and where the operating system resides. It can be “fixed” or expandable via a microSD memory card.
4G/LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity
If you want to surf the internet on the go then you need to buy a smartphone equipped with 4G/LTE.
As for Wi-Fi connectivity, prefer a smartphone equipped with a dual-band 5GHz network modem with support for wireless AC technology (which, if also supported by your home router, allows you to transfer files up to 1.3Gbps).
Dual-SIM smartphones allow you to use two SIMs (therefore two phone numbers simultaneously).
On some devices, the second SIM slot is shared with that of the microSD card so you will have to choose whether to use two SIMs or to further expand the memory of your mobile phone.
To evaluate the photographic performance of a phone, the best thing to do is to look for online reviews and view samples of photos and videos made with it.
The battery capacity of a smartphone is expressed in mAh (milliamperes hour) and, consequently, more is better. There are also other factors that affect the real autonomy of a smartphone, such as the degree of software optimization and the smart energy management of the processor.
Most cheap phones are equipped with the Android operating system, which can boast on an endless number of apps and games, is extremely customizable and manages to adapt to everyone’s needs. Its main critical points are the subpar performance of terminals that are not very powerful in terms of hardware, its susceptibility to malware and the excessively fragmented (and often slow) distribution of software updates.
Which is the best cheap phone?
Now that you know what to look for let’s see which are the best cheap phones at the moment.
Motorola Moto G7 Power: best autonomy
The Moto G7 Power opts for a big 6.2-inch display with a resolution of just 720×1,520 pixels. The picture quality of the main camera (12.6 megapixels) is satisfactory. The internal storage measures 64GB, and it’s expandable via a microSD card, which is OK for a device that costs (Check on Amazon.com). In terms of weight, it is scratching the 200-gram mark: specifically, 193 grams.
It’s the battery that contributes to its high weight. However, also thanks to it, the Moto G7 Power scores a screen time of 15.5 hours on average. At the same time, it also sports a fast SoC, 4GB of RAM and neat features (such as a fingerprint sensor, face recognition and other).
It also has some flaws such as the aforementioned HD+ resolution and NFC absence. But, considering the price, these are not deal-breakers!
Read more: Moto G7 Power review: beyond the battery
Xiaomi Redmi Note 7: the best cheap phone
Combining a low price and high-end features, the Redmi Note 7 (Check on Amazon.com) can still surprise us with its excellent performance. This is a completely updated, version that features Android 9 Pie out of the box.
One of the highlights is the presence of the Snapdragon 660 processor, as well as the Adreno 512 GPU, which makes this a mid-range “powerhouse”. Along with Xiaomi’s software optimization, it is one of the smoother devices in the budget segment.
Beautiful is also a recurring word when referring to the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 after all the device has an excellent design and optimized format. Xiaomi used high-grade materials, ensuring a solid construction and an extremely durable smartphone.
This is a big phone (6.3 inches) but its streamlined and modern design manages to hide its bulk and lets you enjoy the big screen with the small notch without worrying too much about anything else.
Read more: Redmi Note 7 review
Google Pixel 3a: best photography
No need to spend extravagant sums to have the best photo camera on your smartphone. Costing just (Check on Amazon.com), the smaller sibling of Google’s Pixel 3, which costs (Check on Amazon.com), inherits the exact same camera.
Google’s image processing delivers sharp, clear shots, with natural color rendering while it also stands out at night with unparalleled, impressive-looking images.
It is equipped with a less powerful processor and made from less expensive materials, obviously, but it still offers the latest and greatest Android software, optimized by Google, with guaranteed 3 years of updates.
Honor 10 Lite: best all in one
From the get-go, you will be enchanted by the Honor 10 Lite (Check on Amazon.com). The smartphone comes with a shiny finish, thanks to the carefully selected materials that are also highly resistant. Due to the recent drop of its already budget price the Honor 10 Lite is one of the best entry-level smartphones you can buy today. It is the best option for those who want to spend less and still have a beautiful phone.
The performance isn’t bad either. The Honor 10 Lite comes equipped with the powerful Kirin 710 SoC, which is also optimized for battery usage. 3, 4 or even 6GB of RAM make this phone very snappy even in multitasking and with 32, 64 or even 128GB of internal memory, the user can store a large number of apps, games or media files.
The Huawei Honor 10 Lite also features the amazing Turbo GPU technology, a special feature that has been specially developed for mobile gaming.
Motorola Moto E6 Plus: the most affordable cheap phone
Motorola’s E line of smartphones is traditionally the cheapest one, and the Moto E6 Plus (Check on Amazon.com) combines the latest technology of 2019, including a 48MP main camera along with two additional sensors, with some typical features of cheap phones.
It also has a removable battery, something that is more unique than rare today.
Of course, there are also some trade-offs, such as the slower performance when compared to other smartphones in this list, but this is to be expected for the price.
Motorola Moto G7: a valid alternative
The Moto G7 (Check on Amazon.com) is not only the best Moto G phone yet, but it is also the best cheap phone that you can purchase today.
Obviously, if you spend more than double you can get a better phone, but this is a list of budget options, so if you are here it is because you surely prioritize the price over bells and whistles.
If that is the case, the Moto G7 is the best option you can currently invest in. It comes with Android 9 Pie, a good 1080p screen, a solid battery life, decent performance, and a premium design. You can do way worse for a lot more!
Motorola Moto G7 Play: best cheap gaming phone
The Motorola Moto G7 Play (Check on Amazon.com) is an octa-core smartphone that can be a lot of fun to use. With the Snapdragon 632 processor, the Moto G7 Play is 60% more efficient than previous generation smartphones.
This small (5,7 inches) Motorola smartphone is also equipped with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage expandable via a microSD card up to 256GB.
Extremely up-to-date and affordable, the Moto G7 Play is one of the best options among today’s entry-level smartphones. This cell phone also features Google’s latest operating system, Android 9 Pie, and Motorola’s implementation of basic software enhancements gets you an almost stock Android experience.
Read more: Moto G7 Play review: amazingly fast
Apple iPhone 8: the most affordable iPhone
This is the best choice for Apple fans who are looking for an “affordable” device and have their heart set on an iPhone. It has the same features as the iPhone X (Check on Amazon) but in an older design. If you think that modern smartphones are becoming too big, then the iPhone 8 (Check on Amazon) is the right device for you.
Its main difference from previous models is the A11 Bionic chip and the glass back that allows for wireless charging. The A11 Bionic, paired with 2GB of RAM, doesn’t sound very impressive on paper, but in terms of real world performance it is still rather fast.
The iPhone 8 is equipped with a 4.7″ IPS display with a 750×1334 pixel resolution that Apple defines as Retina HD. The iOS platform is easy to use and it will grant you have access to an excellent library of apps and games.
It also sports a 12MP rear and a 7MP selfie camera that take great photos.
The battery has a nominal power of just 1.821mAh, but it can last for a day and supports fast charging (if you splurge for the cable and adapter that are sold separately).
Last but not least it is IP67 water resistance certified. You also get Touch ID, Siri, and NFC for Apple Pay.
The only potential dealbreaker is the absence of a headphone jack. At least you get a 3.5mm Lightning adapter included in the box.
OnePlus 7T: best value for money
Smartphone enthusiasts should love the OnePlus 7T (Check on Amazon.com). The spec sheet is impressive and, in our opinion, the software is now even better than Google’s Pixel variant.
Its strengths are clearly in the 90Hz display and the triple camera array. Fans of the brand should be ecstatic of upgrading from a previous version.
However, if the excellent user interface and the high refresh rate are not that important for you, there are cheaper alternatives out there.
Nokia 7.2: the best cheap Android One phone
The Nokia 7.2 (Check on Amazon.com) is a mid-range phone focused on design, offering a rather unique build when compared to the smooth, rounded smartphones on the market. With much more prominent angles, the Nokia 7.2 stands out, and the light refracting glass on the rear does a good job at providing the premium look the brand is going after.
The internals is fairly standard for the price, boasting a Snapdragon 660 alongside either 4- or 6GB of RAM, and the performance reflects this. Nokia wanted the Zeiss-manufactured lenses to be the star of the show but we’ve found the camera setup to be hit-and-miss, with a great performance from the 48Mp sensor but a disappointing performance from the wide-angle camera.
Still, a great design, impressive display and two years of guaranteed OS upgrades should be enough to tempt some consumers – especially at this affordable price.
Samsung Galaxy A50: Samsung’s best cheap phone
Samsung was unable (or unwilling) to produce a smartphone with excellent quality to price ratio for a long time. But this changed in 2019 with the advent of the Galaxy A50 (Check on Amazon.com).
The Galaxy A50 is a top 3 Amazon bestseller and is, therefore, one of the most popular smartphones on the market. On the front, we find the excellent 6.4-inch AMOLED display, with an Infinity-U notch, and on the back a versatile triple camera module. Similar to the Galaxy S10, the fingerprint sensor is installed directly under the display. The battery boasts a 4000mAh unit and a fast 15W charger. The device also features a MicroSD slot, a USB-C port, and a headphone jack!
The only things missing is wireless charging and IP certification.
By the way, Samsung recently released its successor, the A51 (Check on Amazon.com), which sports some minor improvements – but considering the price, this is still Samsung’s best cheap phone.
Also read: Cell Phones Buying Guide