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Modern phones are fantastic: they are fast, well-built, and come with a lot of extra features. Mobile technology is always progressing, and most importantly, it is much cheaper. Nowadays, you don’t have to splurge in order to upgrade your mobile device.
Yes, flagship devices are amazing, but you don’t need to spend that kind of money for a premium smartphone experience anymore.
Cheap phones have come a long way in recent years, and the relentless pace of innovation means that cutting-edge technology trickles down from high-end models to entry-level ones really quickly. There are cheap phones that sport better cameras than the flagship models of a few years ago, and fierce competition in the low end of the market means that manufacturers have really raised the stakes to provide excellent cheap phones that do not cut many corners.
The best cheap phones will make you wonder why people still spend $1,000 or more on a new model. Based on our tests, you can get a great budget smartphone for less than $300 that has all the features most buyers need.
Samsung, for example, is spreading the wealth of features enjoyed by its flagship devices to cheaper models. OnePlus, on the other hand, is finding new ways to challenge more established manufacturers, with budget models that make smart sacrifices to keep costs down.
In fact, the best cheap phones boast beautiful screens for watching videos and playing games, fantastic cameras, one-day autonomy, and even 5G connectivity!
You’ll have to agree to a couple of compromises, as you won’t find the most powerful SoCs. But on the whole, you will be pleasantly surprised by what the best cheap phones can offer.
The bad news is that all this makes choosing the best cheap phone much more difficult. Keep in mind that it’s impossible to buy a phone that has no flaws in this price range; instead, you’ll need to prioritize the features that matter most to you.
Cheap phone buying guide
The fact is that if you do your research and know exactly what you need, then you can buy a cheap phone that does 90% of the things of a high-end model but for a fraction of the cost.
Most mobile phone manufacturers know this, with Samsung lately offering solid devices at incredibly low prices. Many of these phones, in fact, are equipped with features that, just a few years ago, we could only find on flagships.
However, choosing the best cheap phone is a complicated matter. The trick is to figure out what trade-offs you are willing to make and for that, you will have to understand exactly what you want/need from your new phone. Some people will prioritize features like photography or a faster panel, others will focus on the price, and most will want to stay with the reliable brand they love.
All cheap phones run Google’s OS, namely Android. Don’t worry though, Android is a great operating system.
While flagship models are equipped with the finest screens on the market, it is also possible to find cheap phones with top-notch displays.
Almost all of them sport an LCD panel. However, there are also models with AMOLED panels that produce better colors and deeper blacks.
Do you want a big screen? Then choose a smartphone with a display larger than 5.5”. If, instead, you prefer handling your phone with just one hand, pick one under 5”.
Cheap phones are typically equipped with one or two lenses, but this is starting to change. The number of megapixels does not matter much; instead, you need to pay more attention to the camera’s capabilities. Check if your device can shoot wide-angle photos, a feature that is becoming more and more common. But don’t expect optical zoom; the digital zoom is the norm below 300 dollars.
Budget smartphones are not equipped with high-end interiors. But that doesn’t mean that they have a sub-par performance — on the contrary, high-speed clock chips are gradually beginning to make their appearance in low-end phones.
Choose a smartphone with at least 4 GB of RAM.
It’s amazing how fast a phone’s storage space runs out between apps, games, and photos. 32 GB is the bare minimum but 64 GB is way better. And if possible opt for a device equipped with a microSD card slot.
A phone’s duration is a huge concern regardless of price, so be sure to check your phone’s autonomy. A 4,500 mAh battery, or more, is ideal.
Last but not least, while 5G connectivity is slowly coming to phones below $300, it has not yet become the norm. This is likely to change this year, now that 5G modems are included on chipsets targeted at mid to low-range smartphones.
Avoid these ones!
A good rule of thumb is to avoid all cheap phones originally released two (or more) years ago. The reason? They will not continue to receive software and security updates for more than a year.
These are the best cheap phones you can buy today
Samsung Galaxy A32 5G: best cheap 5G phone
We have already established that Samsung’s A-series phone range is definitely worth considering, and the A32 5G – not to be confused with the Samsung Galaxy A32 4G (Check on Amazon) – is one of the most affordable among them. For just (Check on Amazon) you get an Android smartphone that supports 5G mobile networks.
The 6.5-inch screen with 720p resolution (1600×720 pixels, 20:9) is not an OLED panel but boasts a high refresh rate display — 90Hz — that provides a smoother experience; if you’ve used something better than 60Hz in the past it’s hard to go back.
The MediaTek MT6853 Dimensity 720 5G SoC that powers it delivers a decent performance and can run most modern mobile games without too many “hiccups”.
The 48 MP primary lens on the back is surprisingly outstanding, capturing a lot of detail, a good dynamic range, and vivid colors, even in low-light conditions using its dedicated Night mode. And to help you expand the types of photos you can take, it also comes with an 8 MP wide-angle camera, a 5 MP macro lens, and a 2 MP depth sensor.
The 5,000 mAh battery cell is excellent, managing to last almost 12 hours with the adaptive refresh rate enabled. And it also supports 15 W fast charging via USB-C cable.
Add to all this the headphone jack, a microSD card slot, NFC, and a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, and you can see why this is the best cheap 5G phone you can buy at the moment.
Especially because Samsung promises to deliver two operating system updates and up to four years of security updates, and this type of software support is very rare on a budget phone (Check on Amazon) like this.
Samsung Galaxy A13 5G: a cheaper alternative
The Samsung Galaxy A13 5G is a no-nonsense phone that offers everything important for just (Check on Amazon).
The 6.5-inch screen is nothing special (it’s a low-contrast LCD with a resolution of just 720p) but the battery life (5,000mAh) and the performance of the MediaTek Dimensity 700 chipset backed by 4GB of RAM are solid.
As for the camera, the A13 sports a good 50MP main camera that takes decent photos in daylight but lacks a couple of features you can find on other budget phones, namely a Night Mode and ultrawide lens.
Otherwise, 5G performance is very good and, in addition, Samsung promises two OS updates (up to Android 13) and four years of security updates.
Overall, Samsung has made some smart sacrifices in making the A13 (Check on Amazon) that don’t detract from its value. Just make sure you invest in a MicroSD card since the 64GB of onboard storage are a bit limiting.
Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC: best value
The Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC (Check on Amazon) is perhaps the best budget device you can get right now. In fact, there’s no better phone for you if you can’t spend more than $250.
You get a large 6.67-inch Full HD+ display (2400×1080 pixels) with a 120 Hz refresh rate for buttery smooth scrolling and gaming, solid performance thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G SoC, up to 8GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage space, a quad camera that includes a quality 64 MP sensor, a 20 MP selfie camera, and amazing autonomy thanks to the 5,160mAh battery with a 33 Watt fast charge support (from 0 to 100% in just over an hour).
The Poco X3 NFC doesn’t omit anything: it also features an IP53 rating, a side-mounted fingerprint scanner, stereo speakers, a headphone jack, a microSD card slot, an infrared port, and of course NFC.
It has one minor flaw though: its screen is not well optimized for the 120 Hz refresh rate so while scrolling or gaming you might notice stuttering, smearing, or ghosting since the panel (with a fairly slow pixel response time) can’t keep up with the high refresh rate. Anyhoo, it’s a “flaw” that you have to go looking for and even then most users won’t be able to notice it.
If your budget cannot extend beyond $250, then the Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC (Check on Amazon) should be at the top of your shortlist.