You don’t have to spend money on iPhone 14 or Galaxy S23 to get the latest version of iOS or Android or benefits like multiple cameras, photography tools and access to your favorite apps and games. When it comes to the basics, the best budget phones offer plenty of value, but cost significantly less than their flagship competitors.
Our top picks are as cheap as $160, while more advanced models will set you back $600 — which is significantly cheaper than the top models from Apple, Samsung, and Google. If you have a specific budget in mind, you can also check out ours best phones under $200 and best phones under $500 listings for other affordable phone options.
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What is the best cheap phone?
Even without discounts, you can find brand new phones for less than $200. But when the regular price of a phone is under $400, you’ll start to see discounts that a company makes to offer a more affordable phone. That’s why the $449 Google Pixel 6A is our favorite best cheap phone. Google provides all the big features that are matte, like a beefy processor, great cameras, and years of software support. And to keep the price low, Google makes smart compromises, most notably a display that looks dark in direct sunlight. The Pixel 6A achieves its intended goal of delivering a lot for less. The camera may be a step down from the Pixel 7, but it takes clear and colorful photos for the price. You also get the same attractive design and Pixel-specific software features like Magic Eraser and Live Translate.
The best cheap phones of 2023
Priced at $160 (£139, approx AU$240), Samsung’s Galaxy A03S packs some great features and could be a good fit for someone who needs a cheap phone that can handle basic tasks. The phone’s 6.5-inch 720p screen is great for reading news, watching videos and playing games. Despite some lag in performance during our review, the phone is good at multitasking. But the tiny 32GB of storage can fill up quickly, so if you’re considering this phone, you might want to expand the storage with a microSD card.
Samsung also plans to support this phone with at least four years of security updates, which in this price range is about as good as it gets. On the software side, it’s not so clear how many versions of Android are planned, but the phone will initially ship with Android 11.
Read our Samsung Galaxy A03S review.
Apple’s new 2022 iPhone SE combines an older design with the latest smartphone features, including Apple’s A15 Bionic chip and 5G support, for $429. It’s also one of the few phones on the market to include a smaller 4.7-inch screen.
Its throwback design, which continues the general shape Apple has used since 2014, may be what you love or hate about it. If you want a bigger iPhone in this price range, you can also consider the $599 iPhone 12 for a bigger screen and Face ID.
Read our Apple iPhone SE (2022) review.
The $449 Pixel 6A is the latest device in Google’s more affordable A series, which replaces the Pixel 5A. CNET’s Lisa Eadicicco called it “the best Android phone under $500” in her review of the Pixel 6A, noting how it retains the same Tensor chip as the $599 Pixel 6 and many of its best features.
The phone is slightly smaller than the Pixel 6, has a 6.1-inch OLED display and a 60Hz refresh rate. It also has a similar camera system to the Pixel 5A, which includes a 12.2-megapixel primary camera and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera. But the Tensor chip brings extra benefits you won’t get on the Pixel 5A, like Real Tone for more even skin tones, Face Unblur, Night Sight for low-light photography, and Magic Eraser for removing unwanted elements from a photo.
The Galaxy A53 gives you plenty of Samsung features and power at a fraction of the price of the S-series. It boasts a larger screen and a more versatile camera cluster than the iPhone SE, though Apple’s budget model delivers faster performance.
Still, Samsung fans will appreciate what they get at an affordable price. The Galaxy A53 5G has an ultra-wide lens for taking photos with a wider field of view and also supports night mode photography. Image quality isn’t as good as what you’d get on a more expensive Samsung phone like the Galaxy S21 FE or Galaxy S22, but it’s clear and colorful for basic photos. Other highlights include a durable battery, four guaranteed generations of Android operating system updates, and a microSD card slot for expandable storage.
Overall, the Galaxy A53 5G is a decent choice for those who prioritize a large screen and long battery life for less than $500. You may have to deal with some lag, and the camera isn’t as advanced as that of more expensive phones. Read our Samsung Galaxy A53 5G review.
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Google’s Pixel 7 refines the design formula introduced with last year’s Pixel 6, while adding the company’s new Tensor G2 processor. The phone keeps its $599 price tag like last year’s Pixel 6, but new Pixel-exclusive features like Photo Unblur add even more value.
Read our Google Pixel 7 review.
How we test phones
Every phone on this list has been thoroughly tested by CNET’s review team. We use the phone, test the features, play games and take pictures. We appreciate all the marketing promises a company makes about its phones. And if we find something we don’t like, whether it’s battery life or build quality, we tell you about it.
We check every aspect of the phone during testing:
Design and feel
We test all the phone’s cameras (both front and rear) in a variety of conditions: from outdoors in sunlight to darker indoor locations and night scenes (for all available night modes). We also compare our findings to similarly priced models. We’ve run a series of real-world battery tests to see how long a phone lasts in everyday use.
We take into account the additional features of the phone such as 5G, fingerprint and face readers, styluses, fast charging, foldable displays and other useful extras. We weigh all of our experience and testing against the price so you know whether or not a phone represents good value.
Read itMore ▼: How we test phones
Best Cheap Phones FAQ
Can you find cheap phones on sale?
Yes, many of the cheap phones featured in this list are available at a discount while shopping. For example, Google’s Pixel 6A received a $150 discount, temporarily dropping its price from $449 to $299. If you have a phone in mind but also have the flexibility to hold off on a shopping event like Black Friday, it might be worth waiting for a price drop.
Are cheap phones available unlocked?
Yes, many cheap phones are available factory unlocked. This allows you to use the phone with almost any wireless carrier by inserting your SIM card. If you want the flexibility to switch carriers, make sure you buy an unlocked model.
Are cheap phones good for kids?
Buying a cheap phone can be a great option when shopping for a child or teenager, but that doesn’t mean the phone is customized to have a kid-friendly experience. Parents should still set up any necessary parental controls, restrictions or apps on the iPhone or Android to ensure they are suitable for children.
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