Smartphones seem to be getting more and more expensive by the year. Even Apple’s middle-market iPhone 13 comes in at a starting price of $699.
That’s not a budget phone.
Prospects don’t get better on the Android side either, with the Samsung Galaxy S22 starting at $799.
With prices like that, can you even find an affordable smartphone anymore? One that has solid, essential features but doesn’t hurt your wallet?
Actually, you can — and one of our picks is only $99. We’ve rounded up the five best cheap smartphones on the market to help you find a deal that works best for your lifestyle and budget. Here are today’s best deals.
Best Budget Smartphones
5 Smartphones that Don’t Break the Bank
Apple iPhone SE: Best Budget iPhone
- Access to Apple software and services
- Excellent 12 MP f/1.8 rear camera
- Among the best built of selected budget phones
Apple produces some of the best smartphones in the world, but that quality typically comes at a high price. Apple has been offering a budget phone, the iPhone SE, since 2016 though. Now in the third generation, things just keep getting better each year.
The iPhone SE has a slightly outdated design with a 4.7-inch screen featuring thick top and bottom bezels and a Touch ID sensor to unlock your iPhone via fingerprint. However, iPhone SE continues to offer a vibrant display that makes browsing photos or watching videos a joy.
Internally, the iPhone SE offers Apple’s A15 Bionic chip. That’s the same chip as the iPhone 13. That means the processing power won’t leave you wanting, even with a budget iPhone. You’ll be able to play all of the latest games without worrying about a slow experience.
For photos and video, the iPhone SE offers a solid camera system on the rear with a 12MP f/1.8 lens that still shines when compared to other more expensive options. You’ll even get portrait mode and lighting built in, so you can take photographs with blown-out backgrounds and simulate perfect lighting conditions. There’s no night mode for extremely dark shots though.
Other features include splash, water and dust resistance (IP67) to protect your phone, a 5G radio for super-fast cellular connectivity and three color (red, white or black) options. All starting at $429.
Once you know which smartphone you want, there may be even more ways to save, like picking a phone with less storage space or a refurbished phone.
Google Pixel 5a: Best Budget Android
- The best Android smartphone under $500
- Camera delivers great photos and videos
- Super fast battery charging
Pixel 5a with 5G
On the Android side, there are quite a few budget-friendly phones, starting with the Google Pixel 5a with 5G. Google hits it out of the park with a smartphone that delivers a lower price, excellent cameras and speedy charging.
The updated Google Pixel 5a features a modern design with a large 6.43-inch display that doesn’t scream cheap. Best of all, Google is the core developer of the Android platform, so you’ll get an affordable phone that is optimized for a great experience and fast updates.
The Pixel 5a features an impressive camera system with dual lenses, a 12.2 MP f/1.7 lens and a 16 MP f/2.2 ultrawide lens. These stats simply mean that this budget phone can help you capture the moment in different situations, even if you need to get up close.
Other features on the Google Pixel 5a include a battery that charges quickly and can be switched into a saver mode to extend its life. You’ll also find some awesome security and safety features, including automatically dialing 911 if a car crash is detected and the ability to hide private photos from peeping eyes. All starting at $449.
OnePlus Nord N20 5G: Best Under $300
- Large, vivid display for movies and photos
- 4500mAh battery that lasts longer
- Fast 33W charging
Nord N20 5G
We know that the term “budget” is subjective. For some, a budget phone is around $500. For others, it’s even lower, which is why we’re happy to recommend the Nord N20 5G by OnePlus. While the brand might be a bit unfamiliar, hard-core Android fans know OnePlus as a brand that’s always trying something new.
With the Nord N20 5G, OnePlus has hit an excellent combination of price and value. This affordable phone features a 6.43-inch AMOLED display that makes colors pop and users can unlock the device using the high-tech in-display fingerprint sensor.
The camera system on the Nord N20 5G isn’t our favorite among our budget smartphone picks. (That award still goes to the Apple iPhone SE and the Google Pixel 5a.) However, the 64 MP f/1.8 camera on the back holds its ground for capturing everyday moments. There is even a smaller 2 MP macro camera on the rear — a fun addition if you love taking up close photos of plants or other things.
Other features on the OnePlus Nord N20 5G include the large 4500mAh battery and 33W fast charging ability, which help keep you topped up if needed — great for travelers and concert goers. For those who prefer wired headphones, OnePlus kept a headphone jack on this phone, unlike many phones being released today. All starting at $282.
Motorola Moto G Power: The Best Battery
- Battery lasts up to three days
- Fast charging: a few minutes = 1 hour of use
- Low price tag
Moto G Power
If battery life is one of your top priorities, you may want to consider the Moto G Power, which — if you couldn’t tell from the name — puts an emphasis on great battery life.
The Moto G Power isn’t just a one-trick pony though. Featuring a gray, silver or blue finish, the Moto G Power is crafted around a massive 6.6-inch display that makes watching the latest episodes of your favorite show fun, but the colors could be more vivid.
The camera system is decent with the primary rear camera based around a 50 MP f1/.8 sensor and lens pairing that will help capture important moments but don’t expect the best in the photo and video quality. As with the Nord N20 5G, the Moto G Power also features a 2 MP f/2.4 camera for capturing extremely up-close shots.
But the showstopper of the Moto G Power is the battery. Motorola claims the Moto G Power can last up to three days on a single charge. That’s quite an impressive feat for a smartphone. The battery can recharge up to an hour of power in only a few minutes too.
All that energy is used to power a Qualcomm Snapdragon octa-core processor for a more enjoyable, lag-free experience — though the processor, which is a bit outdated, may not have the best longevity. All starting at $199.
BLU G51S: The Best Under $100
- A decent smartphone under $100
- A large 6.4” display for easy web surfing
- Available in four colors
It is not easy to find a good smartphone for under $100, but if you’re on an extremely tight budget, the BLU G51S is likely your best choice. BLU is a company known for focusing on the lower end of the market and occasionally offers a cheap phone worth purchasing — if you can make some sacrifices.
Featuring a 6.4-inch display, the G51S provides a large screen experience perfect for writing emails, checking your calendar and sending out a few tweets. But an underwhelming processor may not handle much beyond the basics. We don’t recommend the G51S if you are planning to do much beyond web browsing, texting, calling and other basic functions.
The BLU G51S has a camera but it’s nothing special compared to other devices. The 13 MP camera may work best for those who need to snap the occasional photograph or document. We don’t recommend the G51S if taking high quality photos is a priority for you.
If the BLU G51S sounds like a poor option, it isn’t necessarily. But at this price point, you do have to sacrifice higher end specs and abilities. For a bit of fun, the G51S comes in an assortment of colors, including blue, bronze, green and red. This all starts at $99.
How We Chose the Best Budget Phones
To choose the best affordable phones for your life, we researched all of the options on the market and performed select hands-on testing. We focused on the price first but kept other important features in mind, including battery life, display and camera system.
- Price: While mid-range Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy devices are over $699, we only considered phones that cost less than $500 and offered the best combination of savings and features. We also included cheap phone options as low as $99 for readers seeking extreme savings.
- Battery life: We wanted to ensure every smartphone we recommend wouldn’t die on you halfway through the day. We also included a few options, such as the Moto G Power, that focus primarily on battery life, so you can go longer between charges. Wireless charging isn’t a feature on these cheap phones though.
- Display: Because the display is integral in everything you do, we wanted to ensure the screen always looks great and only recommended the best options for each price range. Since many people prefer larger displays, we emphasized smartphones with the largest screens.
- Camera system: For most everyday users, the smartphone has replaced the compact camera, allowing us to easily capture important moments. Putting the best affordable tech in your hands to take quality photos was a priority. Our top selections feature stellar cameras and we note when a camera — such as BLU G51S — may not live up to your expectations.
Maybe you noticed that some cameras with higher megapixels (MP) ranked lower. Why? Megapixels generally don’t matter much. The camera’s sensor technology and quality of glass are more important.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Is the Best Smartphone for a Budget?
Which Android Phone Is the Best Value for Money?
After reviewing Android phones, we found the best value is the Google Pixel 5a with 5G ($449). The Pixel 5a offers a solid balance of features, including a great display and an excellent camera system. The Pixel 5a even offers fast charging abilities for topping up your battery at a moment’s notice.
Which iPhone Is the Best Value?
Our top affordable pick from Apple is the iPhone SE ($429). This budget model smartphone still features a solid display, a superb camera and the fast A15 Bionic chip, just like higher end models.
What Are Low-End Devices?
Low-end devices focus on the low end of the price spectrum. Our budget smartphone roundup guide includes both middle and low-end devices for those looking to save a little or a lot — like those folks who simply need a no-frills phone to get them through the day.
Which Budget Smartphone Should I Buy?
The right budget smartphone for you depends on what you want and how much you want to pay for those features. If you can afford a higher price point, go with the Apple iPhone SE or Google Pixel 5a. They both offer an excellent value. If your primary focus is battery life, pick the Moto G Power for its three-day battery life and super fast charging abilities. If price is your main factor, check out the OnePlus Nord N20 5G and BLU G51S.
Michael Archambault is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder specializing in technology.