The bad news is this makes the job of picking the best budget android phone that much harder. Bear in mind that it’s impossible to buy a phone that does everything at this price point; instead, prioritize the features that matter most to you. You’ll have an easier time deciding, and you’ll end up with a great phone that you should be able to use for years to come.
If you’re looking for the best cheap Android phone, then we think the Google Pixel 4A is a great option. It has an excellent camera and good software, though its screen is smaller than a lot of the competition at this point.
What most people are looking for in a sub-$500 smartphone are the same things people want in a more expensive model: long battery life, good screen, good camera, and decent performance. It’s difficult to get high straight A’s in every single one of those categories, but if you’re able to decide where you’ll tolerate the occasional B grade, you’ll find a phone you’ll love.
Top 10 the Best Budget Android Phone 2021
Below you can find our full rundown of the best budget android phone for 2021, so whether you’re a filmmaker on a budget, a photographer on the go or someone who just wants to take stunning snaps without leaving a huge dent in your finances, this is the place to find your next phone.
1. Motorola Moto G Power
The Motorola Moto G Power offers the next best experience. It has a large edge-to-edge screen, and it works on all cellular networks regardless of the technology they use. This phone also goes on sale more often than the Nokia 6.2, and it’s available directly from Verizon.
When it comes to the display, performance, and camera, the G Power is on a par with the Nokia 6.2, but the Moto has much better battery life even if you crank up the screen brightness. Motorola’s version of Android is low on clutter and comes with some useful extras, but it will get updates later and less often than Nokia phones.
2. Samsung Galaxy S10e
The Samsung Galaxy S10e is an affordable sibling of the Galaxy S10 and has fewer features to shave off cost. What does the S10e miss out on? Mainly, a telephoto lens, a higher-resolution display, and an in-screen fingerprint sensor.
But for most users, a Full HD+ (2280 x 1080) screen will work just fine, and the smaller 5.8-inch display means this phone fits more comfortably in hand. The side-mounted physical fingerprint sensor-and-lock-button is large and generally more accurate than in-screen ones, anyway.
You may not miss the rear telephoto, either, given how many use cases are covered by the main and ultra-wide cameras. With wireless charging (and reverse wireless charging), the S10e still has most of the top flagship features anyway.
The S10e had its price dropped to $599, but you can find it for $549 or even cheaper at certain retailers. If you want a larger affordable Samsung flagship, try the Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite with its 6.7-inch display – but it might not be as available or as cheap as the S10e.
3. OnePlus Nord N10
There’s a lot to like about the OnePlus Nord N10, which became available in the US last month. The handset supports 5G networks, has a 90Hz display, sports solid cameras for the price, and is very affordable.
You also get dual-SIM support, a headphone jack, and a 4,300mAh battery with 30W fast charging. Unlike on OnePlus’ flagship phones, the Nord N10 comes with a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner.
The phone runs Android 10 out of the box and will get updated to Android 11 sometime this year. However, that will be the first and only Android OS update it will receive.
4. Nokia 5.4
Nokia makes solid Android phones that don’t cost too much, and the Nokia 5.4 continues that tradition of high-quality hardware with clean Android One-based software. The phone’s design is striking, too, with a tall-and-thin 20:9 aspect ratio that makes the metallic-looking body easy to grasp and use in one hand.
And because the Nokia 5.4 runs Android One, it will get platform updates until 2022 and security patches until 2023.
On the hardware front, the Nokia 5.4 packs some serious power. The Snapdragon 665 processor and 4GB of RAM allow for reliable performance, the 4,000 mAh battery provides up to two days of use per charge, and you get a total of four cameras for endless picture-taking possibilities, including a very good 13MP main sensor.
5. Google Pixel 4a
At $349, you won’t find a better value than the Google Pixel 4a. Google’s latest budget phone recaptures all the things that made the Pixel 3a such a hit, but in a device that costs $50 less.
There’s just the one 12.2-megapixel rear camera as before, but Google augments that with some software smarts such as Super Res Zoom and Live HDR+. Many of the photographic features you’ll find in the more expensive Pixel 4 are on display here, and the result is some of the best photos you’ll see from a phone at any price.
6. Poco X3 NFC
The Poco X3 NFC starts at £199 ($250) and has fantastic specs for the price, combining a smooth 120Hz screen with a 64MP main camera. The Snapdragon 732G chipset matched with 6GB RAM means you won’t find a more cutting edge midrange mobile at this price-point. Its 5,160mAh battery is huge, even by flagship standards, and supports fast charging.
The phone sports a big screen with minimal bezels thanks to a punch-hole selfie camera, making it look much more premium than you’d expect for the price, though its styling isn’t as sophisticated as some of the competition. Additionally, its software does have a few gremlins within the UI however. App installs are interrupted by adverts that some may find a step too intrusive.
Thankfully, its saving grace include that fantastic, best-in-class 64MP camera capable of 4K video capture.
7. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Samsung surprised everyone when it dropped the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (that stands for Fan Edition, by the way) late last year, with the phone delivering the best core S20 functionality along with 5G but for a more affordable price point.
The S20 FE is in terms of where it fits into the S20 range technically the S20e or S20 Lite, but aside from a few things that have been cut from the more expensive models, it is actually nothing like a budget handset, as it is still loaded with premium hardware and features.
Take the S20 FE’s large 6.5-inch HDR10+ rated screen, for example – it boasts a 120Hz refresh rate which is buttery smooth and shared with many of the very best flagship phones that cost significantly more. Heck, even the brand new iPhone 12 Pro (the top phone Apple makes) only has a 60Hz screen!
Then when you go inside the phone you find a flagship grade Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor and Adreno 650 GPU, as well as 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage space at entry level. Strong specs all-round.
8. Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T
Xiaomi hit a rich vein of form with the first few of its budget handsets to reach UK shores, and its newest smartphone is no different. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T is far, far better than it has any right to be for a phone that costs less than £250, and the fact that it now supports the 5G network makes for an even more tantalising option.
Yes, the phone we’d recommend above all other wallet-friendly options on the market is the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T. Xiaomi’s latest budget handset is powered by a speedy MediaTek Dimensity 800U processor, which not only has a bundled 5G modem, but performance easily matches handsets that cost twice the price.
Its triple camera array, which includes a massive 48MP sensor is also remarkable for the price, and it has a large 6.53in FHD+ screen too.
You might think to see these sorts of high-level specs in a flagship phone, so it’s a proper treat to see these features in a phone that costs this little. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T is the very definition of a budget smartphone – setting the benchmark for upcoming handsets – and at this price, you can’t do much better.
9. TCL 10 Lite
TCL made the last few generations of BlackBerrys, but now it produces phones with its own name stamped on the back. The TCL 10 Lite (10L) is an affordable phone that packs in a few things you might not expect at the price, like a punch hole front camera and large 6.53in FullHD screen.
Its camera layout looks highly impressive, too, with four lenses on the back. However, only one of these cameras is genuinely quite good. The main camera has a 48MP Samsung GM1 sensor, used in lots of phones including pricey ones such as the Samsung Galaxy A90 5G. Daylight images are good, but there’s no dedicated night more and the processing could be more subtle.
The TCL 10L’s second rear camera is useful, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide, if not a barnstormer for image quality. And like other phones from Oppo and Huawei, cheap additional sensors make up the numbers; 2MP cameras offer remedial macro images and a depth assist for background blur shots.
10. Oppo A9 2020
The Oppo A9 2020 is a budget handset the manages to excel in multiple areas – with an attractive design, a 48Mp quad-camera and a massive 5000mAh battery that outshines even some of the most expensive phones on the market.
It’s not without faults, of course. Though the battery life is excellent, there’s no fast charging. Though the night mode on the camera is stellar, the user-experience of taking photos really needs refining to be simpler and cleaner.
For the price point, however, you’re getting a very good camera phone that feels high-end and a device that won’t die on you quickly. For these reasons we’d definitely say that the Oppo A9 2020 is a budget contender.
How to choose the best cheap phone for you
Picking the best cheap phone can be tricky, because it’s really all about figuring out which trade-offs you’re willing to live with. But it’s important to start with the basics. Do you prefer a bigger screen? Opt for a cheap phone with a display over 5.5 inches. Those who want to use a phone comfortably with one hand will likely prefer a phone under 5 inches.
Next up is the camera. Budget phones will typically feature one or two lenses, but that’s starting to change. The megapixel count doesn’t matter that much; pay more attention to the capabilities of the camera. See if the phone can shoot ultra-wide shots, which is becoming more common on cheap phones. But don’t expect optical zoom; digital zoom is the norm under $400.
As for storage, 32GB is okay but 64GB is preferred for budget phones. And if possible see if that handset offers a microSD card slot for expansion. Battery life is a huge concern regardless of price, so check the battery capacity on the phone. In general, anything above 4,500 mAh is preferred.
While the TCL 10 5G UW means that 5G compatibility is coming to phones under $400, don’t expect 5G speeds as a rule. That’s likely to change in the coming year, now that 5G modems are included on chipsets aimed at cheaper phones. Lastly, check to see which carriers the phone supports. Ideally, the handset should work with both GSM and CDMA networks all the big four providers in the U.S.
This list of the best budget phones includes devices that are easily available in the US and provide a local warranty. However, if you’re willing to take a chance on international versions of handsets that haven’t been officially released in the US but can still be purchased on Amazon, you can often get far more impressive phones at similar prices.
Of course, it’s important to remember that you won’t get any warranty with these phones and you’ll have to make sure that network compatibility won’t be an issue.