The best cheap phones in 2021

(Image credit: Snapchat)

The most affordable phones will leave you wondering what makes people shell out up to $800 for an expensive phone. Based on our research we found that you can buy an extremely good phone for less than $400 and with all the features the majority of buyers require regardless of whether you’re an iPhone enthusiast or you prefer Android.

If you’re on a budget, you’ll discover that the most affordable phones come with capable cameras and large enough screens to watch videos and play games, and plenty of battery power to get you through the entire day. We’re also seeing new phones at a lower price with 5G connectivity.

The top phones: The most reliable phones for any budget

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There are certain sacrifices within this price bracket, as you’re not always going to find the fastest processors, largest screens, or the most versatile zoom cameras. However, you’ll be impressed by what these low-cost phones can offer and you don’t have to keep waiting until Black Friday deals to get an affordable price. Check out our top picks for phones under $400.

What are the most affordable phones?

The most affordable phone available currently is Google’s Pixel 4a. It comes with one of the top cameras on any smartphone, and at $349, it’s $50 less than an iPhone SE. The more recent Google Pixel 5a is fantastic and comes with 5G. However, it costs $449, which is well outside the cost range of this roundup.

If you’re looking to buy an affordable 5G phone that costs lesser than 300 dollars, we’d recommend that you consider the Samsung Galaxy A32 or OnePlus Nord N200. Both phones are of incredible value.

Its Phone SE is another great alternative for a budget-friendly phone. The $399 iPhone comes with an incredibly fast A13 Bionic processor, excellent front and rear cameras, and an impressive and vibrant 4.7-inch display. All of it is housed in a slim design that’s waterproof and allows wireless charging. The iPhone SE 3 is rumored to be coming next year, with a larger screen, however, we’ll probably be waiting a bit.

If you’d like to pay less for your phone, consider the latest Moto G Power, which features incredible battery life and costs under $200. If you’re in search of a low-cost handset in the U.K then the OnePlus Nord 2 is an excellent choice for a price of only 399 pounds.

It’s important to note that iPhone 11 now starts at $499, which is out of the range of prices in this roundup.

The most affordable phones available right now

The most affordable phone you can get

Specifications

Display Size: 5.81-inch OLED (2340×1080)

Processor: Snapdragon 730G

RAM: 6GB

Storage/Expandable 128GB/No

Camera in the rear: 12.2MP (f/1.7)

Front camera 8MP (f/2.0)

The weight is 5.04 ounces

The reasons to buy

+Best-in-class camera+Attractive design+Low price

The reasons to stay clear of

-Subpar battery life-Performance lags iPhone SE

For $349, you can’t get a better deal than the Pixel 4a. Google’s latest budget smartphone recollects everything that helped make the Pixel 3a an instant hit, however, in a phone which costs just $50.

It’s only got a 12.2-megapixel rear camera, as previously, however, Google adds software-based features, including Super Res Zoom, and Live HDR+. Many of the photo features available on the higher-end Pixel 4 are on display here and it’s the result of the most stunning images you can get on a smartphone of any price.

Pixel 4a Pixel 4a can’t match the performance of the iPhone SE, but for the majority of users of smartphones, the Pixel 4a offers enough processing power thanks to its Snapdragon 730G chip to tackle all tasks. With a sleek design with a bright OLED screen and 128GB of memory, and you’ll get an Android phone with the Pixel 4a that offers lots of features at a reasonable cost. Its successor, the Google Pixel 5a is rumored to be coming later in the year but it’s not expected until late spring at the time.

Pixel 4a Pixel 4a won the best phone price distinction by Tom’s Guide.

Read our complete Google Pixel 4a review.

The most affordable iPhone

Specifications

Display Size: 4.7-inch LCD (1334×750)

CPU: A13 Bionic

RAM Unknown

Storage/Expandable Options: 64GB, 128GB 256GB/No

Rear camera 12MP (f/1.8)

Front camera 7MP (f/2.2)

The weight is 5.22 ounces

The reasons to buy

Affordable and affordable. Fast A13 Bionic performance, and supports wireless charging

The reasons to stay clear of

-Big bezels-No camera night mode

This iPhone SE 2020 is what happens when you create an inexpensive phone that’s not expensive. For just $399 the iPhone comes with the same high-speed performance as iPhone 11 and the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro because of its A13 Bionic processor. This chip is also responsible for users of the iPhone SE photography capabilities that many budget Android phones do not have. It features Portrait Mode for the front and rear cameras, Smart HDR, and an extended dynamic range for video shooting.

Its 4.7-inch display The iPhone SE is best for users who prefer smaller phones however, the display is vibrant and bright. It also comes with a Touch ID button for unlocking the phone, Apple Pay and entering passwords, and a water-resistant design. The latest iPhone SE supports wireless charging also.

The brand new iPhone SE is well made with its aluminum and glass chassis, however, the bezels are huge in size. Also, you can’t access the Night mode that the camera on Apple’s iPhone 11. Overall, it’s the most affordable phone to date However, make sure you review our Pixel 4a comparison. iPhone SE camera face-off.

Check out our complete iPhone SE review.

A low-cost phone that offers the longest battery longevity

Specifications

Display Size: 6.6 inches (1600 x 800 x)

CPU Snapdragon 662

RAM: 3GB, 4GB

Storage/Expandable 32GB, 64GB Yes

Rear camera: 16MP wide (f/1.7); 8MP ultrawide (f/2.2); 2MP macro (f/2.2)

Camera in front 16MP (f/2.0)

Weight 7 8 ounces

The reasons to buy

All-day battery life + Low price + Attractive design

There are reasons to avoid

Only One Android update-Lackluster display

A truly long-lasting phone lasts for over 11 hours during Our battery testing. The brand new Moto G Power blows them off with a time in excess of 14 hours 4 minutes. It’s among the best phones battery life that we’ve seen that’s quite remarkable considering that the Moto G Power costs under $250. (And there’s also a $199 version for those who want to live with smaller storage and RAM.) But that’s not all the reason why this Android phone was on our top inexpensive phone list.

Its Moto G Power features an impressive 6.6-inch display with HD resolution and competent cameras that have three lenses that include a 48MP main camera with a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor.

At 7.3 pounds, the massive 5k mAh battery that is inside the Moto G Power certainly contributes to its weight. Also, the display of this phone could have been more bright. Overall, this Moto G Power is one of the most affordable phones on the market.

The Moto G Power (2021) was awarded the top phone battery Life Award by Tom’s Guide.

Check out our complete Moto G Power 2021 GPower review.

Samsung offers a budget 5G plan. Samsung

Specifications

Screen size: 6.5 inches

Version 11 for Android With One UI 3.1

Processor Dimension 720

Cameras include: 48MP main camera, 8MP ultrawide, 5MP macro 2MP depth (Rear) 13MP (Front)

RAM/Storage: 4GB/64GB

Motives to purchase

Very low cost and four years of security patches + Great battery life, 90Hz refresh rate, and battery life.

The reasons to stay clear of

-Subpar HD+ display

We’re seeing an increasing number of low-cost 5G smartphones appearing among the top of the line can be that of the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G. With a price tag of $280, it’s one of the most affordable options that we’ve included, if you’re willing to go the mediocre display. If you’re on a tight budget and need a phone that has good cameras, then the Galaxy A32 5G is one that you ought to consider.

With its huge 6.5-inch screen with a 6.5-inch display, the A32 isn’t a tiny phone. It has a mAh battery of 5,000 that will last for a lengthy time — nearly 12 hours during our tests when it has its adaptive refresh rate. Also, you can expect to see the Galaxy A32 last longer in general than other budget alternatives and comes with Samsung promises 3 years worth of Android updates, and the promise of four years of security updates.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy A32 5G review.

An excellent, cheap phone with 5G.

Specifications

Display 6.53-inch Display: 6.53-inch LCD (2340 in x 1080)

Processor: Snapdragon 765G

RAM: 6GB

Storage/Expandable 128GB / Yes

Rear camera: 48MP main; 8MP ultrawide; 5MP macro

Camera in front 16 megapixel

The weight is 7.4 ounces

Life of the battery (Hrs: Mins) 11:07

The reasons to buy

A great 5G phone at a reasonable price and a long battery life

The reasons to stay clear of

Dim screen, exclusive to Verizon

There aren’t many devices that can be equipped with 5G on our list of the top cheap phones 5-G modems could be quite expensive as an accessory. But, this is an example of the TCL 10 UW 5G that can connect to Verizon’s ultra-fast 5G network, and still cost less than $400.

There’s more 5G that can describe the benefits of the TCL phone. This phone’s 6.53-inch display, though slightly dim, delivers stunning colors and offers plenty of screen real space. TCL 10 5G UW TCL 10 with 5G comes with the identical Snapdragon 765G processor that you find in the more expensive phones and delivers the same performance. 5G connectivity doesn’t have any impact on the battery’s life either the phone of TCL lasted over 11 hours on the battery tests we conducted.

Check out our complete review of the TCL10 5G UW.

A cheap Galaxy Note alternative

Specifications

Display Size: 6.4-inch LCD (2300×1080)

CPU Snapdragon 665

RAM: 4GB

Storage/Expandable 128GB/Yes

Rear camera: 48MP main (f/1.7); 16MP ultrawide (f/2.2); 2MP macro (f/2.2)

Camera in front 16 megapixels (f/2.0)

Weigh: 6.8 ounces

The battery life (Hrs: Mins) 12:13

Motives to purchase

Includes stylus, long battery life, and three rear cameras

The reasons to stay clear of

The colors aren’t as bright on the screen. There is no super wide-angle or optical zoom

It’s not necessary to shell out large sums of money on a phone such as Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 to get a stylus for your phone. It’s the Moto G Stylus retails for $299, and comes with a convenient stylus that is tucked away in the right-hand part of the handset. Although you won’t have S Pen levels of functionality you’ll be able to remove the stylus to begin writing notepads on your Motorola phone’s screen without needing to open your phone. The stylus can also aid in taking screenshots or editing images.

In many ways In many ways, it’s a lot like the Moto G Stylus is similar to last year’s model that came with the Moto G Power. The screen is the same size and processor, but it’s the G Stylus comes with more storage capacity and a larger main camera sensor. The most significant difference, however, biggest difference is the battery, whereas it’s the Moto G Stylus makes do with a 4,000mAh power pack. Even with the smaller battery, the G Stylus still lasted more than 12 hours on our battery test, making this a long-lasting phone for people who want a productivity-boosting stylus.

Check out our complete Moto G Stylus review.

The 5G phone with the lowest price currently

Specifications

Screen Size: 6.49 inches

Processor Snapdragon 480 5G

Size/ weight: 6.42 x 2.95 x 0.33 inches or 6.67 ounces

Life of the battery (Hrs: Mins) 10:28

5G networks are supported by: T-Mobile

The reasons to buy

90Hz display, decent battery life, and 5G device for less than $300.

The reasons to stay clear of

-Cameras don’t impress-Underwhelming performance

The OnePlus Nord N200 succeeds the budget Nord N100 from 2020, however, it comes with 5G. It offers a variety of amazing features at a reasonable price offering a 90-Hz display, 5G connectivity, and a huge battery at just $240. But, you’ll have to compromise.

It is also evident that the camera performance of the Nord N200 is quite lacking. Although the Snapdragon 480 processor is able to get what it needs for the basic tasks, anything that requires gaming can bring it to the brink However, it is not a great phone for gaming. If budget is your main concern and you’re looking for 5G speeds, you’ll want this phone you should buy.

The OnePlus Nord N200 5G won an award highly recommended by Tom’s Guide.

Check out our complete review of the OnePlus Nord N200 5G test.

What is the best low-cost phone for you?

Finding the most affordable phone can be a challenge since it’s about figuring out what compromises you’re willing to accept. It’s essential, to begin with, the basics. Do you prefer a larger screen? Opt for a low-cost phone with a screen that is greater than 5.5 inches. People who prefer to operate a phone comfortably using just one hand would likely prefer a device with a display less than 5 inches.

The next step comes to the camera. Most budget phones have only one lens, however, this is beginning to change. The number of megapixels doesn’t matter so much. Pay more focus on the capabilities that the camera has. Check if the phone is able to take ultra-wide photos which are becoming more popular on low-end phones. However, don’t think about optical zoom. Digital zoom is standard for phones less than $400.

For storage, 32GB is fine but 64GB is the best option for phones that are budget-friendly. If you can, check whether this phone comes with the option of a microSD card slot to expand. The battery life is a major problem regardless of the cost and so make sure you make sure to check the battery capacity of the handset. The general rule is that anything over 4500 mAh is the best choice.

Although the TCL 10 5G UW signifies that 5G support will be available to phones priced under $400, don’t count on 5G speeds on a regular basis. It’s likely that this will be the case in the next year with the introduction of 5G modems, as they are available on chipsets targeted at phones with lower prices. Finally, you should check what carriers the phone is compatible with. The phone should be compatible with each of the GSM as well as CDMA networks of all the big four carriers across the U.S.

How do we test cheap phones?

We assess phones that are priced at a budget similar to how we evaluate flagships. We conduct real-world tests and simulate benchmarks over a period of days to assess their effectiveness and value. This includes our battery test that involves continuous internet surfing using cellular networks at 150 nits brightness. The phones on our top smartphone battery life list typically last more than 11 hours.

Performance-wise We use Geekbench 5 to determine the overall speed and to compare it with phones of similar price brackets. Similar to what we do for GFXBench to test graphics. We also conduct our own testing of video editing/transcoding by using our Adobe Premiere Rush app to test the speed of real-world operations.

To evaluate cameras on low-cost phones, we’ll take numerous photos in various situations and then compare other phones that are priced affordably with similar scenarios so that we can make side-by-side comparisons.

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Mark Spoonauer is the global editor-in-chief for Tom’s Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to being in charge of the direction of Tom’s Guide, Mark specializes in covering everything mobile and has examined dozens of smartphones and other devices. He has been a speaker at important industry events and has appeared frequently on TV for discussions on the most recent developments. Mark was the editor-in-chief for Laptop Mag, and his work has been featured on Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Connect with him via Twitter as @mspoonauer.

 

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