10 best cheap smartphones 2016: our pick of the very best budget phones

Cheap phones which don't break the bank

If you're looking for the best cheap mobile phone, you've come to the right place. Welcome to T3.com's line-up of the very best budget smartphones available.

We think the iPhone SE is the best budget smartphone you can buy. It carries all of the Apple prestige and premium build quality, without the massive price tag. Of course, the iPhone SE may not be right for you, especially if you want something cheaper, or prefer Android, so we've collected nine other excellent budget phones.

How to choose the best budget smartphone

Flagship smartphones are great, they're lightning fast, well designed, and offer a ton of extra features. But they come at a cost, and that cost is a lot of money.

If you're looking for an alternative to one of those expensive handsets or the best smartphone for kids, for example - we've got you covered. While the phones in this list are all more affordable — we've only selected the very best phones which don't scrimp on hardware, design, or features. We're only recommending the cheap smartphones we'd be happy to use.

We think just because you're paying less, doesn't mean you should have a phone that feels cheap. You should also look out for premium features from more expensive smartphones, such as a fingerprint sensor, waterproofing, or an excellent camera.

The very best budget smartphones you can buy today

iPhone SE - £350

+ A design we all know and love
+ Great camera
- First generation Touch ID
- Sub 720p display

The iPhone SE is the hybrid between the iPhone 5S and 6S. You've got the form factor of the 5S with the four-inch display and the fact you can easily use the phone with one hand combined with the nimble performance of the 6S. The camera is also one of the best you can get your hands on with a 12-megapixel sensor that also takes 4K video. These combine to create a compact and competent device that's also the cheapest iPhone ever.

OnePlus 3 - £329

+ Premium design
+ 6GB of RAM!
- No expandable memory

OnePlus are renowned for combining the latest specs with a price you can't argue with, but their first two phones were pretty hit or miss, the OnePlus 3 is proof that three really is the magic number. Budget smartphones always claim they can compete with the likes of Google, Samsung and LG, but few ever come close to the mark, the OnePlus 3 gives all three a run for their money by delivering a phone with a Snapdragon 820 processor and 6GB of RAM…6GB!

It's not just the specs that make this phone, it's the all aluminium chassis that gives the phone a premium look and feel.

Samsung Galaxy A3 - £250

+ Metal and glass design
+ Awesome battery life
- Unremarkable specs
- Not a full HD screen

The Galaxy A3 is the smallest phone Samsung currently have in their Galaxy lineup, it takes most of its design from the Galaxy S6, giving the device a flagship look for a budget price tag. The phone runs on a quad-core processor and has 1.5GB of RAM — the base memory can easily be expanded with a Micro-SD card too. The phone has a 2300 mAh battery that can easily last up to two days of normal usage — although not having to charge your smartphone at night will take some getting used to.

Motorola Moto G4 - £150

+ Textured back for extra grip
+ 1080p screen
- No NFC
- No fingerprint detector

The Motorola G series has always been a contender for the best budget smartphone on the market — the G4 is no exception and certainly offers something special for the price. No sacrifices were made with screen resolution as the G4 rocks a 1080p display that will always light up courtesy of the octa-core CPU that powers it. Things won't chug either with 2GB of RAM to juggle all your multitasking needs — things are simple and just work on the G4.

Honor 5C - £150

+ Looks like a flagship phone
+ Front facing camera
- Modified version of Android is crap
- On screen navigation buttons

The Honor 5C has the look and feel of something much more expensive. It takes everything that's almost become the standard in the budget smartphone and builds upon it, giving you NFC and an 8-megapixel front facing camera that can challenge some of the flagships. Battery life can also last up to two days provided you aren't doing anything intense on the device like gaming. Overall this is a package that rivals smartphones that cost two or three times more in price.

Sony Xperia E5 - £150

+ More than a day worth of battery
+ No slowdown when performing everyday tasks
- The front and back camera are functional but nothing special
- The design is meh

The Xperia E5 looks like a Sony phone for sure…but let's just say this isn't one you'll be pulling out to show your friends in the pub anytime soon. However the design is sturdy and feels very durable, but that's not the main reason this phone is great for people on a budget — it's the competent package you're getting. The E5 doesn't have mind blowing specs by any means, but it will do day to day tasks with ease and it'll make it through a whole day with some charge left.

Wileyfox Spark X - £130

+ Improved performance from the original Spark
+ A quirky and unique design
- Not a 1080p display
- Battery life could be hit of miss

You may remember T3's review of the entry-level Spark — in case you haven't read it, it wasn't good at all. The Sparks biggest downfall was the fact there was only 1GB of RAM packed inside the phone — the Spark X is set for release in the coming weeks and features double the RAM with an improved back camera. The phone is set to succeed where the entry level model failed and run apps and games smoothly with a battery life that gets you through a day.

HTC Desire 530 - £130

+ The device is promising on paper
+ We love the design
- Performance just isn't good enough
- The screen isn't bright enough, even on max settings

It seems as though HTC really missed a beat here, the cheap Desire is ultimately one of the worst budget smartphone offerings out there. The phone is hamstrung by the lack of RAM, meaning day to day performance is sluggish and ultimately not worth the asking price when there are plenty of other devices for the same money that do the jobs they're supposed to. Still, we really love the design.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 - £120

+ IR blaster on the top — you don't see those much these days!
+ Fingerprint scanner
- The camera is only adequate
- The finish of the phone can feel slippery

With a design ready to challenge some of the sexiest phones on the market, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 does exactly that with its metal finish and has enough under the hood to make it worth the asking price. The phone performs well with 3GB of RAM making the experience fluid and a display with 401 pixels per inch making everything on screen look crisp. The phone also features a fingerprint sensor that is uncommon on budget smartphones. The overall package makes this one of the best budget phones you can get your hands on.

Available from Light in the Box 

Vodafone Smart Prime 7 - £75

+ Cheap, very cheap
+ HD screen
- The experience can chug at times
- The design is dull

By far the cheapest phone on this list — for that price you're getting a 5-inch 720p display that isn't rough on your eyes at all. The phone isn't the fastest but is running one of the purest forms of Android you can get your hands on — there's next to no bloatware here at all. Everything here is functional and you're getting exactly what you pay for. You won't be running intense games on here, but you will be getting through the day messaging and doing some light web browsing.

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