Looking for the best cheap phone for 2020? You've come to exactly the right place, the carefully curated T3 explainer on the best cheap iPhones, the best cheap Galaxy phones, the best cheap Pixels and all the other budget handsets you need to know about to make an informed choice.
The main purpose of our best cheap phones guide is to give you a healthy selection of affordable mobile devices to pick from, based on our extensive testing – whatever your taste in phone handset design, whatever features you're after, whatever budget you're working to, you should be able to find something good here.
Despite the low prices you'll see here, these remain very appealing handsets. The good news is that you can pick up a very decent phone at a very low price nowadays, with quality screens, fast internals, and good cameras. Indeed, you may find yourself wondering why anyone would bother with a super-expensive flagship.
Whether you want the best cheap phones running Android, the best cheap phones running iOS, or the best cheap phone for photography, we can direct you. We've also included some handy general buying advice to make sure you pick the right phone.
The very best cheap phones: get a great cheap mobile phone deal
1. Apple iPhone SE (2020)
The best cheap phone for most people
Reasons to buy
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The Apple iPhone SE (2020) is the best cheap phone in the world. That's because it delivers a near-flagship iPhone experience but does so for a fraction of the cost. Indeed, the SE is so cheap that is rings in for under half that if the flagship iPhone 11 Pro, and for that reason alone it demands checking out by any prospective phone upgrader.
It really does deliver in terms of phone experience, too, with the exact same benchmark-crushing processor installed in it iPhone 11 range making its way into the 2020 SE, too. That means that this phone delivers A13 Bionic-levels of speed and energy efficiency, which combined with the butter smooth and super intuitive and feature packed iOS 13 operating system, makes using the iPhone SE an absolute joy.
Yes, the iPhone SE (2020) cuts a few corners when compared to the flagship iPhone devices, with a slightly weaker camera system, screen and battery, but considering just how remarkably cheap the phone is, and that all its components deliver strong performance, it is really hard to overlook it.
For iPhone users this is a no-brainer cheap phone upgrade, and even for Android users, we suggest at least checking out the handset before pulling the trigger a new phone, as you might be surprised at just how much quality Apple has laid down here for, comparatively, very little money.
Want even more reason to pick the Apple iPhone SE (2020)? Well, it has just won the Best Mid-Range Phone award at the T3 Awards 2020.
2. Samsung Galaxy S10e
The best premium cheap phone
Reasons to buy
The Samsung Galaxy S10e is getting cheaper all the time, making it a fantastic pick that can still hold its own in terms of performance. We loved the S10e on review, granting it a maximum score of five stars and concluding that, "it certainly holds its own in terms of performance and design, and won't let you down with battery life, software, or camera quality, either."
And, for a phone that costs under half many other flagships, we think that competitiveness is simply remarkable and something that Samsung should be well and truly proud of.
The thing we arguably love most about the Samsung Galaxy S10e, though, is that in an industry where screen-size wars seem to be getting well and truly out of hand, with each maker constant making phone screens bigger and bigger across their entire ranges, the modestly sized and pocket friendly 5.8-inch, 19:9, 438 ppi, 2,280 x 1,080 resolution display on the handset is such a breath of fresh air. Along with Samsung's impeccable levels of fit and finish, this device truly is an ergonomic and aesthetic joy.
Wrapping up the S10e package, of course, is a powerful internal hardware suite that includes a Exynos 9820 CPU, up to 8GB of RAM and a 3,100mAh battery, plenty of internal storage (up to 256GB) and what is probably the most slick OS skin on the market running on top of Android 10. A truly fantastic smartphone package, and one that is available at far from a flagship asking price.
3. Google Pixel 3a
The best budget cheap phone
Reasons to buy
The expression "cheap and cheerful" perfectly encapsulates Google's cheapest Pixel device. If you're unfamiliar with the brand, it's basically Google's way of setting the trends for the rest of the Android manufacturers, showing what could be if they put their minds to it. While the others in the lineup are really expensive, the 3a just, well, isn't.
The 64GB model, which is the only one you can buy, will set you back around £399 which, considering you're guaranteed at least three years of Android updates, is certainly good value. This phone is so good, in fact, that we included it on our list of the best Android phones in general.
But what do you get? Well, besides the Android updates – which can be hard to come by – you get a best-in-class camera, snappy performance, and free Google Photos cloud storage, alongside a great display. It doesn't get much better than that...
4. Moto G8 Power
The best cheap phone for a long-lasting battery
Reasons to buy
If you're looking for a phone that gives you a lot of bang for your buck then you simply can't go wrong with a Moto-branded handset these days, and the Moto G8 Power is one of the most recent from the stable. The big selling point here is that huge 5,000mAh battery.
According to the manufacturer, that means you can look forward to up to three days of battery life – this is a phone that can get you through a camping weekend without a charger. Elsewhere the rest of the specs are perfectly respectable too, and we like the spacious 6.4-inch display.
It's worth noting the details of the rear camera too, a quad-lens affair with 2x optical zoom and AI assistance to help you capture the best shot every time. If the G8 Power isn't quite the best cheap phone for you, then the other G8 models are well worth looking into as well.
A decent all-round phone for a very respectable price
Reasons to buy
We're big fans of Realme's approach to phones, which seems to be to pack in as many good-quality components as possible while keeping the price reasonable. The Realme X3 SuperZoom comes in at a low-to-mid-range price point, but still offers plenty of power and performance.
Take that SuperZoom rear camera, for example, which gives you the flexibility of both the 5x optical zoom and an ultrawide lens, so you can zoom in or out as necessary. The Snapdragon 855 Plus processor is no slouch either, and the phone should be able to cope with everything you can throw at it.
At first or indeed second glance you could be forgiven for thinking this phone is a lot more expensive than it actually is, and that's credit to the way that Realme has styled this handset: we're particular fans of the Arctic White look shown above.
6. Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite
A premium phone without the premium price
Reasons to buy
The Galaxy Note 10 Lite is one of the phones that has impressed us the most this year (it was the best handset we saw at CES 2020), and the reasons should be fairly obvious: it has a huge, gorgeously vibrant screen, it comes with an S Pen stylus, and it has all the Samsung style on the software side as well.
This being the Lite model, you get an older processor under the hood, but that's not going to worry too many people once you take into consideration the price saving over the standard Note 10 models. There's no 5G here or wireless charging here either, and the storage space is lowered to 128GB (you can expand that with a memory card though, if you need more).
Even with those older components inside, the Note 10 Lite still races along through any task or game, and it's definitely going to turn heads the next time you get it out in front of family or friends. It's one of the best Samsung phones in the business and it's one of the best cheap phones on the market right now.
The best cheap phone for the tightest of budgets
Reasons to buy
There are cheap phones, and then there are super-cheap phones... you can pick up the Nokia 1.3 for £80 or even less in the UK at the moment, so you're looking at the minimum you can spend and still get a smartphone in return. Don't expect too much though, and you won't be disappointed.
Sure, the specs, performance, camera capabilities and screen quality are all no more than satisfactory – but we're talking about a phone that's less than a tenth of the price of the top flagships here. It's still going to play your Spotify playlists and let you send your emails, the same as the Galaxy S20.
The Nokia 1.3 has cut a lot of corners to get to this price, and you only get the cut-down 'Go' versions of the Google apps by default, but it's still worth a look for those on a budget. Thanks to the Android One programme, you're guaranteed two years of Android updates as well.
8. Honor Play
The best cheap phone for gamers
Reasons to buy
The Honor Play, despite being pitched as a mobile gaming powerhouse, is actually just a fabulous all-round Android phone that delivers a stunning package for a very, very low price point of only £279.95 – or even less at some outlets.
Seriously, you get some incredibly tasty technology in the Honor Play, including the rapid Kirin 970 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a very spacious 6.3-inch FHD+ screen. Solid if not spectacular dual rear cameras and a single selfie camera are partnered with 64GB of internal storage space, while the phone's in-built GPU Turbo tech means that mobile games run incredibly well, too.
And, with immersive 7.1 Histen audio and a 89 per cent screen-to-body ratio in play, enjoying those games, or any other media, really is a super enjoyable experience.
Simply put, the Honor Play seriously makes you question why anyone would spend more on a mobile phone, which in some flagships means a price 3 or 4 times that of this phone.
The best cheap phone for speed and style
Reasons to buy
The OnePlus 6T is no longer the newest phone on the OnePlus block, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be considered for your next phone purchase: it remains one of the best cheap phones on the market, with a gorgeous 6.41-inch screen, some nippy internals, and a stylish design.
You don't get wireless charging or IP68 waterproofing with the OnePlus 6T, and this year's OnePlus phones have better cameras, but this is an excellent option if you're shopping down at the cheaper end of the market. We're big fans of the OxygenOS software OnePlus makes too.
The best cheap phone for taking and displaying photos
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Samsung Galaxy A51 echoes the look of the flagship S20 series, with an enormous 6.5" Super AMOLED display disturbed only by Samsung's tiniest punch-hole and a rectangular rear module housing some great camera tech.
The photos are brilliant at most ranges, with a 48MP wide-angle lens leading the charge worthy of most flagships and a high-quality 32MP selfie cam not far behind. Snapping great landscape shots, and viewing them on that incredible display, creates an experience unbeaten in its price range. Only small niggles such as the lack of RAM stop it from assaulting the top entries on this list. A real strong contender.
11. Realme 6
Realme 6 gives you much more phone that you would expect at this price
Reasons to buy
Realme is another company making a name for itself when it comes to budget phones, and while you might not think that a little over £200 is enough to get you a handset with a premium feel, the Realme 6 shows that it's possible.
Okay the specs aren't market-leading, but you wouldn't expect them to be. The design and build quality are really good, as is the battery life, and you get a perfectly respectable quad-lens camera around the back. It's definitely going to get you good photos and videos more often than not.
As is often the case with these Chinese phones, the software is a little quirky, and you might have to trim down some of the bloat on it. There's no waterproofing or wireless charging either, but everything considered, we'd say the Realme 6 is one of the best cheap phones in the business.
12. Huawei P30 Lite
A great alternative best cheap smartphone all-rounder
Reasons to buy
If the Huawei P30 and Huawei P30 Pro are too rich for your blood, may we recommend the Huawei P30 Lite? Huawei's well-established manufacturing abilities are still present and correct, you just don't get the top-end processors or cameras of the more costly models.
The 6.15-inch screen gives you plenty of space, the specs (including 6GB of RAM) are very competitive at this price point, and you do get a triple-lens rear camera thrown in as well – the cameras on the other P30 models outperform it, but it's still a very capable snapper.
How to choose the best cheap phone for you
Flagship smartphones are great: they're lightning fast, well designed, and come with a ton of extra features, too. But they come at a cost, and that cost is a lot of money. Most flagship smartphones now cost north of £1,000 to buy and, while the value you can get out of them can justify the cost, there is no getting away from the fact that it is big outlay, and especially so when contract costs then have to be added in on top.
The thing is, though, if you do your research well and decide exactly what you prize and need from a phone, then you can shop in the mid-range or budget phone market and get 70-90 per cent of the same experience as you would get if you owned a high-end phone, but for literally a fraction of the cost.
Most phone makers are cottoning on to this, too, with everyone from Xiaomi to Samung, and Google to Sony now offering some truly incredible handsets at fantastically low prices. Many of these handsets come with features that, only a few years ago, would be purely the domain of flagships, too, and in some cases we're now seeing entirely new technology actually debut in these cheaper devices. Just look at the Samsung Galaxy A80 and its unique pop-up and rotating camera system as proof.
As such, the first step to deciding which cheap smartphone is right for you is to work out exactly what you value most from a handset. If it is the ability to play games on the go, for example, then that will help you lean toward a device like the Honor Play that specialises in running games at high frame rates and with eye-popping visuals.
Equally, if you absolutely must have liquid-smooth core operation, with fast app loading and UI navigation, then you know you need to look for a device that comes with a powerful processor and slick OS skin, such as the OnePlus 6.
Maybe you actually prize taking pictures more than anything else, and need a phone that despite being cheaper than a flagship device still delivers a powerful and versatile all-round camera system. If so, then a phone like the Samsung A9 with its stacked quadruple camera system will be more down your street.
Creating a list of primary and secondary features you'd like to have works well in our opinion when balancing want and budget, and then where possible try to pick up a device that delivers at least one feature from your primary list, and two or more from your secondary list. Naturally, many smartphones in our best cheap phones guide deliver numerous excellent features at very competitive price points, so we're guessing you won't have too much trouble balancing your needs with your budget.