The best cheap phones of 2021 are more powerful than the high-end smartphones of just a few years ago. Smartphone tech moves so quickly that even the cheapest of the best budget phones deliver all the premium features that matter, saving you money in areas that don't matter so much.
The trick to buying the best cheap phones is to know what matters and what doesn't, so for example if you take lots of photos you're going to focus – pun fully intended – on the cameras, whereas if you use your phone all day long a bigger battery is going to matter more.
The days when buying a cheap phone meant buying a no-name knock-off are long gone. Some of the best cheap phones come from the biggest brands, which is why we've brought you the best cheap iPhones, best cheap Samsung Galaxy phones, best cheap Google Pixel phones, and more great potential buys. You'll also see some brands you'll recognise from the pre-iPhone era, such as Nokia, who continue to make really good budget phones.
To make sure that we only recommend the very best cheap phones, we've given them thorough real-world testing on everything from camera quality, to battery life, to speed, to the quality of their screens and much more. We've put every kind of cheap phone through its paces to make sure that they're really worth buying: there's no point buying a cheap phone if the corners that have been cut are the ones you'll be annoyed about for months to come.
Cheap phones have improved dramatically in recent years, and the relentless pace of smartphone innovation means technology gets passed down from high-end models really quickly. That means some of the budget phones here have better cameras than the smartest smartphones of just a few years ago, and the intense competition between phone firms means that manufacturers have really had to up their game. That means the market is packed with great cheap phones to suit every kind of buyer. In fact, you'll find handsets here that give some of the phones in our best phones guide a very good run for their money.
The choice of cheap phones in 2021 is wider than ever before, and you can chose from an enormous selection of cheap Android phones as well as a growing number of affordable iPhones such as the iPhone SE. If you're looking for the best cheap phones for kids, the best cheap phones for work or for the best cheap phones that don't compromise on the quality of their photography we think you'll find the perfect cheap phone right here.
We've written this guide to encompass the best cheap phones on the market right now, but if you like a specific manufacturer or operating system then we have plenty of specialist phone guides here too. For example, our best gaming phones guide covers the high-powered handsets that we've found to be the best battlers in mobile gaming, and our best Android phones guide isn't going to offer you an iPhone if your heart is set on Android. If you prefer to buy a particular brand, check out our guides to the top-rated Samsung phones, best iPhone, and Nokia phones and many more. We've also got a guide to the best small phones for those of us who prefer our phones to fit in our pockets or purses.
You'll find that most of the phones here are using 4G technology, not 5G. That's unlikely to be an issue for most of the UK, where 5G is still relatively patchy, and 4G is fast enough for things like video streaming. However if you really want 5G speeds then check out our best 5G phones guide.
Lastly, a quick note that is directed towards students. Cheap phones are great for going to school, college or university, as they allow you to work, communicate, study and stay entertained during term time without, one, costing the Earth and, two, leaving you completely stitched up if you break or lose it. Students travel a lot and go out a lot, and that means being a student and losing tech go hand-in-hand. The best cheap phones are therefore a key part of our back to school guide, which is a resource we've created to surface 2021's very best student technology, gadgets and essential products. Check it out if you're shortly going to be hitting the books, as the tech inside can help transform your student experience.
The best cheap phones you can buy today
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.
Hunting for a cheap phone may feel like sacrifice after sacrifice, but that's actually not the case when it comes to the OnePlus Nord 2. In fact, you get a hell of a lot for your money, it could have fooled me as being worth twice the price.
It follows on from the immensely popular first-generation Nord with even faster speeds, an even bigger battery and even more features. Performance-wise, it's miles ahead of most cheap phones and is actually just as good as some flagships. That's a massive plus-point, you’ll be able to use it for just about anything, including mobile gaming!
You might be suspicious about a cheap phone with such impressive performance, but you shouldn't be because this is a genuine all-rounder.
To name a few of its other benefits: the battery life lasts more than just a day, its camera will easily deliver social media-worthy shots and Oxygen OS is one of the smoothest user interfaces there is.
Unfortunately, there’s still no official waterproofing nor can you charge it wirelessly but this time around OnePlus has added in Wi-Fi 6 alongside the 5G connectivity, so you will get the best internet speeds wherever you go (as long as your router and area support it).
This phone continues the OnePlus Nord legacy, it‘s a true champion and is one of the best cheap phones this year.
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.
The camera system on the S20 FE is also a good all-rounder, with a trio of rear facing cameras joined by a high-definition 32MP selfie camera.
Throw in a brand new copy of Android 10, the very latest Android operating system, a stylish design (with plenty of colorways to choose from, too) and a rock solid 4,500 mAh battery (good for about a day and a half of medium usage), and you've got yourself a great smartphone package.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review for more on why we think it's the best premium cheap phone on the market today. We've also got our Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs iPhone SE guide, to explain how these two options shape up against each other.
Take a look at the specs sheet of the Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite and you'd think it costs a lot more than it actually does – and you could say the same about when you take a look at the polish and finish of the physical hardware too. However you weigh it up, this is a smartphone that gives you a lot of handset for your money.
You get some decent battery life, some respectable specs (including 6GB of RAM) and a quad-lens rear camera with the Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite, as well as 5G connectivity – if the next-gen network is up and running where you live, then this phone is one of the cheapest ways to take advantage.
A special mention too for that big, sharp, bright 6.67-inch screen, which is great for everything from watching movies to browsing the web. It's not a perfect phone – there's no wireless charging, for example – but you'll struggle to find a device that stretches your money further. See our full Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite review for more info and, to see how this handset compares to our number one cheap phone choice, scope out T3's Apple iPhone SE (2020) vs Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite comparison feature. We've also got a guide to see how it compares to the Android competition: OnePlus Nord vs Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite.
The Google Pixel 4a was delayed several times before it saw the light of day, but we're glad that it's here now – it follows on from the template set down by the Pixel 3a, in that it combines a great camera with a decent design and pure Android software. Perhaps the best part is the price though: just $349/£349.
That makes it a very attractive proposition: it's capable of taking some fantastic photos, especially in low light, and with enough performance to handle the majority of smartphone tasks, what else do you need? It's not quite as polished or as powerful as the flagships of course, but it costs an awful lot less.
Google is adding an increasing number of exclusives to the Pixel too: the Night Sight mode for the camera for example, and the Recorder app that can convert speech into text in real time. You don't get 5G, but there is a different (more expensive, but still affordable) model that does come with 5G though. Read our full Google Pixel 4a review for an in-depth look at this model, but we also have our Google Pixel 4a 5G review if you want to see what that can do.
We've also got our Google Pixel 4a vs iPhone SE explainer for these two very similar phones, plus a Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G vs Google Pixel 4a guide if you want to see how these two big-name Android phones stack up.
The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G echoes the look of the flagship S21 series, with an enormous 6.5" Super AMOLED 120Hz display disturbed only by Samsung's tiniest punch-hole front camera. On the rear, you'll find a rectangular module housing some great camera tech, that blends well into the plastic casing of the phone.
The photos are brilliant on the camera's default point-and-shoot settings, with a 64MP main camera 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.
Naturally for this price, there needed to be some downsides. The Samsung A52 5G isn't as fast as its flagship counterparts, and the design is clunkier too. Despite that, this is a fantastic mid-range phone with some high-end specs - it's definitely worth considering.
Although the OnePlus Nord CE 5G is a great cheap phone, it’s not quite as good as the original OnePlus Nord. the clue's in the name 'Core Edition' which immediately implies it has been stripped back somewhat to keep the price low.
There are a few areas it thrives in. Like its battery life which matches up to some of the best flagship phones you can buy, and it charges up super quickly too. You’ll also be able to enjoy streaming TV shows and movies on the large, bright Full HD screen, and take advantage of smooth control in mobile games thanks to the 90Hz refresh rate.
Having said that, OnePus has clearly cut a few corners. The most obvious is the design, they’ve swapped out the glass back for plastic and simplified the controls. It’s also got a less sophisticated camera system, which is a shame but makes sense considering the lower price.
Overall this is a good phone for anyone on a tight budget, it may not stand out against the crowd but it will certainly do everything you need it to and it will do it relatively well. It’s a solid, capable handset you can rely on.
The Realme 8 Pro is packed with a 108MP camera, the highest resolution you can get from a smartphone camera. So we expected big things when it came to its photos.
It didn't disappoint. Perfect if you are on a tight budget but want a smartphone with a great camera for point-and-shoot photography, shots came out looking super sharp and lifelike in natural light. It didn't cope so well when it came to ultrawide photography though, so bear that in mind if you take a lot of those.
With 1,000 nits brightness, the 6.4 inch AMOLED display was incredibly vibrant, although truth be told did lack the clarity of other, more expensive handsets. One area it truly excelled at though was in battery life, it'll last you about 20 hours of video playback and can recharge in as little as 47 minutes. So if you're the type who constantly forgets to give your phone some juice, it's hard not to recommend.
The Sony Xperia L4 has a 6.2inch screen with a 21:9 aspect ratio, its long slender display is immersive and makes it ideal for watching TV shows and movies. Perfect for a long commute!
You won't get the best of everything with this phone though. Sony has definitely cut some corners to keep the price so low. Mobile gamers will find its speeds frustratingly slow, while those who are constantly scrolling through social media may find that they'll have to recharge it a couple of times a day. Then, when it comes to the camera, it copes well with point-and-shoot photography in bright daylight but not so well at night.
Overall this phone is fine, you get what you pay for when you spend so little on a smartphone. Anyone on a very tight budget should add it to their shortlist.
You might have scrolled down this list and thought to yourself "these phones are still too expensive." In which case, consider the Motorola Moto G10. It's a seriously cheap handset.
Because the price is so low, there are some sacrifices to be made. The main one being performance, this phone is by no means speedy. It'll cope with basic tasks like casual web browsing and messaging, but don't expect to play big mobile games on it.
Overall though, considering how inexpensive it is, the Moto G10 is a very capable smartphone. The battery will last you a full day, the screen is big enough to watch video on and the camera is alright too. It's no rival to the mid-range phones above but for this price, you won't get much better.
It may be on the more expensive end of this list, but the TCL 20 Pro 5G is a very capable handset with a display that looks like it should cost twice the amount.
Glossy, curved and smooth, the 6.67-inch screen is perfect for streaming TV and movies. You won't need to worry about that draining your battery, as in testing it lasted a massive 20 hours of video playback. Downloading shows won't clog up the phone's memory either, it has 256GB of in-built storage and that's expandable with a MicroSD card. It really is a phone well suited to the daily commute.
Admittedly the camera on this phone isn't going to win any prizes, it did alright in natural light but was fairly hopeless at night. However, if you care more about the screen and battery life anyway, that won't be a big deal. Overall, it's a fantastic looking phone.
There are cheap phones, and then there are very cheap phones: the Vivo Y20s won't cost you much at all, and while you have to live with some compromises as a result, this phone will still do just about everything that you need an Android handset to do (albeit a little bit more slowly than normal in some circumstances).
Besides the low, low price of the Vivo Y20s (check the widget above for the best online deals right now), it also excels in terms of its battery life – you can often get a couple of days of use out of this phone, we found in our testing. You don't get wireless charging or even particularly fast wired charging unfortunately, but you can't have everything in a budget phone like this.
With no 5G, modest specs, and a camera that doesn't go much beyond satisfactory, this isn't a handset that's going to appeal to power users – but it is going to appeal to anyone on the hunt for the best cheap phone of the moment, especially if it's the cheapness that's the priority.
Considering the money you're paying for the Oppo Find X3 Lite, you get an awful lot back in return, including a competent camera, 5G support and a rather nice screen. A fantastic wired charging speed – up to 65W – is another reason to put this on your shortlist of the best budget phones of the moment, although there's no wireless charging available here.
The screen is another highlight, with the 6.43-inch AMOLED display, running at a 90Hz refresh rate, very good for just about anything – watching movies, browsing the web, flicking through social media feeds, and so on. The size and quality of the display certainly makes you feel like you're using a more expensive phone.
Of course there are compromises to get to this price point, as there always are, but we think that the ones that the Oppo Find X3 Lite makes are clever ones. It's significantly less than the other models in the Oppo Find X3 range, and if you can live with its drawbacks, you'll find it an excellent smartphone.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite is one of the budget phones that has impressed us most over the last 18 months (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 (unique in the cheap phone market), 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 large price savings over the devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. There's no 5G or wireless charging here, though, 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 Vivo Y70 delivers a handset with solid all-round hardware specs and performance for a very affordable price point.
The 6.44-inch AMOLED 1080 x 2400 screen is the highlight of the package, which makes streaming content and playing mobile games a joy. This screen is backed up with the mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU and Adreno GPU, as well as 8GB of RAM.
Combined that is rock-solid core hardware package and, while this handset isn't going to win benchmark competitions, in terms of real world usage it offers plenty. A fast and fluid handset all round, and one that doesn't leave you waiting for things to load.
In terms of notable absences, this handset doesn't come with a 5G modem, and its screen while large has a 60Hz refresh rate rather than 90Hz or 120Hz. That said, the far more expensive flagship Apple phone on the market right now also has a 60Hz screen, so not too much can be held against the Vivo Y70 on this point.
Overall, a good cheap phone that will please users who enjoy large screens.
If you want 5G tech on a budget, then the Motorola Moto G50 should be playing a part in your deliberations: as well as all the standard Motorola value-for-money quality, this is also ready for the future, whenever 5G might make its way to where you live.
The phone boasts a nice and big 6.5-inch screen with an impressive 90Hz refresh rate, and you get the very capable Snapdragon 480 processor inside – a quality screen, a fast processor, what more could you ask for? There are some compromises to be made of course, to get under the £200 mark, and you won't find any wireless charging or waterproofing here.
Around the back, there's a triple-lens rear camera but there's no optical zoom or ultrawide lens, it performs okay but it's hardly going to deliver professional-looking shots. The phone is basic across the board so you won't confuse this for a flagship phone in a hurry.