Welcome to T3's authoritative guide to the best cheap phones in 2019. Here we list the best mid-range and budget smartphones that, in terms of bang for your buck, deliver the absolute best mobile experiences.
These are mobile phones that still pack quality screens, fast internal hardware, and good camera systems, too. Yes, they may miss out on one or two high-end features, such as reverse wireless charging, but they absolutely don't compromise on core functionality and, as a result, have scored well on review.
As such, no matter if you are looking for the best cheap phones running Android, the best cheap iPhone, or the best cheap phones with plans bundled in, then this guide to the best cheap smartphones is a great place to start your research.
And, speaking of research, we've also included some very handy buying advice to help you find the best cheap smartphone for you in 2019. These tips range from how to decide which phone is right for you, through to up-to-date pricing and contact information.
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.
The very best cheap phones you can buy today: get a great cheap mobile phone deal
1. Samsung Galaxy S10e
The best cheap phone in the world
Reasons to buy
The Samsung Galaxy S10e isn't a budget blower, with its price point right now placing it firmly in the mid-range in terms of financial outlay, however it is in our mind the very best non-flagship level phone in the world in 2019. So if you can afford to stretch to it then you really won't be disappointed.
Indeed, T3 loved the S10e on review, granting it a maximum score of five stars and concluded that, "when you weigh it up against the other phones we've seen and are likely to see during the course of 2019, 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 (the Apple iPhone XS Max starts at £1,099), 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 9.0 Pie.
A truly fantastic smartphone package, and one that is available at far from a flagship asking price.
2. 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.
3. OnePlus 6
The best cheap phone for incredible speed and style
Reasons to buy
It may have been officially replaced by the OnePlus 6T, and the OnePlus 7 Pro is now with us, too, but the OnePlus 6 is still on sale and it represents incredibly good value for money for the phone enthusiast that prized speed and style.
12 months ago this was one of the world's absolute best handsets, with a flagship-grade suite of internal hardware and OnePlus' typical eye for look and feel making it a truly desirable handset. And, guess what? That's still true today.
The OnePlus 6's Snapdragon 845 CPU with 8GB of RAM still delivers buttery smooth operation, while its spacious 6.28-inch AMOLED, HDR display still looks beautiful, too. That all glass design is simple stunning as well, while the Silk White variant of the phone remains, to this day, one of the most beautiful finishes we've ever seen, while the limited edition OnePlus 6 Red is standout desirable as well.
You don't get wireless charging on the OnePlus 6, and its camera system is not as good as, say, the Samsung Galaxy A9's below, but when the phone looks this good and runs this well, then those issues pale into insignificance at this price.
4. Samsung Galaxy A9
The best cheap phone for photography enthusiasts
Reasons to buy
Now available for close to £300 SIM-free if you shop around, the Samsung Galaxy A9 could tempt those who’ve resisted plumping for a second-hand flagship Galaxy.
The start of the show on the Samsung Galaxy A9 is its rear-mounted quadruple camera system, which delivers a 24-megapixel primary sensor with f/1.7 aperture, a depth-sensing 5-megapixel camera, an 8-megapixel telephoto sensor for long-range shooting, and finally a 10-megapixel ultra wide angle 120-degree sensor for capturing breathtaking panoramas and tall landmarks.
Oh, and that's not forgetting that the A9 also comes with a 24-megapixel front selfie camera as well - that's a five sensor camera system on a phone that costs just over £300. Madness!
It's not just about the camera, though, on the Samsung Galaxy A9, with the handset also coming loaded with a 6.3-inch FHD+ screen, solid Snapdragon 660 processor, a generous 6GB of RAM, and a well-sized 3,800mAh battery, too.
A truly fantastic cheap smartphone, now at an incredibly affordable price point.
5. Moto G7 Plus
The best cheap phone for a truly budget price point
Reasons to buy
Motorola doesn't mess around with its phones: they're affordable, they're well built, and they do most jobs perfectly well. The Moto G7 Plus is the latest case in point, bringing with it a spacious 6.2-inch screen, a dual-lens rear camera, and impressive battery life too.
As well as 64GB of on-board storage, there's a memory card slot to expand that further – so you can add more space as and when you can afford it. 4GB of RAM is decent at this price point and we like the subtle style of the phone too. It's an impressive all-round package.
6. Nokia 7.1
The best cheap phone for Android One speedy updates
Reasons to buy
HMD Global's efforts to reboot the Nokia brand continue to catch our eye, and the Nokia 7.1 is the latest handset to hit that sweet spot between price and performance – it's lean, it's stylish, and as an Android One phone it's guaranteed to get speedy software updates.
The internal specs are just about par for the course for this price, but the 32GB or 64GB of internal storage can be added to with a memory card. We do like the 5.84-inch display and the 12MP+5MP dual-lens rear camera, another area where Nokia has always excelled.
7. 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.
8. Alcatel 3V Spectrum
The best cheap phone under £140
Reasons to buy
Despite being the cheapest phone on our list, the 3V Spectrum from stylish French maker Alcatel packs in a very impressive set of features for a phone that costs just a fiver over a ton.
You get a 6-inch, 18:9 screen with 2K resolution, a quad-core CPU, a dual rear camera system (12MP + 2MP), 5MP front selfie camera, and a Face Key facial unlock function. The 3V also comes running Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box.
Yes, you only get 16GB of storage space, and only 2GB of RAM, too, but aside from that there is very little to dislike about this glossy 2.5D glass-packing device. It looks bang on trend, feels solid in the hand, and that price makes buying it outright and freeing yourself for a sweet SIM only deal very, very easy.
If you want to spend around £100 on a new smartphone then the Alcatel 3V is a great choice.
9. Honor 8X
A superb value phone that looks great, too
Reasons to buy
Rounding off our guide to the very best cheap smartphones available today is the phenomenal Honor 8X, a smartphone that delivers a big, bright 6.5-inch LCD 19.5:9 aspect ratio screen, as well as modern, attractive look and feel for a very low price point.
The phone's Kirin 710 chipset isn't the fastest going and there's no Android 9.0 Pie out of the box, but the Honor 8X does come with a minimum of 4GB of RAM (certain models comes with 6GB), and more than enough room for apps, games, and media with 64GB and 128GB internal storage drives available.
The all glass and metal built, though, in partnership with a solid camera system and competitive 3,750 mAh battery, make this a quality all-round smartphone for those shopping with around £200 in their pocket.