Welcome to our best cheap phones guide for 2020, guaranteed to help you in your search for the best cheap iPhones, the best cheap Galaxy phones, the best cheap Pixels, or any other budget handset that you've got your eyes on. If you want to make an informed purchasing decision you've come to the right place.
We've put these cheap phones through hours and hours of testing, so you can be assured that we know what we're talking about when it comes to affordable mobile devices to pick from. Whatever features you need, whatever phone style you prefer, there should be something for you here.
And don't think competitive pricing means sub-standard phones – even at these affordable price points, these are still fantastic handsets, with quality screens, fast internals, and very good cameras too. By the time you've finished reading you'll be wondering why anyone would spend big on a 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.
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1. Apple iPhone SE (2020)
The best cheap phone for most people
Reasons to buy
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.
One of the best mid-range phones of 2020
Reasons to buy
OnePlus first made its name by offering very good phone specs at very good prices, so it's fitting that it's now back in that groove with the OnePlus Nord. While OnePlus phones have slowly got more expensive over the years, the Nord goes the other way and is a fantastic mid-ranger.
Starting at just £379 in the UK, you get a powerful Snapdragon 765G processor, at least 8GB of RAM, at least 128GB of storage, and 5G thrown in as well. That's not to mention the sharp, bright 6.44-inch display which zips along thanks to its 90Hz refresh rate – everything on this screen looks stunning.
Some compromises have been made to get the OnePlus Nord to this price: there's no wireless charging and no waterproofing, and the camera and battery life are good rather than great. All in all though, this is an amazing package that OnePlus has put together for the price.
3. 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.
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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 superb budget Android phone
Reasons to buy
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 though – you'll have to wait for the Pixel 4a with 5G later in the year for that.
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.
Get 5G without paying over the odds
Reasons to buy
Anyone who tells you that getting 5G on a phone is going to cost you a lot of money hasn't come across the TCL 10 5G: not only does it offer 5G, you also get a very decent screen, processor and camera as well, all for a little under £400 if you're buying direct and SIM-free.
Some corners are cut to get the phone to this price – no waterproofing, no wireless charging – but you can't have many complaints considering the amount you're paying. TCL is relatively new to the smartphone scene, even though it's a veteran in the electronics industry, and we're impressed with what it's pulled off here.
Apart from the 5G that's on board, it's perhaps the display that has the most appeal here. It's bright and vivid, and you get a host of software tweaks that you can apply to really make the colours pop if you need to (when watching Netflix, for example).
8. 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.
One of the cheapest phones offering 5G
Reasons to buy
If you want 5G tech on a budget, then the Moto G 5G Plus 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 6.7-inch screen with an impressive 90Hz refresh rate, and you get the very capable Snapdragon 765 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 £300 mark, and you won't find any wireless charging or waterproofing here.
Around the back there's a quad-lens rear camera with an ultrawide lens but no optical zoom, and it performs pretty well. Camera, battery, screen, performance – it's all impressive for the price you're paying, though you won't confuse this for a flagship phone in a hurry.
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.
11. 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.
A superb value-for-money mid-ranger
Reasons to buy
Poco has now fully spun out of Xiaomi, and the Poco F2 Pro is the result: a well-designed, very well-specced mid-range phone that has plenty to offer if you're looking for value for money. Indeed, some of the specs are top tier, like the Snapdragon 865 processor running under the hood.
We really like the big, bright 6.67-inch Super AMOLED display, which has no notch to spoil it thanks to the motorised pop-up selfie camera hidden in the chassis. Battery life is really good too, and you might even be able to get two days of use between charges if you go easy on the gaming and the GPS mapping.
You miss out on extras like wireless charging, and the quad-lens rear camera is good rather than great, but you have to make some compromises at this end of the market, and the Poco F2 Pro picks the right corners to cut. Even without Xiaomi's direct help, this is a phone that offers excellent value for money.
The best cheap phone for taking and displaying photos
Reasons to buy
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.
14. 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.
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.