The best cheap phones 2021: top budget-friendly smartphones options

The best cheap phones that deliver impressive hardware and features without the crazy price tag

Included in this guide:

Best cheap phones 2021
(Image credit: OnePlus)

The best cheap phones 2021 is a list filled with options, but the handhelds you'll find in T3's guide are here to offer more budget-friendly options to today's best phones in general, we aim to only include the phones that deliver a good experience where it counts. You of course want premium features like a stellar camera and good overall performance, but there are ways to save money by nixing the more advanced features premium-priced smartphones include.

The trick to finding the best cheap phone available today is knowing what brands and models do this best for you. Finding out which cheap smartphone will deliver the best experience for your needs will be up to you, but our guide is here to help you narrow down your options to the best of the best.

Our guide includes some of the cheapest iPhones alongside budget-friendly Samsung Galaxy phones on sale, the cheapest Google phones available today and more. We've also reviewed these phones where possible to make sure we give an honest opinion of which option may be the best for you.

Going through extensive real-world testing, everything from the phones camera quality to battery life, speed, screen quality and more are put to the test. So if you're hoping to find a phone for more specific use, you may just find what you're looking for.

The phones on our guide may not compete with the best gaming phones or the best Android phones out there, but they will deliver a proper smartphone experience for those buying on a budget.

If you're loyal to a particular brand however, you may want to check out our guides to the best Samsung phones, the best iPhone, or the best Nokia phones. We even have a guide to the best small phones if you prefer a smaller handset.

You'll also find that most of the phones on our list are 4G, so check out the best 5G phones for more options.

The best value cheap phones of 2021

apple iphone se whiteT3 Awards 2020

The best cheap phone available today? That's the brilliant value Apple iPhone SE (2020).

(Image credit: Apple)

The best cheap phone for most people

Weight: 148g
Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm
OS: iOS 13
Screen size: 4.7 inches
Resolution: 750 x 1334 pixels
CPU: Apple A13 Bionic
Storage: 64GB / 128GB / 256GB
Battery: 1,821 mAh
Rear camera: 12 MP f/1.8
Front camera: 7 MP f/2.0
Reasons to buy
+Stylish design+Fast performance+Low price point
Reasons to avoid
-No haptic touch on lock screen-No Night Mode in camera

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 it rings in for under half that of 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 its 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 on a new phone, as you might be surprised at just how much quality Apple has laid down here for, comparatively, very little money.

Read our full iPhone SE (2020) review for even more on why we think this is such a good choice, and check out our iPhone SE vs OnePlus Nord breakdown for how it compares to our top Android pick.

oneplus nord n10 5g blackT3 Award

(Image credit: OnePlus)

One of the best cheap 5G phones on the market today

Weight: 1.09 pounds
Dimensions: 6.46 x 2.95 x 0.35 inches
OS: Android 10, OxygenOS 10.5
Screen size: 6.49 inches
Resolution: 1080 x 2400 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 5G
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 4,300 mAh
Rear camera: 64MP f/1.8 wide + 8MP f/2.3 ultrawide + 2MP f/2.4 depth + 2MP f/2.4 macro
Front camera: 16MP f/2.1
Reasons to buy
+Very affordable+5G on board+Good battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Mid-range performance-No waterproofing

While the first OnePlus Nord wasn't released in the US, we did get the OnePlus Nord N10 5G which is a little cheaper and it doesn't make too many compromises along the way. 

What you do get is 5G and some very decent specs for this price point, as well as a large 6.49-inch screen that has a 90Hz refresh rate for super-smooth animations and scrolling (that's definitely above average for what you're paying). During our time testing the phone we were also impressed with the lengthy battery life.

The camera is decent without being spectacular though, and there's nothing here in terms of waterproofing and wireless charging. If you want to spend a little less, there's also the Nord N100, which drops the 5G and has a lower res – but still 90Hz – screen. Here's our full OnePlus Nord N10 5G review.

samsung galaxy s20 fe blackT3 Award

The best premium cheap phone? That's the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE.

(Image credit: Samsung)

The best premium cheap phone

Weight: 190g (6.7 oz)
Dimensions: 159.8 x 74.5 x 8.4 mm (6.29 x 2.93 x 0.33 in)
OS: Android 10, One UI 2.5
Screen: 6.5-inch, HDR10+, 120Hz, 1080 x 2400, 20:9 ratio
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
RAM: 6GB / 8GB
Storage: 128GB / 256GB
Battery: 4,500 mAh
Rear camera: 12MP, 8MP, 12MP
Front camera: 32MP
Reasons to buy
+120Hz refresh rate screen+Premium internal hardware+5G connectivity
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life not best in class

Samsung surprised everyone when it dropped the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE  (that stands for Fan Edition, by the way) late in 2020, 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!

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-around.

The camera system on the S20 FE is also a good all-arounder, 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.

moto g power blueT3 Award

The Moto G Power packs in a lot of... erm... power.

(Image credit: Motorola)

The best cheap phone for a long-lasting battery

Weight: 221g
Dimensions: 172.1 x 76.8 x 9.7 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.8 inches
Resolution: 720 x 1,640 pixels
CPU: Snapdragon 662
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 6,000mAh
Rear camera: 64MP f/1.8 wide + 2MP f/2.4 macro + 2P f/2.4 depth
Front camera: 16MP f/2.2
Reasons to buy
+GIGANTIC battery+Pretty good-looking+Huge display
Reasons to avoid
-Low-res display-Mediocre low-light photos-No waterproofing

If you want the phone that gives you the biggest amount of battery per pound, look no further than the Moto G Power (2021) – also known as the G9 Power in Europe. The 6,000mAh battery here is simply colossal – that's 20% more than the ultra-expensive Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra gives you, let alone most of the budget phones in this list. It's more than three times the capacity of the iPhone SE (2020), in fact.

Of course, it needs to be big, partly because the only part of this phone as generous as the battery size is the screen size. At 6.8 inches, it's truly a beast and makes for a big canvas for video and games. The downside is that it's not very high resolution – it has fewer pixels than a lot of the phones here, but it's also one of the biggest sizes, so you really notice the lower resolution. It shouldn't be a dealbreaker, but you can definitely get strong screen quality elsewhere.

It's a similar story for most of the rest of this phone, in fact – its performance is fine, but not quite as snappy as some of the other options. The cameras are good in bright light but really struggle in low-light conditions. It's a good buy, especially if you want really long battery life, but it just comes with compromises. Read our full Moto G Power review here, and see our Moto G9 Power vs iPhone SE (2020) comparison here.

samsung galaxy a51 blackT3 Award

(Image credit: Samsung)

The best cheap phone for taking and displaying photos

Weight: 172g
Dimensions: 158x79x7.9mm
OS: Android 10.0, One UI 2.0
Screen Size: 6.5-inch FullHD+, 1080 x 2400 pixels, 20:9 ratio
Storage: 4GB/6GB RAM, 64GB/128GB memory
Battery: 4,000mAh
Rear Cameras: 48MP, 12MP, 5MPx2
Front Cameras: 32MP
Reasons to buy
+Great mid-range camera shots+Biggest and best display on a cheap phone

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 complaints such as the lack of RAM stop it from taking over the top entries on this list. A real strong contender – read all about it in our Samsung Galaxy A51 review.

moto g 5g plus blueT3 Award

(Image credit: Motorola)

One of the cheapest phones offering 5G

Weight: 207 g
Dimensions: 168 x 74 x 9 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.7 inches
Resolution: 1080 x 2520 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765
RAM: 4GB / 6GB
Storage: 64GB / 128GB
Battery: 5000 mAh
Rear camera: 48MP f/1.7 wide + 8MP f/2.2 ultrawide + 5MP f/2.2 macro + 2MP f/2.2 depth
Front camera: 16MP f/2.0 wide + 8MP f/2.2 ultrawide
Reasons to buy
+Well priced for what you get+Big, bright, clear 6.7-inch screen+5G on board

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, 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. Our Moto G 5G Plus review reveals all the ups and downs.

google pixel 4a blackT3 Award

The Google Pixel 4a is the best budget Android phone in the world.

(Image credit: Google)

A superb budget Android phone

Weight: 143 grams
Dimensions: 144 x 69.4 x 8.2 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 5.81 inches
Resolution: 1080 x 2340 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 3140mAh
Rear camera: 12.2 MP, f/1.7, 28mm (wide)
Front camera: 8 MP, f/2.0, 24mm (wide)
Reasons to buy
+Great camera+Pure software+Very well priced

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 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.

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.

tcl 10 5g blackT3 Award

(Image credit: TCL)

Get 5G without paying over the odds

Weight: 210 g
Dimensions: 163.7 x 76.6 x 9 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.53 inches
Resolution: 1,080 x 2,340 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 4,500 mAh
Rear camera: 64MP f/1.9 wide + 8MP f/2.2 ultrawide + 5MP f/2.2 macro + 2MP f/2.4 depth
Front camera: 16MP f/2.2
Reasons to buy
+Large, vivid display+5G connectivity+Appealing price

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 colors pop if you need to (when watching Netflix, for example).

Be sure to check out our full TCL 10 5G review if you're interested.

samsung galaxy note 10 lite whiteT3 Award

Get the best of Samsung Galaxy phones, but pay less.

(Image credit: Samsung)

A premium phone without the premium price

Weight: 199 g
Dimensions: 163.7 x 76.1 x 8.7 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.7 inches
Resolution: 1,080 x 2,400 pixels
CPU: Exynos 9810
RAM: 6GB / 8GB
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 4,500 mAh
Rear camera: 12MP f/1.7 wide + 12MP f/2.4 telephoto + 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide
Front camera: 32MP f/2.2
Reasons to buy
+Say hello to the S Pen+Fantastic design and build+Plenty of screen space

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 – our full Galaxy Note 10 Lite review explains more.

nokia 1.3 blueT3 Award

(Image credit: Nokia)

The best cheap phone for the tightest of budgets

Weight: 155g
Dimensions: 147.3 x 71.2 x 9.4 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 5.71-inch
Resolution: 720 x 1,560 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm QM215
Storage: 16GB
Battery: 3,000mAh
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 5MP
Reasons to buy
+Very, very affordable+An Android One handset+Headphone jack

There are cheap phones, and then there are super-cheap phones... you can pick up the Nokia 1.3 for $100 or even less 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 program, you're guaranteed two years of Android updates as well. Read our full Nokia 1.3 review for more.

honor play blackT3 Award

The best cheap phone for gamers

Weight: 176g
Dimensions: 157.9 x 74.3 x 7.5 mm
OS: Android 9
Screen size: 6.3-inch
Resolution: 1,080 x 2,340 pixels
CPU: Kirin 970
RAM: 4GB / 6GB
Storage: 64GB
Battery: 3,750mAh
Rear camera: 16MP f/2.2 + 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor
Front camera: 16MP f/2.0
Reasons to buy
+Fast Kirin 970 CPU+7.1 Channel Histen audio+Awesome gaming performance

The Honor Play, despite being pitched as a mobile gaming powerhouse, is actually just a fabulous all-around Android phone that delivers a stunning package for a very, very low price point.

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 an 89% 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. Read our full Honor Play review for all the ways this is less a gaming phone and more just a… really good phone. 

nokia 5.4 navyT3 Award

(Image credit: Nokia)

12. Nokia 5.4

Another cheap and cheerful Nokia smartphone

Dimensions: 6.34 x 2.99 x 0.34in (160.97 x 75.99 x 8.7mm)
OS: Android 11
Screen: 6.39" HD+
Resolution: 720 x 1520
CPU: Snapdragon 622
Storage: 64GB
Battery: 4000mAh
Rear camera: 48MP
Front camera: 16MP
Reasons to buy
+Better camera than other Nokias+Good battery life+Decent performance

We’ve been impressed by Nokia’s phones in recent years: while none of them are quite as iconic as the Nokias of the pre-iPhone era, the logo has become a recognizable mark of no-fuss phones that are well made and offer a decent specification for very little money. The Nokia 5.4 is a great example of that: it’s a very cheap phone but the specification is good for the price.

Many recent Nokias have had fairly poor cameras but the Nokia 5.4 has a four-camera setup with up to 48MP on the back, and there’s a 16MP camera on the front.

Picture quality isn’t up there with the big-name flagships, but then neither is the price tag. For most people, the quality is just fine and the 21:1 aspect ratio Cinema Mode is fun for making home movies. The 4,000mAh battery delivers a promised two days of battery life, although a day and a half is more realistic.

Though launched in Europe in late 2020, the Nokia 5.4 finally arrived in the US on March 1. 

nokia 3.4 blueT3 Award

(Image credit: Nokia)

Nokia launches another great budget phone

Weight: 6.35 oz (180 g)
Dimensions: 6.34 x 2.99 x 0.34 in (161 x 76 x 8.7 mm)
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.39 inches
Resolution: 720 x 1560 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 460
RAM: 3GB / 4GB
Storage: 32GB / 64GB
Battery: 4,000 mAh
Rear camera: 13MP wide + 5MP ultrawide + 2MP
Front camera: 8MP
Reasons to buy
+They don't come much cheaper+Clean software+Solid all-round build quality

If you want to spend as little as possible on your next smartphone then the Nokia 3.4 deserves a place somewhere on your shortlist: you can't really buy a handset for much less than this, and considering its bargain-basement price, it's perhaps no surprise that the specs are pretty much the bare minimum too.

You still get some bang for your buck though, even at this level – the triple-lens rear camera comes with an ultrawide mode, the display is nice and big and crisp, and you get the clean and bloat-free stock version of Android that Nokia phones all come with (an upgrade to Android 11 is in the pipeline).

As long as you don't expect too much in terms of power and performance, the Nokia 3.4 will take care of all the smartphone basics for you for less money than most other smartphones – and for a lot of people, that's one of the main considerations when it comes to weighing up a purchase. Read our full Nokia 3.4 review here.

samsung galaxy a52 5g blue

The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G has an excellent main camera.

(Image credit: Samsung)

The best cheap phone for point-and-shoot photography

Weight: 189g
Dimensions: 159.9 x 75.1 x 8.4mm
OS: Android 11, One UI 3.1
Screen Size: 6.5 inches Super AMOLED (FHD+, 120Hz)
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 4,500mAh
Rear Cameras: 64MP, 12MP, 5MP, 5MP
Front Cameras: 32MP
Reasons to buy
+5G support+64MP main camera is excellent+Long-lasting battery and fast charging
Reasons to avoid
-Thick design-10x digital zoom is very grainy-Slower than pricier handsets

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. 

vivo y20s blue

(Image credit: Vivo)

The best cheap phone if you don't want to spend much at all

Weight: 6.78 oz. (192.3 g)
Dimensions: 164.4 mm x 76.3 mm x 8.4 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.51 inches
Resolution: 720 x 1600 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 460
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 5000 mAh
Rear camera: 13MP wide + 2MP macro + 2MP depth
Front camera: 8MP wide
Reasons to buy
+Ultra low price tag+Great battery life for the price+Stylish look and desgin
Reasons to avoid
-Low-res screen-Camera is lackluster

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.

Nokia 7.2 best cheap phones

(Image credit: Nokia)

Buying Advice

How to choose the best cheap phone for your needs

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 a big cost outright, 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 percent 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 picking up on 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 specializes 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-around camera system. If so, then a phone like the Samsung A9 with its stacked quadruple camera system will be more up your alley.

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.

What is the best budget phone in 2021?

The Apple iPhone SE hands down offers one of the most premium-feeling budget-friendly phones available today. It's fairly affordable (for an Apple product) and delivers the complete iPhone experience sans some of the more elite features of the premium versions.

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Robert Jones
Robert Jones

Deputy Editor for, Rob has been writing about computing, gaming, mobile, home entertainment technology and more for over 15 years. You can find Rob's work in magazines, bookazines and online, as well as on podcasts and videos, too. Outside of his work Rob is passionate about motorbikes, skiing/snowboarding and team sports, with football and cricket two favourites. Feel free to contact him with any related products, events, and announcements.