The best cheap phones in 2023 are still pretty smart, with great features and functions just at a much lower price. Many are simply the best phones but an older model, and when we say older, we're talking months most of the time, since the big brands seem to always be bringing out a new model that only has very minor tweaks and added features.
So really, if you're looking for a good phone on a budget, there's plenty to choose from that are of excellent quality.
Our round up features some of the biggest brands on the market, from Samsung and Apple to Oppo, Xiaomi and TCL - all you have to do is browse our list and find the phone that's right for you!
Best cheap phones 2023
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The Apple iPhone SE (2022) 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 13 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 13 range making its way into the 2022 SE, too. That means that this phone delivers A15 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 (2022) 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.
Although the OnePlus Nord CE 2 is a great cheap phone, it’s not quite as good as the OnePlus Nord 2, but then it is even more affordable. CE stands for 'Core Edition' - it takes everything that makes up the Nord and strips them back in order to drop the price.
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 quickly too. You’ll also be able to enjoy streaming TV shows and movies on the large, sharp 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 it’s not waterproof either. It’s also taken a hit in the camera system, you’ll still be able to take some decent shots though, as long as the lighting is right.
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. Find out more in the OnePlus Nord CE 2 review.
The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G echoes the look of the tech giant's flagship S series, it looks fantastic and features a stunning 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate so it's genuinely on par with many flagship handsets.
On the back, you'll find an integrated module housing some great camera tech that blends well into the plastic casing of the phone - the photos come out well with the 64-megapixel main camera leading the charge. Complementing that is a new 5,000mAh battery that will last you for ages and ages without needing a charge.
So what's not to love? Well, the performance won’t blow you away, but let's get things in perspective: it's too easy to think this is a flagship handset when it actually costs a whole lot less. A sophisticated option if you're not on team iPhone.
You don’t need to spend loads of money to get a phone with impressive features - and the Oppo Find X5 Lite proves that. Combining two-day battery life with 65W charging that took just over 30 minutes to take the phone from flat to full, we were blown away by what it has to offer.
Even though it is a little flawed because it's not waterproof and the camera's zoom is admittedly quite weak, it's still really good value thanks to a lovely 6.43-inch screen with a 90Hz refresh rate for smooth results, a decent main camera, and very capable performance.
Want to know more? Read our full Oppo Find X5 Lite review
The big selling point when it comes to the Nokia G21 is the very, very low price – you can pick this up for around £150 in the UK at the moment. With a lot of us watching our bank balances very carefully right now, that's certainly appealing.
Of course you do have to make certain compromises to get down to that price point. There's no 5G on offer here, and the performance is on the sluggish side: it'll still do everything you need to do, but you might notice the occasional stutter when playing games or quickly switching between a lot of apps.
Another aspect of the Nokia G21 that we like is the excellent battery life, and as you would expect from Nokia the build quality is really good too – this is a phone that doesn't feel as cheap as it actually is.
Is this affordable handset the cheap phone for you? Read our full Nokia G21 review for a thorough breakdown of all its pros and cons
At this stage we pretty much know what to expect from these mid-range phones from Google: they offer a clean, slick Android experience and some very good photo and video capabilities for not much money at all.
The phone uses the same Google Tensor processor that's in the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro, and that means lots of AI goodness for powering Google Assistant, photo processing, and so on. If you're heavily invested in Google's apps and services, then this is the perfect mid-ranger.
Of course if you've got more money then the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro are superior phones, but at this kind of price point the Pixel 6a is difficult to beat – and its battery life between charges impresses as well.
Read our full Google Pixel 6a review to learn more about this premium design handset
If ever there was proof that you don't need to spend a fortune to get a great smartphone, the Poco F3 is it. This phone offers specs to rival some of the best phones on the market for a fraction of the cost. While not everything about it is perfect, when you're paying this price, you'll be willing to let some stuff go.
The big sell here is its screen. The 6.67-inch AMOLED display is stunning and has a 120Hz refresh rate and a 360Hz touch sampling rate, resulting in a silky smooth experience and excellent gaming and movie watching.
There's a powerful Snapdragon 870 processor here and up to 8GB of RAM to keep all of your apps running at full speed. There's also Wi-Fi 6 and 5G connections for your online activities.
The cameras are extensive, with a 48MP main camera backed up by an 8MP ultra-wide and a 5MP macro option. These are not the best in low light but passable for most uses and the front 20MP selfie camera works nicely.
For more, read our full Poco F3 review.
If you want the phone that gives you the biggest amount of battery per pound, look no further than the Moto G Power – 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.
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, that 6.67-inch screen is perfect for streaming TV and movies. You won't need to worry about that draining the battery, either, as in our testing it lasted for a massive 20 hours of video playback. Downloading shows won't clog up the phone's memory either, as it has 256GB of in-built storage and that's expandable with a microSD card.
Admittedly the camera isn't going to win any prizes, as we found it fairly hopeless in low-light conditions and at night. However, if you care more about the screen and battery life anyway, that won't be a big deal.
Check out our full TCL 20 Pro review to see if this brand is right for you.
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.
We've made sure to include 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.
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.
What is the best budget phone in 2023?
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.