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Best Budget Smartphones and Cheap iPhones

September 18, 2018

7:59 am

You can spend a small fortune on a smartphone, if you just have to have the top-of-the-line iPhone or Samsung. However, you (and your bank balance) will be pleased to know that you needn’t pay the extortionate prices for the latest models in order to get a good phone.

In fact, you can pick up handsets which will be nearly as potent as the latest flagships and also bear a more than a passing resemblance to their pricier cousins. If your budget can stretch to just under $400, we'd recommend going for the brilliant Google Pixel 3a, a premium-budget smartphone that can hold its own against the best. If you'd rather keep things under $250, then your best bet is to opt for one of the Motorola Moto G7 series phones. We detail all these phones and more, below.

Remember, this isn’t about buying the absolute cheapest phone you can – it’s about buying a good value phone. Spend too little on a poor phone, and you’ll end up buying another one sooner, spending more along the way.

There are some duds and some brilliant models among the low to mid-range options, so let Tech.Co remove the uncertainty when choosing your next phone.

In this guide:

Best Cheap Phones to Buy

Any of the above phones will do a respectable job and give you plenty of bang for your buck. No, you won't enjoy the sharpest screen around, nor will you get double (or treble) cameras with huge megapixel counts. You will, however, be able to browse the web, email, run all sorts of apps and of course, make and receive phone calls – everything you need from a phone.

Which are the Best Cheap Android Phones?

If you're after a cheap – but great quality – phone, then picking an Android model is your best bet. Cheap iPhones for under $300 are pretty rare, unless you go for a model that's quite a few years old. Android, however, is a much more competitive platform, with different manufacturers all keen to undercut each other on prices. That means you can choose from some perfectly impressive phones from just $250.

Let's take a look at how the best cheap phones match up:

Scroll horizontally to view full table on mobile devices 

Google Pixel 3aGoogle Pixel 3a XLMotorola Moto g7 PlusMotorola One VisionMotorola Moto g7 PowerSony Xperia 10Sony Xperia 10 PlusMotorola Moto g7 Play
Overall scoreGoogle Pixel 3aGoogle Pixel 3a XLMotorola Moto g7 PlusMotorola One VisionMotorola Moto g7 PowerSony Xperia 10Sony Xperia 10 PlusMotorola Moto g7 Play
Overall score4.5 stars4.5 stars4 stars4 stars3.5 stars3.5 stars3.5 stars3 stars
Price from$479$399$350$350$249$299$429$199
Screen size (in)5.666.26.36.266.55.7
Sreen resolution1080×22201080×21601080×22701080×2520720×15701080×25201080×2520720×1512
RAM (GB)44444342
Operating systemAndroid 9Android 9Android 9Android 9 (Android One)Android 9Android 9Android 9Android 9
Battery size (mAh)30003700300035005000287030003000
ProcesorSnapdragon 670Snapdragon 670Snapdragon 636Exynos 9609Snapdragon 632Snapdragon 670Snapdragon 636Snapdragon 632
Design score3.5 stars4 stars4 stars3 stars3.5 stars3.5 stars3.5 stars3 stars
Camera score5 stars5 stars3.5 stars4 stars3 stars3.5 stars3.5 stars3 stars
Ease of use score4 stars4 stars4 stars3 stars4 stars3 stars3 stars4 stars
Value score5 stars5 stars5 stars4.5 stars5 stars4 stars3.5 stars5 stars
Performance score3.5 stars3.5 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars4 stars4 stars3 stars
Buy nowFrom VerizonFrom VerizonFrom AmazonFrom AmazonFrom AmazonFrom AmazonFrom AmazonFrom Amazon

Google Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a best cheap smartphones
  • Class-leading camera

  • Clean Android operating system

  • Headphone jack

  • OLED  display

The best cheap phone on sale

The Google Pixel 3a costs just $399, but it's a genuine challenger to phones that cost twice that. It has the same rear camera (and uses the same camera software) as the more expensive Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL, which are widely considered to among the best phone cameras on the market. This means you get pictures that people with $1,000 iPhones can't match — it's some party trick.

However, the Pixel 3a is more than just a camera with a phone strapped on. You also get Google's clean version of Android. That means no bloatware or storage-sapping apps. It also has an OLED screen, a rarity at this price point – this highly detailed screen ensures images and colors appear razor-sharp.

It's also respectably fast, with decent performance when playing games and multitasking with different apps. The only real downside is that it doesn't support MicroSD cards. But, with unlimited Google Photos storage, it's not as big an issue as it could be.

Google Pixel 3a Key SpecsBuy the Pixel 3a
  • 12Mp rear camera
  • 8Mp front camera
  • 64GB storage
  • 5.6” 1080×2220 resolution OLED display
  • Android 9
  • 3,000mAh battery

Verizon

Amazon

 

Google Pixel 3a XL

Google Pixel 3a XL in hand small
  • Incredible camera

  • Clean Android operating system

  • Larger OLED  display

  • Strong performance

Takes the Pixel 3a and makes it bigger

The Pixel 3a XL is like the Pixel 3a above, but bigger – and pricier. This one pushes the boundaries of what counts as a “cheap” smartphone, but it still massively undercuts Samsung and Apple offerings on price.

It gets a larger 6-inch display, compared to the regular 3a's 5.6-inch screen, and it cost $70 more. The extra size also means it's a bit heavier, weighing around 20g more than the standard Pixel 3a.

Apart from that, though the phones are pretty much the same. It might cost more than the regular 3a, but the Pixel 3a XL is worth the investment. The extra weight lends it a slightly more premium feel, and the extra screen size is great for watching videos or gaming.

Oh, and you still get one of the best cameras on any phone, of any price.

Google Pixel 3a Key SpecsBuy the Pixel 3a
  • 12Mp rear camera
  • 8Mp front camera
  • 64GB storage
  • 6″ 1080×2160 resolution OLED display
  • Android 9
  • 3,700mAh battery

Verizon

Amazon

 

Motorola Moto g7 Plus

Moto g7 plus
  • Lightweight version of Android

  • Incredible value for money
  • Flagship looks
  • Good display

Incredible value, but not available in the US

The Moto g7 Plus costs £269 in the UK, about $350. It's not yet widely available on the US market, and, if we're honest, Americans are missing out. Fortunately, you can find it unlocked on Amazon.

The g7 Plus combines flagship looks with the slim bezels and teardrop notch with a delightfully lightweight version of Android and an impressive camera setup. Motorola's been on a roll with its cheap phones of late, and this one is the best of the bunch.

It's not all good news, though, the processor isn't the quickest and its plastic construction can leave a little to be desired. However, unless you're playing high-end mobile games all day long, the Moto g7 Plus will likely have enough power for you.

All told, it's a phone that punches way above its price tag.

Moto g7 Plus Key SpecsBuy the g7 Plus
  • 16Mp + 5Mp rear cameras
  • 12Mp front camera
  • 64GB storage
  • 6.2″ 1080×2270 resolution LCD display
  • Android 9
  • 3,000mAh battery

Amazon

 

Motorola One Vision

Moto g7 plus
  • Great rear camera

  • Quirky 21:9 aspect ratio display
  • Colorful design
  • Android One OS for speedy updates

Brilliant cameras and Android One

The One Vision is Motorola's offering for people who want a cheaper phone, but don't want to give up a top-quality camera or flagship looks. It has a 48Mp rear camera with quad pixel technology to make images appear bright and colorful. Round the front, you get a single 25Mp punch hole camera placed in the top-right corner of the display.

It also uses Android One, a variant of Android. This gives users speedy updates and software support for at least two years — not something that all Android phones can boast.

The price for all this tech is just £269. It's tricky to track down in the US, though if you get the chance to pick up an international unlocked model, you should do so.

Motorola One Vision Key Specs
  • 48Mp + 5Mp rear cameras
  • 25Mp front camera
  • 128GB storage
  • 6.3″ 1080×2520 resolution LCD display
  • Android 9
  • 3,500mAh battery

 

Motorola g7 Power

Moto g7 Power best cheap phones
  • Outrageous battery life

  • Lightweight Android skin
  • Headphone jack and expandable storage
  • Decently powerful

The best for battery life

If you want a phone that will last for ages, then the Moto g7 Power is for you.

Its 5,000 mAh battery is one of the biggest found in any phone, at any price. And, combined with its admittedly sluggish processor and slightly low-res screen, it can last for close to three days in regular use and about a week on standby.

It also has ridiculous fast-charging abilities — a fifteen minute charge from flat can give you 16 hours of battery life.

The price for all this battery power? Just $249.

Motorola g7 Power Key SpecsBuy the Moto g7 Power
  • 48Mp + 5Mp rear cameras
  • 25Mp front camera
  • 128GB storage
  • 6.3″ 1080×2520 resolution LCD display
  • Android 9
  • 3,050mAh battery

Amazon

 

Sony Xperia 10

Sony Xperia 10 best cheap
  • Tall screen is great for watching movies and playing games

  • Dual rear cameras
  • Strong performance
  • Sharp display

A good multimedia phone

The Sony Xperia 10 is defined by its tall, 21:9 ratio display. That aspect ratio makes the screen three times taller than it is wide. This can make the phone a bit daunting to use with one hand.

However, the tradeoff for that slightly unwieldy design is that the Xperia 10 is perfect for watching films and TV shows or playing games. That extra screen real estate gives you a genuinely widescreen experience in the palm of your hand, and makes everything super-immersive.

It costs $299, and for that you get dual rear cameras and performance that belies its slightly meagre specs. It's a quirky phone, but far from a bad one.

Motorola g7 Power Key SpecsBuy the Moto g7 Power
  • 13 + 5Mp rear cameras
  • 8Mp front camera
  • 64GB storage
  • 6″ 1080×2520 resolution LCD display
  • Android 9
  • 2,870 mAh battery

Amazon

 

Sony Xperia 10 Plus

sony xperia 10 plus best cheap
  • Big screen is great for watching movies

  • High quality build
  • Solid rear camera quality
  • Decent performance

A fantastic screen for watching videos

The Sony Xperia 10 Plus costs $429 and, like its cheaper brother the Xperia 10, it uses the 21:9 aspect ratio – but, it's even bigger. It has a 6.5-inch screen, and if we're honest, it feels like a mini tablet, rather than a phone.

But, when it comes to watching movies and TV shows, there are few phones better suited.

Aside from the screen, the Xperia 10 Plus has dual rear cameras, which take pretty good photos. It uses a Snapdragon 636 processor with 4GB of RAM, which is plenty for most people. The Xperia 10 also feels really solidly built, which isn't something you can say for all phones in this price bracket.

Sony Xperia 10 Plus Key SpecsBuy the Sony Xperia 10 Plus
  • 12 + 8Mp rear cameras
  • 8Mp front camera
  • 64GB storage
  • 6.5″ 1080×2520 resolution LCD display
  • Android 9
  • 3,000 mAh battery

Amazon

 

Motorola Moto g7 Play

sony xperia 10 plus best cheap
  • Incredibly low price

  • Lightweight Android skin
  • Decent rear camera

A big, uncompromising multimedia phone

The Moto g7 Play costs just $199. That's right, a new phone in 2019 for less than $200. It's not a bad phone, either. The g7 Play might not have the best specifications in the world, but its lightweight Android skin and decent rear camera make it a perfectly usable phone.

The g7 Play doesn't even look particularly cheap. It has a respectable 5.7-inch display, with slim bezels and an iPhone-like notch. The screen is only a 720p panel, but it's not completely unusable and will be fine for flicking through social media.

It also has surprisingly strong battery life, thanks to that low-end processor and screen. We typically squeezed about one-and-a-half day's battery life from the g7 Play — perfect for those who don't need to be on their phones all the time.

Motorola Moto g7 Play Key SpecsBuy the Sony Xperia 10 Plus
  • 13Mp rear camera
  • 8Mp front camera
  • 32GB storage
  • 5.7″ 720×1512 resolution LCD display
  • Android 9
  • 3,000 mAh battery

Amazon

 

Buying a Refurbished iPhone

Go for a refurbished iPhone and you can find some bargains. You can, of course, look for sellers online, including through eBay. However, there’s extra assurance when using Apple’s own refurbished program.

iPhone 7 Refurbished

You can pick the iPhone 7 up on Apple’s certified refurbished program. This sees the price drop to $379, a $70 saving over the new version, making it an even more enticing offer.

The refurbished iPhones all receive a new battery and outer shell, so your phone will look and feel brand new. Apple also throws in a one-year warranty, which should help assuage any fears about a refurbished phone’s longevity.

iPhone 7 Plus Refurbished

Apple iPhone 7 Plus Best Cheap Phones

  • 2x 12Mp rear cameras, 1x 7Mp front camera
  • 32GB storage
  • 5.5” Retina HD display
  • iOS 12
  • 2,900mAh battery

The iPhone 7’s bigger brother is also available on Apple’s refurbished program with the 32GB model costing $479 – a $90 saving over its regular retail price. Again, you’ll get access to the latest version of iOS and a one-year warranty.

The 7 Plus has a larger and more detailed screen than the 7, with a 1920×1080 resolution at 401 pixels-per-inch compared to 7’s 1334×750 at 326 pixels-per-inch. It also has two rear cameras so you’ll be able to take better photos with greater depth and more detail for close-up shots.

Of course, these aren’t the only iPhones you can buy at the moment, and, given that Apple promised it would work to extend the longevity of new iPhones, it might be worth paying the premium now to save money on replacement phones in the future.

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Tom Fogden is a writer for Tech.co with a range of experience in the world of tech publishing. Tom covers everything from cybersecurity, to social media and website builders when he's not reviewing the latest phones, gadgets, or occasionally even technology books.