(Pocket-lint) - Just because you want a cheap phone, doesn't mean you have to totally compromise on the available features. There are plenty of bargain phones under $200 / £200, and they're often so good it seems bizarre a flagship phone costs at least four times as much.
Budget phones might not have the sharpest displays or the most pristine designs, but, an affordable smartphone can still be good looking offering decent specs, good battery life and solid performance - all while saving money at the same time.
Who can argue with that? Here's our guide to the best budget phones around. If you have a little more to spend, check out our guide to mid-range smartphones.
What is the best cheap smartphone phone right now? Currently, our top recommendation is the Redmi Note 10. However, we also advise checking out the Motorola Moto G30, Oppo A5 (2020), Realme 8 5G and the Samsung Galaxy A12.
Our Top Pick: Best Cheap Phone
Redmi Note 10
- Five cameras onboard
- Expandable storage and a headphone socket
- Whopping 5,000 mAh battery
- The display could be better
- No ultra-wide lens
The Redmi Note 10 is one of the most feature-packed and versatile smartphones you can find in this price range. It packs 5 cameras, microSD and dual SIM support, 33W fast charging and it even has a headphone socket - something you won't often find on pricier counterparts.
Combine all this with a beefy 5,000 mAh battery, IP53 water and dust resistance, as well as Gorilla Glass 3, the Redmi Note 10 is ready for whatever life can throw at it. This is a phone that punches well above its weight.
Cheap phones we also recommend
While the Redmi Note 10 is at the top of our list, we know it won't be the right phone for everyone. We all look for different things in a smartphone. Maybe you're craving 5G speeds, or maybe your top priority is gaming performance. With that in mind, we've also selected the following devices for you to consider.
Motorola Moto G30
- Super long battery life
- Smooth Android 11 user experience
- 3.5mm jack and microSD card support
- The screen could use a little more resolution
- Wide-angle and macro cameras are rubbish
The Moto G30 might not tout quite as many features as some of our other picks, but, what it lacks in hardware, it makes up for in software. What's on offer here is a really solid and smooth Android 11 experience and outstanding battery life.
In terms of day-to-day usability, the Moto G30 is hard to beat as a budget option. The Snapdragon processor handles gaming reasonably well and won't let you down with general productivity. It's a solid pick for just about anyone.
Oppo A5 (2020)
- Two-day battery life
- Good processing power
- Responsive fingerprint scanner
- Screen resolution is fairly low
- Cameras aren't too impressive
The Oppo A5 is exceptionally well priced and performs like a much more expensive model thanks to its speedy processor. Battery life is fantastic here too, we found we could manage almost two days on a single charge.
We wished that the screen was a little higher resolution, and we found that its coating was a bit more prone to fingerprint smears than the average phone. The cameras, too, are a bit of an oversell, with only the 12MP main being particularly useful. Despite this, at its price point, it is a solid performer and could be the perfect pick for a lot of people.
Realme 8 5G
- 5G connectivity
- Superb battery life
- Good user interface
- No ultra-wide camera
- No IP rated protection
If you want blazing fast 5G connectivity, then the Realme 8 5G is one of the cheapest ways to get involved. You'll also find a nice big 5,000 mAh battery to keep you going all day and a big bright 1080p 90Hz display. Performance is fairly solid and you can manage some gaming without trouble.
There are some trade-offs though, such as the lack of IP certification for waterproofing and middling camera performance. That said, if you need 5G on a budget, you can't go far wrong here.
Samsung Galaxy A12
- Long battery life
- Stylish design and Samsung quality
- 48MP main camera
- Too much bloatware
- Sluggish performance compared to rivals
There's something to be said for owning a Samsung smartphone, as the manufacturer is one of the largest in the world for good reason. You tend to get great design and top-notch reliability, on the cheaper end of the scale the same is true with the Galaxy A12.
We think this is the most stylish smartphone to make our list, but, beyond looks, it ticks a lot of other boxes, too. The A12 has a giant 5,000 mAh battery, expandable storage, a headphone socket and an impressive 48MP main sensor. Unfortunately, when it comes to performance, it's just a bit sluggish compared to similarly priced options.
Other products we considered
When trying to figure out what we believe to be the best budget phones currently available, we spent hours testing real-world performance, battery life and gaming; as well as getting out in the streets and snapping pictures. Then, we go over the results with a fine-tooth comb. We consider a range of factors when it comes to recommending devices - and also when a new device enters our top five selections. This isn't just our own testing, either, with consumer reviews, brand quality and value all taken into account, as well.
In all of our roundups, there are also many products we test that don't make the final cut. Since they may be the right fit for some people, however, we've listed them below.
How to choose a cheap phone
Choosing a cheap phone is no easy feat, there are a staggering number of options on the market and all offer their own advantages and shortcomings.
To help you narrow down your options, here are a few things to think about before you commit to a new phone.
Determining your must-have features
A phone is a hugely personal thing and everyone uses theirs slightly differently. For example, if you're a die-hard fan of wired headphones then you'll obviously need a device that has a headphone jack. Luckily, at the budget end of the spectrum, the headphone jack is a lot more prevalent than at the high-end. However, if you love Bluetooth headphones, then you aren't going to care as much, you might instead want to pay attention to the Bluetooth versions supported by the handset to ensure that you're getting the best wireless experience.
Another example is if you're a fan of the great outdoors, you might want to seek out devices that have a degree of water and dust protection, for added peace of mind. Similarly, strong battery life is a must if you'll be spending a lot of time far away from power outlets.
Have a think about how and where you'll mostly be using your device and the must-have features will start to become apparent.
These days, your smartphone is likely one of the primary ways that you take pictures, so you might want to pay close attention to the cameras offered on your next phone.
The cameras offered by budget phones are becoming more and more impressive, some of the options on our list offer up to five separate cameras for snapping the perfect shot.
This is an area where looks can be deceiving, just because a phone has lots of lenses on the back, doesn't mean that they're good quality - or even particularly useful to begin with.
Specs that we think are most important are the resolution of the main sensor and whether or not the device has an ultra-wide camera. We tend to find the wide modes get a lot of use whereas telephoto and macro offerings aren't as useful for most people.
Choosing where to compromise
The fact is, all phones at this price point, as impressive as they can be, will have to cut corners somewhere. Just as it's important to figure out your must-have features, it's equally important to figure out where you can afford to compromise.
For example, maybe you absolutely love taking photos and never play games on your phone. In that case, you can afford to skimp on the processing power in favour of a higher megapixel sensor.
With budget smartphones, it's all about finding the right balance of features, specifications and affordability. Hopefully, with these things in mind, you'll be well on your way to budget phone bliss.
More about this story
Every product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use it in your day-to-day life.
A phone is something you use all day, every day, so we've used all the options on this list extensively to see how they hold up in the real world. We've tested battery life, gaming performance, connectivity, camera performance and everything else you could possibly need to know. Then we've given you all the data you need to help with your buying decisions.
As with any roundup, it's not possible to deliver a list that works for every type of user, but we lean on the experiences and opinions of the wider Pocket-lint team - as well as thoroughly assessing the areas above - in order to do our best in this regard.
What we always tend to avoid when compiling these picks are needless spec comparisons and marketing lines; we just want to provide an easy to understand summary that gives you an idea of what each gaming laptop is like to use. Our verdicts are concise, but this is purely in the interest of brevity. Rest assured all the things on this list have been fully tested.