Tuesday, July 5, 2022
HomeTechnologyTech NewsBest cheap phones {YEAR}: the top budget mobiles around

Best cheap phones {YEAR}: the top budget mobiles around

Seeking out the best cheap phones isn’t as hard as it once was with plenty of great handsets out there. We’ve listened and ranked the top options below so you get the best value for money.

While most of the phones below might not be on a par with the best phones overall, they’re all excellent value for money, and offer far more than their low prices suggest.

You can trust that they’re as good as they sound too, because we’ve fully reviewed each of them. In every case, we’ve used each phone as our main handset for an extended period of time, while testing out their key features. 

With so many great cheap phones to choose from, you might be wondering how to find the right one for you. This guide will help as we’ve highlighted the best ones, while listing their pros and cons along the way. 

As you’d expect with a cheap phone, there will be some compromises to make. Figure out what’s most important to you. Do you need a great screen? Excellent battery life? A good camera or maybe something else? Browse the selections below to find the right fit for you. 

If nothing catches your eye and you can afford to spend a bit more, check out our guides to the best Android phones, best iPhones, and best camera phones to find a better match. 

Best cheap phones 2022

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The best budget phone

Specifications

Weight: 215g

Dimensions: 165.3 x 76.8 x 9.4mm

OS: Android 10

Screen size: 6.67-inch

Resolution: 1080 x 2400

CPU: Snapdragon 732G

RAM: 6GB

Storage: 64GB / 128GB

Battery: 5,160mAh

Rear camera: 64MP (wide) + 13MP (ultrawide, 119-degree) + 2MP (macro) + 2MP (depth)

Front camera: 20MP

Reasons to buy

+

Great 120Hz screen

+

Excellent battery life

Reasons to avoid

Struggling camera

Sometimes erratic backlight

It’s rare to get a 120Hz screen on a budget, but that’s exactly what you get with the Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC. That can make interactions feel smoother, and its 6.67-inch 1080 x 2400 screen is large and fairly sharp too, as well as supporting HDR10.

And it’s not just the screen that stands out, as the Poco X3 NFC also has a fairly powerful Snapdragon 732G chipset, which we found offered excellent gaming performance for the money. With a big 5,160mAh battery too (which we found offered up to two days of life with moderate use) this really is a remarkable cheap phone.

There are some compromises, most notably when it comes to the camera, which isn’t as good as some others at this end of the market, but for gaming, video, and most general use, the Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC is hard to beat without spending quite a bit more.

Read our full review: Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC

A Moto G9 Power in someone's hand

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The best budget phone for battery life

Specifications

Weight: 221g

Dimensions: 172.1 x 76.8 x 9.7mm

OS: Android 10

Screen size: 6.8-inch

Resolution: 720 x 1640

CPU: Snapdragon 662

RAM: 4GB

Storage: 128GB

Battery: 6,000mAh

Rear camera: 64MP (wide) + 2MP (macro) + 2MP (depth)

Front camera: 16MP

Reasons to buy

+

Long-lasting battery

+

Spacious screen

Reasons to avoid

Average performance

On the bulky side

Motorola consistently makes some of the best cheap phones, and the Moto G9 Power is among its best affordable handsets yet, thanks in large part to its massive 6,000mAh battery. That’s far bigger than the batteries in most phones of any budget, including most other Motorola phones, and we found that it translates into almost two days of life with average use.

But the Moto G9 Power also has a similarly massive 6.8-inch screen, which – while only 720 x 1640 – means it’s great for watching movies on.

With expandable storage too, plus 20W fast charging and a triple-lens camera (led by a 64MP lens), there’s a lot to like here, though it’s a bit on the bulky side and only offers average performance. Still, there aren’t many powerful phones at this end of the market, so that’s not the biggest of issues.

Read our full review: Moto G9 Power

Realme C35

(Image credit: Realme)

One of the best budget camera phones

Specifications

Weight: 189g

Dimensions: 164.4 x 75.6 x 8.1 mm

OS: Android 11

Screen size: 6.6-inch

Resolution: 1080 x 2408

CPU: Unisoc Tiger T616

RAM: 4GB / 6GB

Storage: 64GB / 128GB

Battery: 5,00mAh

Rear camera: 50MP + 2MP + 0.3MP

Front camera: 8MP

Reasons to buy

+

50MP main camera

+

Long-lasting battery

Reasons to avoid

Dim display

Could feel nicer in your hand

The Realme C35 is a remarkably low-priced budget phone given it packs in a 50-megapixel main camera that uses Sony’s IMX766 sensor. It’s fantastic for low-light photography, while generally capturing lots of color and light as you snap. There’s no ultra-wide camera or an array of modes, but for general snaps, it’s hard to fault. 

Every day use is fairly standard but we’re pleased to see it offers nearly two days of battery life even after regular use. It’s quite distinctive looking too although its angular flat edges won’t suit everyone’s grip.

Compromises may be needed here but when it comes to main camera performance, it does the job with plenty of enthusiasm. While it won’t rival pricier phones, at this price it’s hard to criticise too harshly.

Read our full review: Realme C35

A Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S in someone's hand

(Image credit: Future)

The best super-cheap Xiaomi phone

Specifications

Weight: 209g

Dimensions: 165.8 x 76.7 x 8.8mm

OS: Android 10

Screen size: 6.67-inch

Resolution: 1080 x 2400

CPU: Snapdragon 720G

RAM: 4GB / 6GB

Storage: 64GB / 128GB

Battery: 5,020mAh

Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 8MP (ultrawide, 119-degree) + 5MP (macro) + 2MP (depth)

Front camera: 16MP

Reasons to buy

+

Impressive battery life

+

Reliable performance

Reasons to avoid

‘Only’ 60Hz display

Bulky build

Xiaomi is becoming a major player in the best cheap phones, and handsets like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S show why.

It has a big and – in our experience – long-lasting 5,020mAh battery, decent performance from its Snapdragon 720G chipset, and a great 6.67-inch 1080 x 2400 screen. You also get up to 128GB of storage, and a quad-lens camera, consisting of a 48MP primary sensor, an 8MP ultra-wide one, a 5MP macro one, and a 2MP depth one.

The Redmi Note 9S is a bit chunkier than we’d like and it lacks the showy 120Hz screen of its sibling the Poco X3 NFC, but it comes very close to matching that phone, and is similarly cheap. If you’re looking to game on a budget or just want a long-lasting battery and a big screen, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S is an excellent choice.

Read our full review: Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S

Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 face forwards with the screen on

(Image credit: Future)

The best looking budget phone

Specifications

Release date: February 2022

Weight: 179g

Dimensions: 159.9 x 73.9 x 8.1mm

OS: Android 11

Screen size: 6.43-inch

Resolution: 1080 x 2400

CPU: Snapdragon 680

RAM: 4GB/6GB

Storage: 64GB/128GB

Battery: 5,000mAh

Rear camera: 50MP (wide) + 8MP (ultrawide, 118-degree) + 2MP (macro) + 2MP (depth)

Front camera: 13MP

Reasons to buy

+

Great AMOLED display

+

Excellent battery life

Reasons to avoid

Slower performance 

No 5G

Xiaomi continues its reign of offering some of the best cheap phones with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11. While it’s not quite a match for the Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC overall, this inexpensive phone isn’t a good option if you want to take great photos but it looks pretty good.

Its sleek design still offers room for a 6.43-inch AMOLED screen with a resolution of 1080 x 2400 and 1000 nits peak brightness. A 90Hz refresh rate further helps out for watching streamed movies. 

Elsewhere, we found performance from its Snapdragon 680 processor was a little sluggish, especially as that’s paired with a choice of just 4GB or 6GB of RAM, but they’re just about enough to get by and keep things ticking along nicely.

It’s only really 5G that you miss out on here. A decent 5,000mAh battery capacity means no need to find a charger throughout the day too. 

Read our full review: Xiaomi Redmi Note 11

A Realme 8 5G in someone's hand

(Image credit: Future)

The best way to get 5G on a budget

Specifications

Weight: 185g

Dimensions: 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.5mm

OS: Android 11

Screen size: 6.5-inch

Resolution: 1080 x 2400

CPU: MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G

RAM: 4GB / 6GB

Storage: 64GB / 128GB

Battery: 5,000mAh

Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 2MP (macro) + 2MP (depth)

Front camera: 16MP

Reasons to buy

+

It has 5G

+

Large, bright screen

Reasons to avoid

Rather basic design

Average camera

The Realme 8 5G is one of the cheapest 5G phones available, and that alone would be enough to make it notable, but it has a few other things going for it too.

For one thing it has a large 5,000mAh battery, and in our review would sometimes finish a day with 50% battery left, meaning two days of life could just about be possible for lighter users.

The Realme 8 5G also has a 6.5-inch 1080 x 2400 screen with a 90Hz refresh rate, which is a solid – if unexceptional – selection of specs for the money. It gets plenty bright too, so you should have no problems with visibility on sunny days.

With a reasonable amount of power for the money as well, the Realme 8 5G is almost a strong all-rounder, but it’s let down slightly by its underwhelming triple-lens camera. Still, you can’t have everything at this price, and the Realme 8 5G has packed quite a lot in.

Read our full review: Realme 8 5G

A Moto G50 in someone's hand

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The best budget Motorola phone

Specifications

Weight: 192g

Dimensions: 164.9 x 74.9 x 9mm

OS: Android 11

Screen size: 6.5-inch

Resolution: 720 x 1600

CPU: Snapdragon 480 5G

RAM: 4GB

Storage: 64GB / 128GB

Battery: 5,000mAh

Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 5MP (macro) + 2MP (depth)

Front camera: 13MP

Reasons to buy

+

5G support

+

Good battery life

Reasons to avoid

Mediocre camera

Unremarkable performance

The Moto G50 ticks a lot of the same boxes as some other cheap 2021 phones – it includes 5G and a big (5,000mAh) battery, plus a 90Hz screen, but falls down a bit when it comes to the camera, as while this has a triple-lens camera, only the main 48MP one is really worth bothering with in our experience – and there’s no ultra-wide or telephoto.

Still, the battery life is good, the refresh rate makes interactions feel smooth, and along with the likes of the Realme 8 5G this is one of the cheapest ways to get 5G.

It also has a decent size screen at 6.5 inches, though the resolution could be better at 720 x 1600. Performance is acceptable if unexceptional, and the Moto G50 as a whole is a sturdy, reliable smartphone companion – just perhaps not the most exciting one.

Read our full review: Moto G50

An Oppo A5 2020 in someone's hand

(Image credit: Future)

The best budget Oppo phone

Specifications

Weight: 195g

Dimensions: 163.6 x 75.4 x 9.1mm

OS: Android 9

Screen size: 6.5 inches

Resolution: 720 x 1600

CPU: Snapdragon 665

RAM: 3/4GB

Storage: 64/128GB

Battery: 5,000mAh

Rear camera: 12MP (wide) + 8MP (ultrawide, 119-degree) + 2MP (depth) + 2MP (depth)

Front camera: 8MP

Reasons to buy

+

Superb battery life

+

Spacious screen

Reasons to avoid

So-so performance

Unimpressive camera

Oppo isn’t a massive name in the west, but it is starting to build up some brand recognition and with good reason, because some of its phones – such as the Oppo A5 2020 – are well worth paying attention to.

This has a price that’s the definition of budget, yet packs in a spacious, bright, and vibrant 6.5-inch 720 x 1600 screen, which impressed us in our review, along with a massive 5,000mAh battery, which in our tests lasted well over a day between charges – though that’s still not a match for the Moto G9 Power.

It also sports a surprisingly expensive-looking (albeit plastic-clad) design, and a quad-lens camera. The actual performance of that camera isn’t special in our experience, and nor is the middling Snapdragon 665 chipset, but for the money the Oppo A5 2020 makes some very smart compromises, so it’s no wonder this ranks among the best cheap phones.

Read our full review: Oppo A5 2020

Moto G22

(Image credit: Motorola)

The best dependable cheap phone

Specifications

Weight: 185g

Dimensions: 164 x 75 x 8.5 mm

OS: Android 12

Screen size: 6.5-inch

Resolution: 720 x 1600

CPU: Mediatek MT6765V/CB Helio G37

RAM: 4GB

Storage: 64/128GB

Battery: 5,000mAh

Rear camera: 50MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP

Front camera: 16MP

Reasons to buy

+

Solid build quality

+

Good battery life

Reasons to avoid

Low resolution screen

Basic cameras

The Moto G22 is ideally suited for anyone that wants reliable battery life, a phone that does the basics, and not much more. With a single charge lasting up to two days, it pairs that up with a solid and well-built design that feels good in your hands. It’s fairly chunky but nicely curved, feeling suitably reliable.

While it lacks a great screen thanks to having a fairly low resolution 720p 6.5-inch IPS panel, it’s understandable concessions need to be made at this low a price. 

Elsewhere, you get a camera that takes decent shots in good light but don’t count on it for low-light shots or anything like great zoom or a capable night mode. The Moto G22 is all about getting the basics done at a good price.

Read our full review: Moto G22

A Realme 8 in someone's hand

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The best budget phone for OLED fans

Specifications

Weight: 177g

Dimensions: 160.6 x 73.9 x 8mm

OS: Android 11

Screen size: 6.4-inch

Resolution: 1080 x 2400

CPU: MediaTek Helio G95

RAM: 4GB / 6GB

Storage: 64GB / 128GB

Battery: 5,000mAh

Rear camera: 64MP (wide) + 8MP (ultrawide, 119-degree) + 2MP (macro) + 2MP (depth)

Front camera: 16MP

Reasons to buy

+

Sharp display

+

Good cameras

Reasons to avoid

Look is a bit divisive

No 5G support

You might assume the Realme 8 was just a 4G version of the Realme 8 5G, but you’d be wrong. While its does indeed lack that speedy connectivity, it makes up for it in other ways, with better cameras, arguably a better screen, and a different chipset.

The phone has a 6.4-inch 1080 x 2400 Super AMOLED screen, which just has a standard 60Hz refresh rate but got nice and bright in our tests. It also has a quad-lens camera, with a 64MP main sensor, an 8MP ultra-wide snapper, a 2MP macro one and a 2MP depth sensor. It even has a fairly capable night mode, and the macro camera isn’t as worthless here as on some phones.

The performance from its MediaTek Helio G95 chipset is respectable too for what this phone costs, and it has a healthy 5,000mAh battery. The design is sure to be divisive, and the lack of 5G will be a deal-breaker for some, but for the most part the Realme 8 is a solid all-rounder.

Read our full review: Realme 8

How to choose the best cheap phone for you

Even the best cheap phones don’t have it all – that low price means there are almost always weaker elements, so the first step to choosing one is deciding which aspects are most important to you, and what you can live without.

Do you need excellent battery life? A sharp screen? Or capable cameras? Perhaps you require a high refresh rate, or consider 5G to be vital.

Another consideration, which isn’t specifically price related, is the screen size – a smaller screen makes it easier to use with one hand, and easier to fit in small pockets, while a bigger screen can make apps, games and videos more pleasant to watch and interact with.

Whatever the case, once you’ve decided what you do – and don’t – need, you can read through the entries above to find a phone that fits. Whatever balance you ultimately decide on there’s likely to be an ideal option above, and we’ve tested all of these phones extensively, so you can be sure they’re good.

What is the best cheap smartphone?

The best cheap smartphone regularly changes and is somewhat subjective, but our pick for the best cheap option is whatever’s currently in the number one spot on the list above.

How we tested

We only include a handset on this best cheap phones list once we’ve fully reviewed it, so you can be assured that every entry has been tested in full.

Our testing process involves using the phone as our main handset for days or even weeks, and testing all the key factors, from the power to the battery life, the cameras, the screen, and beyond.

That means we know exactly how each of these performs in reality – not just on paper, and we use that knowledge to rank them, while factoring in the all important price and value.

RELATED ARTICLES

Leave a Reply

Most Popular

Recent Comments