With top-end smartphones costing four-figures these days, most people can't afford them without locking themselves into a contract with their phone provider or breaking out the credit card.
So what can you do if you want a great phone on the cheap?
Turns out, most people don't actually need the latest and greatest.
Many of today's budget phones offer plenty of power to check email, play some games, stream a bit of TV, or even snap the occasional photo for social media.
With the right model, you can enjoy a huge piece of the top-tier experience at a fraction of the cost.
This roundup highlights the best options for anyone looking for an affordable smartphone. We've chosen these picks based on reviews and opinions from experts across the Internet, users on social media, store reviews, our own community, and more.
When looking at options, we wanted phones which were dependable, offered a frustration-free experience, and could do all of the normal things you'd do with a phone well. All of this at a price that's half (if not less) than today's leading top-tier phones.
In short, we did the research so you don't have to!
Best Premium Budget Android Phone
With an outstanding camera, all-day battery life, fast software updates, and a sleek design, the Google Pixel 4a offers a huge portion of the top-tier Android phone experience at a fraction of the price.
Best Budget Apple Phone, Best Budget iOS Phone
Sure, it's a little smaller than it's bigger (and more expensive) siblings. But the iPhone SE (2020) is one of the fastest mobile phones available in 2021. You're missing 5G, Face ID, and a high refresh rate display, otherwise it checks the same boxes as phones 2- to 3-times its price.
Best Budget 5G Phone
Like most budget phones, this one is a bit of a compromise. You get a high refresh rate display that looks great when gaming and feels silky smooth when scrolling and tapping about your apps. But it's a bit dim and can be hard to read in bright sunlight. There's also 5G access--something nearly impossible to find just yet in lower-priced phones. But its camera is one of the weakest on this list. Still, if speed is everything to you, the Oneplus Nord N10 delivers it on multiple fronts.
Best Budget Phone for Battery Life
Offering days of use on a single charge, the Moto G Power (2021) bucks the "charge your phone every night" trend at an affordable price. To do so, it sacrifices performance and visuals slightly. Don't expect to play the latest games at full settings and movies will look acceptable but not amazing. Otherwise, it's more than up to the task of everyday tasks and won't leave you searching out a power outlet halfway through your day.
Best Budget Phone with a Stylus, Best Budget Phone for Artists, Best Budget Phone for Note Taking
Offering enough performance for daily tasks, a bit of mobile sketching or art, or taking notes all day at school or the office, the Moto G Stylus brings a fair portion of the Galaxy Note experience to a much lower price point. The stylus doesn't have quite as many tricks, but it's more precise than your standard stylus and makes tasks like handwriting or photo editing much easier. Motorola isn't known for its stellar update speeds and the phone isn't water-resistant, but otherwise, it checks many boxes its budget-priced peers don't.
Best Entry-Level Budget Smartphone
All successful budget phones make smart decisions when compromising features and specs. The Moto E (2020) is a stellar example of this. You get a large screen with a lower resolution, capable processing, a fingerprint scanner, and a stylish design. However, the camera is only so-so, a lack of RAM makes multitasking sluggish, and microUSB connections mean slower charging. Still, for the price, it offers a respectable experience.
Best Budget Basic Phone, Best Budget Flip Phone
Featuring a durable flip-phone design, large easy-to-press keys, a bright display, and battery life that will last for days, the Go Flip 3 is both a blast of nostalgia and an example of how a phone doesn't have to have a huge display and endless processing power to be effective. It won't take breathtaking photos or let you binge on your favorite TV shows, but it also won't barrage you with notifications or keep you up until sunrise playing games or scrolling through social media.
While there's not a single budget-friendly phone perfect for everyone, this collection proves you don’t need to spend a fortune to find a phone that's enjoyable to use.
No budget phone will match the specs of top-end phones and many come with a compromise or two.
But for the average person, those top-end phones are overkill. You're often paying for power and features you won't use to their fullest.
By using this guide as a reference, you can find an affordable phone that makes the right compromises to keep you happy without breaking the bank.
You can also compare these picks and more side-by-side using our phone comparison tool. This makes it easier to compare options further without the hassle of jumping between sites and reviews.