With top-end smartphones in the UK costing four-figures these days, most people can't afford them without locking themselves into a contract with their mobile provider or breaking out the credit card.
So what can you do if you want a great mobile on the cheap?
Turns out, most people don't actually need the latest and greatest.
Last year's mobiles -- and even some from two years ago -- are still pretty awesome and will meet the needs of the average person.
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.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for 2020.
NOTE: The CoVID-19 pandemic has impacted industries around the globe. Online marketplaces and mobile phone makers are no exception. While we're doing our best to provide the latest information regarding pricing, prices listed below are subject to change as phone prices are fluctuating often based on supply, shipping costs, and demand.
A Quick Tip
Before we get into the picks, we want to highlight one important thing they all have in common:
They're all unlocked phones.
What's that mean?
Essentially, the phones will work on any network that the chips inside support.
But -- perhaps more importantly -- unlocked phones mean you can access bring your own phone or SIM-only plans for even greater savings month to month!
Want to know more? Check out our guide about the benefits of unlocked phones.
NOTE: Just because you a phone is unlocked, doesn't mean the hardware inside supports every network in your area. Different networks use different frequencies, and some phones can only use certain ones.
If you want to be sure the phone you pick will work with your mobile service, our phone compatibility guide will show you exactly how to check!
Best Mobiles Under £150
While the Alcatel 1 doesn't have the power to play the latest games at the best settings and it's less than snappy sometimes, it's pretty amazing that you can get a mobile at this price.
It runs Android 8.1 Go and the 1.28Ghz quad-core processor keeps things moving along steadily enough. There's a fingerprint scanner on the rear of the mobile and the screen features the newer, longer aspect ratio. But the screen is only 480-by-960 pixels. So don't expect to be blown away.
Battery life is one area where this mobile shines. Reviews indicate you can hit two days with moderate usage on a
Offering a minimal Android experience, a solid design, a 5.3-inch screen, an 8MP camera, and just enough performance to cover the daily tasks -- such as checking email, keeping up with social feeds, and playing the occasional casual games -- the Motorola Moto E5 Play is a great pick for anyone looking for an affordable smartphone who doesn't require all the bells and whistles of flagship phones.
The Moto E6 Plus checks most of the boxes for basic performance and features. It won't win any benchmark tests and it's definitely not ideal for gaming. But the solid design and quality feel in the hand impressed reviewers. It also ships with a relatively new version of Android -- a rarity at this price point.
The 6.1-inch display and 13MP dual rear camera also meet most basic needs and can help you capture memories on the go.
Best Mobiles Under £200
The Moto G7 Play is the ideal budget-friendly smartphone for anyone looking for all-day battery life. The 5.7-inch display offers plenty of room for gaming or video watching while the fingerprint reader provides a touch of the premium mobile experience.
Reviews found the performance good enough to zip between apps without much frustration and while the camera won't keep up with top-end options, it's one of the best in this price range.
The Samsung Galaxy A10 offers most of the style of Samsung's loved Galaxy S series with scaled back performance. It's easily one of the most modern looking budget phones in its price bracket.
USB-C charging means you can top off your battery quickly while the large battery had no problem lasting the day in reviews. Performance was respectable as well. No -- it's not going to respond instantly and provide a top-tier experience, but reviewers found the software intuitive to use and apps quick enough to avoid frustration.
As part of the Android One program, the Nokia 6.2 receives rapid software updates -- a rare find at this end of the price lists. But it also offers great performance and reliability for the price as well.
Three gigabytes of RAM makes the mobile more capable of multitasking, USB-C charging makes topping off quick, and the aluminum chassis offers a great feel in the hand. It's also one of the first 1080p phones in this roundup and a rare budget-friendly pick which offers an HDR display.
Best Mobiles Under £400
As one of the newest mobiles in this lineup, the Pixel 3a takes the majority of the innovative features and premium quality of the higher priced Pixel phones and crams them into a slightly smaller -- and much lower priced -- option.
Reviewers found very little to complain about. The mobile performs like competitors costing twice as much, the OLED display offers rich color and plenty of detail, and the battery will last a day with ease.
If you plan to take pictures with your mobile, the camera on the Pixel 3a is one of the best in this roundup. On top of the hardware features, you'll enjoy a near-stock Android experience with fast updates and a load of Pixel-only features such as Active Edge and Digital Wellbeing.
The Moto G8 Plus is one of the largest phones in our roundup with its 6.2-inch display. While it doesn't have the fastest processor available in 2020, the 4GB of RAM make it a great option for those looking for a good multitasking mobile on a budget. Pair that with 64GB of storage and a Turbocharge-enabled battery and you have a mobile that is great for work or play.
The only noted weak point in mobile reviews is the camera. But it still can take attractive images with proper lighting and a bit of patience.
How We Picked
We selected the models in this roundup based on analysis of expert reviews from around the web, user
feedback on retail sites like Amazon, forum comments on our site, social media
discussions, and more.
When answering the question, “What are the best budget smartphones?”, we considered the following
A low-priced mobile doesn't help you save money if you have to constantly replace it. We picked mobiles with a track record of dependability from manufacturers with solid reputations to help you save money both upfront and over the longer term.
Budget mobiles won't top the charts in terms of specs. But that doesn't mean you should have to deal with stuttering interfaces and crashes. You should also be able to run most apps at a basic level and maybe even play a few games. All the mobiles in this round-up are near the top of the benchmark charts for their respective price bracket and should offer a frustration-free experience.
You can't have a roundup based on prices without considering them. We sorted popular models into common groups based on what we think the average shopper from the UK is looking for when shopping for mobiles on the cheap.
The way to find out what to expect from a mobile is from the people using them every day. If there's a problem, reviewers will usually let you know in a hurry.
All of our picks feature a range of positive reviews across multiple sites to ensure that information is as accurate as possible.
We compared the things most people consider when choosing a budget-friendly mobile.
In short, we did the research—so you don’t have to.
Recap: Best Budget Mobiles
- Best Mobiles Under £150: Alcatel 1, Motorola Moto E5 Play, Motorola Moto E6s (Compare All)
- Best Mobiles Under £200: Motorola Moto G7 Play, Samsung Galaxy A10, Nokia 6.2 (Compare All)
- Best Mobiles Under £400: Google Pixel 3a, Motorola Moto G8 Plus (Compare All)
Still Not Sure?
While there's not a single budget-friendly mobile perfect for everyone, this roundup proves you don’t need to spend a fortune to find a mobile that's enjoyable to use.
No mobile under £400 will match the specs of top-end mobiles and many come with a compromise or two.
But for the average person, these top-end mobiles 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 mobile 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 mobile comparison
tool. This makes it easier to compare options
further without the hassle of jumping between sites and reviews.
P.S. If you're looking for more features or performance, buying a used mobile is also a great way to enjoy some of the latest technology without the four-figure price tags of many of this year's most popular UK releases.
Disclosure: You should know that in some cases, we may receive a referral fee (at no additional cost to you) for products purchased through the links on our site. These links help support our work but they do not influence our content. Our editorial recommendations are always genuine and we try to feature only the best products and services. Why trust us?