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Home / Features / Best cheap phone 2023: the best budget smartphones reviewed

Best cheap phone 2023: the best budget smartphones reviewed

The best cheap phones for less than $300/£300 reviewed and rated - Sony, Motorola, Huawei and more

best cheap phones intro graphic featuring Realme Nokia Motorola and OnePlus handsets

Don’t feel like dropping a fat stack of notes on a fancy flagship phone? Good news: you don’t have to. With solid specs, good design and plenty of features, the best cheap phones offer outstanding value for money. Sure, you might have to accept a couple of compromises with a cheap smartphone – think plastic shells and sub-par secondary cameras. But smartphone quality has improved so much that the best cheap phones today also benefit from brilliant screens, strong battery life and performance to put fear into the flagships.

Not sure how to choose the best blower for your budget? From familiar makes to lesser-known names, the list below features our pick of the top affordable handsets – all for less than $450/£450. So whether you’re shopping for a bona fide mobile bargain or looking for a backup blower that won’t break the bank, you’ll find your ideal budget phone in our buying guide.

If you’re looking for something a little more expensive, then you can check out Stuff’s guide to the best mid-range phones, which are priced between $450/£450 to $650/£650, and best smartphones, with no price limit.

What is the best cheap phone?

The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G (buy now) is the best cheap phone you can buy. It has a sharp, punchy screen and a very capable multi-lens camera system. Inside is the Exynos 1380 CPU and 8/12GB of RAM which make for a far smoother experience than the previous generation A series phones.

Other cheap phone recommendations

  • Best cheap phone for gaming: Poco X5 Pro 5G (buy now)
    Offering plenty of bang for your buck, with an exceptional OLED display, slick 120Hz refresh rate, respectable Snapdragon 778G processor and up to 8GB of RAM for smooth gaming.
  • Best cheap phone with premium specs: Redmi Note 12 Pro+ (buy now)
    Positively bursting with impressive hardware that you’d be hard-pressed to find in similarly-priced handsets, you get a pixel-packed 200MP main camera, 120W charging and an all-day battery.
  • Best small budget phone: Sony Xperia 10 IV (buy now)
    If you’re a fan of Sony’s unique fuss-free design, more compact screen, and want amazing battery life, the Xperia 10 IV could be the phone for you.

How to buy the best cheap phone

Being at the lower end of the market means you’ll have to make some compromises, but as we mentioned in the introduction, affordable smartphones are much better than they used to be (so you won’t be getting an unusable slab).

One of the biggest differences you’ll notice between the best cheap phones and more premium models is the build quality. While you won’t be getting a device crafted from glossy glass and aluminium, we’ve made sure to select phones made from durable materials and with a solid construction.

The display is one of the most important aspects to focus on, as its the thing you’ll be looking at and interacting with the most. Cheaper phones used to have lower-resolution displays, lower brightness levels, or limited color accuracy, but the phones included in our list have OLED panels, high refresh rates and bezel-less displays – it’s very refreshing to see.

If you take lots of pictures with your phone, then the camera is a key feature to look at. Cheap phones often compromise on the camera – you won’t be getting an quadruple camera systems or superzoom lenses here, but you can get a decent main and selfie camera.

You’ll want a smartphone from a manufacturer that provides regular software updates, which can important for security and functionality, as well as a software experience that is relatively unmodified for a better user experience.

We’ve recommended phones with decent enough processor performance and RAM to handle your day-to-day tasks (and even some capable of gaming).

How we review the best cheap phones

We have used and reviewed every phone on this list, so you can trust us when it comes to recommending the best cheap smartphone to buy.

We usually spend a week or longer reviewing phones, testing out all of the software features, build quality and performance. Our reviews are very comprehensive, testing every single aspect of a smartphone, including battery life, quality of the display, and camera.

For more information on Stuff’s rating and review process, read our page on how we test products.

The best cheap phones you can buy today:


1. Samsung Galaxy A54 5G

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

The A54 5G is a great shout for anyone who can’t justify S23 prices but still wants Samsung’s latest smarts

Good Stuff

Great-looking screen

Capable camera system

IP67 water resistance

Bad Stuff

Clunky styling

No RAW photo capture

No wireless charging

Want the Samsung prestige without the high-end price tag? Then the A54 5G is a contender worthy of your shortlist. With a price tag well below the lofty heights of the Galaxy S23 range, this is a mid-range handset which sacrifices some flagship style and power, while still providing a solid smartphone experience.

One of its standout features during our review was its sharp, punchy screen, along with its capable multi-lens camera system, with a decent selfie camera to boot. And unlike its A53 predecessor (which massively disappointed on the power front), we’re pleased to report that the A54’s Exynos 1380 CPU and 8/12GB of RAM make for a far smoother experience.

Throw in reasonably fast (though far from groundbreaking) 25W charging, and you’ve got yourself a more affordable Samsung handset that provides the highly coveted Samsung-esque experience, at a far more palatable price.


2. Redmi Note 12 Pro+

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

A very detailed camera and incredibly quick charging at a mid-range price

Good Stuff

Main camera packs in lots of detail

Sharp and colourful screen

Respectable battery life, very fast charging

Bad Stuff

Secondary cameras distinctly mid-range

Not the best gaming phone for the cash

In typical Redmi fashion, the Note 12 Pro+ is positively bursting with impressive hardware that you’d be hard-pressed to find in similarly-priced handsets. In this instance, we’ve got a pixel-packed 200MP main camera, which produced detailed shots in bright lighting conditions, during our in-depth review.

Another impressive feature that wipes the floor even with truly high-end flagships like the Apple iPhone 14 and Samsung Galaxy S23, is its charging speed. Namely, a full 120W charging capability that can produce a full charge in under 25 minutes. Impressive stuff.

With a more than adequate all-day battery life and sharp screen included too, there’s very little not to love about Redmi’s effort here, especially at this price. One of the best cheap smartphones you can currently buy, you won’t be disappointed if this is your top pick.


3. Poco X5 Pro 5G

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

Far from perfect, but perfectly good at certain things, the X5 Pro 5G is a welcome refinement to the line

Good Stuff

A good screen for a midrange phone

The main camera grabs plenty of detail

Rapid charging & strong battery life

Bad Stuff

Weak secondary cameras

Textured rear feels a bit cheap

MIUI 14 is a heavy Android skin

We’re not sure how you’ll feel about the rear plastic panel on the Poco X5 Pro 5G. A diffuse plastic affair that does well with repelling fingerprints, its style and texture weren’t exactly to our reviewer’s taste — but design is subjective.

That aside, it offers plenty of bang for your buck, with an exceptional OLED display, complete with a slick 120Hz refresh rate. While a few of its cameras aren’t really worthing shouting about, the main snapper can proudly stand on its own, with plenty and depth and detail on offer. And while we found the default processing to be a little on the over-saturated side, you can opt for more realistic results in the 108MP mode.

There’s plenty of power for gaming too, thanks to a respectable Snapdragon 778G processor and up to 8GB of RAM, with zippy 67W fast charging included for good measure. If you can get past the design (you may even love it), then this is a very capable handset that should see you in good stead for at least a few years, if not more.


4. Sony Xperia 10 IV

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

A solid build, decent main camera, and minimalist design might not sound particularly exciting, but the Xperia 10 IV’s incredible battery life definitely stands out from the crowd

Good Stuff

Superb battery life

Solid main camera

Waterpoof build

Minimal bloat

Bad Stuff

Wideangle camera suffers from distortion and noise

Night shots could be better

Can you get cheaper, better-specced handsets than the Xperia 10 IV from the likes of Realme, Poco, Xioami and more? Yes. From screens with higher refresh rates, to faster charging and individual cameras that might perform better overall, there are no shortage of tempting alternatives worth picking up over Sony’s offering.

As with most Sony handsets though, the Xperia 10 IV fills a niche. If you’re a fan of Sony’s unique fuss-free design, more compact screen, and want amazing battery life, the Xperia 10 IV could be the phone for you. Its main camera and zoom capabilities will serve you well, though if night photography and wide-angle shots are more your bag, you’ll want to look elsewhere. If you’re still drawn to its design and positive features after reading our review though, then chances are you won’t be disappointed.

Best cheap phone: OnePlus Nord CE 5G

5. OnePlus Nord CE 5G

Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5

The A54 5G is a great shout for anyone who can’t justify S23 prices but still wants Samsung’s latest smarts

Good Stuff

Great-looking screen

Capable camera system

IP67 water resistance

Bad Stuff

Clunky styling

No RAW photo capture

No wireless charging

Don’t be deceived by its plastic finish: the OnePlus Nord CE packs some serious specs. Snapdragon 750G silicon provides the grunt to blaze through tasks, happily tackling all but the most demanding Android titles (with a gaming mode to block interruptions and boost performance).

The 6.43in AMOLED display is bright and sharp. With support for HDR10 and 90Hz refresh rates, it’s one of the best panels in this list. A headphone port means you can easily plug in for movies, while that Qualcomm chip also delivers 5G connectivity for speedy wireless streaming. The battery lasts the day as well, with Warp Charge 30T Plus fast charging for refuelling within an hour.

OnePlus’ OxygenOS launcher sits comfortably on top of Android 11, adding plenty of useful features – including a few simple but useful customisation tools that don’t bog it down. It’s also covered by two years of updates and three years of security patches – a reassuring spot of future-proofing that’s rare at this price point.

Probably the weakest link is the 64MP primary camera. It does a decent enough job for day-to-day snaps, but the optics struggle a little in low light.


6. Honor Magic 5 Lite

Stuff Says…

A keenly-priced mid-ranger with sharp looks, a quality screen and stellar battery life – although mobile photographers have better options for similar cash.

Good Stuff

Stylish looks and quality display

Great battery life

Bad Stuff

Secondary cameras a weak link

Outperformed by similarly-priced rivals

If good looks and a gorgeous screen are high on your priority list, the Honor Magic 5 Lite is a very safe bet. With a slick design that shames many pricier phones, a beefy battery, and a decent (though not spectacular) main camera, it provides a lot of phone for your cash.

The secondary cameras don’t add much value, mind, and there’s not enough performance here to satiate the demands of hardcore mobile gamers. But if you spend more time in Chrome than Call of Duty, and want to go as long as possible between reaching for the charger, then this could very well be the most well-rounded handset for you.

Best cheap phone: Poco X30 Pro

7. Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro

Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5

One of the best cheap phones for mobile gamers, the Poco X3 Pro can’t be beaten for gaming power at the price

Good Stuff

Very powerful

Slick screen

Bad Stuff

Branding is an eyesore

MIUI is bloatware-tastic

With a mighty Snapdragon 860 chipset and dedicated gaming tools on-board, the Poco X3 Pro is one of the most powerful best cheap phones on this list. Its processor can handle almost anything, even power-hungry games like Genshin Impact (provided you drop detail down to medium).

The 6.67in FHD+ display is an IPS panel rather than OLED, so contrast isn’t super strong. All the same, your peepers should be pleased by its punchy colours and fine details. Adaptive refresh rates max out at 120Hz too, so visuals will be suitably slick when needed.

You get stereo speakers, a headphone port and microSD support for expanding the storage. That’s alongside a responsive edge-mounted fingerprint scanner, NFC for contactless payments and solid Bluetooth. The 48MP main camera sensor also captures sharp snaps of subjects on the move, as well as respectable 4K footage. Pretty much all you could ask for.

In fact, besides the slightly garish design, there’s really not all that much to dislike about the Poco X3 Pro. And while the branding might be an eyesore, the handset is solidly built with Gorilla Glass 6 and IP53 splash resistance. Note though that Poco phones still use Xiaomi’s MIUI launcher. So while you get bonus bits like the gaming mode and Control Center, you’ll also be lumbered with a shedload of junk – and a question mark over future updates.

Best cheap phones Honor 90

8. Honor 90

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

A capable mid-ranger that’s fast and takes a pleasing picture, plus a huge storage option for those that need it

Good Stuff

Sharp looks and quality build

OLED screen a joy for gaming and watching videos

Main camera packs in plenty of detail

Bad Stuff

Depth camera not a worthwhile inclusion

Image processing can be OTT at times

Missing features found in similarly-priced rivals

OK, it sits towards the top end of our price range, but the Honor 90 is absolutely worth your attention if you’re after a detailed camera, sharp OLED screen or ample storage. It’s one of few budget-focused models that can be outfitted with 512GB of on-board storage (for an extra outlay), and even the 256GB model listed here has plenty of capacity.

A 200MP main snapper is capable of some impressively clear and clarity-packed photos, and while the two secondary lenses aren’t nearly as impressive, it can handle its own in low light. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 CPU is especially potent compared to similarly-priced rivals, and the 5000mAh battery is more than sufficient for a day or two of use between (fast 66W) top-ups.

A curved-edge OLED screen also sets it apart. You’d normally need to step up an entire price tier to. get a design this slick. Add. in an in-display fingerprint sensor, 120Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling and responsive gaming, and it trumps many phones that cost $50-100/£50-100 more.

Best cheap phone: Motorola Moto G50

9. Motorola Moto G50

Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5

There are better, faster 4G smartphones for the same price, but the G50 is a capable mid-ranger for anyone who wants wallet-friendly 5G

Good Stuff

5G is welcome

Superb battery life

Bad Stuff

Camera strugles in low light

The G50 shares the same plastic construction, hardware layout and general heft as the even more affordable G30. The trade-off is excellent connectivity, with NFC, microSD card support and a 3.5mm headphone jack – plus the headline addition: 5G.

Similarities with the cheaper G30 continue up front, where you’ll find an identical 6.5in display with an underwhelming 1600×720 resolution and contrast that’s par for the course. But the G50 makes better use of the 90Hz refresh rates: while its chipset might seem less capable on paper, it’s more efficient and better able to keep up with taps and swipes.

You can still expect a short wait with more demanding apps, but the newer silicon delivers a slicker experience than the G30. It’s also largely up to the task for gaming. Frame rates can judder when loading Call of Duty Mobile, but things are perfectly playable once the action gets going. That extra efficiency also maximises the staying power of the 5000mAh battery, regularly going a couple of days without a charge – handy, given the tardy 15W charging speeds.

In most areas, the G50 bests the G30 – but it’s arguably less capable than even the entry-level G10 when it comes to cameras. You get a triple-lens setup, with a 48MP sensor topping the bill. It lacks the raw detail captured by the G30’s main camera and, unsurprisingly, it struggles in low light.

10. Realme 9 Pro Plus

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

There are better all-rounders for the cash, but flagship camera specs give this affordable smartphone some serious pulling power in the photography stakes

Good Stuff

Speedy charging

Excellent primary snapper

Bad Stuff

Extra cameras not worth having

Could do with a bigger battery

In many ways, Realme’s 9 Pro Plus is a middle-of-the-road mobile but it’s still one of the best cheap phones. It’s fronted by a 6.4in AMOLED panel with 90Hz refresh rates. Its battery isn’t the biggest at 4500mAh, but it supports 60W fast charging. And it deploys a solid MediaTek processor to deliver reliable day-to-day performance, aided by a stable software interface.

There are other affordable smartphones that offer better specs for the same or less. But one thing sets the Realme 9 Pro Plus apart: its camera skills. The main 50MP sensor offers flagship-grade photography chops, complete with phase detection autofocus and optical image stabilisation.

The secondary sensors are passable (in the case of the 8MP ultra-wide and 16MP selfie camera) and forgettable (particularly the 2MP macro camera). But that doesn’t really matter when the primary snapper can grab loads of detail, shallow depth of field and HEIF 10-bit photos like the iPhone 13 Pro.

There’s plenty of competition in Xiaomi’s budget stable. Rivals from Poco and Redmi can variously trump the Realme 9 Pro Plus on price, performance and screen quality. But none can top its photography skills in this budget bracket.

Best cheap phone: Motorola Moto G30

11. Motorola Moto G30

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

Performance isn’t blistering, but the ultra-affordable Moto G30 packs in a lot for anyone on a tight budget

Good Stuff

Convincing camera

Excellent battery life

Bad Stuff

Photos not great in low light

Sandwiched between the cheaper G10 and the better-connected G50, the Moto G30 is a mid-range, middle-of-the-road mobile that offers plenty for those with a limited budget.

Despite its pared-back plastic build, the G30 is hefty at 200g and large enough to poke out of your pocket. That’s mainly down to the 6.5in display which fills the front of the phone. While its 20:9 aspect ratio is nicely cinematic, contrast is average and the 1600×720 resolution is disappointing. And though the option to run 90Hz refresh rates is a welcome one, the impression of smoother motion is limited by chipset performance. Even running uncluttered Android 11, switching apps isn’t stutter-free.

With a huge 64MP main sensor, the G30 does have one of the highest resolution cameras at this price point. It deploys nifty algorithms to deliver 16MP photos, using the extra data to strip out noise, boost details and grab more light. It works impressively well in daylight, but less convincingly after dark. Only one of its secondary snappers is worth your time: the 8MP ultra-wide is noisy but usable.

Where the G30 does excel is battery life. Pairing a beefy 5000mAh cell with a power-efficient CPU translates into impressive longevity: 48 hours between charges isn’t hard to manage.

Best cheap phone: Nokia G50

12. Nokia G50

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

It’s not especially quick, but a big screen and 5G connectivity make the G50 a lot of device for your cash. Plus you get pure Android with guaranteed updates

Good Stuff

Guaranteed updates

5G connectivity

Bad Stuff

Can seem quite slow

Nokia’s G50 is no speed demon. And while its 48MP main sensor deals well with detail, its multiple cameras are never going to blow you away. Plus you can get more muscle for your money from the likes of Poco, Realme and Redmi. So why would you opt for the plastic-shell Nokia? First, because it’s one of the cheapest ways to get a 5G handset, offering faster connectivity without a premium.

And second, because if you spend most of your time glued to YouTube, the G50’s giant screen is sure to entertain. At 6.82in, it’s larger than what you’ll find on many flagship phones costing five times the price. It’s not an OLED panel and refresh rates max out at 60Hz, but brightness is ample, colours natural and contrast decent.

The entry-level Snapdragon 480 processor was never going to feel especially snappy – and with only 4GB of RAM in support, apps regularly take a moment to open. But you can still play titles like Call of Duty Mobile with too much stuttering.

It helps that Nokia has committed to Android One: the G50 ships with an OS free from CPU-sapping bloatware. It also benefits from a beefy 5000mAh battery that can comfortably last a day and a half between charges. Handy, even if the sizeable cell means the G50 is a weighty thing at 220g.

Best cheap phone: Samsung M32

13. Samsung Galaxy M32

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

One of the best cheap phones from Samsung, the M32 retains many of the benefits of premium Galaxy handsets

Good Stuff

Enticing AMOLED display

64MP main camera sensor impressive

Bad Stuff

Hardware can be slow

Budget Galaxy handsets are nothing new, but Samsung’s affordable phones can be a mixed bag. One of the best you’ll find right now is the M32. Offering a similar One UI experience to the wallet-emptying S21 range, it makes precious few compromises to hit the affordable price point.

First impressions aren’t fantastic, thanks mainly to the Galaxy’s plastic shell. Spend a little longer with it, though, and you’ll soon be enticed by its 6.4in AMOLED panel. Though it lacks HDR support, the screen’s as bright, sharp and gorgeous as any of its competitors.

The chip inside does stumble at times, though the M32 can generally keep up with everyday use, provided you’re not a major gamer. There’s no 5G connectivity either, but the budget Galaxy makes up for its absence with impressive efficiency: its 5000mAh battery can power through even the longest of days. Plus you get that rare thing in today’s wireless world – a headphone port.

The 64MP main camera sensor is impressive, too. It can grab pleasingly natural pics and solid family snaps, even in tricky conditions – although rivals like the Redmi Note 10 Pro do better at shooting video.

14. Nokia G22

Nokia G22

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

A handset that promotes sustainability, with the specs to make it nondisposable

Good Stuff

Can be fixed on the fly

Detailed camera for the price

Decent display

Bad Stuff

Speed sometimes stutters

A little bulky

The Nokia G22 ticks most of the boxes one should look for when trying to find a good quality phone for a low price. A 6.5in, 90Hz HD+, 1,600 x 720 display is bright, while the triple rear camera – 50MP main, 2MP macro and 2MP depth – is powerful enough for detailed snaps, even close up. A 5050mAh battery with 20W fast charging support will keep your phone alive long into the night. The design is a little unremarkable, but at £169 the Nokia G22 is certainly not to be scoffed at.

The Nokia G22 brings something unique to the market, though. Nokia has given you, the customer, the power to replace the display, charging port or battery yourself. It doesn’t require any special equipment. Rather, you can consult the how-to service iFixit for replacement parts, tools and repair guides, and then DIY. Taking the phone apart is a little fiddly, but can be done in around 15 or so minutes. The tools resemble a bomb disposal kit, but the Nokia G22 brings peace of mind knowing that a cracked screen won’t leave you $120/£100 down.

Even so, is the Nokia G22? There’s no point trying to fix an already broken phone, after all. But this isn’t Nokia’s first rodeo, and the G22 packs a lot into its price tag.

Now read about the best upcoming smartphones.

Profile image of Chris Rowlands Chris Rowlands Freelance contributor


Formerly News Editor at this fine institution, Chris now writes about tech from his tropical office. Sidetracked by sustainable stuff, he’s also keen on coffee kit, classic cars and any gear that gets better with age.

Areas of expertise

Cameras, gear and travel tech

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