Cheap Phones 2021: seven smartphones for under $500


Should you’re purchasing for a brand new cellphone on a finances, we’ve acquired excellent news: there are extra nice, inexpensive telephones available on the market than ever. Corporations like Apple, Google, and Samsung are spreading the wealth of options loved by their flagships all the way down to inexpensive choices. Different manufacturers like OnePlus are discovering methods to problem extra established producers with finances units that make sensible sacrifices to maintain prices down.

The dangerous information is that this makes the job of selecting the most effective finances cellphone that a lot more durable. Keep in mind that it’s unattainable to purchase a cellphone that does every little thing at this worth level; as a substitute, prioritize the options that matter most to you. You’ll have a better time deciding, and also you’ll find yourself with an important cellphone that it is best to be capable to use for years to come back.

Our decide for the most effective cheap iPhone is the 2020 version of the Apple iPhone SE. Despite the fact that it’s simply over a yr outdated, we predict it’s nonetheless the most effective wager for most individuals. Whereas it does a reliable job at every little thing, its standout function is that it ought to final 4 or extra years if handled nicely.

Should you’re searching for the most effective low-cost Android cellphone, then the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is your greatest wager proper now. It comes with a wonderful 6.5-inch display screen with 120Hz quick refresh fee, nonetheless a rarity at this worth level. Even higher, Samsung says it can supply 4 years of safety updates, together with three years of main OS upgrades. The A52 5G isn’t the most affordable — it’s priced proper at $500 — however that wholesome help coverage means you’ll get a few years out of your funding.

What most individuals are searching for in a sub-$500 smartphone are the identical issues individuals need in a costlier mannequin: lengthy battery life, good display screen, good digital camera, and first rate efficiency. It’s troublesome to get excessive straight A’s in each single a type of classes, however in the event you’re in a position to resolve the place you’ll tolerate the occasional B grade, you’ll discover a cellphone you’ll love.






Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

The Galaxy A52 5G affords an important display screen, wholesome battery life, and a beneficiant timeline for safety updates that ought to make sure you’ll get a few years out of your funding.




The Apple iPhone SE is a great choice if you want a phone that lasts for years.





The Apple iPhone SE is a superb alternative if you would like a cellphone that lasts for years.

The perfect smartphone beneath $500

The cellphone that strikes the appropriate stability of digital camera, construct high quality, pace, battery life, software program, and longevity for most individuals is the Apple iPhone SE 2020. Despite the fact that it’s over a yr outdated now, it ought to nonetheless provide you with a wonderful return in your funding. We suggest upgrading to the mannequin with 128GB of storage for $449, which is $50 over the bottom worth however nicely price it long run.

The iPhone SE follows a really tried and true system. It has the identical physique and four.7-inch LCD display screen that Apple has been utilizing for the reason that iPhone 6. That places the show on the smaller finish of display screen sizes at this time and likewise means the cellphone’s bezels are larger than anything offered available on the market. Excessive refresh-rate screens with smoother animations and scrolling have been trickling down into the finances class just lately, and also you positively gained’t discover one right here.

It’s a well-known design and never one which screams “fashionable.” However in alternate, you get lots of worth. The 2020 SE is a part of the iPhone 11 technology, so its A13 Bionic processor is a yr behind the newest and biggest. (That may be the A14 chipset within the iPhone 12 lineup.) Nonetheless, it’s nonetheless one of many quickest processors you will get on any cellphone, however particularly one on this worth bracket. Usually, pace isn’t one thing we prioritize on telephones at this worth level, but it surely’s good to have.

Why that processor actually issues, although, is total longevity. Apple persistently helps its telephones for 4 or extra years with software program updates. (That’s in opposition to Android, the place getting software program updates on something however the Pixel continues to be a battle.) So Apple’s alternative of a quick processor means, in just a few years, the iPhone SE will nonetheless really feel snappy and nonetheless be supported with iOS updates.

Battery life is sweet however not greatest in school. It ought to final a few day. Fortunately, this iPhone helps wi-fi charging, which continues to be unusual at this worth level. And since it has the very same form because the iPhone 6, 6S, 7, and eight, there’s a enormous ecosystem of chargers and instances for it. Not like many cheap Android telephones, discovering appropriate equipment for the iPhone SE can be a breeze.

The iPhone SE has only one digital camera on the again and only one selfie digital camera on the entrance, 12 megapixels and seven megapixels, respectively. Neither is nice by 2021 requirements, however each are considerably higher than what Apple shipped in older iPhones. It’s additionally pretty good by the requirements of sub-$500 telephones, although the Google Pixel 4A continues to win this class by a knockout. You’ll get lots of digital camera options on the iPhone SE, together with portrait and HDR, however sadly, there is no such thing as a night time mode.

As a complete bundle, the 2020 iPhone SE is the most effective smartphone beneath $500 for most individuals. Should you consider it on a cost-per-year metric, it finally ends up being considerably inexpensive than the competitors as a result of it’s prone to final 4 or 5 years in the event you deal with it. Simply as importantly, it’s an important cellphone by itself deserves. You get entry to the huge array of iOS apps, Apple’s robust help community, and an enormous ecosystem of equipment.








The Galaxy A52 5G affords a 120Hz quick refresh-rate display screen.

The perfect finances Android cellphone

On the Android facet, the Galaxy A52 5G is a superb choice, albeit on the very high of the value vary thought-about on this information. It contains some options that aren’t too widespread in a finances cellphone, like its fast-refresh fee display screen, an IP67 water resistance ranking, and for now no less than, month-to-month safety updates for quick entry to bug fixes and enhancements.

The A52 5G’s 6.5-inch display screen is an OLED panel that’s brilliant with good distinction that’s usually good to have a look at. However its greatest function is a delicate one: a 120Hz refresh fee that offers a a lot smoother look to animations and content material as you swipe and scroll by way of menus and social feeds. We’ll seemingly see this function make its method into extra finances telephones quickly, however for now the A52 5G is one in every of just a few to supply higher than the usual 60Hz display screen in its class, and it makes the expertise of utilizing the cellphone that a lot nicer.

The cellphone total performs nicely for its class with a Snapdragon 750G processor and 6GB of RAM. You might discover the occasional hesitation or stutter with heavy duties, however in any other case on a regular basis scrolling, app switching, and navigating is dealt with simply. And even with a power-hungry show, the Galaxy A52 5G’s four,500mAh battery ought to get you thru no less than a day of average to heavy use earlier than needing one other cost.

One of many A52 5G’s not-so-bright-spots is Samsung’s present tackle Android, which places lots of pre-downloaded apps in your cellphone that you simply most likely don’t need, and it even contains the occasional advert in locations just like the native climate app. For a cleaner or extra grown-up Android pores and skin, look to the Pixel or OnePlus. The Galaxy A52 5G’s digital camera is one other consideration: it’s succesful, but it surely tends towards an oversaturated look. Should you desire a extra pure look to your pictures, then the Pixel 4A is the winner right here.

There’s additionally 5G, which we nonetheless don’t assume is a function it is best to run out and purchase a brand new cellphone for, however it’s good to have the help right here — notably in the event you plan to carry on to your cellphone for just a few years. This system doesn’t help super-fast mmWave 5G, but it surely’s onerous to come back by in order that’s not an enormous loss. Importantly, it helps extra extensively accessible sub-6GHz bands and may be capable to make the most of bettering 5G networks within the US over the subsequent few years.

You should buy a a lot inexpensive system to get you thru the subsequent couple of years, and that’s simply high quality. However in the event you do need to make extra of an funding in a cellphone you could maintain utilizing three or 4 years from now, the A52 5G is your greatest wager proper now on Android.




The Google Pixel 4A has an incredible camera.





The Google Pixel 4A has an unimaginable digital camera.

An inexpensive Android cellphone with the most effective digital camera

If you wish to spend rather less cash, or simply need the most effective digital camera, then the Google Pixel 4A is the obvious choice. Its display screen is on the small facet, and it doesn’t have the quickest processor, but it surely does have a clear model of Android and is first in line for updates from Google. The 4A got here out in August final yr, but it surely’s nonetheless assured to get software program updates till no less than August 2023. It is available in both black or child blue with 128GB of storage for $349.

The Pixel 4A’s predominant declare to fame is its digital camera. It’s primarily based on generation-old expertise at this level, but it surely’s nonetheless the most effective on this class and it may go head-to-head with smartphones that price $1,000 or extra. That’s as a result of Google does a lot of the picture processing in software program. (The sensor itself is definitely fairly outdated and never very particular.) Meaning the Pixel 4A can take night time pictures, do astrophotography, and has a satisfactory portrait mode.

The remainder of the Pixel 4A’s specs are good however not nice. It has a 5.Eight-inch display screen, simply sufficient RAM to maintain apps from closing within the background, and a headphone jack. There’s no wi-fi charging, no fancy face unlock, and the physique is made out of plastic as a substitute of one thing extra premium like glass. The Pixel 4A doesn’t even supply any IP water resistance scores (however a splash of water might be high quality).

The Pixel 4A makes use of Google’s model of Android, which suggests it’s straightforward to navigate and free of additional stuff you most likely don’t need. Extra importantly, it implies that Google can provide the software program updates instantly as a substitute of ready for one more producer or service to approve it, placing you first in line for Android updates.

Sadly, in a little bit over a yr’s time, it’s fairly seemingly that the Pixel 4A can be slowing down. Android telephones usually don’t final fairly so long as iPhones do as a result of Android tends to bathroom down on older extra shortly. The Pixel 4A’s processor is quick sufficient at this time to not be a trouble, however over time, it’s doable that it gained’t age nicely.

However for all that, the Pixel 4A might be the most secure wager if you wish to get an Android cellphone for nicely beneath $500. You’ll get higher software program help and a greater digital camera for $350. Not a foul deal.






Google Pixel 4A

A really cheap smartphone with top-of-the-line cameras for pictures you will get on any smartphone at any worth.




The OnePlus Nord has very good specs for its price.





The OnePlus Nord has superb specs for its worth.
Photograph by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge


The perfect all-around Android cellphone outdoors the US

Technically, saying the OnePlus Nord prices lower than $500 doesn’t make a lot sense as a result of it’s not accessible within the US, and the corporate doesn’t plan to promote it within the States. However in the event you dwell in a market the place it’s accessible, the OnePlus Nord is the form of cellphone that goals for a stable B grade in each class as a substitute of attempting to ace one or two. For £379 / €399, it’s a protected Android wager.

The OnePlus Nord has a few options which might be usually reserved for way more costly telephones: help for sub-6 5G networks and a excessive refresh fee 90Hz show. Should you dwell in an space the place 5G is constructed out, you might discover sooner obtain speeds. But it surely’s the show that’ll have a much bigger influence in your day-to-day expertise. It makes every little thing really feel smoother and higher.

You’ll miss out on wi-fi charging and a headphone jack with the Nord, however they’re actually the one massive issues which might be missing. Battery life is robust, the 6.44-inch display screen is massive and delightful, and the software program is much less annoying than some rivals (although not as clear as Google’s). The £379 / €399 mannequin comes with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM, each a lot good for this worth level.

As for cameras, there are a bunch of them — perhaps even too many. There’s a normal, an ultrawide, and a macro digital camera on the again in addition to a few selfie cameras on the entrance. As is the norm with most smartphone cameras nowadays, they may get you first rate pictures in first rate gentle however fall down a bit at nighttime. You’ll principally need to use the primary digital camera, because the ultrawide has a noticeable drop in high quality, and the macro is barely good for, nicely, macro or close-up pictures.

All too typically, telephones at this worth level have some important compromise you’re compelled to make in an effort to get the function you really need. With the OnePlus Nord, there’s no massive flaw you’ll need to work round. Once more, although, it’s not accessible within the US. You possibly can import it, but it surely’s not advisable because it gained’t work appropriately on US LTE networks.






OnePlus Nord

The OnePlus Nord has higher specs than you’ll discover on nearly another Android smartphone on this worth vary.








The N10 5G is priced nicely beneath $500.
Photograph by Allison Johnson / The Verge


If you would like an affordable 5G cellphone

At $299, the N10 5G is nicely under the edge for this class. Given its worth, you would possibly anticipate to see some vital sacrifices in comparison with a $400 or $500 cellphone, and OnePlus has made just a few. However they’re sensible sacrifices that add as much as a tool that’s actually fairly good for the cash.

You gained’t discover a improbable display screen right here, though its giant 6.46-inch LCD does include a faster-than-average 90Hz refresh fee. Value noting is the system’s considerably “tall” 20:9 side ratio, which is a little bit uncommon at first look however makes the cellphone barely narrower and simpler to make use of with one hand. Its processor is succesful sufficient, although it typically reveals its limits. It additionally ships with Android 10, which OnePlus says it can replace to 11, and is barely providing two years of safety updates along with that.

On the digital camera facet, the N10 affords a 64-megapixel predominant digital camera that’s surprisingly good in daylight and even reasonably low gentle. There’s an Eight-megapixel ultrawide, too, together with macro and monochrome cameras that aren’t actually price speaking about. It’s not Pixel 4A-level good, however in the event you don’t push it too onerous, the N10’s predominant digital camera takes good pictures in the appropriate gentle.

The Samsung Galaxy A32 5G can be nicely price contemplating on this worth bracket for 2 superb causes: it’s a bit inexpensive and can be supported with safety updates for the subsequent 4 years. Nonetheless, it lacks among the N10’s good options like a sooner refresh fee display screen, the digital camera isn’t nearly as good, and its software program feels extra cluttered and bloated. The A32 5G is a greater decide if you wish to dangle on to your cellphone for as a few years as doable, however the N10 is a extra likable system total.

If finances is a serious consideration, the N10 5G is about nearly as good because it will get at this worth. It affords the future-proofiness of sub-6GHz 5G help, a completely first rate digital camera, good battery life, a succesful processor, and a reasonably clear implementation of Android. It’s not a standout in any a method, however as a complete bundle, it’s very onerous to argue with its capabilities at this worth.








The 2021 Moto G Energy affords days-long battery efficiency however makes lots of sacrifices for it.
Photograph by Allison Johnson / The Verge


The finances cellphone with most battery life

The Moto G Energy does precisely what it says it can: present days and days of energy on a single cost, because of its larger-than-average 5,000mAh battery. This can be a barely completely different model of final yr’s cellphone with the identical title, and it begins at a decrease $200 worth.

The lower cost tag does include trade-offs. It contains simply 32GB of built-in storage, so including a microSD card for some further area is a should. There’s additionally a barely slower processor on board, and whereas it’s succesful sufficient for your whole every day wants, it’s a little bit laggy leaping between apps and opening the digital camera.

As for the digital camera: it’s simply okay. Motorola did away with the ultrawide on this yr’s fashions, so that you’ll simply be working with the 48-megapixel normal vast and 2-megapixel macro cameras along with an Eight-megapixel selfie cam. Pictures in brilliant outside gentle look good with loads of element, although colours could be a little washed out. The digital camera struggles with high-contrast scenes and low gentle, however all issues thought-about, it’s high quality for a $200 cellphone.

If top-notch battery efficiency is an especially vital function in your smartphone, then the Moto G Energy must be in your shortlist. It’s succesful, and you actually will get a number of days of battery life on a cost. However in the event you’re high quality getting by on a battery that’s simply common, then we predict you’ll be happier with a extra well-rounded system.








The Moto G Play covers the entire fundamentals for nicely beneath $200.

The perfect cellphone beneath $200

There are many choices for these procuring on a tighter finances, however the Motorola Moto G Play is the one which stands out to us. It covers the fundamentals nicely with a giant 5,000mAh battery and a Snapdragon 460 processor that does a adequate job dealing with every day duties.

The G Play has a generously sized 6.5-inch display screen. It’s a lower-resolution panel at 720p and is troublesome to see outdoors in direct gentle, but it surely’s roughly simply high quality. Digital camera specs are likewise primary: there’s only one rear-facing 13-megapixel digital camera that performs nicely in brilliant gentle however isn’t nicely suited to low-light pictures.

You’ll additionally need to strongly take into account a microSD card buy with this cellphone. It solely contains 32GB of built-in storage, lots of which is already occupied by system information. Motorola has solely promised safety updates for 2 years, however realistically, the G Play isn’t constructed to final for much longer than that.

It has its shortcomings — the G Play’s efficiency doesn’t sustain with many telephones which might be simply $50-100 costlier, for instance — but it surely’s onerous to argue with what it does supply for its worth: good, primary efficiency with none main flaws. If there’s flexibility in your finances to spend a little bit extra, you’ll get some significant upgrades, like a greater digital camera or a longer-lasting system. However for its worth, the G Play does simply what it must.

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