With recently announced phones like the, the and the , phone buyers on a tighter budget now have more options than ever to choose from. In addition to those phones, there are plenty of reliable handsets from 2019 as well — and all of them cost about $500 or less. And despite their affordable prices, and pack premium features of their own like fast processors, amazing cameras and modern-day software features. To see our top picks, which we update regularly, check out the list below and read CNET’s reviews. Note that we’ve linked to the unlocked version of each phone, and they should run on most of the big four US wireless carriers, unless specified otherwise.
With a four-year gap between the 2020 iPhone SE and the previous one, Apple packed its latest budget phone with a bunch of upgrades. That includes wireless charging, better camera specs and water resistance. (Unfortunately, for wired headphone users, it doesn’t have a headphone jack.) If you’re looking for a new iPhone but want to save as much money as possible, the $399 (£419, AU$749) iPhone SE is your best bet.
In addition to its main Galaxy S flagship phones, Samsung has a more cost-conscious A series line of phones. This year it launched the Galaxy A51, another phone that costs $399 (there is a 5G variant that costs $499). The device has four cameras, an in-screen fingerprint reader and expandable memory.
Google’s Pixel 3A XL has everything you like about the Pixel 3A (which is also on this list), but in a larger package (it has a 6-inch OLED screen compared to the Pixel 3A’s 5.6-inch screen). Both phones, however, have a headphone jack and keep the same amazing Night Sight camera from the original Pixel 3, which can shoot great photos in the dark. (Daytime photos and video recording look amazing, too.) The device is compatible with all the major US phone carriers as well.
The bigger counterpart also features a larger 3,700-mAh battery.
If you’re looking for a cheaper Note 10 alternative, the $300 Moto G Stylus features a stylus that you can store inside the phone along with built-in Notes app to help with productivity. The phone also features triple-rear cameras, 128GB of storage and a robust 4,000mAh battery.
Although the Galaxy A50 came out last year (and is the predecessor to the A51 phone mentioned above), it’s still a great phone. Plus, at $250 it’s even cheaper than when it first launched. The phone has a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen, an in-screen fingerprint reader and a headphone jack. On the back, the three cameras include a wide angle lens as well as a “depth lens,” which is used to take portrait shots with blurry, dramatic backgrounds.
As the little brother of the Pixel 3A XL, the Pixel 3A has nearly identical specs but has a smaller screen and a smaller battery. It’s also cheaper, at only $399.
The new Moto G Power is a tad cheaper than the G Stylus at $250, but it packs a robust 5,000-mAh battery. During our testing, it lasted an impressive four days without a charge. The phone has three rear cameras (on of which is a macro lens), a 6.4-inch display and expandable memory.
The often discounted Moto G7 Play is one of our favorite affordable Android phones. Like the pricier Moto G7 (which we’ll get to later), it has a Snapdragon chipset and a water-repellent coating. But the G7 Play features a smaller 5.7-inch display and a single 13-megapixel camera. For those who like to take a lot of selfies, on the front of the phone you’ll find a selfie camera flash to brighten up all those memorable moments.
It’s been two years since its launch, but the Galaxy S9 is still a phone worthy of consideration. Discounted at about $450 from online retailers, the phone is water resistant, has wireless charging, expandable storage and a headphone jack. Plus, its curved OLED display screen lends the phone a modern-day look that still endures.
The Moto G7 may not be as cheap as its G7 Play counterpart, but at $300, it’s still a good deal. Though its single speaker doesn’t offer the greatest sound, and it takes mediocre low-light photos and video, the Moto G7 has a rear dual camera setup, an enduring battery life and a sleek design. It also charges quickly, which is useful when you need to juice up while on the go.