Which is the best budget phone you can buy this year?
Updated: Affordable smartphones have come on a long way in recent years. Since Motorola proved it is possible to create a top-notch affordable blower with its original Moto G, smartphone makers across the globe have been competing to beat it, and with good results too.
New competition from Chinese vendors Honor and Xiaomi has also caused a fresh spurt in innovation at the bottom end of the market, even while prices at the top end have risen to unprecedented levels. Over the last few months we’ve seen a number of technologies traditionally only seen flagships trickle down into the affordable end of the market. These include key things like fast charging, optical image stabilisation and dual-sensor cameras.
The majority of the phones in this list are below £300, however, if there’s a particular device that costs a little more but we think it deserves a spot due to fantastic value-for-money then we will include it.
How we select the best budget smartphones
But before we dive into our top picks, we thought it would be best to explain how we came to selecting them. It all comes down to practice. We used each of the smartphones as our main handset for a week, moving all of our data across.
Dedicating all of our time to the device means we can see how it fares in the real world. We’re able to get an accurate reading of how long they last on a single charge, how much strain you can put on the processor before it starts to break a sweat, and how well the camera performs in a range of conditions and set-ups. You can find out how we test phones here, or click on each review link below for the full detail on each.
Related: Best Android phones
So now you know how we select the best budget smartphones, let’s take a look at our highlights.
1. Moto G7 Plus
The best phone you’ll get for less than £300
- Good cameras, front and back
- Solid value
- Classy hardware design
- Deep notch
- Dynamic range and night shooting are not best-in-class
The Moto G7 Plus is the top dog in Motorola’s 2019 G-series lineup and is currently the best phone you’ll get for under £300.
For your money you get a swish looking mixed metal and glass phone with a teardrop notch that looks and feels more expensive than most competing handsets this price.
Under-the-hood it has surprisingly good specs. The biggest highlight is the upgraded camera. The G7 Plus features dual rear sensor setup that combines a 16-megapixel main sensor with a 5-megapixel depth sensor.
With an improved f1.7 aperture, larger 1.22um pixel rate and OIS (optical image stabilisation, this on paper makes the G7 Plus’ rear snapper one of the best you’ll find on an affordable phone.
Other key specs include wonderfully fast Turbo Charging, a near untouched version of Android 9.0 and nippy Snapdragon 636 CPU that keeps things running smoothly.
- Read our Moto G7 Plus review
2. Xiaomi Mi 9
- Versatile camera
- Stunning value
- Fantastic performance
- Excellent screen
- No IP rating
Normally, this list comprises of phones under £350. We feel that’s a fair price and a value we’re happy to call ‘budget’. However in the case of the Xiaomi Mi 9 we simply must include it here as it’s such good value for money.
For the €449 price (a UK price is expected to be coming soon) you get a phone that would normally cost double that. Here you’ve got the latest Snapdragon 855 chipset, a 6.4-inch OLED display, three cameras including a 48-megapixel main sensor and a fast wireless charging. You don’t get those kind of specs with any other phone at this price.
- Read our Xiaomi Mi 9 review
3. Moto G7 Power
- Stunning battery life
- Robust performance
- Nice look and feel
- Superb value
- Average canera
- Muffled voice calls
The Moto G7 Power represents incredible value for money. For £179 you’re getting phone with one the longest-lasting batteries we’ve ever reviewed, along with a nice design and performance that won’t have you hankering for more oomph.
On the negative side of things, call quality is so-so and the camera is weak – so if you’re on a tight budget and you’d rather have a phone with a standout camera than a Herculean battery, then you should check out the Moto G7 Plus instead. At £269, it’s more expensive, but still excellent value for under £300.
- Read our Moto G7 Power review
4. Honor 10 Lite
A lot of phone for under £200
- Attractive design for the price
- Decent battery life
- Included case
- Feature rich
- Heavy skinned software missing key features
- Prone to fingerprints
- Plastic build
If you’re looking for a capable phone that isn’t part of the Motorola family, Honor’s handsets would be our first port of call. The Honor 10 flagship is a superb phone in its own right that can be had for around £400, but for half the price the Honor 10 Lite is also worth considering.
Boasting the latest version of Android Pie, topped with Honor’s own Emotion UI 9 overlay, the 10 Lite’s user experience is feature-packed, offering tons in the way of customisation, as well as AI-enhanced premium features like integrated retail image search through the phone’s HiTouch tool and there’s even a headphone jack which helps grant the phone FM radio functionality.
As for those rear cameras, the dual 13/2-megapixel pairing takes usable shots in most conditions, with AI scene recognition for automated settings adjustment built in, plus a dedicated Portrait more, an impressive night mode and a rich suite of beauty tools for selfie lovers who decide to make use of the impressively crisp 24-megapixel front-facing camera.
- Read our Honor 10 Lite review
5. Huawei P Smart 2019
A great capable, affordable phone in early 2019
- Robust camera experience
- Feature-rich software
- Poor earpiece speaker placement
- Fingerprint-prone plastic build
- microUSB is now dated
As the name implies, Huawei has revived its youth-centric P Smart series for 2019. Like the Honor 10 Lite, which launched just ahead of it, it boasts a Kirin 710 processor with AI smarts, a dual 13/2-megapixel primary camera with depth-sensing powers, a large 3400mAh battery with fast charging and an impressively low price tag of just £199.
Its “ceramic-like” finish is undoubtedly eye-catching if a little cheap to the touch, the latest Android software comes equipped with an impressive set of additional features, courtesy of Huawei, and the cameras boast a surprising amount of functionality, not to mention they’re capable of taking usable shots in low light. No mean feat for an affordable phone.
- Read our Huawei P Smart 2019 review
6. Moto E5 Plus
Cheap with great battery life
- Fantastic battery life
- Good screen
- Comes with a case
- Moto G6 Play feels faster
- Plastic design
This list is full of Moto phones, but that’s really because it continually churns out excellent devices at impressive prices.
The Moto E5 Plus isn’t quite as good as the G-series though, however, it still shows you can get a great phone for less than £150.
Battery life is king here. The 5000 mAh cell left us with 48% at the end of a working day – that’s seriously impressive. Performance is decent too, as is the large 5.99-inch display and clean version of Android 8.0.
Our only real quibbles are that the £149.99 is very close to the G6 and the slightly plasticky body.
- Read our Moto E5 Plus review
7. Honor Play
Great performance for the price
- Great performance
- Strong battery life
- Attractive screen
- Not water-resistant
- GPU boost only works with a few games
- Slippery body
- Smart Shock feature doesn’t work
There isn’t really anything else on the market that can compete with the Honor Play in terms of performance for the price. The Kirin 970 is a seriously powerful processor and having it on a phone for less than £300 is a real win.
It’s great in other areas too: the screen is big and bright, battery life impressive and there should be an Android 9 Pie update coming soon.
It’s a shame that the Smart Shock vibration feature isn’t here at launch and the metal build can be a little tough to hold when gaming, but really there’s a lot to like here.
- Read our Honor Play review
8. Xiaomi Mi A2
Good performer but hard to find
- Pure Android
- Dual cameras
- Strong performance for the price
- Good performance
- Missing NFC
- Limited availability
The Xiaomi Mi A2 is Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi’s latest budget handset, featuring a 5.99-inch IPS screen, a Snapdragon 660 CPU and 4GB of RAM, in addition to a 12MP – 20MP dual-camera and 64GB of expandable (once again, via microSD) internal storage.
The software is great too, as it’s got a very clean version of Android with very few added extras.
- Read our Xiaomi Mi A2 review
9. Pocophone F1
- Excellent value for money
- Superb performance
- Fantastic battery life
- Decent cameras
- MIUI for Poco will take some getting used to
- Thick bezels
- Plastic build
- No NFC
The first phone from Xiaomi-affiliated startup Pocophone comes out the gate strutting. The company’s debut device, the Pocophone F1, has pulled the same trick as the original OnePlus One and this year’s Honor Play, although arguably offers more value for money than anything else on the market.
An impressively crisp 6.12-inch Full HD+ screen, the same primary 12-megapixel camera as Xiaomi’s 2018 flagship, a huge 4000mAh battery good for up to two days of use per charge and Qualcomm’s top-tier Snapdragon 845 processor backed up either 6GB or 8GB of RAM, this thing is feature-packed and capable enough to tango with 2018’s most powerful handsets if raw performance is your metric of choice.
The best bit? Based on the starting price of ₹20,999 in its debut market of India, this phone will only set you back around £230/€260/$300.
- Read our Pocophone F1 review
Still not sure? Check out our following guides.
- Best phones
- Best Android phones
- Best Apple iPhone
- Best mid-range phone
- Best phablet / big phone
- Best camera phone
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