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Best cheap phones: Five fantastic affordable handsets

Discover the Trusted Reviews pick of the top affordable handsets, and find out why there’s no need to spend more than you need, to get a good mobile phone

Introduction

On the hunt for a new phone, but not got a spare couple of grand lying around? Then you’re far from alone. While flagship phones are exciting and have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, their prices have also skyrocketed.

Less than half a decade ago £500/$500 would have been firmly flagship territory, but these days most top-of-the-line handsets cost in excess of £1000/$1000.

Thankfully, to counter this trend there have been a number of key developments in the world of affordable phones. As phone prices have rocketed we’ve seen the affordable phone market blossom, with many of the latest sub-£400/$400 handsets we’ve tested featuring hardware and services we’d traditionally only see in devices close to twice the price.

These have included improved cameras, more rugged designs, wireless charging and reliable performance. This has led to an influx of new affordable phones that will actually last more than a couple of years and provide most generalist users with all the power and features they’ll need.

However, despite the trend there are still a number of sub-par affordable phones doing the rounds. Key issues we often spot reviewing them include no guaranteed updates to future versions of Android, sub-par battery life and buggy, bloatware-ridden software.

To help you avoid buying a phone you’ll struggle to use, we’ve created this guide detailing the best affordable phones we’ve reviewed that are still on sale. Every phone has been physically tested by one of our reviewers to gauge its performance in key areas including camera performance, build quality and battery life, so you can trust our buying advice.

We define affordable as any handset retailing for less than £400/$400, however if we go over this amount we’ll make our reasoning clear.

We also have other best lists for those after something a little more specific. Our best camera phone round-up focuses on a device’s photographic and videography skills, while our best mid-range phone lists focussing on slightly pricier devices.

Best cheap phones at a glance

How we test

Learn more about how we test mobile phones

Every phone we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including build quality, screen accuracy, battery life, performance and camera prowess.

These include formal synthetic benchmarks and scripted tests, plus a series of real world checks, such as how much battery it loses per hour streaming video.

We also make sure to use every phone we review as our primary handset for at least 4 days to ensure our review is as accurate as possible. You can see a more detailed breakdown of our testing methodology in our how we test phones guide.

Google Pixel 6a

Best budget camera
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Pros

  • Lovely small form-factor
  • Reliable camera for the price
  • Google’s excellent software

Cons

  • 60Hz display feels slow compared to the rivals
  • Slow to fully charge

This diminutive device is somewhat in the same mould as the iPhone SE 2022; it gives you the best of the brand’s software and features (in this case, Google Android) yet in an affordable and petite handset.

Pixel phones have long been renowned for their excellent cameras, and once again you’ll find two very good snappers here, and they’re bolstered by handy tricks such as Magic Eraser and Night Sight in order to remove unwanted objects or improve your lowlight shooting, respectively. That said, this time around the cameras aren’t such a quantum leap above the competition as previous editions have been.

One area where the Pixel 6a really does excel over its rivals is in the processor, which is the very same Tensor chip that you’ll find in the Pixel 6 Pro. It might not be an absolute beast in performance terms, but it helps to deliver the great software, post-processing, 5G connectivity, and enhanced security that makes this phone a great all-round package.

Though the screen is colourful and punchy, it suffers a bit from not having a refresh rate enhanced beyond the standard 60Hz, so may not seem as smooth as its competitors. Nonetheless, it’s well worth the price when all is taken into consideration.

Reviewer: Max Parker

Full review: Google Pixel 6a

Nothing Phone (1)

Best for design
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Pros

  • A design that stands out
  • Really nice 120Hz OLED display
  • Plenty of phone for the money

Cons

  • Glyph Interface is more of a gimmick than a useful feature
  • Odd performance issues, especally with the camera

Probably the most eye-catching handset on this list, the Nothing Phone (1)‘s design stands out from the crowd due to its transparent back covering and flashing LED arrangement, which can indicate incoming notifications or the charging level. If this out-of-the-ordinary design appeals to you, then it’s a good phone to buy (frankly though, we did find it a tad irritating); but fortunately there’s more to it than just that.

We particularly liked the lush 120Hz display, which is one of the best around at this price point. With HDR support and high levels of brightness, this screen is a joy to use for gaming and more. There are two rear cameras on board, wide and ultrawide, and they both do a pretty good job. Although some snaps can end up looking over-exposed, most of the photos that we took in complimentary lighting conditions turned out very well, while its night shooting was a particular highlight.

The 4500mAh battery was big enough to get us through the day, and it’s great to see the wireless charging feature at this price point as well. However, one of the few negatives about this handset were the performance issues, likely down to sub-par software optimisation, which caused some stuttering from time to time.

Reviewer: Max Parker

Full review: Nothing Phone 1

Realme 9 Pro Plus

Best for fast charging
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Pros

  • Excellent main camera for the money
  • Solid performance
  • Fast 60W charging

Cons

  • Drab design in two of three colours
  • Realme UI isn’t a slick Android skin

The Realme 9 Pro Plus is a very good all-rounder for the price, but it’s got one killer feature in particular, and that’s its main camera. This 50-megapixel sensor is the same one you’ll find on the Oppo Find X5 Pro, and it delivers wonderfully appealing photos that were both sharp and vibrant. Although night-time shots may tend to be over-brightened, they still retain impressive levels of detail and clarity.

The 6.4-inch AMOLED screen is also a boon, with its 90Hz refresh rate and 1080p resolution, while the flashy design gives you a handset that you’ll be proud to hold. In performance terms, the Realme 9 Pro Plus is good enough to run the latest games, and what’s more, it does pack in 5G connectivity like the other phones on this list.

The 4500mAh battery gave us enough juice to get through a moderate day of usage without sweating, and it’s supported with snappy 60W fast-charging that can get you up to 100% from zero in just 44 minutes.

Reviewer: Jon Mundy

Full review: Realme 9 Pro Plus

iPhone SE 2022

Best for Apple fans on a budget
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Pros

  • The fastest phone at this price (by some distance)
  • Takes great daylight pictures
  • IP rating and wireless charging
  • iOS and all the benefits that come with it

Cons

  • Small screen is cramped and restrictive
  • Tired design
  • No night mode in the camera

We are bending our rules slightly to include a phone that breaks our price limit, but if you’re deadset on getting yourself a new iPhone, then this is your cheapest option – and it’s still a belter.

If you can forgive the depressingly dated design, and its associated small screen which measures just 4.7-inches, then the iPhone SE 2022 does in fact still offer a lot of positive points for the price.

First and foremost, it runs on the brilliant A15 Bionic chip, which is one of the very best in the business; it’s actually the very same one that you’ll find on the iPhone 13 Pro, so you won’t be wanting for power. Even better, this phone will be in line for Apple’s unparalleled long-term software support, so we wouldn’t even be surprised to see it getting the latest updates seven years from now.

On top of that, the newest iPhone SE has one of the best cameras that you’ll find for the price, and it particularly delivers on richly detailed images, so that dog fur or woolly jumpers look especially good. All that said, it does miss out on Night Mode, which is a shame, and so if you’re planning to take a lot of pictures when the sun is down then this might not be the best phone for you. The selfie camera also could do with some work, not being to the same standard as the main snapper.

If you’re looking for an iPhone that gives a good camera and strong performance for a cheaper entry price then this is a good bet, but do bear in mind that the screen is small and underwhelming.

Reviewer: Max Parker

Full review: iPhone SE 2022

Poco X4 Pro 5G

Best for a value big screen
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Pros

  • Great screen
  • Very good main camera
  • 67W fast-charging
  • Strong battery life

Cons

  • Unsubtle design
  • Not the most powerful processor
  • Secondary cameras aren’t brilliant

The Poco X4 Pro 5G is great-value handset offers great features across the board, so it’s well worth your consideration if you’re hunting for a handset that’s below $300/£300.

The AMOLED screen measures a generous 6.67-inches with a 1080p resolution, and the headline features is its 120Hz refresh rate, which is brilliant for the price. It’s not auto-adaptive, but if you’re prepared to adjust it yourself then you’ll find that supported content is smoother than ever.

Its main 108-megapixel camera is also worth shouting about, as it delivers excellent pictures that are bound to impress for the price. Night Mode also does a good job of cleaning up any noise that you might get. However, the accompanying ultrawide and macro lens aren’t up to this same standard, being a tad disappointing.

Performance standards are good but not exceptional on this phone, but it does offer 5G connectivity for the latest mobile data speeds. The battery life is brilliant, as we reckon that you could even squeeze two day’s life out of it if you use your phone with some restraint.

There aren’t many downsides here, but one would have to be the unsubtle and clunky design, and the other would be its bloatware-stuffed software interface.

Reviewer: Peter Phelps

Full review: Poco X4 Pro 5G

FAQs

Which cheap phone has the best camera?

Our favourite cheap phone for the camera is the Pixel 6a.

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Comparison Specifications

UK RRP
USA RRP
EU RRP
CA RRP
AUD RRP
Manufacturer
Screen Size
Storage Capacity
Rear Camera
Front Camera
Video Recording
IP rating
Battery
Wirless charging
Fast Charging
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
Operating System
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Resolution
HDR
Refresh Rate
Ports
Chipset
RAM
Colours
Stated Power

Trusted Reviews test data

1 hour music streaming (online)
Time from 0-100% charge
1 hour music streaming (offline)
30 minute gaming (light)
30 minute gaming (intensive)
1 hour video playback (Netflix, HDR)
Max brightness
Time from 0-50% charge
Geekbench 5 multi core
Geekbench 5 single core
sRGB
Adobe RGB
DCI-P3
3D Mark – Wild Life
3D Mark – Sling Shot Extreme

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Founded in 2004, Trusted Reviews exists to give our readers thorough, unbiased and independent advice on what to buy.

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