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Best cheap phones 2021: 8 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

Flagship smartphones command seriously high prices – which can be a daunting prospect if you’re in the market for a new phone. Thankfully there are a lot of excellent cheap phones available right now.

There’s a wide selection of handsets to choose from – and, following thorough testing, below you’ll find a list of the very best cheap phones you can buy.

The best budget handsets available right now will truly make you question whether you should spend more than £/$400-£/$500 on a phone ever again, threatening not only the flagships, but mid-range devices too.

If you’re looking for a phone with an advanced camera, or other higher-end features, check out our best Android phones guide. And you won’t need to spend too much more to grab even more of those flagship features, as our best mid-range phone guide details.

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.

The Realme X50 5G is one of the boldest mobile phones statements of 2020
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Pros

  • At $399/£419 this is an excellent buy
  • Flagship performance should keep this speedy for years
  • Great photos in daylight situations
  • Impressive video capabilities
  • Offers a strong proposition for those who don’t want big phones

Cons

  • Battery life is far from excellent
  • A new design would’ve been welcome

The Realme X50 5G truly deserves your attention if picking between the best cheap phones, with the handset bringing together a truly stunning feature set for less than £300.

You get 5G connectivity, an impressive 120Hz panel, excellent battery life and decent Snapdragon 765G performance.

And these features don’t come in a budget hardware package to save money, either. Realme delivers a curved glass back (not often seen on most cheap phone rivals) as well as a surprisingly premium all-around design, all while keeping the price down. The Realme X50 5G is one of the biggest phone bargains of recent years. 

Reviewer: Andrew Williams
Full review: Realme X50 5G

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro is a sub-£300 phone that smartly focuses on the three things that really matter to most people: a great display, a good camera, and dependable battery life.
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Pros

  • Very good battery life
  • Low price for a 5G phone
  • Well-specced 120Hz screen
  • Strong general and gaming performance
  • Surprisingly capable main camera, even at night

Cons

  • Two of the rear cameras are filler
  • No headphone jack

The Redmi Note 10 Pro is an absolute steal for £219/$279. Key features here include a whopping 5020mAh battery that can go two days, 33w charging for quick top-ups and a very capable Snapdragon 732G chipset.

Like many other cheaper Xiaomi phones, you’ve got a 120Hz display that offers smooth scrolling and responsive gaming. There’s a very good 108MP camera on the back that delivers some of the best snaps you’ll get for this price. We were even impressed with the low-light shots captured from the night mode during testing.

The only real missing feature is 5G, which is hardly a necessity at this price. 

Reviewer: Jon Mundy
Full review: Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro

The Pixel 4a gives you a flagship camera on the cheap
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Pros

  • Best in class 120Hz AMOLED display
  • 108MP camera capable of fine things
  • Excellent stamina from 5020mAh
  • Bargain price tag

Cons

  • No 5G
  • Camera disappoints in less-than-ideal lighting

The Pixel 4a was a long time coming and, thankfully, it lives up to the acclaim of its Pixel 3a predecessor. It earned its spot on our best cheap phones roundup, delivering a remarkable camera experience at a super-low price.

While it’s that combo of affordable price and top-notch Google camera capability that will woo many, there’s plenty more to like from the Pixel 4a besides. In a world of super-sized devices, the new mid-range Pixel offers a pocketable experience for those longing to return to the days of smaller handsets.

Google may have saved some money in the performance area, by including the Snapdragon 730 processor, but the Pixel 4a screen isn’t an area that suffers. It may not be 90Hz, but the OLED panel is sharp and the inclusion of HDR is another nice bonus.

Think Pixel and you think of the snappy stock Android experience, and that’s just what you get here. It may not be as ultrafast as some flagships costing twice its price, but it’s more than capable – and you can rest easy knowing updates will come thick and fast.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: Pixel 4a review

With some true flagship specifications despite the unassuming price tag, is the Poco F3 the top-drawer mid-ranger you’ve been longing for?
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Pros

  • Great camera
  • Refreshingly small size for an Android phone
  • The promise of fast updates
  • Nice, sharp OLED screen
  • Affordable

Cons

  • You’ll find competition with far larger spec sheets and feature lists
  • Some mild performance and touch latency hiccups
  • As well as being a Pro, the small screen might put some off

The Poco F3 isn’t the cheapest phone on our list, however it packs a number of high-end features that still make it excellent value.

This includes the use of a near-flagship Snapdragon 870 chipset that offers some of the best performance we’ve ever seen from a phone this price, a fantastic OLED display and 5G support. While 5G support is becoming more common even at this price, it’s still not a given.

That OLED display is one of the highlights here as it not only packs a sharp 1080p resolution, it has HDR10 support and a 120Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling too.

You do have to make some sacrifices for the price, but most of these are commonplace among other similar phones. The camera is good, not great, and the software takes some getting used to.

If you’re after a seriously fast 5G phone that’s ideal for gaming then this could very well be the one for you. 

Reviewer: Peter Phelps
Full review: Poco F3

The OnePlus Nord N10 5G is one of a growing sea of affordable smartphones, aiming to offer flagship features at rock-bottom prices. It’s being marketed as an ideal handset for avid mobile gamers and movie watchers on a strict budget, looking to enjoy the benefits of 5G.
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Pros

  • Superb screen
  • Powerful processor
  • Excellent value for money

Cons

  • Decent but not great camera
  • Disappointing software

OnePlus made its name making flagship phones for cheaper prices. Now it’s going full on with a budget device. The OnePlus N10 5G isn’t the cheapest model in the line, however it’s far more affordable than the OnePlus 9.

Some standout features here include a 90Hz display, 5G-capable Snapdragon 690 chipset for solid gaming performance and a multitude of average cameras on the back.

This, plus its nice, bloatware-free software and reliable, albeit not best in class camera, won us over during testing. If you’re on a strict budget and looking for a phone with no clear weaknesses the Nord N10 may be the one for you. 

Reviewer: Alastair Stevenson
Full review:
OnePlus N10 5G

The Realme 8 Pro is an affordable phone with a 108MP camera and fast charging. It is missing some features you might now expect even at this price, including 5G and a high refresh rate display.
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Pros

  • Great value for money
  • Solid gaming performance
  • Affordable entry point to 5G

Cons

  • Camera isn’t the best you’ll find at this price
  • No IP rating

There are a number of things to really like about the Realme 8 Pro. First off is the very good (for the price) 108MP main camera on the back which shoots well in strong light and even has passable digital zoom. Next is the fast charging, which can you take you to 50% in around 17 minutes. We’re also fond of the price and the use of an OLED display.

However, some aspects let this down and it is not quite the star other Realme phones have been. There’s no 5G, for instance, and the back is plastered with an ugly slogan that will certainly put some people off. We also weren’t impressed with the heavy reliance on plastic in the build. 

Reviewer: Andrew Williams
Full review: Realme 8 Pro

Is the Motorola G8 the best phone you can buy for under £200?
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Pros

  • Solid primary camera
  • Surprisingly effective 3x digital zoom
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Plastic rear and sides
  • There’s a giant ugly slogan on the back
  • Slow fingerprint scanner
  • Weak secondary cameras

It might now be treading back into the flagship space, but Motorola’s finest phones remain its budget options – at least in our eyes. The Motorola Moto G8 ticks many of the boxes we look for when it comes to picking an easy to recommend entry for best cheap phones.

It offers a decent main 16-megapixel camera, paired with an 8-megapixel ultra-wide, impressing with both its performance and battery life. In terms of specifics, you’re looking at a Snapdragon 665 with 4GB of RAM and a 4000mAh battery.

Our only real qualm is the screen, which lacks the high-resolution of some of the other Moto G8 entries.

Reviewer: Peter Phelps
Full review: Motorola Moto G8

Is the affordable iPhone SE the true iPhone for everyone?
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Pros

  • Good main camera
  • Decent performance and battery life
  • Impressive value

Cons

  • Screen is not the best

Apple’s latest phone isn’t flashy, yet it manages to offer a number of flagship features for a price that makes it hard to ignore, earning it a place on our list of the best cheap phones.

Instead of mirroring the old iPhone SE, the iPhone SE 2 looks identical to the no-longer sold iPhone 8. Curved sides, glass back, chunky bezel and a circular Touch ID sensor give it a familiar feel, even if it may appear a little dull to some.

However, below the surface this is a great phone. The 12-megapixel camera performs admirably in daylight and captures excellent 4K 60fps video, although we do wish low-light performance was  better.

You’ll find the same A13 Bionic chip as the iPhone 11 Pro, a sharp 4.7-inch display with fantastic colour reproduction and handy extras such as Qi wireless charging and an IP67 rating for water- and dust-resistance. 

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: iPhone SE 2

FAQs

What’s the best cheap phone?

Currently, our favourite cheap phone is the Realme X50 5G.

Which cheap phone has the best camera?

Our favourite cheap phone for the camera is the Pixel 4a.

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