Best Cheap Phones and Budget Smartphones 2018: 8 great affordable phones

All the best cheap and affordable phones 2018 reviewed and rated

2018 has been a transformative year for the affordable phone with not only traditional low-cost staples from companies such as Motorola on the table but new more aggressive propositions from the likes of Honor and newcomer Pocophone.

The Samsung Galaxy S9, Huawei P20 Pro and iPhone X are all fantastic devices but this list should demonstrate that you don’t need to fork out upwards of £700/$800 to nab yourself a solid long-term smartphone.

There were rumours that Apple was going to unveil a cheap phone at its September 2018 event, however that didn’t come to pass. Instead we got the £749/$749 iPhone XR.

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.

Related: Samsung Galaxy Note 9

How we select the best budget smartphones

But before we dive into our top picks for the best budget smartphones, 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.

best Overall budget phone

Motorola Moto G6

Motorola's Moto G range of phones have become synonymous with punching above their weight, and that very much continues with the latest G6. It's a well-made smartphone that feels and performs better than its price would lead you to believe.

£219.99

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 good the camera is on a whim.

Related: Best Android phones

So now you know how we select the best budget smartphones, let’s take a look at our highlights.

Moto G6

Moto G6

Pros:

  • Fantastic software experience
  • Lovely screen
  • Well built for the price

Cons:

  • Some performance frustrations, especially with the camera

The best budget phone you can buy right now is the Moto G6. We’ve loved entries in the G series before, and the G6 could be one of the best yet. It has a lovely 1080p screen, fantastic software experience and it feels really good thanks to the glass body and ergonomic curves.

The Snapdragon 450 processor and 3GB of RAM churns through most tasks with ease. There’s 32GB storage as standard, and you can also add a microSD card to expand this further.

Our only real disappointment is with the camera. The actual photos from the 12-megapixel shooter are good, but the slow camera app makes for a frustrating experience.

Buy Now: Moto G6 from Amazon for £219 / $309

Moto G6 Play

Pros:

  • Fantastic software experience
  • Good looks
  • Well built for the price

Cons:

  • Slow camera

The cheapest entry in Moto’s 2018 G-series is far from flashy, but if it’s value for money you’re after then you can’t go wrong. Where the Moto G6 Play beats its pricier sibling is when it comes to battery life. The endurance here is fantastic and if battery life and value are your biggest wants then you won’t go wrong.

Buy now: Moto G6 Play from Amazon for £169.99 / $229

Honor 10

Pros:

  • Sleek design
  • Powerful hardware
  • Good value

Cons:

  • EMUI Android skin is bloated
  • Some performance bugs

£400 is the upper limit of the affordable phone market, but when it comes to value for money, it’s hard to beat the Honor 10.

The phone follows the same strategy as past Honor phones. It aims to offer users the best parts of Huawei’s current flagship, the P20, with a few minor hardware compromises. The end result is a beautiful, feature-packed Android device with features and hardware traditionally seen on significantly more expensive handsets.

Highlights include a stellar 5.84-inch 2280p x 1080p FHD+ screen that’s best in class at this price, a powerhouse Kirin 970 CPU that blitzes through 3D gaming, and an above-average dual-sensor rear camera.

The 24-megapixel and 16-megapixel, f/1.8 dual-camera doesn’t have Leica branding, but it’s one of the best you’ll find for the money. The added AI mode, which auto-optimises the camera settings for “500+ scenarios in 22 categories” in real-time, also makes it an ideal option for those who aren’t particularly clued up on camera tech.

The only slight downside is the Honor 10’s EMUI Android skin, which adds a few minor software bugs and bloatware applications.

In a sense, the 10 is just the tip of the iceberg, with regards to affordability without compromising on the more powerful aspects of a smartphone. The upcoming Honor Play might make a good alternative when it launches at the end of August, whilst Xiaomi sub-brand Pocophone has just introduced its debut device, the Pocophone F1, which packs in a liquid-cooled Snapdragon 845 for around £300/$350 (pricing outside of India is still unconfirmed).

Moto E5 Plus

Pros:

  • Fantastic battery life
  • Good screen
  • Comes with a case

Cons:

  • 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.

Honor Play

Honor Play front handheld angled

Pros:

  • Great performance
  • Strong battery life
  • Attractive screen

Cons:

  • 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.

Moto G6 Plus

Moto G6 Plus

Pros:

  • So much tech for your cash
  • Good performance
  • Jazzed-up design

Cons:

  • Not water-resistant

The Moto G6 Plus is well-equipped in almost all areas. The 12MP rear-facing camera is reliable, though nothing to write home about, while the Snapdragon 630 CPU and 4GB of RAM – depending on the storage variant you opt for – is a smooth mid-range combination that ensures minimal slowdown.

Our main qualm with the Moto G6 Plus is that, unlike older models, it isn’t water-resistant. Still, this is a fantastic device with a great screen at a price that can’t really be beaten.

Xiaomi Mi A2

Xiaomi Mi A2

Pros: 

  • Pure Android
  • Dual cameras
  • Strong performance for the price
  • Good performance

Cons:

  • 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.

Pocophone F1

Xiaomi Pocophone F1 top down by lamp

Pros:

  • Excellent value for money
  • Superb performance
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Decent cameras

Cons: 

  • 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.

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