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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 can be expensive. The good news is that, with so many fantastic affordable phones on the market right now, there’s really no need to drop £1000 (or even £600) on your next upgrade unless you want a top-of-the-line handset. 

Below, you’ll find all the best cheap phones available right now with prices ranging from £180 to around £400/£500. These phones threaten not only our top flagship picks, but also the best mid-range phones on sale right now, oftentimes offering specs and features available on higher-end devices at a fraction of the price. 

Each phone on this list has been subject to rigorous benchmark tests and real-world use to give us the best idea of how good a phone really is. These include tests to ensure the screen, camera, processor and more are up to scratch, though each phone will vary depending on where it’s strengths lay. All of the devices in this guide scored highly in our reviews, so you can be confident that they’re the best affordable phones you can get right now. 

Currently, the list consists of handsets from the likes of Realme, Xiaomi, Google, Apple and more. However, it’s worth checking back before you shop as we update our recommendations as newer phones are released.

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.

Realme X50 5G

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

Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro

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

  • 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 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

Google Pixel 4a

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

Poco F3

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

  • Superb screen
  • Powerful processor
  • Excellent value for money

Cons

  • Decent but not great camera
  • Disappointing software

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

OnePlus Nord N10 5G

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

  • 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

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

Realme 8 Pro

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

  • 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

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

Motorola Moto G8

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

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

Cons

  • Screen is not the best

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

iPhone SE 2

Is the affordable iPhone SE the true iPhone for everyone?
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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 iPhone SE 2 is Apple’s only non-flagship smartphone, designed for users who want an Apple phone and enjoy the iOS operating system, but perhaps aren’t so keen on the cost of the iPhone 12 series.

The SE 2 is the second phone in the SE series and offers a large number of flagship features at a very tempting price.

Rather than sharing a design with the original SE, the iPhone SE 2 shares a design with the no-longer sold iPhone 8. The SE 2 features curved sides, a glass back, chunky bezels and a circular Touch ID sensor that will feel either nostalgic or dated depending on your design preferences.

However, moving on from the design, this is a great phone. The 12-megapixel camera performs admirably in daylight and captures excellent 4K 60fps video, although we do wish its 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.

We also considered…

We’ve reviewed

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Comparison Specifications

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Storage Capacity
Rear Camera
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Video Recording
IP rating
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Wirless charging
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First Reviewed Date
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Founded in 2004, Trusted Reviews exists to give our readers thorough, unbiased and independent advice on what to buy.

Today, we have 9 million users a month around the world, and assess more than 1,000 products a year.

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