What is the best cheap phone for most people?
We’ve taken all the affordable phones we’ve reviewed over the last year and ranked them to help you find the perfect smartphone to suit most people’s needs and budget.
So if you’re on the lookout for a phone that won’t break the bank, you’re in luck. The reason is that cheaper phones have improved significantly over the past few years. Companies have made great strides in incorporating top-end innovations into affordable handsets, meaning you can now get a phone that performs well and is more budget-friendly. (And you still might get a headphone jack too.)
Scroll down past the following summary to see our in-depth list and read the in-depth review. But if you’re in a rush, why not take a look at our quick-fire top 10 below.
- Best for camera: Xiaomi Redmii Note 7
- Best for £300: Moto G7 Plus
- Best for flagship quality: Xiaomi Mi 9
- Best for battery: Moto G7 Power
- Best for under £200: Honor 10 Lite
- Solid all-rounder: Huawei P Smart 2019
- Best for £100: Motorola Moto E6 Plus
- Good for quality: Xiaomi Mi A2
- Superb all-rounder : Pocophone F1
As manufacturers have tried to stretch pricing at the top end (Pixel 4 and iPhone 11, we’re looking at you), it’s opened up opportunities further down.
With a few special exceptions, all the phones on the following list cost between £100- £350 although we’ve snuck in one higher priced one as it’s great value for its spec.
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How do we select the best budget smartphones?
All of the phones listed below have been tested according to our stringent reviews criteria.
We selected this list based on the price and the performance of the phones rated in our full reviews (we link to each full review below so you can find out more).
- When we test a phone, we transfer all of our data across, then use each of the smartphones for a week as our main handset.
- We also bench test each phone using industry standard software, which enables us to test the accuracy of the maker’s performance claims, and we use specialised hardware to check the performance and colour reproduction of the screen. This also enables us to make fair comparisons between brands.
- Dedicating so much time to each model in this way means we can get an accurate picture of how the phones perform in the real world. We’re able to get a solid 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 more about how we test phones here or click on each review link below for the full performance details of each one.
It’s not uncommon these days for cheap phones to include everything from wireless charging all the way up to advanced dual-sensor camera set-ups. These undeniably awesome developments do, however, make it a little trickier to work out which cheap phone will best meet your specific needs. We’ve also answered some of your most common cheap phone buying questions at the end of the article, so scroll down to see the full picture.
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1. Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
A big camera at a small price
- Long-lasting battery
- Impressive performance
- Great screen
- No NFC
- Mono speaker
- Busy interface
This relatively new Chinese brand is not one of the better known models but it’s top of our list. And that’s because if you’re looking for a killer camera but you’re on a particularly tight budget, the Redmi Note 7 offers astounding value for money. Xiaomi’s own MIUI 10 software does weigh the phone down slightly, but, other than that, this phone is impressively well-rounded.
The blockbusting 48-megapixel primary camera (which is supported by a 5-megapixel depth module) is a real highlight. The sensor is the same as you’d find in everything from the Motorola One Vision to the OnePlus 7 Pro and, while there’s no optical image stabilisation (OIS) to speak of here, as on more expensive handsets, it’s a superb snapper set-up all the same.
The Redmi’s extended Full HD+ IPS screen is equally impressive, offering great colour reproduction, good viewing angles and decent legibility outdoors – not always a certainty with more budget-friendly phones.
- Read our Redmi Note 7 review
2. Moto G8 Plus
An excellent all-rounder for under £300
- Good value for money
- Fantastic speakers
- Ticks most of the boxes for people looking for a budget phone
- Not a huge update on the G7 Plus
- Camera has a few annoying limitations
Occupying the top spot in Motorola’s second G-series line-up of 2019, the Moto G8 Plus is currently the best phone you can get for under £300 and it’s another Moto that’s performed well in our tests.
You get a sophisticated mixed metal and glass phone for your money, with a teardrop notch that looks and feels more expensive than most rival handsets at this price.
You’ve got a nice 6.3-inch display on the front with strong colour gamut coverage along with three camera sensors on the back. This combines a 48-megapixel, f/1.7 main, 16-megapixel ultra-wide and 5-megapixel depth parts. There’s loads of megapixels here and it takes really good pictures with vibrant colours and decent colour accuracy.
There’s a 4000mAh inside, 15w fast charging and a capable Snapdragon 665 chipset paired with 4GB RAM.
- Read our Moto G8 Plus review
3. Xiaomi Mi 9
A true flagship model at half the price
- Fantastic performance
- Excellent screen
- Versatile camera
- Stunning value
- No IP rating
This list is usually made up of phones under £350. We feel that’s a fair price and a value proposition we’re happy to call ‘budget’. The Xiaomi Mi 9 is the exception however, and we simply had to include it here as it’s such good value for money even though it does push our price envelope a bit.
Priced at a heftier £499, the phone is equivalent to a model that costs double this. It includes the latest Snapdragon 855 chipset, a 6.4-inch OLED display, three cameras – including a 48-megapixel main sensor – and fast wireless charging. You won’t find those kinds of specs offered in any other phone at this price.
Granted, there’s no water resistance and it’s packing in a flat screen, but the next-best devices cost at least £150 more. That’s why it’s here.
- Read our Xiaomi Mi 9 review
5. Moto G7 Power
Battery life for days
- Stunning battery life
- Superb value
- Robust performance
- Nice look and feel
- Muffled voice calls
- Average camera
The Moto G7 Power represents incredible value for money and boasts one of the longest-lasting batteries we’ve ever reviewed. It also has a very nice design and its performance won’t leave you yearning for extra oomph. And all this for £179.
It does, of course, have a few downsides. Call quality is so-so and the camera is weak, so if you’re on a tight budget and you’d rather go for a phone with a standout camera over one with a Herculean battery, you should check out the Moto G7 Plus instead, which comes in at number four on our list. At £269, it’s more expensive but still excellent value for under £300.
- Read our Moto G7 Power review
6. Honor 10 Lite
A lot of phone for under £200
- Feature rich
- Decent battery life
- Attractive design for the price
- Case is included
- Plastic build
- Heavy-skinned software missing key features
- Prone to fingerprints
If you’re looking for a capable phone that’s outside of the Motorola range, our first port of call would be Honor’s handsets. The Honor 10 2018 flagship is a superb phone in its own right and you can pick one up for under £400, although the Honor 10 Lite, available at half the price, is also worth considering.
The 10 Lite boasts the latest version of Android Pie, topped with Honor’s own Emotion UI 9 overlay. It also offers a feature-packed user experience, offering tons in the way of customisation, as well as AI-enhanced premium features like integrated retail image search through the phone’s HiVision tool. There’s even a headphone jack, which helps grant the phone FM radio functionality.
In terms of the rear cameras, the dual 13/2-megapixel pairing takes usable shots in most conditions, with built-in AI scene recognition for automated settings adjustment. There’s also a dedicated portrait mode, an impressive night mode and a rich suite of beauty tools for selfie-lovers who make use of the impressively crisp 24-megapixel front-facing camera.
- Read our Honor 10 Lite review
7. Huawei P Smart 2019
A capable and affordable phone in early 2019
- Robust camera experience
- Feature-rich software
- Poor earpiece speaker placement
- microUSB is now dated
- Fingerprint-prone plastic build
As you might have already guessed from the name, this phone is Huawei’s revival of its youth-centric P Smart series for 2019. It has an impressively low price tag of just £199 and, like the Honor 10 Lite that launched just ahead of it, the P Smart boasts a Kirin 710 processor with AI smarts, dual 13/2-megapixel primary camera with depth-sensing powers and large 3400mAh battery with fast charging.
Its ceramic-like finish, although undoubtedly eye-catching, is a little cheap to the touch. The phone does, however, feature the latest Android software and comes equipped with an impressive set of additional features, courtesy of Huawei. The cameras also 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 and an improvement on the earlier models.
- Read our Huawei P Smart 2019 review
8. Motorola Moto E6 Plus
The best phone you’ll find for £100
- Excellent value
- Good quality, sharp-enough screen
- Impressive selfie camera
- Includes a case
- Slow to charge
- Apps and games a little slow to load
- No NFC
For under £100 you’re going to struggle to find a better phone than the Moto E6 Plus. It offers excellent value and is an ideal choice if you’re not fussed about fancy features, want a phone for your child or just something to use as back up.
It packs a 6.1-inch HD+ display which is surprisingly ok, a basic 13-megapixel rear camera with a secondary 2-megapixel sensor for depth tracking and a design that doesn’t look like it costs £99.
- Read our Motorola Moto E6 Plus review
9. Xiaomi Mi A2
Good performer but hard to find
- Strong performance, especially for the price
- Dual cameras
- Pure Android
- Limited availability
- Missing NFC
One of Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi’s latest budget handsets, the Xiaomi Mi A2 features a 5.99-inch IPS screen, Snapdragon 660 CPU and 4GB of RAM, in addition to a 12-megapixel/20-megapixel dual-camera set-up 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 in the form of Android One.
- Read our Xiaomi Mi A2 review
10. Pocophone F1
- Superb performance
- Fantastic battery life
- Excellent value for money
- Decent cameras
- Thick bezels
- Plastic build
- MIUI for Poco will take some getting used to
- No NFC
Coming out of the gates strong, Pocophone F1 is the first phone from Xiaomi-affiliated start-up Pocophone. And the company’s debut device has repeated the same successes as the original OnePlus One and the 2018 Honor Play.
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 beefy Snapdragon 845 processor, backed up either 6GB or 8GB of RAM – this is a phone that’s packed with features and capable enough to compete with some of the most powerful handsets from the last year, if raw performance is your metric of choice.
And there’s even more good news: usually already competitively priced at around £330, the Pocophone F1 is often available at a discount – turning a great deal into a superb one.
- Read our Pocophone F1 review
How do I choose the right budget mobile?
1. Can I trust brands that I don’t recognise?
There has been an recent influx of new manufacturers entering the UK phone market, with Chinese giants Xiaomi and Oppo both joining the fray in the past year alone. That’s because most phones, whichever the brand, are actually manufactured in China, so there’s a huge amount of technical expertise there, as well as a huge local market.
Given that, even if you aren’t familiar with all the featured brands, you don’t need to worry, because each handset in this round-up has been put through our full review process, so if it’s in this list, we’ve judged it to be a worthwhile purchase, based on the expertise of our experienced mobile team.
2. What’s the problem with Huawei and Honor phones?
Due to the recent retraction of Huawei’s Google Play Services license, due to the US/China trade dispute, new Huawei and Honor phones (those announced from this autumn) won’t be able to access Google Play Services and, as a result, key Google Android apps, including YouTube and Gmail, won’t work.
Huawei is attempting to redress this by using its own operating systems and software, but it will be an issue for most phone buyers given the ubiquitousness of Google’s apps. However any Huawei and Honor phones mentioned on this list, because they pre-date the dispute, will retain access to updates for the time being.
3. Is it better to buy phones from carriers/networks or elsewhere?
The answer to this completely depends on what you’re looking for. Typically, there is the opportunity to pair your phone with a competitive contract when buying from carriers. It’s always safest to buy direct from the company or a certified retailer if you’re looking to buy a handset SIM-free.
4. Do any of these phones support 5G?
The quick answer is no. With 5G in its infancy, the technology so far remains reserved for specialised top-tier models, such as the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G and Samsung Galaxy S10 5G. At the time of writing, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G is the most affordable phone right now to boast 5G. That phone is a Vodafone UK exclusive and is priced at £49 upfront, plus £54 a month for 24 months.
5G won’t trickle down to the affordable smartphone market until the technology gains mainstream adoption and appeal, so don’t expect anything 5G at budget prices anytime soon.
Still not sure what to buy?
Anyone who’s still unsure should check out the following Trusted Reviews guides: