Take it from us – the uni experience just isn’t complete without a decent phone in your pocket. From watching Netflix to grabbing a quick photo, a solid smartphone is essential, and we’ve weighed up the best.
Going into uni, keeping your expenses down will always be a keen point of interest, but even more so in the midst of a pandemic. With that in mind, we’ve made sure that no phone featured on this list costs more than £500. Anything more than that and all future prospects of having money to buy food will go right out the window.
To make things even simpler, we’re separated these phones into three distinct budget categories so you can get straight to the one that applies to you. All of the phones featured here have been tested by Trusted Reviews, and have received a 4-star rating or higher, so you can be sure you’re always getting a great deal.
Cheap and cheerful – Under £200
Kicking things off on the cheaper end of the scale, the Moto E6 Plus is one of those rare occurrences: a great phone for under £100. It almost seems too good to be true, but the E6 Plus packs a fairly decent screen for the price and even more surprisingly, a capable selfie-camera for those much needed party shots.
Adding to the E6 Plus’ value is the fact that there’s a case included in the box, keeping your purchase safe from the get go (and from any accidental drops at the pub).
Another one from Motorola, at a slightly higher price, is the Moto G8 Power. Alongside its large 6.4-inch display and huge 4000mAh battery, the G8 Power packs not two, not three, but four rear-facing cameras to give you versatility on the go. Admittedly, you’ll want to stick with the main sensor for the best quality, but the G8 is surprisingly adept at tackling almost any scenario you throw at it.
Back to School – affordable phones
Proving that a great phone doesn't have to break the bank, the Moto E6 Plus offers a solid experience all-round for under £100.
With a whopping quad-camera set-up, the Moto G8 Power gives you a lot of bang for your buck, and it's now even cheaper with this sweet deal.
Excellent value for money – £200-300
If you foresee plenty of late nights, binging a boatload of shows on Netflix, Disney Plus and the like, then you’re going to need two things – a great screen and an even better battery. Enter, the Samsung Galaxy M31.
Coming in at a mere £245, the Galaxy M31 boasts a 6.4-inch AMOLED display, which uses self-lighting pixels to deliver impressive colour clarity. When paired with the phone’s near two-day battery life, the Galaxy M31 is the perfect phone for content junkies on a budget.
Still, not everyone uses their phone for watching content (What else are laptops for?), and some prefer to use their phone as their go-to device for pictures. If having a decent camera in your pocket is your key interest, then look no further than the Pixel 3a.
Packing the same incredible rear-facing camera as the Pixel 3 but in a more affordable package, the 3a can take some truly jaw-dropping shots in almost any scenario. Plus, with Google’s tried and tested Night Sight mode, you can still get great results in a dimly lit environment.
Back to School – £200-300 phones
Need a phone that'll get you through tons of binge-watching? The Galaxy M31 is just the ticket, with an AMOLED screen and two-day battery life.
When it comes to cameras on smartphones, the Pixel 3a is among the best of them, and now it can be picked up for even less via Currys PC World.
Sub-premium – Over £300
It’s a sign of how far smartphones have come over the years that you can now get some of the best handsets out there for less than £500. If you do have a bit more cash to play around with, you can get a lore more for your money, which is why we’ve included two picks, one Android and one iOS, for you to choose from.
Starting with the obvious pick, how could we not include the new iPhone SE 2? Just when it seemed like Apple’s affordable handset might never see a refresh, the company kicked the door down and delivered a phone of unbelievable value, packing the same super fast A13 chipset found in the iPhone 11 Pro.
With such advanced tech on the inside (and access to the far superior App Store), the new iPhone SE is future-proof to the point where you probably won’t need another phone for the entirety of your time at university.
Of course, there are still plenty of people out there who won’t make the jump to iOS even if you paid them (hey, no judgement here), and to those folks we say, have you considered the Xiaomi Mi 9?
One of the few phones to get a full 5-star rating here at Trusted Reviews, the Xiaomi Mi 9 packs some of the best camera set-ups we’ve seen at this price point. The value only gets better with the inclusion of a bright AMOLED screen and the Snapdragon 855 chipset for speedy performance.
Back to School – £300+ phones
Apple's affordable iPhone is by far, one of the best handsets you can get for under £500. Now even cheaper via Currys PC World's clearance store.
The Xiaomi Mi 9 offers an impressive rear-camera array for under £500, with the ability to tackle most lighting situations with ease.
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