Android & iOS App & Software Gaming Review

Best cheap phone 2023: six smartphones for under $500

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Inflation has loads of us wanting extra carefully at worth tags recently. Whereas your grocery receipt could also be filled with unhealthy information, we’ve obtained some excellent news, no less than: you will get an excellent cellphone for underneath $500 today.

A lot of our picks run about $400 or $500, however there are nice choices for $300 and underneath, too. You will discover a shiny, high-definition OLED display or a battery that lasts for days. In the event you can hone in on the one or two options which might be most necessary to you and also you’re keen to compromise elsewhere, you will get a cellphone that fits your wants for half the value of a flagship.

What compromises are you able to anticipate from a finances cellphone? Some mixture of the next: slower processors, much less storage, and lousier cameras than flagship telephones, virtually throughout the board. Many have lower-resolution screens, and most lack official water-resistance rankings, wi-fi charging, and NFC chips for contactless fee. 

And whereas we often advocate shopping for unlocked telephones to maximise flexibility, you would possibly discover higher offers — and far decrease up-front prices — by subsidizing your buy by your service. Simply remember to learn the superb print and know what you’re stepping into since you’ll usually want to modify to a pricier plan or add a brand new line to get that “free cellphone.” On the very least, you’ll be primarily agreeing to stay with the service for the subsequent two or three years, so ensure you’re pleased with its service.

The very best iPhone underneath $500

$429

The 2022 iPhone SE will final for over 5 years if it’s taken care of due to Apple’s wonderful monitor file of providing iOS updates to older units. However its tiny 4.7-inch display feels cramped now and could also be robust to make use of in 5 years’ time whereas apps and webpages proceed to be designed for greater screens.

Display screen: 4.7-inch 1334p LCD / Processor: A15 Bionic Cameras: 12-megapixel f/1.8 with OIS, 7-megapixel selfie / Charging: 20W wired, 7.5W wi-fi / Climate-resistance score: IP67

The 128GB iPhone SE is the perfect worth on the smartphone market, interval. It’s an amazing deal at $479 when you think about that it’ll proceed receiving iOS updates for upwards of 5, even six or seven years.

However earlier than you decide up an SE anticipating to coast by a lot of the subsequent decade with out shopping for a brand new cellphone: ensure you can dwell with its very small, very dated 4.7-inch display. It’s the identical dimension because the one on the iPhone 6, and it’s beginning to really feel cramped in an age when apps and internet pages are designed for greater screens. The SE’s large bezels make the machine look dated, too, however the usability of a small display might be an even bigger issue through the years to return.

The 2022 iPhone SE is a low-cost entry level to the iOS ecosystem.
Photograph by Allison Johnson / The Verge

That’s the most important knock in opposition to the SE. In any other case, it’s a unbelievable midrange machine. Its A15 processor is similar as iPhone 13 Professional Max, so efficiency is superb. There’s IP67 waterproofing and wi-fi charging — each unusual on this worth vary — and regardless that it makes use of the identical 12-megapixel digital camera that iPhones have used because the daybreak of time, it takes very good pictures and high-quality video clips. The digital camera has no evening mode, which is a curious omission — many different midrange telephones supply some type of low-light picture mode, and the cellphone’s processor is definitely as much as the duty. Apple gonna Apple.

This technology SE provides 5G connectivity — simply low- and mid-band, which is ok. You gained’t get the quick millimeter-wave 5G you would possibly encounter in an NFL stadium, however it’s nothing to lose sleep over. Battery life can also be improved over the past technology, and it’ll typically final a full day until you actually push it with demanding duties like gaming and streaming video.

In the event you can dwell with the small display and also you aren’t bothered by the dearth of evening mode, we advocate selecting up the 128GB model. The bottom mannequin’s 64GB of storage isn’t fairly sufficient, and also you’ll be glad you spent the additional $50 whenever you’re utilizing this cellphone for years into the longer term.

Learn my full evaluation of the Apple iPhone SE (2022)

The very best Android cellphone underneath $500

A54 5G sitting askew on top of two notebooks showing rear panel.

$449

The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G adopts the S23-series’ rear panel design and a few different flagship-esque options, beginning with its 6.4-inch show.

Display screen: 6.4-inch, 1080p OLED, 120Hz / Processor: Exynos 1380 Cameras: 50-megapixel F/1.8 major with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 5-megapixel macro, 32-megapixel selfie / Battery: 5,000mAh / Charging: 25W wired / Climate-resistance score: IP67

The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G is a simple alternative proper now as the perfect Android cellphone within the class. It provides a function set that’s unmatched on this class, beginning with a superb 6.4-inch, 1080p OLED with a {smooth} 120Hz refresh charge. It may possibly virtually idiot you into considering you’re utilizing a $1,000 flagship cellphone. The A54 isn’t the perfect decide for digital camera high quality — the Pixel 6A remains to be forward there — but when a very good display is your precedence, you’ll be hard-pressed to discover a higher one at this worth.

The A54 is constructed with sturdy glass panels on the front and back, and it carries an IP67 score for defense in opposition to mud and immersion in shallow water. It’s additionally backed up with a sturdy software program help coverage. Samsung guarantees 4 years of OS model upgrades and 5 years of safety updates, which is likely one of the greatest insurance policies for any Android cellphone at any worth. There’s additionally a giant 5,000mAh battery that may energy by a full day of heavy use, however you’ll have to buy a charger individually if you wish to reap the benefits of its quick 25W charging speeds.

The A54’s large OLED panel with a quick high refresh charge is its strongest promoting level.
Photograph by Allison Johnson / The Verge

Digicam high quality is okay, however it’s not a powerful swimsuit. Photographs and movies in good lighting look superb, however the A54 struggles to maintain up with any type of movement in low gentle. There’s an evening mode for static topics, however getting a pointy picture of your child or pet in dim indoor lighting might be troublesome, and the year-old Pixel 6A remains to be approach forward on this division.

The Galaxy A54 provides just a few creature comforts not usually seen within the finances class, together with that wonderful show. It’s not the most suitable choice for picture high quality, however as a complete package deal, it’s laborious to high. Till we see what the Pixel 7A is fabricated from, it’s simply the perfect finances alternative on Android.

Learn my full evaluation of the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G.

The very best digital camera on a cellphone underneath $500

$299

Google’s Pixel 6A comes with a comparatively small 6.1-inch OLED display however is a superb performer with a very good digital camera and battery life.

Display screen: 6.1-inch 1080p OLED / Processor: Tensor Cameras: 12-megapixel f/1.7 with OIS, 8-megapixel selfie / Battery: 4,410mAh / Charging: 18W wired / Climate-resistance score: IP67

The Pixel 6A is probably going on the very finish of its lifespan because the 7A is closely rumored to be arriving in early Might. So in the event you can maintain off a short while, it’s value seeing what Google will convey to its finances machine this time round. Within the meantime, the 6A is seemingly on fireplace sale. You possibly can simply discover one for about $300, which is a heck of a deal. It’s solely scheduled to get two extra OS model upgrades, however it’ll obtain safety patches till no less than July 2027. At that time, you’re virtually getting cash off your machine.

The cellphone’s largest asset is Tensor, the custom-built chipset Google used within the firm’s 2021 flagships, the 6 and 6 Professional. Not solely does it allow superb general efficiency now, however it additionally implies that the 6A will sustain for a few years to return. Google guarantees 5 years of safety updates for the 6A, and with an IP67 water resistance score, it’s a very good all-around guess if you need a finances cellphone that may final.

The 6A’s least spectacular function is its display — a 6.1-inch 1080p OLED with a regular 60Hz refresh charge. It’s not unhealthy; it’s simply not the perfect display you will get for the cash. The fingerprint sensor underneath the show can also be on the gradual facet. Once more, it’s not unusable, however it’s noticeably a beat slower than the perfect fingerprint sensors on the market.

The Pixel 6A is due for alternative, however it nonetheless provides the perfect digital camera on a finances cellphone.
Photograph by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

And in contrast to earlier Pixel A-series telephones, the 6A doesn’t embody the identical cameras because the flagships, however that’s okay. It makes use of the identical 12-megapixel normal vast digital camera because the Pixel 5A, which remains to be an excellent digital camera — particularly for the midrange class. The cellphone’s 4,410mAh battery is on the small facet, however general battery efficiency is healthier than its dimension would recommend. 

All that stated, the 6A provides the perfect all-around package deal of important options plus a top-tier processor that you could purchase proper now for round $450.

Learn my full evaluation of the Google Pixel 6A.

The very best cellphone underneath $300

$291

The N20 5G features a 6.4-inch 1080p display with a quick fingerprint sensor in addition to quick wired charging with the included in-box charger.

Display screen: 6.4-inch 1080p OLED / Processor: Snapdragon 695 5G Cameras: 64-megapixel f/1.8, 2-megapixel macro, 2-megapixel monochrome, 16-megapixel selfie / Battery: 4,500mAh / Charging: 33W wired / Climate-resistance score: None

The OnePlus N20 5G is a $280 cellphone that feels prefer it ought to price much more. It provides a 6.4-inch display with good 1080p decision. Higher but, it’s an OLED panel in a class the place lower-contrast LCDs are way more widespread. You’ll need to make do with a regular 60Hz refresh charge, however until you’re coming from a cellphone with a sooner 90Hz or 120Hz display, you gained’t know the distinction. Refresh charge apart, it’s a very good display that’s pleasant to make use of. Plus, there’s a very good fingerprint scanner underneath the show that makes unlocking the cellphone a frustration-free expertise.

The N20 5G is bought unlocked, however take word: it doesn’t work on Verizon. It’s additionally restricted to 4G on AT&T, which isn’t the tip of the world given the service’s gradual growth of their mid-band 5G community (that’s the nice 5G). The unlocked N20 does work on T-Cellular’s 5G in addition to 4G, and you should purchase a network-locked model of the cellphone straight from T-Cellular if you wish to reap the benefits of a free cellphone supply or bundle the fee together with your month-to-month cellphone invoice.

The OnePlus N20 5G features a 1080p OLED display, with richer distinction than the LCDs widespread on this class.
Photograph by Allison Johnson / The Verge

The N20 5G is supplied with a very good Snapdragon 695 processor and beneficiant 6GB of RAM for superb each day efficiency. It additionally helps 33W wired quick charging — one other function you’d be hard-pressed to search out in any of the N20’s rivals — with the included charger. You possibly can cost the cellphone from 0 to 30 p.c in simply 20 minutes, which is actually useful in the event you’re in a jam and wish a fast battery enhance. NFC can also be included for contactless fee; many cheaper telephones exclude it to chop prices.

Digicam high quality is a little bit of a weak level for the N20. The principle rear 64-megapixel digital camera is ok; the opposite two cameras (a low-res macro and a monochrome sensor) are greatest ignored. The cellphone additionally ships with Android 11, which is a model behind most different new Android telephones at this level. However on the brighter facet, OnePlus is promising three years of safety updates — a reasonably good coverage in a category the place two years isn’t unusual. 

It’s unlucky that the N20 isn’t an possibility for Verizon subscribers, however in the event you’re on T-Cellular or AT&T, it’s a heck of a deal — with or with out 5G help.

Learn my full evaluation of the OnePlus Nord N20 5G.

The very best primary Android cellphone for Verizon prospects

$249

The Galaxy A13 5G’s display is dim and low-res, however nice battery life, stable efficiency, and a sexy price ticket make it an amazing worth.

Display screen: 6.5-inch 720p 90Hz LCD / Processor: MediaTek 700 5G Cameras: 50-megapixel f/1.8 major, 2-megapixel macro, 2-megapixel depth, 5-megapixel selfie / Battery: 5,000mAh / Charging: 15W wired / Climate-resistance score: None

Samsung not too long ago introduced the A13’s successor — you guessed it, the Galaxy A14 — which we haven’t been in a position to check but. It comes with some promising updates, together with a further yr of safety updates, however the Galaxy A13 5G stays a very good deal in the event you can nonetheless discover it on a retailer’s shelf. It’s a no-frills $249 cellphone that delivers the fundamentals.

Its display is nothing particular, however battery life and efficiency are superb contemplating the value, and the machine is backed up by a stable help coverage promising three years of safety updates. It’s not as polished because the N20 with its fancier OLED, however it’s additionally a bit cheaper and works on all main carriers (the N20 doesn’t work on Verizon).

The A13’s 6.5-inch display is definitely large, however it’s a reasonably dim, low-contrast LCD with a decision of simply 720p. Associated: battery life is excellent because the display drains much less energy than brighter shows. Total efficiency from the MediaTek 700 5G chipset and 4GB of RAM is excellent, too. 

The Samsung A13 5G provides a very good, primary function set and works on all main US carriers.
Photograph by Allison Johnson / The Verge

On the digital camera facet, the A13 lacks a few options you’ll find on different finances telephones — particularly, an evening mode and an ultrawide digital camera. What you do get is an effective 50-megapixel major rear digital camera that takes reliably good pictures in daylight and dim indoor gentle. Simply don’t anticipate a lot in very low gentle.

In the event you can dwell with a mediocre show and a primary digital camera, then the A13 will ship on efficiency and battery life — fairly necessary stuff. Simply ensure you finances a bit further for a MicroSD card as a result of the cellphone’s 64GB of built-in storage is a bit skimpy.

Learn my full Samsung Galaxy A13 5G evaluation.

Different finances telephones we examined

We additionally examined the OnePlus Nord N300, which doesn’t make an look amongst our suggestions. The N300 could be very inexpensive at $228 however cuts too many corners to incorporate quick charging. The marginally pricier N20 that snags our suggestion above is a technology behind however provides higher general efficiency and a nicer display.

We’ve additionally checked out two TCL telephones over the previous yr: the TCL Stylus 5G and 30 XE 5G. The latter gives pretty good each day efficiency for its very low $200 worth, however finally neither TCL cellphone is value recommending over the competitors from Motorola and Samsung.

Lastly, the Motorola Moto G Stylus (2022) that beforehand appeared on this checklist remains to be being bought new however is due for alternative. It lacks 5G, however its built-in stylus is useful, and its large 6.7-inch 1080p show is sweet for the value — which is nicely underneath $200 today.

Replace April 14th, 2023, 2PM ET: Added the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G as the perfect general Android decide and moved the Google Pixel 6A to an also-consider. Eliminated suggestion for Motorola Moto G Stylus (2022).

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