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The best cheap 5G phones: Expert tested

We tested some of the best cheap 5G phones from Motorola, Samsung, and Google to help you find the best fit for your budget.
Written by Taylor Clemons, Staff Writer
Motorola Moto G | Best cheap 5G phone overall
Person holding the Moto G 5G smartphone showing its front screen display
Motorola Moto G
Best cheap 5G phone overall
View now View at Walmart
AGM H6 | Best rugged cheap 5G phone
Best rugged cheap 5G phone
View now View at Amazon
Samsung Galaxy A35 | Best cheap 5G Samsung phone
Samsung Galaxy A35 5G Hands-on
Samsung Galaxy A35
Best cheap 5G Samsung phone
View now View at Best Buy
OnePlus 12R | Best cheap 5G phone with dual SIM
OnePlus 12R
Best cheap 5G phone with dual SIM
View now View at Amazon
Google Pixel 8a | Best security in a cheap 5G phone
Google Pixel 8a Aloe and Bay
Google Pixel 8a
Best security in a cheap 5G phone
View now View at Google Store

If you have a teen asking for their first smartphone or an older parent looking to upgrade on a budget, there are plenty of options for cheap 5G phones to help everyone in your family stay connected without breaking the bank. And just because these phones are budget models, that doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice features like expandable storage, great displays and battery life, and security.

Also: The best phones for 2024: Expert tested

What is the best cheap 5G phone right now?

I chose the Motorola Moto G as the best cheap 5G phone you can buy. Not only does it have a great, ultra-affordable price tag of about $200, it has a dual SIM slot that doubles as a microSD slot for expandable storage, a 120Hz display refresh rate, eSIM support, and Dolby Atmos audio. You can keep reading below to find out more about the Motorola Moto G as well as our other picks for the best cheap 5G phones. 

The best cheap 5G phones of 2024

Pros & Cons
  • Dolby Atmos
  • 120Hz refresh
  • Expandable memory up to 1TB
  • Under $200
  • Uses older Android OS
  • Only 4GB RAM
More Details

If you're looking for a cheap 5G phone that is still going to offer great features, the Motorola Moto G is one of the best on the market. It retails for around $150, making it one of the cheapest you can get. The 6.5-inch display uses an IPS LCD panel to give you great 1080p resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate; which is perfect for video calls and streaming video.  

Read the review: This Motorola nearly made me a budget phone believer. Here's why 

The built-in speakers work with Dolby Atmos for clear dialogue while streaming video and making video calls, and for creating virtual 3D audio while streaming music. ZDNET's own Jack Wallen got to try out the Moto G for himself, and he was highly impressed with the quality of the phone for the price. While it isn't going to set any records for performance, it's still powerful enough for everyday use. Verified customer reviews from both Amazon and Best Buy agree that the Motorola Moto G is a great value, offering up to 44 hours of battery life, and expandable memory with the microSD card slot. 

Motorola Moto G specs - Display size: 6.5 inches | Display type: IPS LCD | Resolution: 1080p | Refresh rate: 120Hz | Battery life: 44 hours | RAM: 4GB | Storage: Up to 1TB with microSD | Rear camera: 48MP main | Front camera: 8MP | Processor: Snapdragon 480+ 

Pros & Cons
  • Sleek and lightweight design
  • Military standard protection against the elements
  • Under $200
  • 720p resolution
  • Only 90Hz refresh rate
  • Somewhat short battery life
More Details

The AGM H6 is a rugged smartphone that takes a page from its sleeker, consumer-grade counterparts. The H6 offers robust MIL-STD-810H protection against dust and moisture as well as drops from as high as 6 feet in a thin and lightweight chassis that has more in common with an iPhone than other rugged smartphones. 

Read the review: Finally, a rugged Android phone that doesn't look and feel like a brick 

ZDNET's resident phone expert, Matthew Miller, got to try out the AGM H6 for himself, and was surprised by how tough such a sleek phone could be. He also liked the phone's support for NFC technology, which makes it a great choice for a company fleet phone. Verified reviews from Amazon and Walmart love the AGM H6 for its protection against the elements as well as its low price point and sleek design. 

AGM H6 specs - Display size: 6.56 inches | Display type: IPS LCD | Resolution: 720 x 1612 | Refresh rate: 90Hz | Battery life: 23 hours | RAM: Up to 16GB | Storage: Up to 516GB | Rear camera: 50MP | Front camera: 8MP | Processor: Unisoc T606 octa-core 

Pros & Cons
  • Super AMOLED display
  • 120Hz refresh
  • Great battery life
  • Expandable storage
  • No wireless charging capabilities
  • Somewhat slow to charge
More Details

Whether you're a Samsung loyalist looking for an affordable phone or just need a cheap and reliable smartphone from a reputable brand, the Samsung Galaxy A35 is a great choice. The 6.6-inch display uses a Super AMOLED panel to give you crisp 1080p resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate for smoother motion during video calls and while streaming video. It comes with 128GB of internal storage, but you can expand that up to 1TB with a microSD card. 

Read the review: Forget the Pixel 8a. This $399 Samsung phone is a force to be reckoned with 

The back of the phone houses the three rear cameras: a 50MP main lens, 8MP ultra-wide, and 5MP macro; and the 13MP front camera is perfect for video calls and selfies. The Galaxy A35 also has a decent battery life, giving you up to 14 hours of video or music playback, over 26 hours of talk time, and ZDNET's Max Buondonno was able to stretch the standby time to about 2 days; which is great news for anyone who hates to be tied to a charging cable. Verified reviews from Best Buy love the camera quality and battery life, as well as the built-in voice controls via Alexa and Samsung's Bixby. But they note that the phone isn't compatible with wireless charging stations. 

Samsung Galaxy A35 specs - Display size: 6.6 inches | Display type: Super AMOLED | Resolution: 1080p | Refresh rate: 120Hz | Battery life: 14 hours | RAM: 6GB | Storage: Up to 1TB with microSD | Rear camera: 50MP, 8MP ultra-wide, 5MP macro | Front camera: 13MP | Processor: Exynos 1380 octa-core 

Pros & Cons
  • Dual SIM card slot
  • Great battery
  • Decent camera system
  • Fast charging
  • No wireless charging support
More Details

The OnePlus 12R features a dual SIM card slot, which allows you to use two separate contact numbers for the same device. This makes it an excellent option for international travelers as well as professionals who don't want to carry both a work and personal smartphone. The 23-hour battery life also means you'll be able to talk, stream, and web browse all day before you need to think about plugging in; but you'll want to keep an actual cable handy, as the 12R doesn't support wireless charging. 

Read the review: Forget the Pixel 8a: The $400 OnePlus 12R may be the best-value Android phone this year 

Along with dual SIM support, you'll also get a great camera system with the 50MP Sony IMX890 main rear lens, 8MP ultra-wide for landscapes and group photos, 2MP macro lens for close-up photography, and 13MP front camera for selfies and video calls. For storage, you can choose either a 128GB or 256GB internal capacity; and if you need more, you may want to invest in a cloud storage service like Google Drive since the 12R doesn't support microSD cards for expandable memory.  

ZDNET's Matthew Miller was able to go hands-on with the OnePlus 12R, and praised the phone for its build quality and fast charging, but was disappointed in the lack of wireless charging support. Verified reviews from both Amazon and Best Buy love the dual SIM card support for international travel, as well as the flagship phone quality at an affordable price.

OnePlus 12R specs - Display size: 6.78 inches | Display type: AMOLED | Resolution: 2780 x 1264 | Refresh rate: 120Hz | Battery life: 23 hours | RAM: Up to 16GB | Storage: Up to 256GB | Rear camera: 50MP SonyIMX890 main, 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro | Front camera: 16MP | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2

Pros & Cons
  • End-to-end encryption and VPN access at no extra cost
  • OLED screen with HDR support
  • 120Hz refresh rate
  • No expandable storage support
  • On the high end of "cheap"
More Details

Picking up a budget-friendly phone can feel like a gamble when it comes to keeping your personal data safe. But the Google Pixel 8a is designed with the Titan M2 security chipset for end-to-end encryption, and Google offers VPN access for no extra cost. Which is a huge asset for international travelers, mobile professionals, or anyone who wants to use a coffee shop's free Wi-Fi to help protect your internet activity from being monitored and your personal data from theft.  

 Read the review: Google Pixel 8a hands-on: 3 features make this my favorite $499 phone today 

 Along with top-notch security, the Pixel 8a uses an OLED panel to provide crisp 1080p resolution for video calls or streaming video. A native 120Hz refresh rate gives you smoother motion, which is necessary to keep details from getting lost on a smaller screen. And HDR support gives you deeper contrast and finer details to help boost text readability and prevent compression loss when viewing photos or watching videos. 

ZDNET senior reviews editor Kerry Wan got to go hands-on with the Pixel 8a at a Google event and loved the screen-to-body ratio as well as how well the 6.1-inch OLED display was able to create bold colors on a small scale. He also noted that the Pixel 8a was able to reach a peak brightness of 2,000 nits, which is plenty bright enough to be visible in direct sunlight (or outdoors in general) and bright rooms.

Google Pixel 8a specs - Display size: 6.1 inches | Display type: OLED with HDR support | Resolution: 1080 x 2400 | Refresh rate: 120Hz | Battery life: 72 hours | RAM: 8GB | Storage: Up to 256GB | Rear camera: 64MP main, 13MP ultra-wide | Front camera: 13MP | Processor: Titan M2 security

What is the best cheap 5G phone?

My choice for the best cheap 5G phone is the Motorola Moto G. The 6.6-inch LCD display has a 120Hz refresh rate for smoother motion during video calls or video playback, eSIM support, a dual SIM card slot that doubles as a microSD slot for expandable storage, USB-C charging, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. 

Best cheap 5G phone

Best price

Display size, type

RAM, storage

Motorola Moto G


6.5 inches, IPS LCD

4GB, up to 1TB with microSD



6.56 inches, IPS LCD

8GB, up to 512GB with microSD

Samsung Galaxy A35


6.6 inches, Super AMOLED

6GB, Up to 1TB with microSD

OnePlus 12R


6.78 inches, AMOLED

Up to 16GB, Up to 256GB

Google Pixel 8a


6.12 inches, OLED

8GB, up to 256GB

Which cheap 5G phone is right for you?

You need to consider whether you're brand loyal, whether you're an Apple or Android user, and whether you care more about price or premium features. You'll also want to consider how you'll primarily be using the phone. For example, if your aim is to take pictures, finding a cheap 5G phone with a robust camera is a must. Or, you might want a phone that has outstanding battery life over any other feature. 

Once you address those needs, you can refer to the chart below to quickly find the right cheap 5G phone for you.

Buy this best cheap 5G phone...

If you need...

Motorola Moto G

A well-rounded, cheap 5G phone. The Motorola Moto G is not only super affordable, but gives you a 48MP camera, 1080p display, and Dolby Atmos audio.


A rugged, but cheap, 5G phone. The AGM H6 is rated IP68 and IP69K for water, shock/drop, and dust resistance.

Samsung Galaxy A35

A cheap 5G Samsung phone. The Galaxy A35 offers a 2 day standby battery life and up to 14 hours of web browsing or music playback.

OnePlus 12R

A cheap 5G phone that supports dual SIM cards. The OnePlus 12R lets you use two SIM cards at once, letting you have two numbers for the same device; this makes it a great option for mobile professionals who don't want to carry both a work and personal smartphone.

Google Pixel 8a

A cheap, but secure, 5G phone. The Pixel 8a is built with the Titan M2 security chip and features end-to-end encryption and VPN access by Google at no extra cost.

Factors to consider when buying a cheap 5G phone:

When shopping for an affordable new, or at least new-to-you, 5G phone, there are a few factors to keep in mind so you don't end up with a dud of a smartphone: 

  • Budget: Contrary to what you may think, there is such a thing as "too cheap" when it comes to cheap 5G phones. While there may be some sub-$200 hidden gems if you're willing to go with a less well-known brand, it's important to keep in mind that all those savings had to come from somewhere. Because that low price tag could mean that your new 5G phone is hiding some fatal flaws like compatibility issues or poor battery life. 
  • Memory and storage: Just because a smartphone is cheap, that doesn't mean you have to settle for paltry storage. Whether you choose a 5G phone that uses a cloud backup system or allows expandable storage with microSD cards, it's important to choose the right storage capacity for all your photos and apps. 
  • Durability: Can a cheap 5G phone really be that good? Yes, actually. An affordable smartphone can be just as, if not more, durable as the expensive flagship models. And there are even brands like AGM and Doogee that are dedicated to making ruggedized smartphones for outdoor professionals and extreme environments.

How we tested these cheap 5G phones:

While testing and researching each cheap 5G phone featured on this list, I and other ZDNET experts kept these criteria in mind: 

  • Storage: Many budget-friendly phones feature expandable internal storage via microSD slots, letting you customize your phone's capacity for your exact needs. And if they don't offer expandable storage, they may offer cloud backup to help you free up space on smaller internal drives. 
  • Display: Just because a phone is on the cheap side, that doesn't mean you should settle for a bad phone screen. Each cheap 5G phone we tested and featured uses an AMOLED or OLED panel for brighter images, bolder color, and sharper contrast. 
  • Connectivity: Your phone should blend seamlessly with the rest of your devices, no matter how much it costs. We chose affordable 5G phones that offer Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi, USB-C, and even 3.5mm AUX connectivity. 

Why does my phone keep switching from 5G to 4G LTE?

If you've noticed your smartphone switching between 5G and 4G LTE throughout the day or as you travel, there's no need to panic. Since 5G cellular networks are still relatively new, they aren't as widespread as you may think they are thanks to clever advertising from mobile carriers. That means that depending on your location, your phone may not have access to a reliable 5G network, but a 4G LTE connection will be available to keep you connected. 

Should I buy a used 5G phone to save money?

Buying a secondhand 5G phone can be a great way to save money on a new-to-you device, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you buy: 

Buying used means that products may not be under warranty anymore, or have very limited warranties that only cover certain things like theft and loss. This also means that you may want to spring for any extra device insurance or warranties that retailers offer on pre-owned devices, just in case you end up with hardware issues or a dud phone. 

Buying used also means that you have to pay attention to the condition of the 5G phone you're looking to buy secondhand. Many retailers that offer secondhand devices will often list their condition as: open-box, like- new, good, fair, and poor. Open-box usually means that an item was returned to the store by a previous customer for one reason or another. Open-box items usually will still have everything included with them like charging cables and documentation. 

Other condition tags are used for items that have been traded in as part of a purchase of a new device. These range from lightly used for a few months to something that looks like went through a tornado. It's important to keep an eye on what condition the used 5G phone you want to buy is in so you don't end up with something meant to be stripped for parts. 

Can I recycle my old smartphone?

If you don't trade in your previous smartphone when you purchase a new one, recycling your electronics is a great option to help reduce e-waste in landfills as well as clutter in your own home. 

You can read our helpful guide on what to do with your old smartphone to find out more about how to prep your smartphone for sale, trade-in, or recycling. 

More cheap 5G phones we tested:

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