/>
X
Tech
Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.

Close

The best phones for under $100

You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars to receive a capable device. The best phones under $100 offer large screens, expandable storage, and good battery life.
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor and  Sean Jackson, Contributor
Samsung Galaxy A01 | Best phone under $100
samsung-galaxy-a01
Samsung Galaxy A01
Best phone under $100
View now View at Amazon
Alcatel 1B | Best phone for under $100 for basic picture taking
alcatel-1b
Alcatel 1B
Best phone for under $100 for basic picture taking
View now View at Walmart
Motorola Moto e | Best large screen phone under $100
motorola-moto-e
Motorola Moto e
Best large screen phone under $100
View now View at Google
AGM M6 rugged phone | Best small rugged phone under $100
agm-m6-rugged-phone
AGM M6 rugged phone
Best small rugged phone under $100
View now View at Amazon
Ulefone Armor X6 | Best large rugged phone under $100
ulefone-armor-x6
Ulefone Armor X6
Best large rugged phone under $100
View now View at Amazon
Cubot Note 7 | Best phone under $100 for SIM cards
cubot-note-7
Cubot Note 7
Best phone under $100 for SIM cards
View now View at Amazon
Show more (1 item)

Not everybody wants or needs the best phone money can buy. Perhaps you've browsed our budget phones under $300 and wonder whether even better bargains abound. Or maybe you want something super affordable (i.e. expendable) for your pre-teen's first handset. Or you're planning a winter vacation -- skiing or sledding, anyone? -- and you'd rather not put your iPhone 14 Pro at risk. Do you want a backup device "just in case"? Or maybe you just love a great deal.

If you shop around a little, you can get a stylish and functional device for under $100. We've shopped around for you and found the best deals on Android phones. If you're prepared to compromise a bit, the bargain phones on our list will likely pack most or all the features you really need. Any of these great cheap smartphones -- many from familiar brands -- can be yours for under $100. Sorry, no iPhones here. 

Also: The 12 best phone deals right now

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Extendable storage up to 128GB
  • 2GB RAM
Cons
  • Will not work on CDMA carrier
More Details

Tech specs: Display: 5.7 inches (720 x 1080 pixel resolution), 19:9 aspect ratio, IPS LCD, Infinity-V display | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 octa core A53 cortex running at 1.95GHz | RAM: 2GB | Internal Storage: 16 or 32GB | Rear cameras: 13 MP f/2.2 wide angle + 2 MP f2.4 dual camera, LED flash | Front cameras: 5 MP, f/2.2 | Dimensions: 146.3 x 70.86 x 8.34mm | Weight: 149g | IP Rating: None

The Samsung Galaxy A01 phone runs Android 10 and OEM installed One UI. Its 3000mAh battery is adequate for a day's use, and 2GB of RAM means that you can run several apps at the same time without any appreciable slowdown. You can extend its internal storage by up to 128GB using the micro SD slot next to the SIM.

The A01 has a reasonable 12MP camera and a 5MP front camera and uses AI facial recognition to log onto the phone. Its 5.7-inch screen has a reasonable resolution and a small bezel size thanks to its V display notch, which gives a 78.8% screen-to-body ratio. This phone will work with most GSM carriers, but it will not work on any CDMA carrier such as Sprint Nextel, nTelos, Verizon, or Virgin Mobile.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Storage expands to 128GB
  • 5.5-inch screen
Cons
  • Doesn't work with CDMA carriers
More Details

Tech specs: Display: 5.5 inches (722x 1440 pixel resolution), 18:9 aspect ratio | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 215 quad core A53 cortex running at 1.3GHz | RAM: 2GB | Internal Storage: 16GB | Rear cameras: 5P rear | Front cameras: 2MP | Dimensions: 146.1 x 71.6 x 9.9mm | Weight: 168g | IP Rating: None

The Alcatel 1B 5002A phone is an unlocked phone that will work with any GSM carrier, but it won't work on any CDMA carrier such as Sprint Nextel, nTelos, Verizon, or Virgin Mobile. The Alcatel 1B is a lightweight phone with a simple interface, 5.5-inch screen display, and a moderately sized bezel around the edge of the screen. It has a 3,000mAh battery with space for one nano-SIM and a nano-SD card up to 128GB. This is not a rugged phone, so it will not take rough handling.

See: The best rugged phones

There is a single 5MP camera at the rear of the phone as well as a flash and a 2MP camera at the front. Image adjustments are basic and not designed for the professional photographer. This Android 10 Go edition phone is for someone who wants a phone with a few apps, average performance, and basic functionality. It's for people who don't want an all-singing, all-dancing phone for everyday tasks.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Large 6.2-inch touchscreen
  • 3,550mAh battery
Cons
  • Locked to CDMA network
More Details

Tech specs: Display: 6.2 inches (1520x 720-pixel resolution) IPS LCD, 19:9 aspect ratio | CPU: Qualcomm SDM632 Snapdragon 632 octa core Kyro 250 Gold and Silver running at 1.8GHz | RAM: 2GB | Internal Storage: 32GB | Rear cameras: 13MP f/2.0 + 2MP rear camera with LED flash | Front cameras: 5MP f2.0 camera with LED flash| Dimensions: 159.8 x 76.6 x 8.7 mm | Weight: 185g | IP Rating: 52

If you prefer a phone that is locked into the CDMA network, try the Motorola Moto e smartphone. The device runs Android 10, so all you have to do is pick your plan and activate your device.

See: Best cheap 5G phones

The Moto e has a 3550mAh battery and dual SIM, so you can extend the storage to 256GB using a micro SD card. The phone has a large 6.2-inch screen, with fairly large bezels at the top and bottom giving a screen-to-body ratio of 85%. You can run a moderate number of apps at the same time on this Android 10 phone, but with only 2GB RAM you should expect some slowdown if you try to run too many apps.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Loud sound
  • Rugged and waterproof up to 2m depth
  • Extendable storage up to 128GB
Cons
  • 2.4-inch screen can be difficult to read for some
More Details

Tech specs: Display: 2.4 inches QVGA (2,208 x 1,768-pixel resolution), Dynamic 120Hz AMOLED | CPU: Unisoc T107 RTOS | RAM: 48MB RAM | Internal Storage: 128MB ROM | Rear cameras: 0.3MP rear camera | Front cameras: None | Dimensions: 142 x 61.9 x 19.8mm (24mm to top of rear speaker) | Weight: 195g | IP Rating: 68 and 69K

If you need a low-cost, simple rugged phone, the AGM M6 will fit the bill. The dust-proof phone has a 2,500mAh removable battery, and it can survive being immersed in water up to 2m depth. You can add extra storage up to 128GB by adding a micro SD card into the dual SIM slot.

The retro-looking M6 has a very loud ring tone through its 3.5W speaker -- making it easy for the hard of hearing to hear when the phone is ringing. Its small 2.4-inch screen is touch-enabled, so you don't need to navigate using the large keys.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Custom button with PTT
  • Extendable storage up to 128GB
  • Water-resistant to 1.5m for 30 minutes
Cons
  • Not compatible with CDMA carriers
More Details

Tech specs: Display: 5.0 inches (720 x 1280 pixels), 68.9 cm2 IPS LCD | CPU: Mediatek MT6580 quad-core cortex A7 running at up to 1.3 GHz | RAM: 2GB | Internal Storage: 16GB | Rear cameras: 8 MP, f/2.2, wide angle lens with autofocus, and dual LED flash | Front cameras: 5MP f/2.2 | Dimensions: 150 x 78.9 x 14.4 mm | Weight: 223.8 g | IP Rating: 68/69K

The Ulefone Armor X6 is a large rugged phone with a decent 5-inch screen and a reasonable 4,000mAh battery. Running Android 9.0 Pie, this phone has a dual SIM for your micro SD card, so you can extend the storage up to 128GB. This phone works with GSM carriers. It will not work on any CDMA carrier such as Sprint Nextel, nTelos, Verizon, or Virgin Mobile. The dust and drop-proof device is also water-resistant up to 1.5m for up to 30 minutes. It also has face recognition for unlocking the phone.

Gloves mode also allows you to operate the phone's touch screen in winter without freezing your fingers, and the customizable button means you can use PTT (push to talk) to use the phone as a walkie-talkie.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • 5.5-inch screen
  • Extendable storage up to 128GB
  • Good screen-to-body ratio
Cons
  • Not compatible with CDMA carriers
More Details

Tech specs: Display: 5.5 inches (442 x 960 pixels) IPS TFT capacitive screen | CPU: MediaTek MT6737 four core ARM cortex A53 running at up to 1.30 GHz | RAM: 2GB | Internal Storage: 16GB | Rear cameras: 13MP f/2 and 2MP with dual LED flash | Front cameras: 8MP | Dimensions: 135 x 63 x 11 mm |Weight: 144g | IP Rating: none

The Cubot Note 7 phone Android 10 Go edition has three SIM slots: Two for nano SIMs and one for a TF card extendable to 128GB storage. Plus, the device has a 3100mAh battery with a decent processor. 

The Cubot Note 7 has a large screen size with a teardrop bezel and a solid screen-to-body ratio of 83.2%. The phone works with GSM carriers, but it will not work on any CDMA carrier such as Sprint Nextel, nTelos, Verizon, or Virgin Mobile. It has a decent size 5.5-inch screen and a 13MP camera. The selfie camera has a few features to enhance the image. The front-facing camera also has face recognition technology.

What is the best phone under $100?

The Samsung Galaxy A01 is the best phone under $100 due to its CPU, display, cameras, and design. This table shows how the best options compare based on screen size, internal storage, and camera capabilities:

Best phones under $100

Screen size

Internal storage

Camera

Samsung Galaxy A01

5.7 inches

16 or 32GB

Rear: 13 MP f/2.2 wide angle + 2 MP f2.4 dual camera, LED flash, Front: 5 MP, f/2.2

Alcatel 1B

5.5 inches

16GB

Rear: 5MP, Front: 2MP

Motorola Moto e

6.2 inches

32GB

Rear: 13MP f/2.0 + 2MP rear camera with LED flash, Front: 5MP f2.0 camera with LED flash

AGM M6 rugged phone

2.4 inches

128 MB

Rear: 0.3 MP

Ulefone Armor 6

5 inches

16GB

Rear: 8 MP, f/2.2, wide angle lens with autofocus, and dual LED flash, Front: 5MP f/2.2

Cubot Note 7

5.5 inches

16GB

Rear: 13MP f/2 and 2MP with dual LED flash, Front: 8MP

Which is the right phone under $100 for you?

If you are not too bothered about getting the latest and greatest phone, then you can snap up a bargain by buying a slightly older model when the newer model comes out. You need to decide which type of phone you want. Do you want a slimline phone, or do you prefer a rugged device? Consider the form factor too. Is the phone a little wide for your hands? Is it too heavy to hold for an extended period of time, and is it comfortable to use?

When you are holding the phone, does the custom button irritate you, or is the fingerprint sensor in the wrong place for your hand? Can you operate the phone with one hand, or is it necessary to operate the phone with two hands? Most importantly, do you like the way the phone works? Is the operating system full of OEM bloatware, slowing the phone down, or is it a stripped -own Android build that you can customize and have the phone build that you really want to use? All needs to be taken into consideration when choosing your new device.

Choose this best phone under $100

If you want or are…

Samsung Galaxy A01

The phone under $100 overall

Alcatel 1B

A phone under $100 for basic picture taking

Motorola Moto e

An affordable device with a large screen

AGM M6 rugged phone

The best small rugged device

Ulefone Armor 6

A solid, large device

Cubot Note 7

A phone for SIM card storage 

How did we choose these cheap smartphones?

All these smartphones are from well-known brands that update models regularly throughout the year and offer their older models at a reduced price. All smartphones on the list are for sale for under $100. These brands update their offerings regularly and customer service is solid. 

Some phones will work with both GSM and CDMA carriers, and some of the models are rugged, which can be necessary if you are rough on your devices. The size of the screens and the various width choices means that you can easily find a model that is right for you.

Are phones under $100 worth it?

It depends on your needs for the phone. If you're searching for one that offers basic features, such as texting, talk, and the ability to take pictures, then these phones will work well for you.

However, there are always great phone deals on models costing more than $100. If you're looking to save money and gain more features, this might be wiser route to consider. 

Will the 3G shutdown affect my phone?

All major carriers are discontinuing their 3G networks. T-Mobile and AT&T finished their shutdowns, while Verizon plans to discontinue their 3G network on December 31st.

If you're worried this shutdown impacts your phone, you can contact your carrier. In some situations, your phone might require a software update. In other cases, you might need to purchase a new phone. You can check if your phone is 4G LTE compatible through its settings, contacting your carrier, or Googling it. 

Are there alternative phones under $100 worth considering?

Our guide provided a range of excellent options based on camera capabilities, screen size, and other features. However, if you want other choices, these are excellent options to consider:

Editorial standards