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The best cheap phones you can buy: Expert tested

We've tested the best cheap phones on the market, including picks from Samsung, Google, OnePlus, and more, so you can get the most bang for your buck.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
OnePlus 12R | Best cheap phone overall
OnePlus 12R
Best cheap phone overall
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Google Pixel 8a | Best cheap camera phone
Google Pixel 8a
Google Pixel 8a
Best cheap camera phone
View now View at Best Buy
Samsung Galaxy A35 5G | Best cheap Samsung phone
Samsung Galaxy A35 5G Hands-on
Samsung Galaxy A35 5G
Best cheap Samsung phone
View now View at Best Buy
Motorola Moto G Power 5G | Best cheap phone under $300
Motorola Moto G Power 5G
Best cheap phone under $300
View now View at Amazon
Samsung Galaxy A15 5G | Best cheap phone under $200
Samsung Galaxy A15 5G
Samsung Galaxy A15 5G
Best cheap phone under $200
View now View at Samsung

If there's one mobile trend in the past decade that I'm happiest to see, it's the fact that cheap phones are getting better. Much better. In today's market, buying a phone that costs a fraction of the latest flagship iPhone or Samsung Galaxy doesn't mean settling for a noticeably inferior experience. Instead, manufacturers have begun to bring core features such as wireless charging, 5G, and all-day battery life downmarket, making the more accessible tier of phones just as worthy of your consideration.

Also: The best phones of 2024

What is the best cheap phone right now?

My pick for the best cheap phone overall goes to the OnePlus 12R. On a spec-by-spec level, the OnePlus beats out our runner-up, the Google Pixel 8a, in terms of display quality, brightness, battery life, processor performance, and charging. Considering many people shopping in the low-to-mid-range market value such features the most, the OnePlus 12R is the better option of the two. OnePlus also offers a $100 discount when you trade in any phone in any condition, effectively making the $399 12R a better deal than the Pixel 8a. Read on for the rest of my top picks for best cheap phone.

Best cheap phones of 2024

Pros & Cons
  • Large battery with the fastest charging on the market
  • Big, bright, beautiful AMOLED display
  • Snappy Qualcomm processor with up to 16GB RAM
  • $399 with trade-in
  • No wireless charging support
  • Limited to three years of software updates
  • Curved-edged design may not be for all
More Details

While the Google Pixel A-series has always been the budget king, the OnePlus 12R tips the scales this year, and in a big way. OnePlus launched the device alongside the flagship OnePlus 12 in February, ultimately making the mid-range phone look more attractive due to its feature parity with the more expensive model. Features like an LTPO 4.0 display that could ramp up to 4,500 nits of brightness, a 5,500mAh battery (which is even larger than the OnePlus 12's 5,000mAh), and 80W SuperVOOC charging made the OnePlus 12R look like a steal at $499.

Read the review: OnePlus 12R 

How did OnePlus get the price so low? Using an older processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, was one way, but it turned out to be just as competent for most mobile use cases, as ZDNET's Matthew Miller discovered when he reviewed the phone. "I used the review device for a month and could easily see myself daily driving it since it performs flawlessly, has an IP64 dust/water resistance rating, and has an exceptionally bright display," Miller noted.

While the 50MP camera system doesn't capture photos in low-light environments like the latest iPhone Pro or Samsung Galaxy Ultra model, it does a commendable job in most other conditions. But what the OnePlus 12R lacks in camera quality, it makes up for the fastest charging speed in the North American market, being able to charge from 0% to 100% within 40 minutes. Several Best Buy customers have commended the OnePlus for its lifestyle-changing charging speed.

OnePlus 12R specs - Display size: 6.78 inches | Display type: AMOLED | Resolution: 2780 x 1264 | Refresh rate: 120Hz | Battery life: 5,500mAh | RAM: Up to 16GB | Storage: Up to 256GB | Rear camera: 50MP Sony IMX890 main, 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro | Front camera: 16MP | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2

Pros & Cons
  • Compact OLED display with 120Hz
  • Seven years of software updates
  • Exceptional cameras with useful AI tools
  • 18W charging is relatively slow
  • Maxes out at 256GB internal storage
More Details

The Google Pixel 8a can easily be the best cheap phone overall, but that would depend on your list of priority features. The Pixel is for you if you place camera quality, software updates, and security above the display, performance, and battery life.

The latest model features a handy 6.1-inch, 120Hz OLED display that, to be fair, works great for media consumption and scrolling through the web. However, because it's smaller, you're dealt with the usual benefits and drawbacks, including better one-handed usage and limited viewing angles. Fortunately, most people buy Pixel phones for the clean software experience, abundant Google AI features, including Magic Editor and Photo Unblur, and excellent camera quality.

Read the review: Google Pixel 8a 

You'll get all that with the Pixel 8a, which is excellent for a phone that costs half the price of Google's flagship model. ZDNET's Prakhar Khanna says the camera system, which includes a 64MP shooter, is solid, capturing "sharp and vibrant" photos while "handling high-contrast and low-light scenes better than other devices." Amazon users mostly agree with Khanna, with one customer citing, "I chose (the Pixel 8a) because of the camera, and it did not disappoint."

Secretly, the best feature of the Pixel 8a is Google's commitment to seven years of operating system upgrades, Pixel Feature Drops, and security patches. This means the phone will stay feature-relevant until at least 2031, which is unheard of in the mid-range market and a key selling point for those who value it.

Google Pixel 8a specs - Display size: 6.1 inches | Display type: OLED with HDR support | Resolution: 1080 x 2400 | Refresh rate: 120Hz | Battery life: 4,500mAh | RAM: 8GB | Storage: Up to 256GB | Rear camera: 64MP main, 13MP ultra-wide | Front camera: 13MP | Processor: Titan M2 security

Pros & Cons
  • Price is very reasonable
  • A 'jack of all trades, master of none' smartphone
  • Reliable 5,000mAh battery
  • Up to five years of software and security updates
  • Low-band 5G support
  • UI can be sluggish at times
  • Cameras are not as capable as Pixel 8a
More Details

There are three key reasons to buy the Galaxy A35 5G over any other sub-$400 phone: For the price, you get a fantastic 6.6-inch AMOLED display that ramps up to 120Hz refresh rate, a triple-camera setup that includes a 50MP main sensor, and a beefy 5,000mAh battery. 

Read the review: Samsung Galaxy A35 5G

Samsung knows what features people value the most, and even if you have preferences beyond that list, my time testing the Galaxy A35 5G has left me with enough confidence that it will meet your mobile needs. Coming from the older A34 5G, the latest model features a glass backing, a more performant Exynos chipset, and an improved camera system. Reddit users agree that the battery life on the A35 5G has been one of its bright spots, too.

The A-series smartphones also benefit from Samsung's five-year commitment to software and security updates, a significant advantage compared to competing phones by Motorola and OnePlus. If you're currently using a Samsung phone and don't see yourself moving away from the ecosystem, the A35 5G is the best "cheap phone" option for you.

Samsung Galaxy A35 5G specs - Display size: 6.6 inches | Display type: Super AMOLED | Resolution: 1080p | Refresh rate: 120Hz | Battery: 5,000mAh | 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
  • 120Hz display for a relatively low price
  • 5,000mAh battery with 30W charging
  • Useful Motorola gestures
  • Only gets one year of operating system support
  • Camera system takes a hit in low-light environments
More Details

If you're on a tighter budget, say under $300, consider the Motorola Moto G Power 5G. It's quite the mouthful, but the excessive branding is warranted because the phone gives you a lot. There is a lot of battery life, performance, and unique features that existing Motorola users will be familiar with and happy to see.

Read the review: Motorola Moto G Power 5G 

"Motorola's user interface is one of my favorites, with a fairly stock, Pixel-esque look and feel that is boosted by the brand's handy gestures and system enhancements," ZDNET's Matthew Miller said in his review. The gestures in question include "twist" to launch the camera, "chop" to toggle the flashlight and picking up the phone to silence the ringer. This year's model also features a new vegan leather back panel that gives the Moto more class than your typical plastic-built budget phone.

Ultimately, the Moto G Power 5G is praised for its battery life. Its 5,000mAh battery and relatively power-efficient MediaTek Dimensity 7020 processor should keep the phone running for more than a full day. As a bonus, you can consider the additional features, including the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Motorola Moto G Power 5G specs - Display size: 6.7 inches | Display type: IPS LCD | Resolution: 1080p | Refresh rate: 120Hz | Battery: 5,000mAh | RAM: 8GB | Storage: Up to 1TB with microSD | Rear camera: 50MP main | Front camera: 16MP | Processor: MediaTek Dimensity 7020

Pros & Cons
  • Affordably priced and available unlocked
  • Large 6.5-inch display with all-day battery life
  • Extensive software support
  • Plastic build is not for all
  • Limited to 128GB storage size
  • MediaTek processor is just decent for performance
More Details

The flashiest smartphone features tend to exist only on flagships. Still, many will find appeal in Samsung's humble Galaxy A15 5G, which boasts 5G connectivity, a massive 5,000mAh battery, and the lowest price on this list at $199. That's a compelling package at a time when consumers are cutting down on spending.

Also: The best cheap 5G phones ZDNET's tested

Don't let the lower cost fool you; the Galaxy A15 5G has all the specs you'd want for a feasible mobile companion, from the relatively sizable 6.5-inch 90Hz AMOLED display -- a rarity in this price range -- to the expandable storage (up to 1TB) to Samsung's four-year commitment to security patches. This year's model also gets a notable 5MP ultra-wide camera, an upgrade from last year's 2MP macro lens.

As of this writing, I've been testing the Galaxy A15 5G model for over a week, and while the phone won't feel like a million dollars, it's surprisingly sturdy to hold. The 90Hz display especially looked great for app browsing and navigating around. One Best Buy customer review puts it best, "(Galaxy A15 5G) is a $200 phone... It's not gonna blow you away, but for the price, it packs a punch."

Samsung Galaxy A15 5G specs - Display size: 6.5 inches | Display type: LCD | Resolution: 1080p | Refresh rate: 90Hz | Battery: 5,000mAh | RAM: 4GB | Storage: Up to 1TB with microSD | Rear camera: 50MP main, 5MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro | Front camera: 13MP | Processor: MediaTek Dimensity 6400+

What is the best cheap phone?

Currently, the OnePlus 12R is the best cheap phone on the market, thanks to its larger and bright display, snappy performance, and fast charging. Here's how it stacks up against the competition.

Best cheap phone


Display size, type

Battery and charging speed

OnePlus 12R


6.78 inches, AMOLED

5,500mAh with 80W charging

Google Pixel 8a


6.1 inches, OLED

4,500mAh with 18W charging

Samsung Galaxy A35 5G


6.6 inches, AMOLED

5,000mah with 25W charging

Motorola Moto G Power 5G


6.7 inches, LCD

5,000mah with 30W charging

Samsung Galaxy A15 5G


6.5 inches, LCD

5,000mah with 25W charging

Which cheap 5G phone is right for you?

To help you decide which phone is right for you, I've highlighted the key buying reasons for each below.

Buy this best cheap phone...

If you need...

OnePlus 12R

The best phone for less than $500. The OnePlus has the best-looking display in the mid-range market, the fastest charging speed, and performs like phones of much higher prices.

Google Pixel 8a

The best camera phone for less than $500. You should also buy the Pixel 8a if you want a phone that can last you for as long as possible. Just know that it's smaller than most handsets.

Samsung Galaxy A35 5G

A cheap 5G Samsung phone. The Galaxy A35 gives you most of the essential features, with an AMOLED display that's great for media consumption and mobile gaming.

Motorola Moto G Power 5G

A cheap phone for less than $300. The Moto G Power 5G will last you a good day or two before needing to charge, and it looks relatively stylish with its vegan-leather backing.

Samsung Galaxy A15 5G

A cheap phone for less than $200. If you're on an even tighter budget, the Galaxy A15 5G is a formidable pickup; arguably the best in its price range.

Factors to consider when buying a cheap phone

When shopping for a new cheap phone, here are the factors that you should consider:

  • Budget: The definition of "budget" and "cheap" will vary from person to person, but the way I perceive it is what product gives you the best bang for your buck. All the phones listed in this guide have been tested by ZDNET's team of mobile experts and offer more value than their price points suggest.
  • Memory and storage: As is the case with any phone of any price, you should keep in mind how much memory and storage you'll need. Many budget handsets come with as low as 64GB of base storage -- the iPhone SE (2022) included. If you frequently take pictures and videos, play games, or download content for offline use, consider a phone with at least 128GB of storage or MicroSD card support.
  • Battery life: Beyond a good screen, you'll want a phone that can last. Ideally, you'll want a phone that can withstand at least one full day of usage and can charge fast.

How we tested these cheap 5G phones

ZDNET's review team spends upwards of a year testing the ins and outs of every major phone release, evaluating the day-to-day performance, camera quality, battery life and endurance, and special features. Performance testing includes real-world usage scenarios like social media browsing, taking phone calls, playing games, and emailing. Throughout the year, we pit the latest devices with their closest competitors, including the Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy, OnePlus, and iPhone.

You can go more in-depth with each model mentioned in this article through ZDNET's dedicated product spotlight or review, which breaks down specifics like battery life, software experience, and durability.

Should you buy a used cheap phone?

I typically wouldn't advise buying a used cheap phone unless you're using it as a secondary device. That's because used phones, depending on the condition you buy them, are more susceptible to damage, won't support any warranties, and may potentially be reported as stolen or lost, rendering the device useless after you've purchased it.

Instead, it's always ideal to buy a new phone and adjust your buying journey based on your budget and desired features.

Should you buy a used flagship phone or a new cheap phone?

I've been asked this question several times, and my answer is always this: 

You should buy an older flagship phone if...

  1. You want a phone with a premium and durable build quality
  2. Camera performance is another priority
  3. Display quality matters to you

You should buy a new cheap phone if...

  1. You want a phone with a year or two more of software updates
  2. You plan on buying insurance for your phone

Other cheap phones we tested:

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