Introduction

Today’s top smartphones can be eye-wateringly expensive. But the good news is that there are also more affordable handsets on the market than ever before, that put good quality performance within everyone’s grasp. There’s no need to part with a small fortune if you consult our expertly-chosen list of budget smartphones.

Below you’ll find all the best cheap phones available right now, with prices that range from just £180 to around £400 or so. These phones don’t just challenge the best mid-range phones on sale right now, but some can even go toe-to-toe with best phones, often offering the sorts of specs and features available on higher-end devices at a fraction of the price. 

Every phone that’s made the list has been put through its pace on rigorous benchmark tests and day-to-day use to give us the best idea of how good a phone really is in action.

This includes assessments of the screen, camera, processor and more to make sure that every aspect is up to scratch, though each phone (especially at this price point) will naturally have some weaknesses as well as strengths. Each device in this guide scored highly in our reviews, so you can be confident that they’re the best affordable phones you can get right now.

We also have other best lists for those after something a little more specific. Our best camera phone round-up focuses on a device’s photographic and videography skills, while our best mid-range phone lists focussing on slightly pricier devices.

How we test

Learn more about how we test mobile phones

Every phone we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including build quality, screen accuracy, battery life, performance and camera prowess.

These include formal synthetic benchmarks and scripted tests, plus a series of real world checks, such as how much battery it loses per hour streaming video.

We also make sure to use every phone we review as our primary handset for at least 4 days to ensure our review is as accurate as possible. You can see a more detailed breakdown of our testing methodology in our how we test phones guide.

Google Pixel 6a

Best budget camera

Pros

  • Lovely small form-factor
  • Reliable camera for the price
  • Google’s excellent software

Cons

  • 60Hz display feels slow compared to the rivals
  • Slow to fully charge

This diminutive device is somewhat in the same mould as the iPhone SE 2022; it gives you the best of the brand’s software and features (in this case, Google Android) yet in an affordable and petite handset.

Pixel phones have long been renowned for their excellent cameras, and once again you’ll find two very good snappers here, and they’re bolstered by handy tricks such as Magic Eraser and Night Sight in order to remove unwanted objects or improve your lowlight shooting, respectively. That said, this time around the cameras aren’t such a quantum leap above the competition as previous editions have been.

One area where the Pixel 6a really does excel over its rivals is in the processor, which is the very same Tensor chip that you’ll find in the Pixel 6 Pro. It might not be an absolute beast in performance terms, but it helps to deliver the great software, post-processing, 5G connectivity, and enhanced security that makes this phone a great all-round package.

Though the screen is colourful and punchy, it suffers a bit from not having a refresh rate enhanced beyond the standard 60Hz, so may not seem as smooth as its competitors. Nonetheless, it’s well worth the price when all is taken into consideration.

Reviewer: Max Parker

Full review: Google Pixel 6a

Nothing Phone (1)

Best for design

Pros

  • A design that stands out
  • Really nice 120Hz OLED display
  • Plenty of phone for the money

Cons

  • Glyph Interface is more of a gimmick than a useful feature
  • Odd performance issues, especally with the camera

Probably the most eye-catching handset on this list, the Nothing Phone (1)‘s design stands out from the crowd due to its transparent back covering and flashing LED arrangement, which can indicate incoming notifications or the charging level. If this out-of-the-ordinary design appeals to you, then it’s a good phone to buy (frankly though, we did find it a tad irritating); but fortunately there’s more to it than just that.

We particularly liked the lush 120Hz display, which is one of the best around at this price point. With HDR support and high levels of brightness, this screen is a joy to use for gaming and more. There are two rear cameras on board, wide and ultrawide, and they both do a pretty good job. Although some snaps can end up looking over-exposed, most of the photos that we took in complimentary lighting conditions turned out very well, while its night shooting was a particular highlight.

The 4500mAh battery was big enough to get us through the day, and it’s great to see the wireless charging feature at this price point as well. However, one of the few negatives about this handset were the performance issues, likely down to sub-par software optimisation, which caused some stuttering from time to time.

Reviewer: Max Parker

Full review: Nothing Phone 1

Realme 9 Pro Plus

Best for fast charging

Pros

  • Excellent main camera for the money
  • Solid performance
  • Fast 60W charging

Cons

  • Drab design in two of three colours
  • Realme UI isn’t a slick Android skin

The Realme 9 Pro Plus is a very good all-rounder for the price, but it’s got one killer feature in particular, and that’s its main camera. This 50-megapixel sensor is the same one you’ll find on the Oppo Find X5 Pro, and it delivers wonderfully appealing photos that were both sharp and vibrant. Although night-time shots may tend to be over-brightened, they still retain impressive levels of detail and clarity.

The 6.4-inch AMOLED screen is also a boon, with its 90Hz refresh rate and 1080p resolution, while the flashy design gives you a handset that you’ll be proud to hold. In performance terms, the Realme 9 Pro Plus is good enough to run the latest games, and what’s more, it does pack in 5G connectivity like the other phones on this list.

The 4500mAh battery gave us enough juice to get through a moderate day of usage without sweating, and it’s supported with snappy 60W fast-charging that can get you up to 100% from zero in just 44 minutes.

Reviewer: Jon Mundy

Full review: Realme 9 Pro Plus

iPhone SE 2022

Best for Apple fans on a budget

Pros

  • The fastest phone at this price (by some distance)
  • Takes great daylight pictures
  • IP rating and wireless charging
  • iOS and all the benefits that come with it

Cons

  • Small screen is cramped and restrictive
  • Tired design
  • No night mode in the camera

We are bending our rules slightly to include a phone that breaks our price limit, but if you’re deadset on getting yourself a new iPhone, then this is your cheapest option – and it’s still a belter.

If you can forgive the depressingly dated design, and its associated small screen which measures just 4.7-inches, then the iPhone SE 2022 does in fact still offer a lot of positive points for the price.

First and foremost, it runs on the brilliant A15 Bionic chip, which is one of the very best in the business; it’s actually the very same one that you’ll find on the iPhone 13 Pro, so you won’t be wanting for power. Even better, this phone will be in line for Apple’s unparalleled long-term software support, so we wouldn’t even be surprised to see it getting the latest updates seven years from now.

On top of that, the newest iPhone SE has one of the best cameras that you’ll find for the price, and it particularly delivers on richly detailed images, so that dog fur or woolly jumpers look especially good. All that said, it does miss out on Night Mode, which is a shame, and so if you’re planning to take a lot of pictures when the sun is down then this might not be the best phone for you. The selfie camera also could do with some work, not being to the same standard as the main snapper.

If you’re looking for an iPhone that gives a good camera and strong performance for a cheaper entry price then this is a good bet, but do bear in mind that the screen is small and underwhelming.

Reviewer: Max Parker

Full review: iPhone SE 2022

Poco X4 Pro 5G

Best for a value big screen

Pros

  • Great screen
  • Very good main camera
  • 67W fast-charging
  • Strong battery life

Cons

  • Unsubtle design
  • Not the most powerful processor
  • Secondary cameras aren’t brilliant

The Poco X4 Pro 5G is great-value handset offers great features across the board, so it’s well worth your consideration if you’re hunting for a handset that’s below $300/£300.

The AMOLED screen measures a generous 6.67-inches with a 1080p resolution, and the headline features is its 120Hz refresh rate, which is brilliant for the price. It’s not auto-adaptive, but if you’re prepared to adjust it yourself then you’ll find that supported content is smoother than ever.

Its main 108-megapixel camera is also worth shouting about, as it delivers excellent pictures that are bound to impress for the price. Night Mode also does a good job of cleaning up any noise that you might get. However, the accompanying ultrawide and macro lens aren’t up to this same standard, being a tad disappointing.

Performance standards are good but not exceptional on this phone, but it does offer 5G connectivity for the latest mobile data speeds. The battery life is brilliant, as we reckon that you could even squeeze two day’s life out of it if you use your phone with some restraint.

There aren’t many downsides here, but one would have to be the unsubtle and clunky design, and the other would be its bloatware-stuffed software interface.

Reviewer: Peter Phelps

Full review: Poco X4 Pro 5G

FAQs

Which cheap phone has the best camera?

Our favourite cheap phone for the camera is the Pixel 6a.

Comparison Specifications

UK RRP

USA RRP

EU RRP

CA RRP

AUD RRP

Manufacturer

Screen Size

Storage Capacity

Rear Camera

Front Camera

Video Recording

IP rating

Battery

Wirless charging

Fast Charging

Size (Dimensions)

Weight

Operating System

Release Date

First Reviewed Date

Resolution

HDR

Refresh Rate

Ports

Chipset

RAM

Colours

Stated Power

Trusted Reviews test data

Geekbench 5 single core

Geekbench 5 multi core

sRGB

Adobe RGB

DCI-P3

Max brightness

1 hour video playback (Netflix, HDR)

30 minute gaming (intensive)

30 minute gaming (light)

1 hour music streaming (online)

1 hour music streaming (offline)

Time from 0-100% charge

Time from 0-50% charge

3D Mark – Wild Life

3D Mark – Sling Shot Extreme



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