In no particular order, here’s my list of Cheap Old Phones that are still probably worth keeping hold of, or even picking up for cheap if you’re shopping on a budget. Our team has researched and reviewed these products to help you come up with a better decision. We’ve also put up a shopping guide with the features you can consider when buying fairly used phones in Nigeria.
cheap old phones
Samsung Galaxy Note Edge (Note 4)
If you want an older handset that still stands up to today’s flagship smartphones, and in many ways laid the groundwork for them, then look no further than September 2014’s Samsung Galaxy Note Edge and to a similar extent its regular Note 4 variant.
Many of the Note Edge’s specifications will feel very familiar to anyone who’s scrolled through a modern flagship specifications sheet. The Note Edge comes with a QHD curved edge AMOLED display, 3GB of RAM, up to 64GB of memory and a microSD card slot, and a 16MP rear camera with OIS and a f/2.2 aperture. There’s also a fingerprint scanner, Quick Charge 2.0 technology, NFC support, and even an update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
The handset’s only downside is an older Snapdragon 805 processor that’s going to feel a little sluggish, but it’s certainly not a slow chip.
If you grabbed a Note Edge or Note 4, you’re probably having a hard time convincing yourself to splash out on an upgrade just yet.
HTC One (M8)
Another notable handset from the golden batch of 2014 Android flagships is the HTC One (M8), arguably the pinnacle of HTC’s mobile design language. Not only does the smartphone boast a sturdy metal build that still rivals today’s phones for aesthetics and quality, but it still provides passable mid-range performance, by today’s standards, with a Snapdragon 801 chip, 2GB of RAM, and a 1080p display.
Not only that, but the HTC One (M8) still offers consumers a top-notch audio experience. The phone boasts stereo front facing BoomSound speakers, support for 24-bit audio file playback, and aptX Bluetooth technology. There’s also NFC, Quick Charge 2.0, and an upgrade to Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which helps to keep the phone competitive with some of today’s extra features. It’s really still a good phone, just so long as you can overlook the sub-par camera performance.
LG Nexus 5
Going back into late 2013, the original LG Nexus 5 is a handset that stands out as still having a little life left in it yet. It’s hardware package is still passable especially when compared to another fan favourite, the Nexus 4, and the inclusion of Qi wireless charging and NFC means that users can keep up todate with mobile payments and other accessories. However, the handset has well documented issues with its camera and battery life that you’ll have to overlook.
Even so, the Nexus 5’s longevity is due to its strong support in the custom ROM development community. Although the phone has been dropped from Google’s official support list, third party developers have already brought Android Nougat to the handset, making it one of the most cost effective ways to keep up with the latest Android software.
Sony Xperia Z Ultra
June 2013’s Xperia Z Ultra probably won’t be on many people’s list, but it’s a handset that really is a rather unique option for phablet lovers. This 6.4-inch behemoth is starting to show its age in the hardware and software department, but its combination of sheer size and extras ensure that it’s one of the most unique handsets ever built.
One of the Z Ultra’s biggest selling points is its IP58 rating for water and dust resistance, which was ahead of the curve at the time, making it essentially a waterproof tablet. The phone also boasts a shatterproof display and its front panel responds precisely to a metallic stylus input or even drawing and writing on the screen with an ordinary pencil.
It’s also rather thin and reasonably lightweight for its size, coming in at just 6.5mm thick and weighing 212 grams. That’s thinner than Samsung’s new Galaxy S8, which is 8mm thick. They don’t make them like they used to, ‘ey?
Coming back to a slightly newer old flagship, April 2015’s LG G4 is a phone that’s still a very reasonable recommendation for people looking for a solid phone on a budget. The reason that the handset has made my list is simply because of its camera and manual shooting modes.
The phone’s photography hardware is still rated better than some more modern smartphones by DxOMark and the range of manual shooting options means that a good photographer can continue to take good looking shots with this phone, despite its age. Not to mention that this was the last handset that refined LG’s impressive original G series, before the company dove off into its questionable modular project with the G5.
The phone’s processing, memory, and display hardware is still comparable to many modern mid and higher end handsets too. The Snapdragon 808 still offers snappy performance, there’s 3GB of RAM, 32GB of memory, a QHD LCD display, NFC support, Quick Charge, optional Qi wireless charging, and 24-bit audio support, which all ensures plenty to play with even by today’s standards.
Top 9 Mobile Phone Brands in the World
- Samsung – There’s a Samsung for everyone, from the bargain-basement J series and the excellent mid-range A series to the flagship S and Note series
- Apple – The iPhones are almost unmatched when it comes to hardware quality, and the company continues to set the benchmark for design
- Google – Despite being newcomers to the manufacturing market, Google’s recent phones are true flagship devices with market-leading features
- OnePlus – Continues to offer flagship features at mid-range prices, with high-end features and performance and impressive hardware
- Huawei – Security concerns aside, it’s impossible to deny the Chinese company makes some of the most impressive phones on the market
- Motorola – It’s had a hard few years, but still knows how to knock out a top quality mid-range phone
- Nokia – Once consigned to the smartphone graveyard, Nokia is back with a vengeance with a killer low- to mid-range lineup
- LG – Formerly a smartphone giant, LG’s handsets have struggled to find an identity in a crowded marketplace
- Sony – Another brand that’s fallen on hard times, Sony has lost the initiative on design and offers a truly baffling range of phones
The smartphones market has never been more competitive, and all of the phone brands mentioned above have some fantastic (and not so fantastic) devices to choose between.
In the table below, we’ve rounded up our top choices for the best phones you can buy at the moment across a range of top phone brands:5 out of 10
|Price||Screen size||Screen type||Screen resolution||Operating system||Battery size||Processor||Verizon Plans||AT&T Plans|
|Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus||Samsung Galaxy S20||iPhone 11 Pro||iPhone 11||Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus||Google Pixel 4 XL||Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra||Oppo Find X2 Pro||iPhone 11 Pro Max||Microsoft Surface Duo|
|Android 10/ OneUI 2||Android 10/ OneUI 2||iOS 13||iOS 13||Android 10/ OneUI 2||Android 10||Android 10/ OneUI 2||Android 10/ ColorOS 7.1||iOS 13||Android 10|
|Snapdragon 855||Snapdragon 865||A13 Bionic||A13 Bionic||Snapdragon 855||Snapdragon 855||Snapdragon 865||Snapdragon 865||A13 Bionic||Snapdragon 855|
We also look at the best phone brand by budget. So whether you’re looking to spend less than $300 or three times that, we’ll help you find the perfect phone.
Phone Brands Compared
No phone brand is perfect, and each comes with a set of pros and cons. Samsung phones have great hardware, but sometimes have issues when it comes to Android and its own UI. Apple, by contrast, has fantastic integration between hardware and its own operating system, but its phones are notoriously expensive.
Let’s take an in-depth look at each phone brand:
The Korean brand manages to produce brilliant phones across a range of prices – something few other companies can achieve. Whether you want to splurge on a wallet-busting Galaxy Note 10 or Galaxy S20, or scrimp on a Galaxy A10, there’s something for everyone.
Samsung Galaxy S20
While there are three S20 models on sale, we think the S20 is probably the best choice. It has the same 120Hz refresh rate screen tech as the other phones in the series, as well as a lot of the same camera tech. However, at $999, it is significantly cheaper than the other S20 models — the S20 Ultra, for example, costs a whopping $1,399.
Plus, it has 5G as standard. The S20 is undoubtedly one of the best phones on sale at the moment (just don’t tell Samsung it’s better than the more expensive versions).
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
The S10 Plus is arguably the best phone on sale at the moment, and certainly our favorite. Its screen is brilliant, the cameras are top-drawer, and its performance is staggering. It is expensive at $999, but it’s way better value for money that some similarly-priced phones (we’re looking at you, Apple). Read our full S10 Plus review for more.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
The Note 10 Plus is huge but brilliant phone. It has a dazzling 6.8-inch display with a small hole punch front camera. As ever with Note-series phones, it comes with a built-in stylus, but also packs four rear cameras and serious performance with a Snapdragon 855 processor and 12GB of RAM on tap. If you need a phone that could feasibly replace your laptop, this is the one to go for. Read our full Note 10 Plus review for more.
Verdict – Quality across the board means that Samsung has something for everyone
Samsung Galaxy S10 PlusArguably the best phone on sale today5In Short
- Fantastic screen
- Great-looking design
- Strong cameras
- Speedy processor
- OneUI is a huge improvement over previous Samsung skins
- Samsung can be slow to issue OS updates
- Bixby isn’t very helpful
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The one you love to hate, or indeed, love to love. Apple stands out from the crowd, being the only manufacturer on this list not to use Android. Its phones are unashamedly expensive, although that doesn’t seem to put anyone off buying one.
Not sure which iPhone to get? See our simple guide, Which iPhone Should I Buy?
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
The follow-up to the XS, the 11 Pro is (in our mind, at least) the best iPhone to buy. You get a pin-sharp 5.8-inch screen, high quality materials, and typically blistering performance. It might cost $1,000, but the 11 Pro is closer than ever to being able to justify that price. We’re big fans of its new triple rear cameras and improved front snapper, while the screen is better than ever. However, Apple is being a bit stingy offering just 64GB of storage as standard.
Apple iPhone 11
The new cheap iPhone is actually $50 cheaper than the phone it replaced. At $699, you get a 6.1-inch LCD (boo) display and the same rapid performance as the 11 Pro and Pro Max. You also get some upgraded cameras over last year’s XR and a brilliant choice of color options. Most pleasingly, though, you also get a larger, longer lasting battery compared to the XR. All told, it’s a good phone that almost everyone will be smitten with.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
The largest of the new iPhones, the Pro Max is a bit of a beast. It has a 6.5-inch AMOLED display and a very large 3,969 mAh battery. Compared to the 11 Pro, however, there aren’t too many differences beyond the larger screen and battery. As a result, we’d probably opt for the cheaper phone. That’s not to say the 11 Pro Max is bad, just that we’d rather save $100 and have a just-as-capable phone.
Verdict – Apple iPhones may be expensive, but they’re excellent across the board
iPhone XSIt’s still great but for $100 more, we’d still choose the iPhone 11 Pro4.5In Short
- Great cameras
- Incredibly powerful
- Fantastic screen
- Still expensive
- Might be a touch too big for some
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It sounds surprising, but the current crop of Google phones is only the company’s third attempt at making a phone itself. However, the search engine giant excels in software, and it shows in the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, with the powerful Google Assistant and excellent cameras making for awesome Android phones.
Google Pixel 4 XL
The Pixel 4 XL is, in our mind, a great phone. However, it’s proven to be one of the most controversial phones of 2019 with large bezels and decent, but not impressive battery life, and stingy storage space. Despite these concerns, it packs the best cameras of any current phone (despite the lack of ultra wide-angle lens) and remains as easy to use as all the previous Google phones.
Google Pixel 3a XL
The Pixel 3a XL is a new cheap version of a Google phone. You still get the same excellent camera quality, but it costs $420 less. The Pixel 3a XL isn’t the fastest phone on sale, and it loses the glass rear case found on the more expensive Pixel phones. But the Pixel 3a XL is still a remarkably good phone for just $479. Read our full Pixel 3a XL review to find out more.
Google Pixel 3a
Like the above, but smaller and even cheaper. Starting at just $399, the Pixel 3a is one of the best value phones on sale. The screen is smaller at 5.6-inches but it’s still a 1080p, OLED unit. Plus, you get the best phone camera on the market for a remarkably low price. Read our full Pixel 3a review here.
Verdict – Camera lovers and Android purists can rejoice, as Google Pixel delivers
Google Pixel 4 XLAn improvement over the Pixel 3 XL, but some problems remain4.5In Short
- Stunning camera
- Impressive screen quality with new 90Hz refresh rate
- Snappy Face Unlock tech
- Significantly better battery life than Pixel 3 XL and Pixel 4
- Stock Android interface is easy to use
- Design might not be to everyone’s taste
- Gesture controls feel a bit gimmicky at the moment
- No ultra wide-angle camera lens
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Probably the first surprise entrant on the list, OnePlus has been quietly cranking out good phones for a while. It’s most recent 7 and 7 Pro models are its most expensive ever, but they’re still pretty good value compared to a lot of flagship phones.
OnePlus 7T Pro
OnePlus is famed for cramming all manner of headline-grabbing features into its phones and it’s managed to outdo itself with the 7T Pro. It has a 6.7-inch super-sharp AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling and video playback. It also packs in a Snapdragon 855+ processor and 8GB of RAM. It doesn’t end there though, with triple rear cameras, and a motorized pop-up 16Mp selfie snapper. It was also one of the first phones to use Android 10. Our only sticking point is the lack of waterproofing and the $865 price tag.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the 7T is an updated version of the 7 which launched back in June. However, OnePlus effectively ripped up the script and started again. You get a larger screen with that all-important 90Hz refresh rate. It gets a new ultra wide-angle lens to give three rear facing in total, plus it gets a larger battery (3,700 mAh vs 3,800 mAh) and even faster fast-charging.
The 7 might feel like an ugly duckling in the company of the 7T and 7T Pro. However, it’s still a top quality phone with an AMOLED display, Snapdragon 855, and dual rear cameras including a 48Mp lens. In light of the newer models, the 7 has also had a price cut. It now costs around $410, making it a seriously impressive piece of kit for the price. Read our full OnePlus 7 review for more.
Verdict – Compelling flagship-killer phones at lower prices
OnePlus 7A seriously impressive phone for the price4In Short
- Blisteringly fast
- Good screen
- Great cameras
- Faster updates than bigger manufacturers
- Cheaper than most similarly-specced rivals
- OnePlus phones are becoming more expensive
- Construction feels a little bit plasticky
- No waterproof rating
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Huawei’s had some difficult times recently. In fact, its most recent flagship phones — the Mate 30 and P40 series — were banned from being able to use Google-made apps. This means no Play Store for your favorite apps and no integration with wider Google services. As a result, we can’t really recommend these phones. Fortunately, 2018’s Mate 20 series models are still available and still have access to Google services, and they’re cheaper than ever.
Huawei Mate 20
Another fabulous cut-price Android phone. The Mate 20 comes with an unusual square arrangement for its three rear cameras, a tiny notch and a pin-sharp OLED screen. It also comes in a range of delightful colors and packs the super-speedy Kirin 980 processor.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro
The Mate 20 Pro is a real flagship rival with a Google and Samsung-rivalling price tag. It has a big 6.4-inch OLED display, runs the latest version of Android, and is available with either 6GB or 8GB Ram. You get the same triple-camera set-up at the rear, with one 40Mp, 20Mp and 8Mp lenses. It’s well worth considering if you’re in the market for an Android flagship.
Huawei P30 Pro
The P30 Pro is a true powerhouse. It has a 6.47-inch OLED display, four rear cameras, the speedy Kirin 980 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a huge 4,200 mAh battery. If you need a phone to power through games and multitasking, while also lasting all day — the P30 Pro might be for you (if you can get one).
Verdict – Excellent phones, subjected to unusual geopolitical pressures
Huawei Mate 20Lacks some top-end features but excells at the core jobs expected of a smartphoneIn Short
- Powerful processor
- Excellent battery life
- Huge screen
- LCD display isn’t as sharp as the Pro
- Might be too large for some
- Not as water or dust-proof as many phones
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You might think of Motorola as a brand relegated to the smartphone cemetry, but you’d be wrong. The brand that gave us the iconic RAZR is still knocking out some incredible mid-range phones, which are well worth taking a look at.
Moto G8 Plus
Motorola’s G-series phones have long been regarded as the best cheap phones on sale and, with the G7 Plus, the company has created another cut-price classic. It runs Android, a 6.3-inch 1080p display, triple rear cameras, and a tiny notch. It costs just $310 — yes, you read that correctly. Read our full review for more.
Motorola One Zoom
The One Zoom was launched at IFA in Berlin packing four (yes, four) rear cameras while costing just $449. That array of rear-facing lenses include a depth-sensor, a 117-degree ultra-wide angle lens, and a telephoto lens — meaning you should get great photos whatever the conditions. Find out more about the One Zoom here.
Motorola One Vision
The One Vision costs the same as the g7 Plus but is a very different phone. Firstly, it’s tall — the screen has a 21:9 aspect ratio, making it three times taller than it is wide. Secondly, it takes incredible photos with dual rear cameras (including a 48Mp lens). Thirdly, it uses Android One, a version of Android that gives you speedy updates and minimal bloatware. It’s an unusual but impressive phone.
Verdict – The cheap G-series are a solid option for those one a budget, while its Android One series keeps getting better
Motorola Moto G8 Plus ReviewOne of the best cheap Android phones gets even better4In Short
Every year, it feels like we say the same thing. The latest phones from Motorola’s G-series are great, and arguably the best value for money phones on the market. And believe it or not, 2019 is no different. The Motorola G8 Plus is a great phone, and it costs just north of $300. When a phone this good is this cheap, why would you buy anything else?GalleryClick to expand
Recently resurrected, Nokia has come back to life with a flurry of activity, launching some seriously impressive mid-range Android phones. They’re certainly not flagship killers – leave that to OnePlus – but they provide a compelling alternative to Samsung’s cheaper options.
Nokia 8.3 5G
The 8.3 is Nokia’s first 5G-enabled phone and starts from around $640 in the US — that’s cheap for a 5G device.
However, the 8.3 is more than just a 5G phone. It has a 6.8-inch display that upscales content into HDR-compatible formats for better clarity and contrast. It has four rear cameras: a 64Mp wide angle lens, a 12Mp ultrawide lens, a 2Mp macro lens for close-up shots, and a 2Mp depth sensor. Plus, it has a large 4,500 mAh battery for extra long battery life.
The 7.2 is a very impressive budget option if you’re looking for strong camera quality. Costing $349, the 7.2 comes with a 48Mp main camera, an 8Mp ultrawide lens, and a 5Mp depth sensor. Plus, these cameras use Zeiss optics for the best clarity and image quality.
The 7.2 is powered by a Snapdragon 660 processor and 4GB of RAM, meaning it should be more than fast enough for most people. The 6.3-inch Full-HD+ display means it should be perfect for streaming TV shows and movies.
The 3.2 is a remarkably cheap phone, costing just $150. It’s not perfect, with slightly sluggish performance and a finnicky face unlock system.
However, it has remarkable battery life — thanks to its efficient processor and large 4,000 mAh battery. It’s also extremely well-built, unseemingly so for a phone at this price.
If you’re looking for the perfect backup phone, the 3.2 might be the perfect fit. Find out more in our full Nokia 3.2 review.
Verdict – Buyers on a budget should definitely take a look at Nokia
Nokia 9 PureViewA left-field alternative with innovative camera set-upIn Short
- Great cameras
- Impressive pOLED screen
- Stock Android
- Powerful processor and healthy Ram figure
- Battery isn’t the biggest at 3,320 mAh
- Only IP67 is waterproof-rated, despite not having a headphone jack
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LG’s mobile division has fallen on hard times, and has failed to grab the imagination at the top end of the market. That’s not to say it doesn’t have some phones worthy of consideration, though.
LG V60 ThinQ 5G Dual Screen
LG has taken a different approach to folding phones compared to Samsung and Motorola. Instead of one screen which folds up, LG has decided to give its flagship phones two screens — no creases of reliability problems here — via a unique case attachment.
It costs $899 and, although you get the option of two screens, the rest of the spces aren’t that impressive. The primary screen has a 1080×2460 resolution — which is sharp, but not as sharp as other flagship phones. It has a large 5,000 mAh battery and uses a Snapdragon 865 processor. It gets three rear cameras including a 64Mp main lens, a 13Mp wide angle lens and a time-of-flight sensor for depth perception.
LG G8 ThinQ
The G8 ThinQ is LG’s answer to the leading flagship phones on the market. It packs a sharp 1440×3120 6.1-inch P-OLED display, a Snapdragon 855 processor for top-notch performance, and dual rear cameras. Price? At $849, it isn’t the cheapest, but it is certainly capable.
Verdict – LG is a bit of a leftfield choice, but not necessarily a bad one
LG G8 ThinQ ReviewUnusual features but a way behind the compeitionIn Short
- Interesting features such as HandID and in-display speakers
- Decent battery life and cameras
- Decent OLED display
- MicroSD carad and headphone jack support
- Fluctuating price makes it a difficult value proposition
- Not as powerful as other rivals
- Sluggish OS updates
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Sony has been stuck in a rut for a while now. However, with its new lineup of Xperia 10 phones, and the flagship Xperia 1, it’s look to change that. The phones are certainly head-turning, with overly tall displays. But are they actually any good?
Sony Xperia 10
The Xperia 10 seems like a pretty standard low- to mid-range phone. It has a Snapdragon 630 processor, dual rear cameras, and a 6-inch 1080p display. But that screen has a 21:9 aspect ratio and is, basically, just a bit too tall for one-handed use. Still, it’s good for watching films and it’ll set you back $299. Intrigued? Read our full review.
Sony Xperia 10 Plus
Like the above, but even bigger. It has a whopping 6.5-inch and it’s frankly too tall and heavy to be used with a single hand. Still, like its smaller brother, performance isn’t bad and that screen is great for watching TV shows and films, or playing games. There’s a significant price bump for that extra screen, though, as the Xperia 10 Plus costs $429.
Sony Xperia 1 II
The confusingly named Xperia 1 II is Sony’s latest flagship phone. Its main selling point is the 6.5-inch 4K 21:9 OLED display. This makes it perfect for watching movies or TV shows, as you’ll have plenty of screen real estate, as well as pin-sharp pixels.
However, you’ll pay a small fortune for that screen quality — the Xperia 1 II is expected to cost $1,300 when it goes on sale in the US.
Verdict – Sony produces decent phones at a range of prices
Sony Xperia 10 ReviewA decent mid-range phone with an unusual screen3.5In Short
- Tall screen makes watching some stuff better
- Not too expensive
- Plasticky design doesn’t feel brilliant
- Underwhelming battery life
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Phone Brands by Budget
These are the best phones you can buy, whether you have $300, $500 or over $1,000 to spend!
Best Phones Under $300 (Or $20 per month)
It’s safe to say that if you only have $300 to spend on a phone, you’re not going to be getting an iPhone. However, some brands offer great phones for budget-conscious buyers.
You should consider a phone from Motorola — anything from the G8 series would be perfect — or Nokia. Rather than looking to cut costs on the features and components, these companies produce phones that you could happily use every day. Some of the materials might not match those at the top of the market, but they have to save money somewhere.
Best Phones under $500 (Or $30 per month)
While flagship phones now cost twice as much, there are some great phones to be had for under $500.
For this budget, we’d struggle to look past the Google Pixel 3a XL. It has strong performance, guaranteed software updates, and the best camera of any phone, at any price. If you’re not keen on a Google phone, you could look at a Samsung Galaxy A50.
Best Phones under $750 (Or $40 per month)
The $500-750 phone market doesn’t have the choice that you’d perhaps expect nowadays, with the market becoming polarized towards increasingly expensive or cheap phones – but that’s not to say you won’t find some good phones.
Again, in this price range, you’ll struggle to find a better phone than the OnePlus 7. However, if you’ve currently got an iPhone, we’d probably opt for the new 11.
Best Phones around $1,000 (or $50+ per month)
If you’re lucky enough to be able to drop a grand on a phone, you’ve got plenty of options. Not all of them are as good as others, though.
Of course, we’re now really entering iPhone territory. The 11 Pro is a great phone, though we’re not sold on the 11 Pro Max. If you don’t fancy something from Apple, we’d go Google or Samsung. If you need the best cameras, get the Google Pixel 4 XL. If you need incredible all-round capabilities, get the Samsung S20.
THE BEST SMARTPHONE FOR UNDER $500 IN 2020
THE BEST SMARTPHONE UNDER $500
TheThe phone that strikes the right balance of camera, build quality, speed, battery life, software, and longevity for most people is the Apple iPhone SE 2020. Specifically, we recommend upgrading to the model with 128GB of storage for $449, which is $50 over the base price but well worth it long term.
The iPhone SE follows a very tried and true formula. It has the same body and 4.7-inch LCD screen that Apple has been using since the iPhone 6. That puts the display on the smaller end of screen sizes today and also means the phone’s bezels are bigger than anything else sold on the market.
But in exchange for that very familiar phone body, you get a lot of value. The best thing about the iPhone SE is its processor, Apple’s A13 Bionic. That matters because it is literally the fastest processor you can get on any phone, anywhere. It’s the exact same chip found in Apple’s $999-and-up iPhone 11 Pro. Normally speed isn’t something we prioritize on phones at this price point, but it’s nice to have.
Why that processor really matters, though, is overall longevity. Apple consistently supports its phones for four or more years with software updates. (That’s in opposition to Android, where getting software updates on anything but the Pixel is still a struggle.) So Apple’s choice of a fast processor means that in a few years the iPhone SE will still feel snappy and still be supported with iOS updates.
AS A TOTAL PACKAGE, THE 2020 IPHONE SE IS THE BEST SMARTPHONE UNDER $500 FOR MOST PEOPLE
Battery life is good, but not best in class. It should last about a day. Luckily, this iPhone supports wireless charging, a relative rarity at this price point. And because it has the exact same shape of the iPhone 6, 6S, 7, and 8 there is a huge ecosystem of chargers and cases for it. Unlike many inexpensive Android phones, finding compatible accessories for the iPhone SE will be a breeze.
The iPhone SE has just one camera on the back and just one selfie camera on the front, 12 megapixels and 7 megapixels, respectively. Neither is great by 2020 standards, but both are significantly better than what Apple shipped in older iPhones. It’s also fairly good by the standards of sub-$500 phones, though the Google Pixel 4A continues to win this category by a knockout. You will get a lot of camera features on the iPhone SE, including portrait and HDR, but unfortunately there is no night mode.
As a total package, the 2020 iPhone SE is the best smartphone under $500 for most people. If you think of it on a cost-per-year metric, it ends up being significantly less expensive than the competition because it’s likely to last four, five, or even six years if you take care of it. Just as importantly, it’s a great phone on its own merits. You get access to the vast array of iOS apps, Apple’s clean iOS software, and huge ecosystem of accessories.
Prices taken at time of publishing.
The best smartphone under $500 for 2020.
THE BEST INEXPENSIVE ANDROID PHONE WITH THE BEST CAMERA
IfIf you prefer Android, want to spend a little less money, or just want the best camera, then the Google Pixel 4A is the obvious choice. It doesn’t have the largest screen or the fastest processor, but it does have a clean version of Android that’s guaranteed to get software updates for at least three years. It only comes in one version: black with 128GB of storage for $349.
The Pixel 4A’s main claim to fame is its camera, which can go head-to-head with smartphones that cost $1,500 or more. That’s because Google does so much of the image processing in software — the sensor itself is actually quite old and not very special. It means that the Pixel 4A can take night photos, do astrophotography, and has a passable portrait mode. It can’t hang with the iPhone SE for video but beats it for photos every time.
THE PIXEL 4A USES GOOGLE’S VERSION OF ANDROID, WHICH MEANS IT’S EASY TO NAVIGATE AND FREE OF EXTRA STUFF
The rest of the Pixel 4A’s specs are good but not great. It has a 5.8-inch screen, just enough RAM to keep apps from closing in the background, and a headphone jack. There’s no wireless charging, no fancy face unlock, and the body is made out of plastic instead of something more premium like glass. The Pixel 4A doesn’t even offer any IP water resistance ratings (but a splash of water is probably fine).
The Pixel 4A uses Google’s version of Android, which means it’s easy to navigate and free of extra stuff you probably don’t want. More importantly, it means that Google can supply the software updates directly instead of waiting for another manufacturer or carrier to approve it. That puts you first in line for Android updates and also guarantees you’ll get them for three years.
Unfortunately, in three years, it’s quite likely that the Pixel 4A will be on its last legs. Android phones generally don’t last quite as long as iPhones do because Android tends to bog down on older hardware more quickly. The Pixel 4A’s processor is fast enough today to not be a bother, but over time it’s possible that it won’t age well.
But for all that, the Pixel 4A is probably the safest bet if you want to get an Android phone for less than $500. You’ll get better software support and a better camera for $350. Not a bad deal.
Prices taken at time of publishing.
A very inexpensive smartphone with one of the best cameras for photography you can get on any smartphone at any price.
3. ONEPLUS NORD
THE BEST ALL-AROUND ANDROID PHONE OUTSIDE THE US
Technically, saying the OnePlus Nord costs less than $500 doesn’t make much sense because it’s not available in the US right now. But if you live in a market where it’s available, the OnePlus Nord is the kind of phone that aims for a solid B in every category instead of trying to ace one or two. For £379 / €399, it’s a safe Android bet.
The OnePlus Nord has a couple of features that are normally reserved for much more expensive phones: support for sub-6 5G networks and a high-refresh-rate 90Hz display. If you live in an area where 5G is built out, you may notice faster download speeds. But it’s the display that’ll have a bigger impact on your day-to-day experience. It makes everything feel smoother and better.
You will miss out on wireless charging and a headphone jack with the Nord, but they’re really the only big things that are lacking. Battery life is solid, the 6.44-inch screen is big and beautiful, and the software is less annoying than some competitors (though not as clean as Google’s). The £379 / €399 model comes with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM, both plenty good for this price point.
As for cameras, there are a bunch of them — maybe even too many. There’s a standard, an ultrawide, and a macro camera on the back as well as a couple selfie cameras on the front. As is the norm with most smartphone cameras these days, they will get you decent photos in decent light but fall down a bit in the dark. You’ll mostly want to use the main camera, as the ultrawide has a noticeable drop in quality and the macro is only good for, well, macro or close-up shots.
All too often, phones at this price point have some critical compromise you’re forced to make in order to get the feature you really want. With the OnePlus Nord, there’s no big flaw you’ll have to work around. Again, though, it’s not available in the US. You can import it, but it’s not recommended as it won’t support the right LTE bands.
Prices taken at time of publishing.
The OnePlus Nord has better specs than you’ll find on almost any other Android smartphone in this price range.
THE BEST PHONE IF YOU WANT A BIG SCREEN
Samsung’s $399 Galaxy A51 Android phone may well turn out to be the bestselling phone of 2020. Its predecessor, the Galaxy A50, outshone all expectations. For the A51, Samsung focused on nailing a big screen, good battery life, and the camera. It got the screen just right; the other two are just fine.
The 6.5-inch OLED display on the A51 is bright and vivid, and you’d have to be pretty persnickety to find fault in it. It doesn’t offer the same high refresh rate you can get on the OnePlus Nord, but it makes up for that with Samsung’s great quality. If there’s one weird thing about the screen, it’s that Samsung put a chrome bezel around the hole punch for the front-facing selfie camera. It’s distracting.
The A51 sports nice build quality, though you can definitely feel that it’s plastic on the back. It has a headphone jack and 128GB of storage, which is the number you should be aiming for on any phone these days. Battery life should be superb thanks to a 4,000mAh battery, but because it has to power that big screen, it nets out to being just so-so.
As is becoming a (weird) standard on this class of phone, the A51 has a regular wide angle, an ultrawide, a depth sensor, and a macro camera. And as is also standard, the regular wide angle will get you the best images. The A51 can’t beat the Pixel 4A for quality, but the different lens options might be more fun for you.
Samsung recently committed to providing the A51 with three generations of Android software updates, which is great news. Less great is that it usually takes Samsung longer than you’d like to get software updates out to the A-line of phones. Samsung has also started to junk up its previously elegant OneUI software interface with ads and other junkware, so be prepared to do some cleanup.
On the whole, though, what the A51 gets you is a very big, very beautiful screen. If that’s your highest priority — and for many people, it is — the A51 is a solid choice.
Prices taken at time of publishing.
Samsung’s Galaxy A51 has a big, beautiful OLED screen.
IF YOU REALLY THINK YOU NEED 5G
If you live in the US, chances are the 5G networks in your area are not going to live up to the high-flying promises carriers have been making. But if you really do think you’d benefit from 5G, the best phone under $500 that supports it is Google’s Pixel 4A 5G. At $499, it comes in just under the wire on our price limit — but the Verizon version costs an extra $100.
The Pixel 4A 5G is good for all the reasons that the Pixel 4A is good: it has a great still camera, solid battery life, and clean Google software. It has some other benefits, though. It uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G processor, which means it’s faster than the Pixel 4A and nearly all the rest of the sub-$500 Android phones you can find.
It also has a larger screen, clocking in at 6.2 inches diagonally. It doesn’t feel too gigantic when you hold it, but you can tell it’s a larger phone. Google chose this size not to give you that bigger screen, but because it needed the extra space to hold all the components and antennas required for 5G.
The Pixel 4A 5G has a slightly better camera system compared to the Pixel 4A, thanks to the inclusion of an ultrawide sensor. Google has also made its excellent Night Sight mode automatic and improved video with some new stabilization modes.
Otherwise, it follows the standard low-cost Pixel formula. It has a plastic back with fingerprint sensor and a headphone jack. Google doesn’t load down the software with extra crapware you don’t want, but it does include some nice little Google touches like a voice recorder that automatically creates a transcription as it records.
Someday, not having 5G will be a serious downside for smartphones, but right now those networks still need to be built out a little bit more. Even if you ignore the potentially faster network speeds, the Pixel 4A 5G is a surprisingly great phone.
Prices taken at time of publishing.
Priced at $499, Google’s Pixel 4A 5G is a slightly bigger, 5G-ready version of the 4A that released earlier this year.
6. MOTO G POWER
THE PHONE WITH MAXIMUM BATTERY LIFE
Motorola makes a pair of phones that are siblings: the G Stylus and the G Power. The difference between them is right there in the names: the G Stylus comes with a stylus and the G Power has a larger battery.
We prefer the G Power because a 5,000mAh battery on a $249 phone is a shockingly good deal. You will, of course, notice a bunch of other compromises in exchange for that huge battery, but if you definitely need a phone that will last, the G Power is your best bet.
The G Power has a 6.4-inch FHD+ display which looks decent, but it unfortunately only has 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. You’ll get by on both, but you’ll run into hassles just a bit more quickly than on phones with more. The processor is a Snapdragon 665, which will be enough to run whatever app you want, it just won’t launch it quickly and overall the phone may feel too slow in two or three years.
As for cameras, the G Power keeps the trend of a main sensor, an ultrawide, and a macro on the back. The main sensor is 16 megapixels and performs much better than the $250 price would lead you to expect. If you’ve used inexpensive Motorola phones before, you’ll likely find that the G Power offers a big step up in picture quality.
If you’re very confident you want a stylus, your best bet is to see if you can find a refurbished or gently used Samsung Galaxy Note. It does a much better job providing a software ecosystem of compatible apps for its stylus. If you can’t, the G Stylus pretty much matches what we’ve said about the G Power, just with less battery life.
Prices taken at time of publishing.
A massive battery is the Moto G Power’s biggest selling point.
7. TCL 10 PRO
THE PHONE THAT LOOKS PROFESSIONAL
TCL is probably best known for its televisions, but it has served as the white label manufacturer for smartphones for many years. Now, it’s trying to make a name for itself in smartphones with new, low-cost options like the TCL 10L and the TCL 10 Pro. The Pro is the upgrade pick and retails for $449.90, though you can often find it on sale for less.
The 10 Pro looks like it means business. Instead of iridescent colors and big camera bumps, it’s thin, flat, and gray. It has a 6.47-inch display, but overall feels smaller than some phones on this list. You also get a headphone jack and a big, 4,500mAh battery that should get you through a full day without issue.
The best spec on the 10 Po is its 6GB of RAM, which is plenty for multitasking and should keep your most recent apps from shutting down in the background. There’s the appropriate 128GB of storage, too.
The 10 Pro’s understated looks also extend to the Android software, which has a few extra little features but generally tends to stay out of your way.
As for cameras, they’re somewhat uninspiring: there’s a 64-megapixel main sensor, a 16-megapixel ultrawide, and a 5-megapixel macro. The photos you’ll get have that over-processed look that sometimes makes images look artificial.
Overall, the best thing about the TCL 10 Pro is that it has plenty of RAM for multitasking and a thin shape that isn’t bombastic. If you can find a good deal on one, it’s worth a look.
Prices taken at time of publishing.
The TCL 10 Pro has a sleek, professional design.