Looking for the best cheap payg mobile phones for sale? Having a pay as you go mobile can help you to take control of how much you spend on your phone without the stress of monthly bills. In this post we will explain the advantages and disadvantages of a pay-as-you-go deal to help you work out if it’s the best option, along with the various networks you can choose from, who offers the best deals and The best cheap payg mobile phones you can get.
How do pay-as-you-go phones work?
It’s pretty simple, really. Once you purchase your handset, all you need to do is add credit and then you’re free to make calls, text and browse the internet. When your credit runs down, simply top up your phone with more.
Multiple methods of topping up your phone include buying vouchers from shops or doing it online, over the phone or via text message.
Is a pay-as-you-go phone right for me?
It all depends on how much you’re planning to use your phone. Pay monthly contracts can cost anywhere from £15 to £50 and even more, so if you’re not making a lot of calls and texts or using a lot of data then spending so much money probably doesn’t make much sense.
Basically, pay-as-you-go phones let you retain flexibility instead of locking into a set price for years to come.
What are the advantages of pay-as-you-go phones?
They’re great value, with no minimum monthly charges as you would get on a pay-monthly contract. Only using prepaid credit means that you already know what you’ll be spending – so there are no nasty surprises for going over your data allowance. Additionally, no contract means that you aren’t committed to paying a set fee for several years. And finally, pay-as-you-go phones are available to people under the age of 18, unlike pay-monthly phones.
Are there any drawbacks to pay-as-you-go phones?
Potentially the only major drawback is that you’ll have to pay full price for your handset. This means it can potentially be initially expensive if you want to buy a new, top-of-the-range smartphone. Meanwhile, those who use their phones heavily probably won’t be suited to pay-as-you-go phones, with charges likely to go above and beyond a monthly contract if you’re topping up over and over again.
The best cheap payg mobile phones
1. Alcatel 10.66: Best pay-as-you-go phone under £5
Price: £3 (with £10 top-up) | Buy now from Carphone Warehouse
It’s a basic phone, yes, but a reliable one. Obviously, at this price, you’re not getting a smartphone competitor, but if you’re looking for the basics done well then Alcatel’s 10.66 is a great all-rounder at such a low price.
A long-lasting 400mAh battery promises a standby time of 300 hours and a continuous talk time of 7.5 hours. There’s also a microSD slot that lets you add up to 32GB of storage, so you can pack a lot of tracks into the music player. Elsewhere, there’s Bluetooth, an FM radio and very basic camera for low-quality snaps.
Key specs – Camera: QQVGA (160 × 120); Storage: up to 32GB microSD; Battery: 400mAh; Weight: 63g; Screen: 1.8in, 128 x 160; Dimensions: 108 x 45 x 12.8 mm
2. Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T: Best budget pay-as-you-go smartphone
Price: £170 | Buy now from Amazon
The budget option from the Chinese brand Xiaomi, the Redmi Note 8T has the look and feel of a phone that would set you back much more. It’s the price that really stands out with this phone, being one of the cheapest fully-fledged smartphones on the market.
The 19.5:9, 2,340 x 1,080 resolution screen is a bonus, too, and really stands out from the crowd. Another plus point is the battery life, which lasted nearly 15 hours in our benchmark test. the Quadruple-camera arrangement is frankly unheard of for a phone of this price, too – we particularly like the macro lens for close-up photography.
The performance also shapes up well against its budget smartphone competitors. With either 3GB or 4GB of RAM, it’s not one for running lots of demanding apps or games but, on the whole, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better phone for the same price.
Key specs – Camera: 48-megapixel, 8-megapixel (wide), 2-megapixel (macro), 2-megapixel (depth); Storage: 64GB, up to 256GB microSD; Battery: 4,000mAh; Weight: 200g; Screen: 6.3in, 2,340 x 1,080; Dimensions: 162 x 75 x 8.6mm
3. Nokia 1.3: Best smartphone under £100
Price: £80 l Buy now from Amazon
Cheap smartphones often get a bit of a bad reputation, but the Nokia 1.3 bucks that trend. Despite costing a good deal less than £100, thus undercutting practically every smartphone on the market, it’s a surprisingly competent little device and a perfect handset for Android first-timers.
It’s well-built, has a nice bright screen and the software caters to its low-powered specifications. The camera is also rather good for the price, and the battery can be removed too. It’s not the fastest phone around – not by a long shot – but where it counts the Nokia 1.3 is a handy companion with guaranteed software upgrades for at least two years.
Key specs – Camera: 8-megapixel; Storage: 16GB; Battery: 3,000mAh; Weight: 155g; Screen: 5.7in, 1,520 x 720; Dimensions: 147 x 71 x 9.4mm
4. Nokia 105 v5: Best throwaway pay-as-you-go phone
Price: £5 (with £10 top-up) | Buy now from Carphone Warehouse
Similarly styled to the Alcatel above, the Nokia 105 v5 also includes several similar features to Nokia’s budget offering. There’s a music player, 1.8in screen and an 800mAh battery – though this sort of low-powered phone will last a long time regardless.
The only stumbling block is that there’s no rear camera to speak of, so you won’t be able to take pictures. Still, the price is obviously the major selling point – where else can you get a phone for this cheap?
Key specs – Camera: N/A; Storage: 4MB; Battery: 800mAh; Weight: 73g; Screen: 1.8in, 120 x 160; Dimensions: 119 x 49 x 14.4mm
5. Nokia 2720 Flip: A classic, updated
Price: £70 (with £10 top-up) | Buy now from Carphone Warehouse
The Nokia 2720 Flip is bringing flip phones back into the mainstream. Taking a slice right out of the noughties, Nokia’s 2720 Flip harks back to a bygone era and there’s no better reason than any to jump back in – being able to aggressively hang up the phone by closing the lid remains an absolute delight.
It’s not all about the 2720 Flip’s foldability, however. It’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 205, which makes it much faster than any other feature phone on the market, and the 2-megapixel camera is far superior, too. In the present day, it’s still a bit of a basic phone, but the nostalgia hit and additional features lift it above the other phones listed here.
Key specs – Camera: 2-megapixel; Storage: 128MB, microSD slot; Battery: 1,500mAh; Weight: 118g; Screen: 2.8in, 320 x 240; Dimensions: 193 x 55 x 11.6mm
6. Apple iPhone SE (2020): Best pay-as-you-go Apple phone
Price: £419 | Buy now from Carphone Warehouse
On the face of it, the iPhone SE (2020) might be little more than a warmed-up iPhone 8, but there are many reasons why it’s worth considering. The most important of which is that it’s Apple’s cheapest new iPhone in years.
With prices spiralling ever upwards, it’s refreshing to see a mid-priced iPhone for the masses, and it certainly helps that the iPhone SE performs remarkably in almost every area. It has a great camera, has identical performance as the expensive iPhone 11 Pro Max and the screen is lovely. The only fly in the ointment is battery life, although it’s hardly weak by previous Apple standards.
Key specs – Camera: 12-megapixel; Storage: 64GB; Battery: 1,821mAh; Weight: 148g; Screen: 4.7in, 1,334 x 750; Dimensions: 67 x 138 x 7.3mm
7. Samsung Galaxy A51: Best premium pay-as-you-go phone
Price: £329 | Buy now from Amazon
The mid-range Samsung Galaxy A51 is remarkably good value for money. Perhaps one of the best-priced Samsung phones to date, the Galaxy A51 doesn’t scrimp on features, with a quadruple-camera setup, large Full HD screen and a swish-looking design.
It isn’t quite as fully-formed as its premium-priced Galaxy stablemates, but at a fraction of the cost, you really can’t grumble too much. if you don’t fancy spending over a thousand pounds on the latest and greatest Samsung phone, then the Galaxy A51 is your best bet.
Key specs – Camera: 48-megapixel, 12-megapixel, 5-megapixel, 5-megapixel; Storage: 128GB, up to 1TB microSD; Battery: 4,000mAh; Weight: 172g; Screen: 6.5in, 2,400 x 1,080; Dimensions: 159 x 74 x 7.9mm
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.