Our team has researched and reviewed these Cheap Rootable Android Phone products to help you come up with a better buying decision. We’ve also put up a rooted phones for sale shopping guide with the features you can consider when buying the best phones to root 2020 models.
According to a study done by Kaspersky, 7.6% of Android users root their phones. That may not sound like a lot, but with over 2 billion Android devices out there, the math works out to over 150 million rooted phones — more than the total population of Russia, Mexico, or Japan — so root nation is an important demographic that deserves being catered to.
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Phone 1OnePlus 7 Pro
OnePlus has been releasing phones that embody the Nexus lineup since the OnePlus One. You can expect every new phone they release to get full support from the rooting community, thanks to their timely release of kernel sources and driver binaries. They’re also one of the only phones to not void your warranty for unlocking the bootloader, which makes experimentation that much easier.
Because of OnePlus’ support, modifying their phone is as easy as it gets. Their official forums are a haven of information specific to each model and will usually answer almost any problem that might arise when trying to root your phone or add modified software. Also, like every phone on our list, there is an active XDA community where you’ll find all the software you need to root your phone, install a custom recovery, and much more.
Strictly from a rooting perspective, there isn’t much difference between OnePlus and Google. Both have an active community and are supported for years after their phones are released (the original Google Pixel still gets official custom ROM support from Lineage OS). The biggest advantage OnePlus has is that, pound for pound, the 7 Pro is a better phone than the Pixel 4, so it’s in the hands of more developers.
The OnePlus 7 Pro was in some ways an answer to every compliant OnePlus users have had the last few years. Want a higher resolution? Check. Want a massive battery? Check. Want all of this plus top tier specs at a price $100+ cheaper than the competition? Check again. The OnePlus 7 Pro is the best overall phone they’ve ever released, and that includes the recently launched OnePlus 7T.
At a starting price of $669, the OnePlus 7 Pro is a great option, even if you don’t want to root. But what rooting enables is the ability to keep your phone longer. Whether you don’t have the money to upgrade each year, don’t want to upgrade to avoid e-waste, or really just love the phone, rooting makes it easier to keep your phone three or more years. You can still get monthly security updates through custom ROMs long after OnePlus abandons support.
As with the previous version of OnePlus smartphones, the 7 Pro has a software-based tamper flag that lets OnePlus know you modified the software. However, by flashing the factory images for the 7 Pro, you can restore your phone to its stock state, resetting the flag.
While some of its predecessors have a more active community, there are few phones released in the past year which offer more options than the OnePlus 7 Pro. There’s a large number of ROMs and kernels to install to change how your phone functions. There is official Team Win Recovery Project (TWRP) support for the 7 Pro, so flashing modified software is easier. It has official Magisk support, the rooting tool of choice, and works with most of its modules.
If you want one of the best options available for rooting and you live in the US, look no further than the OnePlus 7 Pro. If you live in a market that didn’t get the 7 Pro, you likely got the 7T Pro, which is essentially the same phone but with a slightly better SoC and a faster wired charging. And if you want to save a bit of money which still using the latest components, get the OnePlus 7T. You honestly won’t be disappointed.
Buy an Unlocked OnePlus 7 Pro Directly From OnePlus for $669
best phones to root 2020
Phone 2Google Pixel 4
When switching from the beloved Nexus lineup to the Pixel, Google tried to bridge two worlds. They wanted to create a phone that appeals to the everyday user while also having a modder’s heart at its core. In the process, it embodied the essence of its biggest competitor, the iPhone, offering good but not great performance, a fantastic camera, and a premium price tag. It became a phone that better suited the need of the many while still giving modders the flexibility to make it more.
Let me start by saying, unlike other phones on our list, it doesn’t matter at all which of the Pixel 4 models you choose. If you want a better battery life and bigger screen, go with the Pixel 4 XL. However, if you want the same experience at a lower price tag, go with the Pixel 4. The phones are interchangeable with only battery size, screen size, screen resolution, and overall dimensions being the difference.
Despite Google’s focus on security with the Titan M security chip, rooting still isn’t hindered. Google has done a great job of allowing this chip to protect against outside threats while keeping users’ tampering unaffected.
Besides OnePlus, no other OEMs have been as friendly to the modding community as Google. They are one of the only companies to release the kernel sources day one, a requirement of all OEMs. While most abide this, they take their sweet time doing so, whereas Google releases them day one. This helps the community get working earlier on mods, for instance, TopJohnWu getting Magisk working on the Pixel 3 within days of its release.
At the time of this writing, the Pixel 4 is very new, so currently, very little exists in regards to mods and ROMs. However, with no major changes being reported, we expect the same level of active development from the community as with each of its predecessors. And based on the Pixel 1, 2, and 3, we can expect a very active root development scene.
The major reason why we recommend the Pixel 4 is its easy-to-unlock bootloader. Every model, except for Pixels sold by Verizon, can have its bootloader unlocked via a single Fastboot command. Unlocking the bootloader also doesn’t void your warranty, and can be undone easily using the factory images Google’s publishes as soon as any software update is released.
The Pixel 4 supports Project Treble, which makes custom ROMs even easier to build. Combine that with the release of kernel sources and driver binaries, and developers have all the tools they need to create ROMs just for you, that give you a custom look you want for your Pixel 4 (and 4 XL).
Ultimately, the reason we couldn’t rank the Google Pixel 4 higher is that as a phone, it isn’t better (overall) than the OnePlus 7 Pro. Yes, it has a top tier display (as does OnePlus 7 Pro) and industry-leading camera, but that where the advantages stop. OnePlus 7 Pro is cheaper, has better cooling, faster charging, more RAM, all while providing the same level of support from the rooting community.
If cost is your primary concern, there’s always the Pixel 3a and 3a XL. These phones make some small sacrifices in terms of performance, have a headphone jack, a similar performing camera, and come in at around half the price. And these phones abide by the same commitment to rooters as their higher-specs comrades.
Buy an Unlocked Pixel 4 Directly from Google for $799
Phone 3ASUS ZenFone 6
The biggest surprise on our list is the ASUS ZenFone 6. This phone came seemingly out of nowhere with its flagship specs at a true midrange price. It even has a headphone jack, unlike the previous two options. But what was a bigger surprise was ASUS’s support for rooters and modders.
In a big win for modders, ASUS released both the kernel sources and a dedicated tool to unlock the bootloader for the ZenFone 6 days after announcing the phone. The specialized tool came in the form of an APK (known as Unlock Device), which you sideload onto your ZenFone 6. Once installed, you follow the app’s directions and your bootloader will be unlocked, opening your device to the world of modding.
ASUS was also aware that having an unlockable bootloader and published kernel sources wasn’t enough without support. The company decided to try out a development program by sending out units to major developers in the modding community, including developers at LineageOS, OminiROM, Proton kernel, TWRP, and more. With the kernel sources, the dedicated unlock tool, and their phone in the hands of developers, the ZenFone 6 managed to get quite an active modding community with plenty of ROMs to choose from.
All this work paid off. Proton Kernel managed to add a 75 Hz refresh rate option for the phone (the phone comes with 60 Hz out of the box). There’s official LineageOS 16 support (based on Android 9 Pie) and unofficial LineageOS 17 support (based on Android 10). OmniROM created an official ROM for the phone as well, and there’s a working Gcam mod for even better photography. While its community is nowhere near as active as OnePlus and Google, ASUS has laid the foundation for establishing the trust of the modding community, which will only grow if they continue to provide the modding community this level of support.
Besides its active community, the ASUS ZenFone 6 is the best value of any phone on our list. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, 6 GB (or more) RAM, and a 6.4-inch 1080p display. It has one of the highest screen-to-body ratios thanks to motorized cameras, which allow you to use the rear camera as the front camera, a 5,000 mAh battery, fast charging, stereo speakers, and much more. And this is all for $499, $170 cheaper than the OnePlus 7 Pro. It is only $20 more than Google Pixel 3a XL (another great option for modders), but with much higher performance.
However, the ZenFone 6 doesn’t come without compromise. The first is that ASUS does void your warranty when you unlock the bootloader. This means if you run into any issues that aren’t you fault with your phone (such as faulty hardware), you can no longer mail it back to ASUS for free repairs. Another issue is that, unlike the first two phones on our list, once you unlock your bootloader, you will not be able to return your phone to its original locked condition. You will no longer receive OTA software updates. You can manually update your phone by flashing the firmware which ASUS provides on their website.
The second issue with the ZenFone 6 is, despite its best efforts, the community isn’t as large the first two options on our list. ASUS never showed this level of commitment before, so modders aren’t giving it the attention it deserves quite yet. However, as the months pass, support will continue to grow, giving you more tools to enhance your ZenFone 6.
Despite a few setbacks, the ASUS ZenFone 6 is still a very worthy member of our list. Their commitment to the modding community has been commendable, especially at a time when OEM support is dwindling. As far as value, there is no better phone on our list. Unless you desire a specific ROM, kernel, or mod that is currently unavailable with the ZenFone 6, this is probably your best option when you take into account cost.
Buy the ASUS ZenFone 6 from Amazon for $499.99
Phone 4Moto G7
Although Motorola has been struggling in its flagship series of phones, when it comes to budget devices, there are really few phones better. At a price under $300, the Moto G7 series give you good to great midrange performance at an affordable price. And for the past few years, Lenovo (Motorola’s parent company) has added to the phone’s value by allowing it to be rooted and modded.
At an MSRP of $299, it by far the most inexpensive on our list. While it lacks the performance, it isn’t far off from the other options. The Moto G7 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632, a solid midrange option that offers enough CPU and GPU performance for most people. It is paired with 4 GB of RAM, so Android 9 Pie will run well. It also has a 6.2-inch 1080p display, a 15W fast charger, and dual cameras.
With rooting, you can take this phone to another level. To unlock the bootloader, you need to visit Motorola’s official website to generate an unlock code, which you then send via Fastboot to unlock your bootloader. Generating this code requires you to input some information about your phone, which allows Motorola to track whether or not you modified the device. Motorola also specifies that
Unless you have a Developer Edition device, once you get the unlock code, your device is no longer covered by the Motorola warranty.— Motorola
Since you have to request for the code, Motorola can track that you unlocked the bootloader and void the warranty long before they even worry about you tripping a tamper fuse.
Driver binaries and kernel sources are published on Motorola’s Github page. As with all phones running Android 9 Pie (or newer) out of the box, Project Treble is supported, ensuring minimal issues when it comes to developing custom ROMs for this device.
The result is a phone with good but not great modding support. There is official custom recovery from TWRP. Root is possible with Magisk, and there is even an unofficial port of LineageOS 16 (based on Android 9 Pie). The problem is that’s about it. There aren’t any additional custom ROMs or kernels. There is a CPU & VM tweak which improves battery life and performance, but that is it.
The biggest downside to rooting the Moto G7 is the lack of stock firmware provided by Lenovo officially. While it is possible to find stock firmware images from a third-party website, it will take more work to find, and due diligence on your part to ensure you download the right firmware. However, all things considered, if you are looking to get into rooting, the Moto G7 is a great choice, especially considering its cost.
Buy the $249.99 Moto G7 Unlocked from Amazon
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.