Top-end phones like Apple’sor the Wrap up the best technology that can be found on a mobile phone. They offer amazing performance and a wide range of features, but they also come with sky-high prices. All of these specs can be considered excessive, and many people don’t need the latest processor or camera.
Buying a phone on a more modest budget is very easy now, including brand new affordable handsets to discounted previous generation models. And despite their low prices, budget phones can be extremely advanced, offering features similar to premium phones like great multi-lens cameras, fast processors, lots of internal storage, a fingerprint reader, and even 5G connectivity. Plus, when you’re ready to buy an unlocked phone, you have even more choices.
Check out the following list of the best phones under $ 500 – which we update regularly – and read reviews from CNET. Note that we’ve linked the unlocked version of every budget smartphone and they should run on most of the four major US carriers unless otherwise noted.
Look at that:
The most important functions of the budget phone
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With a four-year gap between the 2020 iPhone SE and the previous one, Apple has given its newest budget phone a slew of upgrades. These include wireless charging, better camera specifications, and water resistance. If you’re looking for a new iPhone but want to save as much money as possible, the $ 399 iPhone SE is your best bet for an affordable iPhone option.
Read our review of the Apple iPhone SE (2020).
Sarah Tew / CNET
In addition to the main Galaxy S21 phones, Samsung has a more cost-conscious line of A-series phones. This year it launched the Galaxy A52 5G, which has four cameras including a selfie camera, an in-screen fingerprint sensor, and expandable storage. Samsung released this phone in some fun colors, but for those shopping in the US, you will likely only find it in black.
Angela Lang / CNET
If you’re looking for a sturdy phone on a budget, the Pixel 4A is the way to go. In addition to an excellent dual camera system and respectable battery life for the low price, Google is promising software updates and new features for this model by 2023. It’s an all-round solid phone, and in true Google fashion, you’ll be wondering why not every phone does so much work to make your life easier.
Read our Google Pixel 4A review.
Érika García / CNET
The OnePlus 8 impressed us with its solid equipment, its good screen and its attractive design. Better still, it also offers 5G data speeds, and its affordable introductory price is now even lower and can be bought online for around $ 400, which makes it great value for money.
Sarah Tew / CNET
The Moto G Power has a sturdy 5,000 mAh battery that lasted an impressive four days without charging in our tests. The phone has three rear cameras (one of which is a macro lens), a 6.4-inch display, and expandable storage. Not bad for the $ 180 price tag.
James Martin / CNET
OnePlus is expanding its lower-priced Nord family of phones with the introduction of the $ 300 Nord N10 5G. While it doesn’t have wireless charging or an on-screen fingerprint reader like higher-end OnePlus phones, it does have a 90Hz display, a headphone jack, and 5G. Read our OnePlus N10 5G review.
Josh Miller / CNET
While the iPhone XR may be nearly three years old, it is still officially sold by Apple and is still getting the latest versions of iOS, making it a legitimate contender for your hard-earned cash. Currently starting at $ 499 without a contract with 64 GB, it has a 6.1-inch LCD display, a 12-megapixel rear-view camera and the A12 Bionic processor. It’s similar in specs to the iPhone SE 2020, but the XR’s bigger screen could be worth the extra $ 100.
Read our Apple iPhone XR review.
Sarah Tew / CNET
If you’re looking for a cheaper Note 20 alternative, the Moto G Stylus has a pen that you can keep on the phone along with a built-in note-taking app for productivity. Currently priced at $ 280 from Motorola, the phone also has three rear cameras, 128GB of storage, and a sturdy 4,000mAh battery. It doesn’t support 5G data speeds, but its successor, the Moto G Stylus 5G (seen earlier on this list) offers 5G along with more internal storage and, unsurprisingly, a slightly higher price tag of $ 400.
Read our Moto G Stylus review.
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