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These budget phones are the best you can buy in 2021

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Buying a smartphone doesn't have to be expensive — seriously. If you need a new device but don't have a lot of cash to spend, our top picks for the best budget phone prove that you can get a quality gadget without going broke. Whether you buy our top pick of the Google Pixel 4a or any of the other choices on this list, you can't go wrong with any of these phones.

Top 6 budget phones at a glance

  1. Google Pixel 4aBest Overall: An amazing camera, great specs, and a seriously competitive price make the Pixel 4a a winner.
  2. Google Pixel 5Best Upgrade: If you have a more flexible budget, the Pixel 5 delivers meaningful upgrades for a bit more cash.
  3. Samsung Galaxy S20 FEBest Value Flagship: Want a full flagship experience without going broke? That's exactly what the S20 FE delivers.
  4. Moto G Power (2020)Best Battery: Thanks to 3+ days of battery life per charge, you never have to worry about running out of juice with the Moto G Power
  5. iPhone 12 miniBest Compact: With a seriously small display and body, the iPhone 12 mini is the powerful compact smartphone we've been waiting for.
  6. iPhone SEBest Cheap iPhone: The iPhone SE won't win any design awards, but if you want that Apple experience at a phenomenal price, it's hard to argue with.

What are the best budget phones?

The market for the best budget phones is incredibly competitive, but if we had to pick a single winner, it would be the Google Pixel 4a. Starting with the Pixel 3a in 2019 and continuing with the most recent 4a, Google has repeatedly proven that it's one of the best in the business when it comes to creating affordable smartphones.

Looking at the Pixel 4a, there isn't a single aspect in which it drops the ball. It has a vibrant OLED display, good performance, all-day battery life, and clean software that's backed by three years of guaranteed updates. Above all of that, though, is the camera. The 12.2MP sensor is the exact same one found on the more expensive Pixel 5, and in short, it allows the Pixel 4a to capture some of the best photos out of any phone — regardless of price. Considering you get all of that for just $349, the Pixel 4a makes it clear why it's the best of the budget space.

That said, the term "budget phone" can mean something different for everyone. If you have a bit more cash to spend but aren't ready to shell out $1000+ for the latest top-tier flagship, we'd strongly urge you to consider the Google Pixel 5. This is essentially an upgraded version of the Pixel 4a, with some of its best features being a buttery-smooth 90Hz display, a much faster processor with 5G support, a 16MP ultra-wide camera in addition to that 12.2MP one, and wireless charging. The $699 asking price is considerably more than the Pixel 4a, but it's also quite a bit cheaper than devices like the Galaxy S20 and iPhone 12 Pro.

Speaking of Samsung, the company has its own budget competitor in the form of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE. It shares the same $699 retail price as the Pixel 5, and if you'd rather have a larger display and an even more capable processor at the expense of camera quality and software, it's a fantastic alternative to consider.

Google Pixel 4aSource: Andrew Martonik / Android Central

1. Google Pixel 4a

The best budget phone overall

$349 at Amazon

Bottom line: The Google Pixel 4a is a phenomenal package. Its camera and software are unmatched at this price, the day-to-day experience it offers is great in every regard, and it features one of the cheapest prices on this list.

Category Google Pixel 4a
Display 5.81-inch OLED, 2340×1080, 60Hz refresh rate
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
RAM 6GB
Storage 128GB
Cameras 12.2MP primary
Charging 18W wired
Battery 3,140 mAh
Water Resistance
Dimensions 144×69.4×8.2mm
Weight 143g

Pros

  • Unbelievably good camera for the price
  • Clean, helpful software with guaranteed updates
  • OLED display is sharp and vibrant
  • All-day battery life
  • Easy to use in one hand

Cons

  • Uninspired design

When looking at a smartphone this affordable, you expect there to be something that was scaled back to hit such a low price — whether it be a low-quality display, weak cameras, or something else. The miracle of the Pixel 4a is that none of that happened. Google made an incredible smartphone, slapped it with a $349 asking price, and did so without crippling it any major way.

As we've hinted at already, the main draw to the Pixel 4a is its 12.2MP rear camera. It doesn't sound all that impressive compared to the camera systems of other phones on this list, but in real-world use, it's among the very best. This is all thanks to Google's top-notch image processing, allowing the Pixel 4a to capture images that are detailed, full of accurate colors, and allows the phone to do just fine in virtually any lighting condition. Whether you're taking a gorgeous portrait photo or a shot of the starry night sky, the Pixel 4a delivers time and time again. And, thanks to the simplified camera app, it's one of the easiest phones to shoot with.

Outside of that great camera experience, the rest of the Pixel 4a manages to hold its own just fine. Another strong suit is its software, which is one of the cleanest builds of Android currently available. It's easy-to-navigate, not bogged down with unnecessary clutter, and is backed by three years of guaranteed OS updates + monthly security patches. And the features that Google has added to Android, such as its Personal Safety app and the ability to have Google Assistant screen calls on your behalf, are among the most useful we've seen.

Then there are all of the other specs. The OLED display looks great, performance is plenty fast for most tasks, and you can expect a full day of battery life. Pair that together with extra goodies like a 3.5mm headphone jack and NFC for Google Pay, and the Pixel 4a is a shining example of how to do budget phones right. In fact, it's one of our picks for the best Android phones overall.

Best Budget Phone Overall



Google Pixel 4a

When you think of a perfect budget phone, the Pixel 4a is what comes to mind. For $349, it delivers an exceptional experience.

Pixel 5 screen

Pixel 5 screenSource: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

2. Google Pixel 5

The best budget phone upgrade

$700 at Amazon

Bottom line: Like what you see with the Pixel 4a but wish it had a little more oomph? That's what you get with the Pixel 5. Between the 90Hz display, 16MP ultra-wide camera, and faster performance, the Pixel 5 is an incredibly capable device that still retains an affordable cost.

Category Google Pixel 5
Display 6.0-inch OLED, 2340×1080, 90Hz refresh rate
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
RAM 8GB
Storage 128GB
Cameras 12.2MP primary, 16MP ultra-wide
Charging 18W wired, 12W wireless, 5W reverse wireless
Battery 4,080 mAh
Water Resistance IP68
Dimensions 144.7×70.4x8mm
Weight 151g

Pros

  • The best camera system on Android
  • 90Hz display looks great
  • Snappy processor with 5G support
  • Excellent, up-to-date software
  • Has wireless charging and water resistance

Cons

  • Not the fastest processor at this price

The Pixel 4a is a fantastic value in almost every way, especially if you have a budget of $400 or less. But for shoppers with can afford something a little bit nicer, you'll want to consider the Google Pixel 5. It shares a lot of the Pixel 4a's DNA, upgrades various specs, and does so while still costing a lot less than traditional flagship devices.

You get the same 12.2MP primary camera found on the 4a, but along with that, the Pixel 5 also adds a 16MP ultra-wide sensor. Combine that with the same excellent image processing, and the Pixel 5 ends up being a camera champ.

In regards to other upgrades, a notable one is the 90Hz refresh rate for the display. This makes interacting with the phone feel much more responsive, especially when paired with the faster Snapdragon 765G processor (which also allows for 5G connectivity). Furthermore, in addition to a larger battery, the Pixel 5 adds support for wireless charging for a more convenient user experience all around.

The $700 retail price is more than some people may be willing to spend, but if you've been looking for a flagship experience but aren't ready to throw down $1000 or more, the Pixel 5 is a great way to go.

Best Budget Phone Upgrade



Google Pixel 5

For shoppers that can afford to spend $700, the Pixel 5 is one of the best phones you can get.

Galaxy S20 FE in Cloud Lavender

Galaxy S20 FE in Cloud LavenderSource: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

3. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

The best budget value flagship

$600 at Amazon

Bottom line: Another phone that delivers incredible value for around that $700 price point is the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE. If you'd rather have a more capable processor and a better display at the expense of a slightly inferior camera, this is the phone to get.

Category Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Display 6.5-inch AMOLED, 2400×1080, 120Hz refresh rate
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
RAM 6GB
Storage 128GB or 256GB
Cameras 12MP primary, 12MP ultra-wide, 8MP telephoto
Charging 25W wired, 15W wireless, 4.5W reverse wireless
Battery 4,500 mAh
Water Resistance IP68
Dimensions 159.8×74.5×8.4mm
Weight 190g

Pros

  • 120Hz AMOLED display is top-tier
  • Incredible performance with Snapdragon 865
  • Has expandable storage
  • Great battery and wireless charging
  • Three years of software updates

Cons

Sticking with a budget of around $700, another option to keep on your radar is the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE. You are getting less RAM and the camera package isn't quite as good, but there's still plenty to like.

First thing's first, we have the display. Along with a larger display that some may prefer for content consumption, the Galaxy S20 FE also has a faster 120Hz refresh rate. From scrolling, swiping, or doing anything else on the phone, it'll move like butter on the S20 FE. This is also helped by the flagship-grade Snapdragon 865 processor, which is the same one you'll find in much more expensive devices like the S20 Ultra.

Other hardware for the S20 FE is just as impressive, whether it be the presence of expandable storage or the generous 4,500 mAh battery with wireless charging. We also have to give Samsung credit for backing the Galaxy S20 FE with three years of major software updates, which is the same level of support found on the Pixel series.

The S20 FE is a great deal at the $700 MSRP, but you can often get it for even less. Samsung often discounts the phone to $600 or even as low as $550, and if you can pick it up at one of those prices, you should absolutely jump on this one.

Best Budget Value Flagship



Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Not impressed with the Pixel 5? the Galaxy S20 FE features a similar price tag and a couple of upgraded specs.

Moto G Power Review

Moto G Power ReviewSource: Joe Maring / Android Central

4. Moto G Power (2020)

The best battery life on a budget phone

$220 at Amazon

Bottom line: Battery life is one of the most important features for any smartphone, and in that regard, the Moto G Power is the best of the best. The 5,000 mAh battery inside the phone allows for over three days of use on a single charge, and at just $250 or less, it's also an excellent value.

Category Moto G Power (2020)
Display 6.4-inch LCD, 2300×1080, 60Hz refresh rate
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 665
RAM 4GB
Storage 64GB
Cameras 16MP primary, 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro
Charging 10W wired
Battery 5,000 mAh
Water Resistance Water-repellent coating
Dimensions 159.9×75.8×9.6mm
Weight 199g

Pros

  • Battery lasts 3+ days on a single charge
  • Full HD+ display with slim bezels
  • Motorola's exclusive software features
  • Headphone jack + expandable storage
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • Only promised a single update
  • Mediocre cameras

We've gotten to a point where most phones have good-great battery life, but what if you want a phone with stupendous battery life? That's when you get the Moto G Power. Thanks to an absolutely massive 5,000 mAh battery, the G Power is a phone you can use for three days (or more) on just one charge. If you've been searching for a phone that can keep up with your intensive use, this is it.

Battery life is obviously the main draw to the Moto G Power, but there are a few other perks that come with it. The Full HD+ display looks rather good, you get a headphone jack and expandable storage, and Motorola adds some legitimately great features on top of Android (such as twisting the phone to open the camera app). The big downside, however, is that Motorola promises just one software update. The Moto G Power is currently running Android 10, it'll get an update to Android 11 at some point this year, and that'll be it.

Furthermore, we want to point out that we're highlighting the 2020 model of the Moto G Power. There is a new 2021 version that's now available, but given that it has a worse processor and a lower-resolution display for the same $250 retail price, we can't recommend it over the 2020 version. Inventory for the 2020 Moto G Power is bound to become scarce over the year, so if you can't find any in stock, our next pick would be the Moto G Stylus mentioned below.

Best Battery



Moto G Power (2020)

Lots of phones have good battery life. The Moto G Power has amazing battery life — touting 3+ days of use per charge.

iPhone 12 mini

iPhone 12 miniSource: Joe Maring / Android Central

5. iPhone 12 mini

The best compact budget phone

From $699 at Apple

Bottom line: There's been a massive push for large phones over the past few years. If you're fed up with devices that are awkward to use with one hand, the iPhone 12 mini is what you've been waiting for. It's incredibly compact, extremely powerful, and happens to be one of the most affordable iPhones you can buy right now.

Category iPhone 12 mini
Display 5.4-inch OLED, 2340×1080, 60Hz refresh rate
Processor Apple A14 Bionic
RAM 4GB
Storage 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB
Cameras 12MP primary, 12MP ultra-wide
Charging 20W wired, 7.5W wireless, 15W MagSafe
Battery Up to 15 hours of video playback
Water Resistance IP68
Dimensions 131.5×64.2×7.4mm
Weight 135g

Pros

  • One of the smallest phones you can buy
  • Blistering-fast performance
  • Excellent cameras
  • iOS features like iMessage and AirDrop
  • Wireless + MagSafe charging

Cons

  • OK battery life
  • 64GB of base storage

With every year that passes, it seems like smartphones continue to get bigger and bigger. This is great if you have large hands and enjoy those big form factors, but if not, it can make buying a new phone fairly challenging. Thankfully, we have the iPhone 12 mini.

As the name implies, the iPhone 12 mini is…well, mini. With a 5.4-inch display and smaller dimensions than any other phone on this list, it's compact in every possible manner. From being able to use the iPhone 12 mini with one hand or actually having it fit in a small pocket/bag, it's a breath of fresh air. This does mean that battery life isn't the best we've ever seen, but it should be enough for most people to get through a normal day of use.

What's even better is that Apple didn't skimp out on specs. The iPhone 12 mini has the Apple A14 Bionic processor, an OLED display, IP68 water-resistance, and ample charging options (wired, wireless, and with the new MagSafe system). Getting 64GB of storage with the base model isn't great, but even if you splurge for the 128GB model, you're still only paying $749. Compared to the $1000+ iPhone 12 Pro, it's quite the deal.

Best Compact Phone



iPhone 12 mini

Big phones have their place, but if you'd rather have a small one, the iPhone 12 mini takes the cake.

iPhone SE 2020 review

iPhone SE 2020 reviewSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

6. iPhone SE

The best cheap iPhone

From $399 at Apple

Bottom line: Owning an iPhone has gotten much more affordable in recent years, and right now, the best way to get an iPhone while spending as little as possible is the iPhone SE. So long as you don't mind the outdated design, the iPhone SE gives you amazing performance, a good camera, and all of the iOS features you could ever want — all for just $400.

Category iPhone SE
Display 4.7-inch LCD, 1334×750, 60Hz refresh rate
Processor Apple A13 Bionic
RAM 3GB
Storage 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB
Cameras 12MP primary
Charging 18W wired, 7.5W wireless
Battery 1,821 mAh
Water Resistance IP67
Dimensions 138.4×67.3×7.3mm
Weight 148g

Pros

  • Perfect size for smaller hands
  • Unmatched performance at this price
  • 5+ years of software updates
  • IP67 water resistance
  • Qi wireless charging

Cons

  • Massive bezels
  • Battery life isn't anything special

Shoppers that want into the Apple ecosystem and can afford the iPhone 12 mini should get that phone, but if you're working with a smaller budget, the iPhone SE is a stupendous value that makes it possible for more people than ever to finally jump aboard the Apple bandwagon.

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first — the iPhone SE's design is pretty dated by 2021 standards. Its huge bezels look like they're from another planet compared to everything else on this list, and depending on who you are, that'll either be a deal-breaker or a small design detail you couldn't care less about. Assuming you're OK with some chunky bezels, the rest of the iPhone SE experience is kind of magical.

It all starts with the processor, which is the Apple A13 Bionic. This is the same chip powering 2019's iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, so in other words, the iPhone SE is a performance beast. No matter what apps/games you throw at it, it'll eat everything up with ease and refuse to break a sweat. When it comes to smartphones in the $400 price range, nothing comes close to the raw power offered by the iPhone SE.

The single 12MP camera on the iPhone SE doesn't sound amazing at first glance, but in day-to-day use, it manages to capture some really great shots. You also get wireless charging support, NFC for Apple Pay, and an IP67 water resistance rating. As if that wasn't enough, Apple's commitment to 5+ years of software updates for its smartphones is something every company in the Android space could learn from. Despite being the cheapest iPhone in its product lineup by a long shot, the iPhone SE gets the same level of software support seen by its much more expensive siblings. You know, exactly how it should be.

Best Cheap iPhone



iPhone SE

Want an iPhone for as little money as possible? Buy the iPhone SE. It's that simple.

Google Pixel 4a 5G

Google Pixel 4a 5GSource: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

7. Google Pixel 4a 5G

The best value 5G phone

$499 at Amazon

Bottom line: The Pixel 4a 5G sits squarely in the middle between the regular Pixel 4a and Pixel 5 and depending on where your needs lie, it could be the perfect middle ground. The processor and camera experience are the same as the more expensive Pixel 5, and thanks to a couple of smaller features being cut, the 4a 5G delivers those things (and more) at a hard-to-argue-with price.

Category Google Pixel 4a 5G
Display 6.2-inch OLED, 2340×1080, 60Hz refresh rate
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
RAM 6GB
Storage 128GB
Cameras 12.2MP primary, 16MP ultra-wide
Charging 18W wired
Battery 3,885 mAh
Water Resistance
Dimensions 153.9x74x8.2mm
Weight 168g

Pros

  • Snapdragon 765G offers fast performance
  • Same cameras as Pixel 5
  • 5G connectivity at a low price
  • Large OLED display looks great
  • OS updates and security patches for 3 years

Cons

  • Doesn't have wireless charging
  • No water resistance

We've already talked about the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5, but there's one more Google phone that we'd like to highlight. The Pixel 4a 5G is seen by some folks as an awkward middle child, but if you ask us, it's one of the better phones you can buy for under $500 — regardless if you care about 5G or not.

The two biggest selling points for the Pixel 4a 5G are its processor and camera package, both of which are the same you'll find on the pricier Pixel 5. That means a Snapdragon 765G chipset, along with a 12.2MP primary camera and a 16MP ultra-wide camera. You can also look forward to reliable battery life and plenty of internal storage, with the 4a 5G featuring a 3,885 mAh battery capacity and 128GB for all your digital files.

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Another big win for the Pixel 4a 5G is its software experience, which is what you'd come to expect from any Pixel. The interface is incredibly simple, Google's add-on features provide legitimate value, and you're promised three years of major OS updates and monthly security patches as soon as they're released.

So, what is it that you don't get with the Pixel 4a 5G? There's no water resistance rating or wireless charging, and while the 6.7-inch OLED display looks great, it's limited to a slower 60Hz refresh rate. Considering everything else the phone brings to the table, however, those are very reasonable compromises to make.

Best 5G Value



Google Pixel 4a 5G

5G phones are still finding their footing, but with the Pixel 4a 5G, Google proves how cheap 5G phones can be pretty amazing.

Moto G Fast

Moto G FastSource: Joe Maring / Android Central

8. Moto G Fast

The best phone for tight budgets

$150 at Amazon

Bottom line: A phone as cheap as the Moto G Fast comes with some baggage, but if all you care about is getting a functional Android handset for as cheap as possible, it's one of the better ways to spend your money. From making phone calls, keeping you connected on social media, and anything else you want to use your phone for, the G Fast lets you do all of it while keeping more cash where it belongs — in your wallet.

Category Moto G Fast
Display 6.4-inch LCD, 1560×720, 60Hz refresh rate
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 665
RAM 3GB
Storage 32GB
Cameras 16MP primary, 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro
Charging 10W wired
Battery 4,000 mAh
Water Resistance Water-repellent coating
Dimensions 161.9×75.7×9.1mm
Weight 189g

Pros

  • Surprisingly great build quality
  • 4,000 mAh battery is fantastic
  • Clean software experience
  • Has expandable storage
  • Cheapest phone on this list

Cons

  • So-so performance
  • Very limiting cameras

As stated in this article, everyone's budget is different from person to person. $500 and $700 phones may be great deals for some readers, but for others, those are price tags they just can't touch. If you find yourself working with a particularly small budget and need a phone you'll be able to rely on for everyday use, the Moto G Fast is one of the better options currently available.

When dealing with a smartphone this cheap, there are certain expectations you need to set. The Moto G Fast has just an OK processor and not a lot of RAM, meaning it won't be the snappiest device for whatever you throw at it. It also has an HD+ resolution for its 6.4-inch display, resulting in an image that's noticeably softer compared to other phones on this list.

Those drawbacks certainly are things you'll need to consider before buying, but at the end of the day, they don't matter that much given the Moto G Fast's $150 asking price. It makes phone calls, lets you browse Twitter and can be used for binging YouTube. It may not be the fastest horse in the race, but it'll still get you where you need to go.

There are a couple of things about the Moto G Fast that are actually pretty great, namely its well-constructed design and 4,000 mAh battery that allows for multiple days of use on a single charge. You can also look forward to an update to Android 11 down the road.

Best for Tight Budgets



Moto G Fast

The Moto G Fast isn't going to blow you away, but for well under $200, it delivers the smartphone basics for hardly anything.

Moto G Stylus 2021

Moto G Stylus 2021Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central

9. Moto G Stylus (2021)

The best budget phone with a stylus

$300 at Amazon

Bottom line: Whether or not you plan on regularly using the hallmark feature of the Moto G Stylus (2021), this is an all-around solid phone for $300 that you really shouldn't ignore. It has good performance, a big battery, and a quality display. You can spend a little bit more for overall better packages, but if $300 is your limit, this is a solid choice.

Category Moto G Stylus (2021)
Display 6.8-inch LCD, 2400×1080, 60Hz refresh rate
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 678
RAM 4GB
Storage 128GB
Cameras 48MP primary, 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro, 2MP depth
Charging 10W wired
Battery 4,000 mAh
Water Resistance Water-repellent coating
Dimensions 169.8×77.9x9mm
Weight 213g

Pros

  • Large Full HD display
  • Good performance at this price
  • Four rear cameras
  • Side-mounted fingerprint sensor
  • Comes with a built-in stylus

Cons

  • No NFC for Google Pay
  • Promised just one update

The Moto G Stylus (2021) is one of many budget phones that Motorola launched this year, and if you ask us, it's the one that strikes the best balance of features, specs, and price.

As the name suggests, the main selling point of the G Stylus is, well, its stylus! It can be used for taking notes, drawing, or annotating documents/photos. When you're done with it, it can be hidden seamlessly in the bottom frame of the phone. It's far from the best-feeling stylus experience we've ever seen on a phone, but especially at this low of a price, it's a nice value-add that some users may get a lot out of.

Outside of the stylus component, the rest of the Moto G Stylus (2021) is hard to argue with. The Snapdragon 678 processor allows for ample performance for most tasks, the quad-camera setup is more than capable of sharing photos on Twitter and Instagram, and you get a large 6.8-inch display with a Full HD+ resolution. We also quite like the side-mounted fingerprint sensor, which can be double-tapped to bring up a shortcut of your most-used apps. It's pretty neat!

The lack of NFC for Google Pay is a real bummer, as is the fact that the Moto G Stylus (2021) ships with Android 10 and will only be updated to Android 11. If you can look past those gripes, you're getting a lot of value out of your $300.

Best With a Stylus



Moto G Stylus (2021)

With a large display, good performance, and a free stylus, the Moto G Stylus (2021) brings big value at a small cost.

Poco X3 NFC

Poco X3 NFCSource: Xiaomi

10. Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC

The best international budget phone

$270 at Amazon

Bottom line: Buying an international phone isn't for everyone, but if that's an avenue you are open to, the Poco X3 NFC is a seriously incredible purchase. Available between $240 and $280, this is a phone that gives you a 120Hz display, ample performance, and a stupidly big battery. If the lack of a U.S. warranty isn't a deal-breaker for you, this is a phenomenal device.

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Category Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC
Display 6.67-inch LCD, 2400×1080, 120Hz refresh rate
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G
RAM 6GB
Storage 64 or 128GB
Cameras 64MP primary, 13MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro, 2MP depth
Charging 33W wired
Battery 5,160 mAh
Water Resistance IP53
Dimensions 165.3×76.8×9.4mm
Weight 215g

Pros

  • 120Hz display is excellent
  • Fast processor and ample RAM
  • Gigantic battery
  • 30W charge speeds
  • IP53 water resistance

Cons

  • Disappointing cameras
  • Doesn't have a U.S. warranty

The market for budget phones in the U.S. has expanded a lot over recent years, but even so, it can feel a bit lacking compared to what's available in other countries. If you're open to the idea of buying and using an international smartphone, our top recommendation goes to the Poco X3 NFC.

Made by Poco (a sub-brand of Xiaomi), the X3 NFC has some of the best specs you'll find for this price range. There's a 120Hz display, snappy performance, up to 128GB of storage, and a 5,160 mAh battery — the largest on this entire list. Combine that with an IP53 water-resistance rating and NFC (as the name implies), and the value on offer is almost hard to believe.

If the Poco X3 NFC is so great, why would you want to think twice before buying it? Given that it isn't officially sold in the United States, the X3 NFC comes with a couple of quirks. Specifically, it doesn't work with CDMA networks in the U.S. and lacks an official warranty. That last point is perhaps the most concerning for some shoppers because if something goes wrong with the phone, you're SOL.

Should you not be off-put by the missing warranty, though, the Poco X3 NFC is a phone that's difficult to say no to. Especially if you're looking to spend no more than $250 or $300, the overall package you're getting is exceptional.

Best International



Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC

When we think of amazing values, we think of the Poco X3 NFC — packing a 120Hz display and a ton more for under $300.

How to pick the best budget phone

Budget phones have gotten considerably better over the years, as proved by this list. It's difficult to pick one single handset as the overall winner given that budgets look different for everyone, but if we have to, we need to commend the Google Pixel 4a.

What's so magical about the Pixel 4a is that it doesn't ever remind you how cheap it is. The AMOLED display looks great, it's plenty fast for most tasks, the camera is amazing, battery life is reliable, and you're treated to one of the best software experiences on the market. That's a winning combination at any price, so the fact that you get all of that for just $350 is incredible.

All of the other phones on this list are more than deserving to be featured here, but if you're feeling overwhelmed with everything available to you, playing it safe and just getting the Pixel 4a isn't a bad way to go. We think you'll love it.

1. What's the most/least I should spend?

When discussing "budget" phones, understanding what a good budget for yourself is can sometimes be a tricky thing to nail down. The phones featured in this roundup range in price from $150 all the way up to $700, because as we've made clear already, budgets can look different for everyone.

With that said, it's up to you to determine how much you're comfortable spending. Splurging for a pricier phone will typically give you better specs/features, but if doing so causes you to wreck your finances, it's not a good purchase.

As such, there's no right answer as to how much you should or shouldn't spend. If you have a maximum budget of $300, going for something like the Moto G Stylus (2021) or the Poco X3 NFC is the right call. If you're able to spend $1000 or more on your next phone, going with the Pixel 5 or Galaxy S20 FE will give you a very similar experience for a lot less.

So long as you have a good relationship with your finances and know how much you're able to spend on your next smartphone, it should be pretty easy to figure out how much you should and shouldn't spend.

2. Which is better — Android or iOS?

As you've likely noticed, this is a buyer's guide that features Android phones and iPhones side-by-side. When talking about these two camps of gadgets, it always brings up the debate of Android vs. iOS. Some people will try to convince you that Android is the superior operating system, others will say that iOS is, and it's an endless cycle that keeps repeating itself.

Frankly, trying to say that one platform is objectively better than the other just doesn't make a lot of sense. There are some things iOS does well, Android is better in other regards, and all that matters is that you get the phone that serves your needs the best.

We obviously have a preference for Android here at Android Central, because in a lot of ways, it tends to be a more flexible and option. You have greater customization options over how your phone looks, more granular controls for fine-tuning your workflow, and a much wider selection of devices that are powered by Android. iOS is more restrictive and closed-off by comparison, but with features like iMessage, AirDrop, and unmatched support from Apple, it's easy to see why so many people choose it instead.

There's a good chance you already know which of these platforms you personally prefer, but if you're open to exploring either one, it may be worth doing a bit more research and seeing which is the best fit for you. If you want the absolute most control over your phone, Android is the way to go. If you strongly value security, software updates, and ease-of-use, the iPhone may be the route you should take instead.

3. How important are software updates?

Speaking of software updates, this is something that's either hit-or-miss when it comes to budget phones. Some offer great software updates support, others don't, and that's just the way it goes.

When your phone gets a software update you typically get new user-facing features and behind-the-scenes security fixes. Major updates for Android and iOS both happen once a year, with iOS getting smaller updates throughout the year and Android offering a new security patch every single month.

If you want a phone with the best software support possible, the easy answer is to buy an iPhone. Every iPhone is guaranteed five or more years of regular update support, allowing them to get new features and the latest security patches throughout years of use. Especially if you plan on keeping your phone for a long time, this adds peace-of-mind that Android doesn't always deliver on.

Google and Samsung are the best in the Android business on this front, with both companies promising three years of updates for their phones. By contrast, some companies like Motorola offer one major OS update and nothing more.

Some people care more about software updates than others, but in general, new updates mean a better experience for your phone as time goes on. It gets new features, stays as secure as can be, and is generally something you should always keep in the back of your mind. If your budget allows for a phone with multiple years of software support, that's definitely something that should factor into your buying decision.

4. Do I need the fastest processor available?

There are a lot of factors that come into play when buying a new phone, one of which is the processor that powers it. People that regularly follow the tech space may know the differences between a Snapdragon 665 and 765G, but if you don't, those names mean nothing to you.

In general, the power of a Qualcomm processor that's in an Android phone is designated by the number that accompanies it. For example, the Snapdragon 765G is one of the faster chips on this list, the Snapdragon 730 is a good mid-tier option, and the Snapdragon 665 is one of the less powerful ones. Apple's A-series chipsets in the iPhones are in a completely different league, offering considerably faster performance than any of the Qualcomm options.

A faster processor will always result in a smoother and snappier smartphone, but don't feel like you have to have the very best one just to get a good experience. The Snapdragon 665 may not be the most technically-impressive bit of tech, but if all you want to do is check Twitter, watch some YouTube videos, and play light games, it's more than capable. For users that are a bit more demanding, splurging for a Snapdragon 765G or one of the iPhones might make sense.

Once again, it comes back to the point of understanding how much money you can spend. You'll ideally get the best processor that your budget allows, but spending another $100 or $200 that you don't have just for a slighter quicker CPU isn't worth it.

At the end of the day, you really can't go wrong with any of the phones on this list. Every one is among the best in its respective price bracket, so no matter how much you have to spend, you can rest assured you're buying something that'll serve you well for a long time to come. Good luck and happy shopping!

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

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