The best cheap phones for 2023: The best value for money

This story is part of Gift Guideour year-round collection of the best gift ideas.

You don’t need to splurge iPhone 14 or Galaxy S23 to get perks like multiple cameras, useful photo tools, the latest version of iOS or Android, and access to your favorite apps and games. The best cheap phones offer a lot of value when it comes to the basics, but cost significantly less than their flagship competitors.

Our top picks are just $160, while more advanced models are $600 — which is significantly cheaper than top-of-the-line models from Apple, Samsung, and Google. If you have a specific budget in mind, you can also check out ours best mobile phones under 200 euros And best mobile phones under 500 euros Lists for other affordable phone options.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

The $160 (£139, around AU$240) Samsung Galaxy A03S packs a lot of great features and could be a great solution for someone looking for the cheapest possible phone that can get the most important jobs done. The phone’s 6.5-inch screen with a resolution of 720p is great for reading the news, watching videos and playing games. Despite some performance lags noted during our testing, the phone is good at multitasking. However, the phone’s tiny 32GB of storage could fill up quickly. So if you’re considering this phone, it may be worth upgrading the storage with a microSD card.

Samsung also plans to support this phone with security updates for at least four years, which is as good as it gets at this price point. On the software side, it’s less clear how many Android releases are planned, but the phone will ship with Android 11 at launch.

Read our Samsung Galaxy A03S review.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Apple’s new iPhone SE for 2022 is a mix of an older design with the latest smartphone features, including Apple’s latest A15 Bionic chip and 5G support, for $429. It’s also one of the few phones on the market that packs a smaller 4.7-inch screen.

However, it’s this throwback design that continues the general shape Apple has been using since 2014, and that might or might not be what you’ll love or dislike most about this phone. If you want a larger iPhone in this price range, you can also consider the $599 iPhone 12 for a larger screen and Face ID.

Read our Apple iPhone SE (2022) review.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The $449 Pixel 6A is the latest device in Google’s more affordable A series, replacing the Pixel 5A. CNET’s Lisa Eadicicco called it the “best Android phone under $500” in her Pixel 6A review, citing that it retains the same Tensor chip seen in the $599 Pixel 6, and many of its best features.

The phone is slightly smaller than the Pixel 6 and features a 6.1-inch OLED display and a 60Hz refresh rate. It also features a camera system similar to the Pixel 5A, which features a 12.2-megapixel main camera and includes a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera. But the Tensor chip brings additional benefits you won’t get on the Pixel 5A, such as: B. Real Tone for more even skin tones, Face Unblur, Night Sight for shooting in low light conditions and the Magic Eraser for removing unwanted elements from a photo.

Receive Price Alerts for Google Pixel 6a (128GB, Charcoal)

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The Galaxy A53 brings you a wealth of Samsung features and performance at a fraction of the price of the S Series. It has a far larger screen and a more versatile camera cluster than the iPhone SE, although Apple’s budget model offers faster performance.

Still, given the affordable price, Samsung fans will appreciate what they’re getting here. The Galaxy A53 5G features an ultrawide lens for taking photos with a wider field of view and also supports night mode photography. Image quality isn’t as good as a more expensive Samsung phone like the Galaxy S21 FE or Galaxy S22, but it’s certainly clear and colorful enough for basic shots. Other highlights include a long-lasting battery, four guaranteed generations of Android OS updates, and a microSD card slot for expandable storage.

Overall, the Galaxy A53 5G is a suitable choice for those who value a large screen and long battery life for less than $500. Just keep in mind that you might struggle with occasional lag and the camera isn’t as advanced as on pricier phones. Read our Samsung Galaxy A53 5G review.

You will receive price alerts for the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G


Google’s Pixel 7 refines the design formula introduced with last year’s Pixel 6 while also adding the company’s new Tensor G2 processor. The phone retains the $599 price tag of last year’s Pixel 6, but new Pixel-exclusive features like Photo Unblur offer even more value.

Read our Google Pixel 7 review.

How we test phones

We rate phones based on overall performance, features, design, cameras, battery life, and value. We achieve this by evaluating the performance of phones in everyday use and comparing them to competing phones. When evaluating cheaper phones, we look to see if these devices have features and specs typically found at higher price points, such as: B. a brand new processor, a display with a high refresh rate or advanced camera functions. We also look at how well these features perform and what they add to the experience.

We test phone cameras in a variety of situations, including outdoors, indoors, and in both light and dark scenarios. We also test specific settings and shooting modes, such as Portrait mode and Night mode. To test performance, we run benchmark tests that assess the processor’s overall capabilities and observe how well the phone can handle everyday tasks.

Battery life is monitored in two ways: seeing how much power is left after a day of normal use, and seeing how much battery drained during a more intense hour with the phone. For the latter test, we’ll see how the phone’s battery performs during a range of video calls, games, video streaming, and web browsing.

Frequently asked questions about the best cheap phones

Can you find cheap phones on sale?

Yes, many of the cheap phones featured in this list are available at a discount at shopping events. For example, Google’s Pixel 6A received a $150 rebate that temporarily lowered the price from $449 to $299. So if you have your eye on a phone but also have the flexibility to wait for a shopping event like Black Friday, it may be worth waiting for a price drop.

Are Cheap Unlocked Phones Available?

Yes, many cheap phones are unlocked by the manufacturer. This allows you to use the phone with almost any cellular carrier by inserting your SIM card. IF you want the flexibility to switch carriers, make sure you buy an unlocked model.

Are cheap cell phones good for kids?

Buying a cheap phone might be a great option if you’re shopping for a child or teen, but that doesn’t mean the phone is customized to offer a kid-friendly experience. Parents should still set up any necessary parental controls, restrictions, or apps to ensure a cheaper phone – whether iPhone or Android – is set up appropriately for your kids.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *