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Best cheap phones: Six fantastic affordable handsets

Discover the Trusted Reviews pick of the top affordable handsets, and find out why there’s no need to spend more than you need, to get a good mobile phone


On the hunt for a new phone in 2023 but haven’t got thousands to spend on it? You’re certainly not the only one. Flagship phones have made leaps forward in recent years, but the prices have risen alongside them.

Five years ago, a top-end smartphone may have only cost around £500/$500, but the world has changed significantly since then, and now you may well be charged double that if you go for a top-spec model.

But while the flagship market has gotten more expensive, the budget end of the market has vastly improved compared to a few years ago. Features that were considered exclusively high-end just a year or two ago have now made their grand arrival in the sub-$400/£400 section of the market, meaning that affordable phones are more tempting than ever.

Nowadays, if you know where to look, you can get greatly improved photography, robust construction quality, wireless charging and highly reliable performance on phones of this price. Of course, there are still plenty of devices that may unfortunately let you down with sub-par battery life and bloated software, so you have to be sure to avoid them.

The aim of this guide is to help you steer clear of the array of underwhelming phones that promise too much and deliver too little and show you the real gems that offer fantastic value for money. All of the below devices have been physically tested by one of our reviewers to reliably gauge their performance in key areas including camera performance, build quality and battery life, so you know that you can count on our buying advice.

Our definition of “affordable” means any handset retailing for less than £400/$400; however if we do happen to go over this amount then we’ll make our reasoning clear as to why we’ve made an exception.

We also have other best lists for those after something a little more specific. Our best camera phone round-up focuses on a device’s photographic and videography skills, while our best mid-range phone list focuses on slightly pricier devices.

Best cheap phones at a glance

How we test

Learn more about how we test mobile phones

Every phone we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including build quality, screen accuracy, battery life, performance and camera prowess.

These include formal synthetic benchmarks and scripted tests, plus a series of real-world checks, such as how much battery it loses per hour streaming video.

We also make sure to use every phone we review as our primary handset for at least 4 days to ensure our review is as accurate as possible. You can see a more detailed breakdown of our testing methodology in our how we test phones guide.

Google Pixel 6a

Best budget camera
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  • Lovely small form-factor
  • Reliable camera for the price
  • Google’s excellent software


  • 60Hz display feels slow compared to the rivals
  • Slow to fully charge

This diminutive device is somewhat in the same mould as the iPhone SE 2022; it gives you the best of the brand’s software and features (in this case, Google Android) yet in an affordable and petite handset that’s easy to handle.

Pixel phones have long been renowned for their excellent cameras, and once again you’ll find two very good snappers here, which are bolstered by handy tricks such as Magic Eraser and Night Sight in order to remove unwanted objects or improve your lowlight shooting, respectively. That said, this time around the cameras aren’t such a quantum leap above the competition as previous editions have been.

One area where the Pixel 6a really does excel over its affordable rivals is in the processor, which is the very same Tensor chip that you’ll find in the Pixel 6 Pro. It might not be an absolute beast in performance terms, but it helps to deliver the great software, post-processing, 5G connectivity, and enhanced security that makes this phone a great all-round package.

Though the screen is colourful and punchy, it suffers a bit from not having a refresh rate enhanced beyond the standard 60Hz, so may not seem as smooth as its competitors. Nonetheless, this device is well worth the price when all is taken into consideration.

Reviewer: Max Parker

Full review: Google Pixel 6a

Nothing Phone (1)

Best for design
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  • A design that stands out
  • Really nice 120Hz OLED display
  • Plenty of phone for the money


  • Glyph Interface is more of a gimmick than a useful feature
  • Odd performance issues, especally with the camera

Probably the most eye-catching handset on this list, the Nothing Phone (1)‘s design stands out from the crowd due to its transparent back covering and flashing LED arrangement, which indicates incoming notifications or the charging level in a unique way. If this out-of-the-ordinary design appeals to you, then it’s a good phone to buy (frankly though, we did sometimes find it a tad irritating). Fortunately there’s far more to it than just this quirk.

We particularly liked the lush 120Hz display, which is one of the best around at this price point. With HDR support and high levels of brightness, this screen is a joy to use for gaming and more. There are two rear cameras on board, wide and ultrawide, and they both do a pretty good job. Although some snaps can end up looking over-exposed, most of the photos that we took in complimentary lighting conditions turned out very well, while its night shooting was a particular highlight.

The 4500mAh battery was plenty big enough to get us through the day, and it’s great to see the wireless charging feature at this price point as well. However, one of the few negatives about this handset was performance issues, likely down to sub-par software optimisation, which caused some stuttering from time to time.

Reviewer: Max Parker

Full review: Nothing Phone 1

Realme 9 Pro Plus

Best for entertainment
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  • Excellent main camera for the money
  • Solid performance
  • Fast 60W charging


  • Drab design in two of three colours
  • Realme UI isn’t a slick Android skin

The Realme 9 Pro Plus is a very good all-rounder for the price, but it’s got one killer feature in particular, and that’s its stunning main camera. This 50-megapixel sensor is the exact same one you’ll find on the Oppo Find X5 Pro, and it delivers wonderfully appealing photos that were both sharp and vibrant. Although night-time shots may tend to be over-brightened to our tastes, they still retain very impressive levels of detail and clarity.

The 6.4-inch AMOLED screen is also a highlight, with its 90Hz refresh rate and 1080p resolution, while the flashy design gives you a handset that you’ll be proud to hold. In performance terms, the Realme 9 Pro Plus is good enough to run the latest games, and what’s more, it also packs in 5G connectivity like the other phones on this list.

The 4500mAh battery gave us enough juice to get through a moderate day of usage without sweating, and it’s supported with seriously snappy 60W fast charging that can get you all the way up to 100% from zero in just 44 minutes.

Reviewer: Jon Mundy

Full review: Realme 9 Pro Plus

Motorola Edge 30 Neo

Best for fast charging
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  • Stunning lightweight design
  • Gorgeous Pantone colour finishes
  • Flat to full in just over 30 minutes


  • Hit-and-miss camera performance
  • Snapdragon 695 could do more

The Motorola Edge 30 Neo is not only a decent all-rounder at a tempting price, but it’s also one of the more compact budget options around in 2023 with a fairly compact 6.5-inch display and measuring in at just 155g and 7.8mm thick. Okay, it’s not quite in true small phone territory like the Zenfone 9, but it’s as close as you’ll get here.

The 6.5-inch screen isn’t to be sniffed at either, with an OLED panel delivering vibrant colours and deep blacks with great contrast. It can also reach 120Hz like others mentioned here, allowing for a buttery-smooth experience, and crucially, our reviewer found it easy to use one-handed.

That’s backed up by a decent camera system comprised of an OIS-enabled 64MP main snapper and a 13MP ultrawide on the rear and a 32MP selfie camera with pixel-binning tech. While not quite at the same level as the likes of the Pixel 6a, the camera quality is decent in most conditions apart from low light where images can look muddy and washed out.

Despite its more compact dimensions than rivals, it still packs in a fairly decent 4,020mAh battery that doesn’t struggle to last a full day without needing a top-up, though it can’t quite make it through a second day. The good news is that 68W fast charge tech can provide a full charge in just over half an hour, among the fastest you’ll find at the budget end of the market.

Day-to-day performance is fine but more demanding tasks will start to show the limits of the included Snapdragon 695 5G, and with a Pantene partnership, it’s available in some truly stunning finishes too.

Reviewer: Sean Cameron

Full review: Motorola Edge 30 Neo

iPhone SE 2022

Best for Apple fans on a budget
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  • The fastest phone at this price (by some distance)
  • Takes great daylight pictures
  • IP rating and wireless charging
  • iOS and all the benefits that come with it


  • Small screen is cramped and restrictive
  • Tired design
  • No night mode in the camera

We are bending our rules slightly to include a phone that breaks our price limit, but if you’re deadset on getting yourself a new iPhone, then this is your cheapest option – and it’s still a belter.

You may have to forgive the depressingly dated design and its associated small screen which measures just 4.7 inches, but if you can get over that then the iPhone SE 2022 does in fact still offer a lot of positives for the price.

First and foremost, it runs on the brilliant A15 Bionic chip, which is one of the very best in the business; it’s actually the very same one that you’ll find on the iPhone 13 Pro, so you won’t be wanting for power. Even better, this phone will be in line for Apple’s unparalleled long-term software support, so we wouldn’t even be surprised to see it getting the latest updates seven years from now.

On top of that, the newest iPhone SE has one of the best cameras that you’ll find for the price, and it particularly delivers on richly detailed images, so that difficult textures like dog fur or woolly jumpers look especially good. That said, it does miss out on a dedicated Night Mode, which is a real shame, so if you’re planning to take a lot of pictures when the sun is down then this might not be the best phone for you. The selfie camera also could do with some work, with it not being to the same standard as the main snapper.

If you’re looking for an iPhone that gives a good camera and strong performance for a cheaper entry price then this is a good bet, but do bear in mind that the screen is small and underwhelming.

Reviewer: Max Parker

Full review: iPhone SE 2022

Poco X5 Pro

Best for a value big screen
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  • Fully-capable 6.7-inch OLED display
  • Surprisingly well-equipped camera
  • Decent performance


  • Cheap rear design
  • MIUI software is very cluttered
  • Unfriendly amount of bloatware

The Poco X5 Pro 5G, while not hugely different from its predecessor, is a great-value handset with great features across the board, so it’s well worth your consideration if you’re hunting for a handset that’s below $400/£400.

The OLED screen measures a generous 6.67 inches with a 1080p resolution, along with more premium features including a 120Hz refresh rate and support for HDR10+, which is brilliant for the price. It’s not auto-adaptive like premium alternatives, but if you’re prepared to adjust it yourself, you’ll find that supported content is smoother than ever.

Its main 108-megapixel camera is also worth shouting about, as it delivers excellent pictures that are bound to impress for the price. Night Mode does a good job of cleaning up any noise that you might get, however the accompanying ultrawide and macro lens aren’t up to this same standard.

Performance is fine but not exceptional with a Snapdragon 778G at its heart, but it does offer 5G connectivity for the latest mobile data speeds. The battery life is brilliant with a 5000mAh cell, and we reckon that you could even squeeze two days’ life out of it if you use your phone with some restraint.

There aren’t many downsides here, but one would have to be the cheap rear design and feel, and the other would be its bloatware-stuffed software interface. MIUI is far from ideal for day-to-day use.

Reviewer: Connor Jewiss

Full review: Poco X5 Pro 5G


Which cheap phone has the best camera?

Our favourite cheap phone for the camera is the Pixel 6a.

Can I get 5G on these phones?

Yes, all of the phones in the above list offer 5G connectivity so you’ll be able to get these data speeds as long as you have network coverage and a compatible SIM card.

We also considered…

We’ve reviewed

See all reviews

Comparison Specifications

Screen Size
Storage Capacity
Rear Camera
Front Camera
Video Recording
IP rating
Wireless charging
Fast Charging
Size (Dimensions)
Operating System
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Refresh Rate
Stated Power

Trusted Reviews test data

Geekbench 5 single core
Geekbench 5 multi core
Adobe RGB
Max brightness
1 hour video playback (Netflix, HDR)
30 minute gaming (intensive)
30 minute gaming (light)
1 hour music streaming (online)
1 hour music streaming (offline)
Time from 0-100% charge
Time from 0-50% charge
3D Mark – Wild Life
3D Mark – Sling Shot Extreme

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