The world of the high-value cheap android smartphones continues its relentless push forward with the launch of new flagships but not everybody either wants or can afford to spend an exorbitant amount of money on their next smartphone.
The reality is that there’s no real reason to spend the cost of a new computer or a used car on a smartphone either. Most smartphones above a certain price and value point will more than meet the needs of most users. The majority of those will be replaced by users with a new gadget within just a few years.
Fortunately, the technology keeps moving forward too, whittling away at the contrasts between a ‘premium’ device and a ‘budget’ device. That shift offers potential buyers a bit more flexibility when it comes to brands and models.
Top 10 Best Budget Smartphones 2021 Summary
But not all high-value Android smartphones are quite up to par and some could legitimately be described as ‘cheap’ in the pejorative sense. There are still plenty of differences and caveats to consider for those looking for a great experience that suits their individual needs. Given the sheer number of OEMs and devices to consider, choosing one can be a daunting task. Here at Android Headlines, we do a lot of research and reviews to help make the decision easier.
That doesn’t mean that every device that deserves placement here is going to have earned it. Device evaluations are subjective and there are dozens upon dozens of devices to select from. A significant portion of those may suit any single user’s needs as well as the phones listed here.
With that in mind, here’s our take on the top devices available to buy now. Each offers a great value to users that we feel surpasses all others without breaking the bank.
Below the summary, you’ll find a slightly longer description of each item along with the where to buy links.
|Cost||Where to buy|
|OnePlus Nord N10 5G||£329.00||OnePlus|
|POCO X3 NFC||From $269||Amazon|
|Moto G Power||$249.99||Motorola|
|Samsung Galaxy A51||From $349.99||Samsung|
|TCL 10L/10 Pro||From $249.99/449.99||Amazon|
|Samsung Galaxy A71 5G||From $599||Samsung|
|Nokia 5.4||From $249.99||Amazon|
|Google Pixel 4a||$349||Amazon|
Best world-ready cheap Android smartphone
OnePlus Nord N10 5G
- Price: £329.00
- Where to buy: OnePlus
OnePlus is a company that’s well-known for its “flagship killers” and Nord N10 5G brings those same values to the mid-range. Not only does this smartphone deliver all the bands you’d need to access mobile networks in the US and abroad. And it doesn’t just offer one of the best Android UI overlays on the market, either. This phone is great almost across the board.
To begin with, OnePlus Nord N10 5G brings great battery life for its price. Under review, it garnered around 11-hours of screen-on time. And that’s despite packing a Snapdragon 690 chipset driving a 6.49-inch 90Hz FullHD+ display panel. This phone took less than an hour to charge up.
On the design front, the hardware is exceedingly well put together too. The design is much closer to a flagship than to a budget phone, with glass all around and coloration that adds sophistication without breaking the bank.
Cameras continue that trend, with OnePlus including a snapper that will get the work done under just about any circumstances. Especially in daytime shots, the 64-megapixel shooter captures high detail in HDR quality with clarity and ease.
But the headlining feature here, or one of them at the very least, is 5G. The Nord N10 5G from OnePlus is more than ready to take you to the next level of mobile networking. Without charging a whole lot of money for access.
Best cheap smartphone for gamers
POCO X3 NFC
- Price: From $269
- Where to buy: Amazon
If you’re looking for the best cheap mobile gaming experience, look no further than Xiaomi-associated POCO. Specifically, the Snapdragon 732G-powered POCO X3 NFC. Not only does this budget-friendly flagship-like cost under $300. It lasts up to 7+ hours on a single charge and charges relatively quickly. That’s despite a 6.67-inch FHD+ HDR10-compatible display rated at 120Hz for refresh and 240Hz for its touch rate.
Backing up that hardware is up to 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. So there’s plenty of room for games to be stored and plenty of memory for those to play at their highest settings. Solid 4G, NFC, Bluetooth 5.1, and WiFi 5 connectivity round things out when it comes to getting connected too.
Now, there isn’t much by way of gaming-related lighting or visual customization with the POCO X3 NFC. Its focus is squarely on offering lag-free performance without overheating. But there is a power-mounted fingerprint scanner, an IR Blaster for controlling a TV soundbar, or other electronics, and a great camera on board.
Better still, a stylish Cobalt Blue or more subdued Shadow Gray coloration is available. So users can pick up whichever fits their personality best and the design hasn’t been completely ignored.
Best cheap rugged Android smartphone
- Price: From $249.95
- Where to buy: Amazon
Finding a good rugged smartphone can be a hassle. Especially since they tend to either not work with US carriers or to be so low-powered as to render them effectively useless. And that’s where the Bullitt Group-built, Caterpillar CAT S42 enters the equation in our list of the best, relatively cheap, Android smartphones.
Engineered for reasonable performance, battery life, and exceptional protection against wear and tear, this is arguably the phone to buy for its ruggedization.
Setting aside the 4200mAh battery, quad-core 1.8GHz processor, Android 11, and frequent security patches offered with this device, it’s really made to survive the harshest conditions users can throw at it. And that’s because the CAT S42 is designed to be dropped onto steel, without a case, from 6-feet. Summarily, CAT S42 has achieved MIL-SPEC 810H certification and IP68 water- and dust-proof ratings. It’s also protected against thermal shock, vibration, humidity, and salt mist.
Perhaps as importantly, that’s topped by a reasonable camera, a bright and responsive 5.5-inch HD+ Gorilla Glass 5 screen, and decent audio. A 3.5mm audio port is included as well. And all of the latest hardware and component features are part of the package too. All but making up for the 3GB RAM and 32GB storage — expandable up to 256GB via a standalone microSD card slot.
Best cheap smartphone for battery life
Moto G Power
- Price: $249.99
- Where to buy: Motorola
For those who are looking at smartphones that are cheap but have a ton of battery without skimping on power, Motorola has stepped forward its ‘Power’-branded offerings this year with the launch of the Android 10-powered Moto G Power. And it’s available unlocked for use on all GSM carriers.
The now-Lenovo-owned Moto division built the G Power with to serve those who need a smartphone that can last up to 3 days. But Motorola also stuffed its latest G-series smartphone with enough specs to fit in just about anywhere. To begin with, there’s a respectable 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, doubling down on last year’s G7 Power.
That hardware is backing up an updated Snapdragon 665 SoC. There should be plenty of performance to power through most smartphone tasks and even enough for most mobile games without issue.
The company also built-in a 5,000mAh capacity battery to drive the other components. That’s including a 10W fast-charging system this time around. So, not only is that coupled with a more battery efficient chipset. Moto made sure this handset will refuel comparatively quickly.
The previously released Moto G7 Power was capable of surviving two full days of use still left the 30-percent to 50-percent battery mark remaining. That’s a serious step above what’s usually available in the mid-range value segment. At just under $250, if battery life is what really matters, this device should only improve on that and at a price that is well worth the expenditure.
Best cheap smartphone under $350
Samsung Galaxy A51
- Price: From $349
- Where to buy: Samsung
The Samsung Galaxy A-series is now a firmly-set staple when it comes to high-performance, high-value Android smartphones on the cheap. Centered in the middle of that range is Samsung’s newest available entry, the Galaxy A51. Like other handsets in the Galaxy A-Series, this Samsung handset is all about testing experimental upcoming features for flagships. For end-users, that means it delivers a flagship-like experience at a fraction of the cost.
The Galaxy A51 comes in at a slightly higher cost than its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy A50. It starts out at $349.99 in the US, direct from Samsung. An upgraded in-house Exynos processor lies at the center of the price increase, as well as a larger 6.5-inch Super AMOLED 6.4-inch slim-bezel Super AMOLED Infinity-O display. In the states, that’s backed by 4GB RAM with 6GB available internationally and up to 128GB storage.
The big-ticket item, however, is its quad-camera array centered around a 48-megapixel primary snapper with Super Steady OIS Mode. An-display fingerprint scanner, top-tier Android 10-based OneUI 2.0 software experience, and fast charging 4,000mAh capacity battery round things out.
Of course, that’s loaded with the same features found in the reputation-building flagship Galaxy S series. And it’s all packed into a premium-looking frame that’s delivered in
All of that is packed into a frame that comes in three colors. Those include a gradient-laced Black, White, or Pink, although US buyers appear stuck with just the black option for now.
Fans of Samsung would do well to start their buying process by considering the Samsung Galaxy A51 or the next entry in place of its much pricier flagships. At under $350 in the US, the Galaxy A51 performs and delivers its complete package at a bargain.
Best cheap smartphones for a great display
TCL 10 Pro/10L
- Price: From $249.99
- Where to buy: Amazon
Any discussion surrounding the best cheap Android smartphones on the market would be remiss to exclude the TCL 10 series. That includes the TCL 10L and TCL 10 Pro. These two devices are easily a cut above the rest for their price.
Now, other devices here, it’s fair to start by pointing out that there’s no waterproofing rating for this device. But, due mostly to TCL’s history and a partnership with Pixelworks, these phones arguably have the best display in their class. In fact, they function much more closely to flagships than just about any device at their price point. And there are plenty of advanced features and options underneath to ensure a personalized experience.
That personalized experience carries over to the OS side for both handsets too. With Android 10 and at least one update guaranteed atop frequent security updates promised, this device is nearly stock where it matters. If users want a gesture-driven experience, they can have it. If they like more traditional navigation or a combined experience, that’s possible too. Meanwhile, the app drawer functions as a straightforward aftermarket launcher. And there’s no lag to speak of on either device.
The primary differences are going to be in terms of camera features, display size and technology, and internal components. But, even there, the devices are incredibly similar and more than capable. At the more budget-friendly end, starting at just under $250 is the 6.53-inch 24-bit color panel-equipped TCL 10L. That packs a 1080 x 2340 resolution, powered by a somewhat older Snapdragon 665. TCL backed that with 6GB of RAM, coupled with either 64GB or 128GB storage.
The TCL 10 Pro, conversely, features a Snapdragon 675 octa-core chipset and with 6GB of RAM, coupled with 128GB storage. A 4,500mAh battery, capable of upwards of 8-hours of screen-on-time, drives that package, compared to the 10L’s 4,000mAh. The latter handset can last over 7-hours in terms of screen-on time with no issues.
Build-quality, meanwhile, approaches flagships in terms of design and in-hand feel. Summarily, neither phone feels cheap or performs like it is. These two phones prove that TCL is going to be a company to watch when it comes to cheaper Android smartphones. And either is well-worth a deeper dive for those who are looking for a device that performs well without breaking the bank.
Best cheap smartphone for 5G via Android
Samsung Galaxy A71 5G
- Price: From $599
- Where to buy: Samsung
Samsung’s Galaxy A71 5G, while undeniably one of the best Android smartphones around, could hardly be described as cheap. But it’s a great value so we’re not just talking about its nearly $600 price tag.
Samsung engineered its Galaxy A71 5G around a more-than-capable Snapdragon 765G and support for 5G. And that means this phone very nearly reaches flagship levels of performance. But also tosses 5G support into the mix. Conversely, that allows for more stable connectivity and a relatively small speed increase. As opposed to massive speed gains most users would see with mmWave connections.
That is unless consumers by the Verizon variant for mmWave support. But that handset costs an extra $50 at $649.99. So it borders on leaving the affordable category.
In any case, what Samsung is giving users here is a top-of-the-line mid-ranger that should match the latest flagships in terms of core features. The company built the phone on a 6.7-inch Super AMOLED Infinity-O platform. Inside that smaller-than-average front camera housing, there resides a 32-megapixel selfie snapper.
The main cameras are no slouch either. Of course, this is a quad-camera array with a 64-megapixel primary sensor, a 5-megapixel depth sensor, 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens, and a 5-megapixel dedicated macro shooter.
With all of that stacked atop a capable 4,500mAh battery with fast charging, a microSD card slot for expanded storage, and a great fingerprint-resistant design, this is undoubtedly a top choice for gaining access to next-gen networking.
Best cheap smartphone with stock Android
- Price: From $249.99
- Where to buy: Amazon
Starting at just $249.99 via Amazon, the Nokia 5.4 is easily one of the best android smartphones on the cheap end of the spectrum. And it’s anything but cheap. But its biggest selling point is that it comes with almost stock Android and reliably offers a great experience.
Put shortly, the Nokia 5.4 is a no-extras device with a 48-megapixel quad-camera, 16-megapixel front camera, sleek modern design, and plenty of battery life. It’ll be updated to Android 11 at some point, undoubtedly in the near future, but offers almost pure Android 10 with no bloatware for now. Android 12 likely isn’t out of the question either.
In terms of hardware, the company includes a 3.5mm audio jack or USB-C audio output, the HD+ 6.39-inch display is bright and punchy, and the hardware underneath is nothing to scoff at. Under the hood, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 chipset powers the gadget, with 4GB RAM and 128GB storage, building on its predecessor — the Nokia 5.3. The dedicated Google Assistant key spotted on its predecessor has remained intact as well.
Available in a Polar Night coloration or in a purple/magenta Dusk color, battery life is great too. 24+ hours of on-time and 7+ hours of screen-on-time are coupled with a relatively fast-charging battery. Ultimately giving users a completely modern experience without a high cost or extra software that almost nobody needs or wants.
Best cheap smartphone that’s an Android flagship
- Price: $599.99
- Where to buy: Amazon
Any conversation to be had about the best ‘cheap’ Android smartphones will need to include the LG Velvet. Originally sold under the company’s “G” branding as a flagship, that’s effectively what this phone is. But with a price as low as $599.99, it’s not priced like one. And with 5G included out-of-the-box at AT&T — and arriving at T-Mobile and Verizon before ‘Summer’ ends — it’s definitely a heavy-hitter.
That’s not the only place this phone competes directly with Samsung’s second entry on this list either. A 6.8-inch FHD+, OLED Display panel has been used here at 395 pixels-per-inch. Embedded in that is a camera that’s rated at 16-megapixels. Meanwhile, the primary rear camera is rated at 48-megapixels, accompanied by a wide-angle 8-megapixel snapper and a time-of-flight sensor at 5-megapixels.
On sound, LG packs in dual-speakers with LG 3D Sound Engine. Bluetooth 5.1 keeps audio clean on that side of the equation. Under the hood, a Quick Charge 4.0+ enhanced 4,300mAh battery keeps things going all day or refuels in a snap as needed.
LG packed all of that into a completely re-imagined design that’s dust-, water-, and shock-resistant. Summarily, LG Velvet isn’t just one of the most beautiful sub-$600 Android smartphones on the market — even if it isn’t “cheap” compared to others on this list. It’s also durable. But that isn’t all.
The company set up the LG Velvet with an overlay for Android 10 that’s been exceptionally widely-lauded too. So much so that LG is bringing it to just about every other flagship-level phone it makes. That says quite a lot about the software experience here. It’s a decidedly flagship-like affair.
Best cheap Android smartphone overall
Google Pixel 4a
- Price: $349
- Where to buy: Amazon
Now, Google’s newly announced Pixel 4a isn’t going to start shipping until August 20. And it’s only available in a single color configuration. That’s black to reduce fingerprints and accented with a lime-green power button. So it isn’t the flashiest or most personalized device out-of-the-box. The same goes for its fingerprint scanner. Google embedded that on the polycarbonate rear panel here instead of under the display.
Despite that, it is the most easily-recommendable Android device among cheap smartphones. It’s also among the most highly-reviewed for that reason.
Priced at just $349, this phone comes with a processor that should stand out easily among others on this list. That’s the Qualcomm-built Snapdragon 730 octa-core SoC. It isn’t quite as powerful as some others but it’s more than enough for most users. The search giant backed that up with a healthy 6GB RAM and 128GB storage.
Additionally, the same general rule applies to the phone’s size. The Google design measures just 5.81-inches, not accounting for the punch-hole housing the 8-megapixel selfie snapper, and that’s an FHD+ OLED panel. By most accounts, Google made the right choice in terms of scale here. The in-hand fit is going to be just about perfect for most users. Especially since many smartphones are beginning to approach the 7-inch mark.
All of that, of course, leads up to this phone’s biggest features. Regardless of the fact that the Pixel 4a follows in the footsteps of its predecessors with a single snapper at the back, this phone will hands-down offer the best camera experience. That’s because Google pulled the 12.2 MP dual-pixel camera on the back directly from the more expensive Pixel 4 series.
And it packed the camera with features too. Even though the telephoto lens from its larger counterpart is gone in the Pixel 4a, it can even accomplish a similar “Super Res Zoom” effect. And that’s setting aside Pixel standards such as Night Sight, Top Shot, and everything else from the Pixel 4. As is Astrophotography.
It makes very little sense that other cameras in phones can’t quite keep up despite that those are using multiple lenses. Setting aside the decent battery life, respectable performance, design, and stock Android, the cameras alone would make this the device to buy in this price category.