The best cheap phones 2024: top budget smartphones in the US

Best cheap phones: quick menu

The best cheap phones are affordable, not cheap. You can find a great phone for less than $500 that gives you the durability, the features, and even the power of the best phones, as long as you know where to compromise. You can even get better battery life (and snazzier colors) with a bargain phone than you can with a stodgy old flagship device. 

We've got our top options for the best cheap phones, but many new phones have been launched this year, and once we've tested and reviewed those models we'll consider them here. We've just added the Galaxy A35 to this list as our favorite phone under $400, and we're testing even cheaper phones, like the Galaxy A15 have, along with new phones from Motorola and Nokia. 

We also track prices throughout the life of these phones, so we'll let you know how much it costs, and also the lowest price we've seen, just so you know when to give that purchase a green light. Keep checking back, we're growing this list with more cheap phone options all the time. 

Quick List

The best cheap phones in 2024

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Below, you'll find full write-ups for each of the best cheap phones in our list. We've tested each model extensively, so you can be sure that our recommendations can be trusted.

The best cheap iPhone

Apple iPhone 13 Green

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)
The best cheap iPhone

Specifications

Release date: September 2021
Weight: 174g
Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.7mm
OS: iOS 17
Screen size: 6.1 inches
Resolution: 1170 x 2532
CPU: Apple A15 Bionic
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 128GB / 256GB / 512GB
Battery: 3,240 mAh
Rear camera: 12MP (main) +12MP (ultrawide)
Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

+
Strong battery life
+
Strong performance from Apple A15 Bionic

Reasons to avoid

-
Cheaper rivals here have better screens
-
Still relies on Apple's old Lightning connector

Don't be fooled by the iPhone 13's age. Sure, it launched in 2021, but Apple supports phones for five years, so it's up-to-date on all the latest iOS 17 features. With an Apple A15 Bionic processor inside, it's powerful enough to take on even today's fastest Android phones, let alone the bargain models here. 

The iPhone 13 starts at $599, which is more expensive than we'd like for a phone that's three years old, but if you need to buy a new iPhone, this is the most affordable model we'd recommend. The iPhone SE also has an A15 Bionic inside, and it was launched in 2022, but that phone is much more basic than the iPhone 13. 

The iPhone 13 has a larger, OLED display, compared to the dinky LCD screen on the iPhone SE. The iPhone 13 also gives you two 12MP cameras, including an ultra wide that also handles close-up photography, as well as a better selfie camera. Plus, you won't look like the person carrying the terrifically old iPhone with a Home button if you pick the iPhone 13 over the iPhone SE. 

Read our full iPhone 13 review

The best cheap Android

Google Pixel 8a in aloe green showing

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)
The best cheap Pixel phone

Specifications

Weight: 188g
Dimensions: 152.1 x 72.7 x 8.9mm
OS: Android 14
Screen size: 6.1-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2400
CPU: Google Tensor G3
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 4,492mAh
Rear camera: 64MP + 13MP
Front camera: 13MP

Reasons to buy

+
An affordable way to access the Pixel line's AI magic
+
Google Tensor G3 is good enough for seven years of Android OS updates

Reasons to avoid

-
Middling battery life, again
-
Performance lags behind competitors on this list

The Google Pixel 8a is one of Google's best A-series bargain phones in a while, and it keeps up with the fancier Pixel 8 family in all the best ways. Most importantly, the Pixel 8a will get Android OS updates for the next seven years, an unheard-of promise for a phone in this price range. That means you can keep it longer and it will still be totally up to date. 

The Pixel 8a also has all of Google's cool new AI features, including the generative writing tools to help you write text messages and emails in Gmail. You can load Google Gemini to replace the older Google Assistant. Google Photos gets the Magic Editor tool that helps you restyle your photos, and Best Take to perfect your group shots. You really get everything with this bargain model. 

If you are looking for an absolute steal, keep a close eye on this phone. Google A-series phones get great deals on Amazon throughout the year, and you may find this one priced even lower than $499. The Pixel 7a dropped to $349 on the regular. 

Read our full Google Pixel 8a review

The best under $500

OnePlus 12R review handheld front

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)
The best under $500

Specifications

Weight: 207g
Dimensions: 163.3 x 75.3 x 8.8mm
OS: Android 14, Oxygen OS 14
Screen size: 6.78-inch
Resolution: 1264 x 2780 pixels
CPU: Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
RAM: 8GB / 12GB / 16GB
Storage: 128GB / 256GB
Battery: 5,500mAh
Rear camera: 50MP + 8MP + 2MP
Front camera: 16MP

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent battery life
+
Flagship-level display and performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Not water resistant
-
Fewer years of Android OS support

The OnePlus 12R finally brings the winning OnePlus R-series phone to more markets, including the US, where it's available for $499, but in classic OnePlus fashion almost everybody will get at least $100 for any phone you can trade, so it's effectively a $400 phone. 

For that price, you get an amazingly bright display, larger and brighter than the iPhone 13 and Google Pixel 8a by far. You also get blazing performance with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor that was the crown of the best Android phones in 2023. OnePlus knows how to kill your desire to spend a lot of money on flagship phones, with a great display and fast performance. 

The OnePlus 12R also has the best battery life of any smartphone we've tested in Future Labs in the past couple years. With a huge 5,500mAh battery inside, a cell normally reserved for hardcore gaming phones, this phone lasted 18 hours in our rundown tests, while most phones die before 12 hours is up. 

Unfortunately, the OnePlus 12R isn't water resistant, it can only handle a light splashing. It also gets a respectable four years of Android updates, but Samsung, Google, and Apple all offer more than that. This phone won't likely drop in price, so if you can find a trade to help you knock the cost down, go for it. 

Read our full OnePlus 12R review

The best under $400

The Samsung Galaxy A35 in a man's hand.

(Image credit: Future)
The best under $400

Specifications

Weight: 209g
Dimensions: 161.7 x 78 x 8.2mm
OS: Android 14, OneUI 6.1
Screen size: 6.6-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2340 pixels
CPU: Samsung Exynos 1380
RAM: 6GB / 8GB / 12GB
Storage: 128GB / 256GB
Battery: 5,000mAh
Rear camera: 50MP + 8MP + 5MP
Front camera: 13MP

Reasons to buy

+
Great Samsung display
+
Performance better than expected

Reasons to avoid

-
Cameras are disappointing
-
Charges slowly compared to others

The Samsung Galaxy A35 5G gives you impressive features and a great Samsung display for less than $400. It is packed with Samsung's OneUI software features, which give you plenty of useful tools, customizations, and shortcuts, especially compared to more basic Android software from Google and Motorola.

Compared to other phones at this price, the Galaxy A35 5G gives you more camera options, with a 5MP macro camera lens in addition to the 50MP main camera and an 8MP ultra wide. It also has solid battery life with a 5,000 mAh battery, the same size you'll find in Samsung's big flagship Galaxy S phones. 

Samsung's Exynos processor is no slouch, but this phone won't be mistaken for a Galaxy S24. Still, you'll have no trouble playing your favorite games and browing the web with this Galaxy device. If you need a serious work phone, you'll have to spend more, but for less than $400, the Galaxy A35 5G is the best phone to buy. 

Read our full Samsung Galaxy A35 review

FAQs

What is the best cheap phone?

The best cheap iPhone is the iPhone 13, because it offers a larger, OLED display than the iPhone SE, and an extra ultra wide camera. The best cheap Android is the Pixel 8a, because it gives you all of Google's Pixel AI features, plus great photos, on a phone for less than $500. The OnePlus 12R is also a great option, especially if you have a phone to trade. 

How to choose the best cheap phone

If you are looking for a cheap phone, you'll need to first decide on your price range. Our bargain phones cost less than $500, but there are plenty of options that are even cheaper. Once you have your price range, choose a reputable manufacturer so that you know the phone will last, and so you can get it repaired if anything goes wrong. A cheap phone isn't cheap if you have to buy it twice. 

How we test

We test cheap phones the same way we test all smartphones, by using them as our primary device over a period of weeks. We judge these phones based on what they deliver for the price, so we aren't expecting top performance and professional photographs, but we do expect high quality, because even a cheap phone is an expensive investment. 

We use these phones for messaging, phone calls, listening to music and audio, and browsing the web. We watch videos, play games, and use these phones in our cars for navigation and music. We use these phones for work and personal business. 

We also test these phones in Future Labs, where they undergo rigorous and scientific testing for performance, display quality, battery life, and much more. 

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Philip Berne
US Mobiles Editor

Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, starting more than 20 years ago at eTown.com. Phil has written for Engadget, The Verge, PC Mag, Digital Trends, Slashgear, TechRadar, AndroidCentral, and was Editor-in-Chief of the sadly-defunct infoSync. Phil holds an entirely useful M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. He sang in numerous college a cappella groups.

Phil did a stint at Samsung Mobile, leading reviews for the PR team and writing crisis communications until he left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. Phil is certified in Google AI Essentials. He has a High School English teaching license (and years of teaching experience) and is a Red Cross certified Lifeguard. His passion is the democratizing power of mobile technology. Before AI came along he was totally sure the next big thing would be something we wear on our faces.