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Best cheap phones in the US 2020: our top picks for every budget

Cheap phones
(Image credit: TechRadar)

The best cheap phone in the US can be a bit tough to choose since it won't always come down to comparing price. Some of the best cheap smartphones are actually older higher-tier models with heavy discounts, while certain new phones offer killer value and the latest perks.

One of the most important things to consider while shopping for the best cheap phone is, obviously, the price. One person's 'cheap' isn't necessarily someone else's 'affordable.' With flagship phone prices from Apple and Samsung skyrocketing higher than $1,000, some folks may find anything under $600 cheap, while those with tighter budgets could be looking below $400 or even below $200 for a handset. 

In any case, nobody gets left out when it comes to great cheap smartphones. Older flagship handsets from Samsung and Apple come in at prices that thrifty shoppers can afford, and new phones from OnePlus, Motorola, and others which might have fallen off your radar pack the latest tech into affordable packages, and are worth considering.

We've assembled a ranked list of the best phones under $600, $500, $400, $300 and $200. No matter your budget, we're recommending a smartphone for you based on these price tiers. These value phones are frequently unlocked, contract-free, and SIM-free, making them even easier to pick up and try out. 

Best cheap phones at a glance

Under $600

Samsung Galaxy S10e

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy S10e

A flagship lite gets a new value proposition

Release date: February 2019 | Weight: 150g | Dimensions: 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9mm | OS: Android 10 | Screen size: 5.8-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2960 | CPU: Snapdragon 845 / Exynos 9810 | RAM: 6GB / 8GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB | Battery: 3,100mAh | Rear camera: 12MP f/1.5-2.4 + 16MP | Front camera: 10MP

Fantastic main + ultrawide cameras
Great specs
Small form factor
No in-screen fingerprint sensor
No telephoto camera

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is an affordable sibling of the Galaxy S10 and has fewer features to shave off cost. What does the S10e miss out on? Mainly, a telephoto lens, a higher-resolution display, and an in-screen fingerprint sensor.

But for most users, a Full HD+ (2280 x 1080) screen will work just fine, and the smaller 5.8-inch display means this phone fits more comfortably in hand. The side-mounted physical fingerprint sensor-and-lock-button is large and generally more accurate than in-screen ones, anyway. 

You may not miss the rear telephoto, either, given how many use cases are covered by the main and ultra-wide cameras. With wireless charging (and reverse wireless charging), the S10e still has most of the top flagship features anyway.

The S10e had its price dropped to $599, but you can find it for $549 or even cheaper at certain retailers. If you want a larger affordable Samsung flagship, try the Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite with its 6.7-inch display – but it might not be as available or as cheap as the S10e.  

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S10e review

Under $500

OnePlus 7T

(Image credit: OnePlus)

OnePlus 7T

Flagship design and performance at a discount

Weight: 190g | Dimensions: 160.9 x 74.4 x 8.1 mm | OS: Android 10 | Screen size: 6.55-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 2400 | Chipset: Snapdragon 855 Plus | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128/256GB | Battery: 3,800mAh | Rear camera: 48MP + 12MP +16MP lenses | Front camera: 16MP | Supported Networks: GSM + CDMA networks

Cutting-edge performance
Fantastic cameras
Latest Android version
No expandable storage
No 3.5mm headphone jack

The OnePlus 7T was a return to a cheaper phone after the OnePlus 7 Pro (the standard OnePlus 7 wasn't sold in the US), yet it might still be too pricey for some. The price is now even lower, thanks to the release of the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro.

While the 7T doesn't have quite the standout perks of the OnePlus 7 Pro (notably, the pop-up selfie camera), but the company opted to pack more features in and raise the price at launch. Even so, you're not missing much by picking the 7T, which got the same slew of three top-tier rear cameras.

The OnePlus 7T deserves a spot on this list simply because it features flagship-level specs (which are even better than some flagship phones with its 8GB of RAM) and a big screen north of six inches, with a price that falls south of every major flagship out there.

But if the starting price of the OnePlus 7T is still a bit much, track down a OnePlus 6T (released in late 2018), which has two year-old specs for even lower prices.

Read our full OnePlus 7T review

Under $400

iPhone SE

(Image credit: Apple)

iPhone SE 2020

The newest cheap iPhone

Weight: 148g | Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm | OS: iOS 13 | Screen size: 4.7-inch | Resolution: 750 x 1334 | CPU: A13 Bionic | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 64/128/256GB | Battery: 1,821mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 7MP

A11 Bionic still powerful
Camera is snappy and clear
Dated design
Small screen

Apple fans have been clamoring for a new iPhone SE for years, and they both did and didn't get what they wanted. The new iPhone SE 2020 is larger than its predecessor – sorry, small phone fans – and retains pretty much everything from the iPhone 8... except for the powerful A13 Bionic chipset. 

That's the same chipset powering the top-of-the-line iPhone 11, meaning you're getting nearly the same power (with a bit less RAM) as Apple's top-of-the-line handsets. That means the iPhone SE 2020 isn't just fast, it will be compatible with more iOS versions beyond iOS 13 than the iPhone 8 or iPhone XS line. If that's what you're looking for, you won't mind the large bezels and single front and rear cameras that have essentially been inherited all the way back from the iPhone 6.

The rest of its specs aren't too shabby, with a 12MP rear camera, 7MP front-facing camera, 2GB of RAM and a choice of 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB of storage. While the 1,821mAh battery isn't huge compared to flagships, it can change wirelessly. The iPhone SE 2020 retails for $399.

Read our full iPhone SE 2020 review

Under $300

Moto G8 Power

(Image credit: Motorola)

Moto G Power

A Moto G8 with a bigger helping of battery

Release date: April 2020 | Weight: 197g | Dimensions: 156 x 75.8 x 9.6 mm | OS: Android 10 | Screen size: 6.4-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 2300 | CPU: Snapdragon 665 | RAM: 4 GB | Storage: 64 GB | Battery: 5,000mAh | Rear camera: 16MP f/1.7 | : 8MP f/2.2 (telephoto) | : 8MP f/2.2 (ultrawide) | : 2MP f/2.2 (macro) | Front camera: 16MP f/2.2

Good specs for the price
Long-lasting battery
Plastic back

The Moto G Power (known as the Moto G8 Power outside the US) isn't just a battery-boosted version of a good budget phone – it's a considerable upgrade on last year's model that includes an admirable number of perks you'd normally see on flagships.

The first are the quad cameras on the back – a 16MP main shooter, 8MP telephoto with 2x optical zoom, 8MP ultrawide lens with 118-degree field-of-view, and finally, a 2MP macro lens. Plus, 4K 30fps video. It's an impressive suite topped by a 16MP front-facing camera in a punch-hole, adding to the flagship-esque looks.

The rest of the phone isn't too shabby, either. The Snapdragon 665 chipset is an upgrade along with the 4GB of RAM, and the 6.4-inch display is slightly larger than its predecessor – and sharper, too, with a Full HD+ (2300 x 1080) resolution. It offers good performance and sharp looks for a budget phone.  

Read our full Moto G Power review

Under $200

Moto G Fast

(Image credit: Motorola)

Moto G Fast

This year's affordable Moto G-series phone

Release date: June 12 | Weight: 189g | Dimensions: 161.9 x 75.7 x 9mm | OS: Android 10 | Screen size: 6.4-inch | Resolution: 720 x 1512 | CPU: Snapdragon 665 | RAM: 3 GB | Storage: 32 GB | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 16MP f/1.7 | : 2MP (macro) | : 8MP (ultra-wide) | Front camera: 8MP f/2.2

Impressive camera suite
Runs Android 10
Snapdragon 665 for less
Unremarkable display
Low base storage

If you want one of the latest Moto G-series phones but need to go for an even lower price, the Moto G Fast is a compelling option. It still has the Snapdragon 665 chipset powering the more expensive Moto G-series models, but it comes at a price well below the others. Its 3GB of RAM is nothing special, though, and its baseline 32GB of storage is extremely low.

Still, at a budget price, you're getting a screen that looks fairly modern with a punch-hole in the corner, which looks suitably modern. Even if the resolution is only HD, the 6.4-inch display is pretty large.

Beyond that, you get a fingerprint scanner, a headphone jack, and USB-C for charging, though you'll have to buy a Motorola Turbo Charger yourself.

Editor's note: We haven't fully reviewed the Moto G Fast, but it's almost identical to the Moto G8 that we have reviewed and we really liked. The Moto G fast is the US equivalent of this phone, but it has slightly less RAM, half as much storage and it doesn't feature laser autofocus like the Moto G8 does.

Read our full Moto G8 review

Matt Swider and Mark Knapp also contributed to this list