The best cheap phones 2023: top budget smartphones in the US

one of the best cheap phones Samsung Galaxy A53 against a pink TechRadar background
(Image credit: Future)

Choose one of the best cheap phones if you're on a budget but don't want to compromise on quality. Here's the thing about budget phones – some are bad and not worth your while, but there are a handful that excel in one or two things, making them a great value in their own right.

The iPhone 14 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra may get all the well-deserved media attention, thanks to being some of the best phones around, but cheaper handsets are often better value for most people. And, while companies typically only have one or two flagships, they often release a larger selection of affordable handsets, which means there are many models to choose from.

If you do your research, you might even find one with flagship features like 120Hz screens, great cameras, and modern designs sans the flagship price tag. That's whether you're looking for an iPhone or an Android phone.

We've tested and reviewed a huge number of smartphones over the years, so we know exactly which cheap phones are the best value and which ones aren't worth your money. We gathered all the best cheap phones for you below, along with the best phone deals available.

The best cheap phones 2023

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Samsung Galaxy A54 review Awesome Violet front straight

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)
The best cheap Samsung phone


Weight: 202g
Dimensions: 158.2 x 76.7 x 8.2 mm
OS: Android 13
Screen size: 6.4-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2340
CPU: Exynos 1380
RAM: 6/8GB
Storage: 64GB/128/256GB
Battery: 5,000mAh
Rear camera: 50MP + 12MP + 5MP
Front camera: 32MP

Reasons to buy

Good cameras for the price
Good-looking screen
Looks more expensive than it costs

Reasons to avoid

No wireless charging 
A little thick and heavy

Samsung's Galaxy A54 is a slightly updated version of the 2022 A53 that's made for 2023 needs and sensibilities. It looks a lot like the Samsung Galaxy S23 and S23 Plus, and you may be tempted to think it's one of those much better phones. Hold it, and you'll quickly be disabused of that notion. It's a little heavier than the more expensive phones, and the bezels are not as thin.

Noting that it costs half as much as the S23 line though, you should be happy enough to pocket the rest of that cash. That additional thickness also goes toward hosting its 5,000 mAh battery which means it'll last all day according to our testing (with 23W fast charging to get it back up and running quickly). The cameras are even fairly decent and perform well in good light.

Finally, Samsung's four years of software updates and five of security updates mean you can keep this phone for a while with confidence that it'll be supported almost as well as an iPhone.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy A54 review here

iPhone SE 2022

(Image credit: Future)
The best cheap iPhone


Weight: 144g
Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm
OS: iOS 15
Screen size: 4.7-inch
Resolution: 1334 x 750
Chipset: A15 Bionic chip with 6-core CPU, 4-core GPU
Storage: 64GB / 128GB / 256GB
Battery: Info not available
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 7MP

Reasons to buy

Powerful for the cost
Thin and lightweight design

Reasons to avoid

Starts at only 64GB storage
Screen is cramped

Apple's best cheap iPhone is as budget as you can get if you're an iOS fan. With the launch of the iPhone 14, Apple is still selling some older iPhones cheap, but the iPhone SE (2022) is still the best bargain for iPhone fans, and it's still available at Apple's store. 

While it is sitting at the bottom of the iPhone pile in terms of price, our tests and review show that the iPhone SE (2022) certainly holds its own. This 5G smartphone doesn't skimp on performance or connectivity, even touting Apple's same A15 Bionic chipset found in the newer iPhone 14.

It's a proper upgrade for its predecessor, being faster and better connected, even if it does keep the same design. Still, why reinvent the wheel? We love that classic design and think it holds up, even the Touch ID feature. It also has the same weight as the iPhone 13 mini but without the pesky squared-off edges, which makes it a pleasure to handle.

If you're looking for better cameras and a bigger screen, this might not be the right phone for you. However, if you prefer a smaller screen and are not big on taking photos anyway, this is the best value choice for you.

Read our full Apple iPhone SE (2022) review here

Google Pixel 7a phone showing screens camera and Android 13

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


Weight: 193g
Dimensions: 152 x 72.9 x 9 mm
OS: Android 13
Screen size: 6.1-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2400
CPU: Google Tensor G2
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 4,385mAh
Rear camera: 64MP + 13MP
Front camera: 13MP

Reasons to buy

Fantastic photos with the powerful Google camera
Great performance from Google Tensor G2
Good price

Reasons to avoid

Shorter support than Apple and Samsung
Middling battery
Too expensive for the compromises 

The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are quite pricey and powerful smartphones, and so the Pixel 7a steps in for those who'd prefer a cheaper option. The 7a offers everything the Pixel 7 does – but it is cheaper at $499.

The Pixel 7a has a pleasant-looking display, the camera is amazing, and has the highest megapixel count of any Pixel phone at 64MP, and it is a really compact phone. at 6.1-inches.

Certainly, there are flaws – and we've found that it gets doesn't have all-day battery life and is supported for fewer years than Samsung or Apple options. However, slick Android software and Google's thoughtful AI features have an audience, and the Pixel 7a is one of the nicest and most inexpensive ways you can get onboard.

Read our full Google Pixel 7a review

OnePlus Nord N20 5G

(Image credit: Future)
The best display on a phone under $300


Weight: 173g
Dimensions: 159.9 x 73.2 x 7.5 mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.43-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2400
CPU: Snapdragon 695
Storage: 128GB, expandable up to 512GB
Battery: 4,500mAh
Rear camera: 64MP + 2MP + 2MP
Front camera: 16MP

Reasons to buy

Stellar processing performance
OLED display worthy of a $600+ phone

Reasons to avoid

Cameras are only average
The vibration motor is weak

Once in a while, you come across a smartphone that punches above its weight. For those who are looking for something that's less than $300, that phone is the OnePlus Nord N20, which we found to be an easy recommendation for budget-minded consumers looking for a cheap Android phone.

Our tests show that this offering from OnePlus delivers a slick performance, which is admirable considering the price. But, it also comes with an OLED display that we found to be bright and punchy – and even worthy of a $600 phone. It also improves readability. And, it single-handedly makes up for the fact that the camera system is really nothing to write about.

The OnePlus Nord N20 is a solid performer for playing games, consuming media, and of course, making calls. In fact, you'll barely notice that you're using a mid-range phone. And, if you're happy to compromise on the camera features, you'll love it for your daily needs. 

Read our full OnePlus Nord N20 5G review here