Best cheap phone 2022: Flagship features for under $450

No matter how you slice it, the price of flagships is still a deterrent for many people, especially when some flagship models are priced at $1,500 or more. Thankfully, there are some reliable affordable alternatives, and the days of cheap Android phones that barely function are gone. Various manufacturers, including many from China and Korea, have compelling products that are becoming more popular as we reach smartphone saturation.

We also now see Samsung, Google, and Apple offering more affordable options with Samsung bringing in one model that has 5G and is still priced at just over $200. Google also continues to commit to bringing its camera technology to mid-range phones.

Camera performance was a major differentiator between flagships and mid-range phones over the past couple of years, but even today’s affordable phones can help you capture decent photos to share with family and friends or on social media. Let’s take a look at some of the best smartphones available for your budget.

Also: Best super-cheap phones under $100: Top budget smartphones

You can read more phone buying tips and how we make our recommendations here.   

5G and flagship-level specs for under $450

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Display: 6.34 inches (2400 x 1080-pixel resolution) | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G | RAM: 6GB | Internal storage: 128GB storage | Rear cameras: 12.2MP rear f/2.0 camera | Front camera: 8MP f/2.0 camera | Weight: 143g | Battery capacity4620mAh

Last year Google released the Pixel 4A 5G, which is one of the most affordable 5G phones, for $499. Google updated that phone with the Pixel 5A for $50 less than the 4A 5G, making the 4A essentially obsolete.  There are often special deals for the Pixel 5A with the phone at $399 or less too so keep an eye out for these offers.

The Pixel 5A, see our full review, is targeted at people who want an affordable Pixel phone with Google’s stunning camera software The 5A also has a 3.5mm audio port, stereo speakers, an aluminum body with IP67 dust/water resistance, and at least three years of OS and security updates.

The phone is available just in black as either an unlocked phone or one with service provided by Google Fi.

Pros:

  • Google’s quality camera algorithms
  • Affordable price
  • 5G support
  • Timely and guaranteed software updates for years

Cons:

  • Single rear camera
  • No mmWave 5G support

TCL 30 V 5G

Verizon’s lowest priced 5G Android smartphone

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Image: TCL

Display: 6.67 inches (2400 x 1080-pixel resolution) | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 | RAM: 4GB | Internal storage: 128GB storage with microSD | Rear cameras: 50MP main, 5MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro | Front camera: 16MP camera | Weight: 200g | Battery capacity4500mAh

The TCL 30 V 5G is Verizon’s lowest priced Android smartphone with 5G support so if you are a Verizon customer this phone serves as a solid gateway into 5G service. Full price from Verizon is $299.99 with monthly payment options available too. The phone supports 18W fast charging and can also be used as a WiFi hotspot.

TCL is known for its display technology and it brings the NXTVISION technology to the phone with the TCL 30 V 5G so you can experience high quality streaming video content through the Verizon network or a local WiFi connection. Dual speakers help enhance the experience too.

Pros:

  • Affordable price
  • Good quality, large display
  • Large capacity battery
  • 3.5mm audio port
  • Reliable rear fingerprint sensor

Cons:

  • Large phone
  • Limited RAM

Lowest-priced option in our list

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Display: 6.82 inches (1640 x 720-pixel resolution) | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 | RAM: 4GB | Internal storage: 128GB storage with microSD | Rear cameras: 48MP main, 5MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro, and 2MP depth sensor | Front camera: 13MP camera | Weight: 206g | Battery capacity5000mAh

The TCL 20SE is not a gaming phone or one that will help you easily take award-winning photos. As a TCL-branded phone, it is focused on the display experience and the basics. There is no 5G connectivity and it will get 18 months to 24 months of Android security patches, likely released on a quarterly basis. It is also a very large phone — with a 6.82-inch display and a thickness of 9.14 mm.

All that said, it is priced at just $189.99. There are not many phones priced less than $200 and the TCL 20SE appears to be well built with a rather lovely modern design. I enjoyed using the large display for messaging and enjoying Google TV movies so there are definitely ways to enjoy to optimized visual experience of the phone.

Pros:

  • Low price
  • Good quality, large display
  • Large capacity battery
  • Attractive, well-built design

Cons:

  • Large phone
  • No NFC
  • Mediocre camera results

Best $250 Android phone

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Display: 6.67 inches (2400 x 1080-pixel resolution) | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 | RAM: 4GB | Internal storage: 128GB storage with microSD | Rear cameras: 64MP main, 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro, and 2MP depth sensor | Front camera: 16MP camera | Weight: 199g | Battery capacity5000mAh

Unlike the TCL 20SE, the TCL 20S is compatible with T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon LTE networks so the addition of Verizon here is a significant improvement. The 20S has a higher-level processor, NFC chip, better cameras, better speakers, and Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging support.

The TCL 20S is one of the better $250 phones you can find today, and if I was looking for a phone in this price range, I would pay the extra $60 to purchase this one over the TCL 20SE. The 20SE has several compromises that are resolved in the 20S and I think over the life of the phone people will be happier with the 20S. The display looks wonderful, the speakers are loud, the UI is nearly stock Android, the battery life is solid, and there is a lot to like in the TCL 20S.

Pros:

  • Low price
  • High quality, large display
  • Good sounding stereo speakers
  • NFC
  • Fairly stock Android UI

Cons:

  • Limited gaming performance
  • Acceptable camera results

An affordable OnePlus with 5G and fast charging

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Image: OnePlus

Display: 6.49 inches (2400 x 1080-pixel resolution) with 90Hz refresh | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 5G | RAM: 4GB | Internal storage: 64GB storage with microSD | Rear cameras: 13MP main, 2MP macro, and 2MP monochrome | Front camera: 16MP camera | Weight: 189g | Battery capacity5000mAh

The OnePlus Nord N200 5G launched as a follow-up to the also-excellent Nord N10 5G. Like its older, more expensive cousin, it provides 5G connectivity for a price that would have seemed impossible just a year ago. For less than $240, users receive a device with essentially the same display at the $300 N10, a larger 5000mAh battery, a rear triple camera array, and a 16MP selfie cam.

Sure, there are some concessions in the memory department: the N200 5G has 8GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, while the N10 5G had 6GB and 128GB, but the presence of expandable storage makes the latter a quick fix. Users will also have to accept a lower-quality 13MP main rear camera. That said, this model is designed for those worried primarily about having a nice, big screen that will last them all day and recharge quickly, thanks to its supports for 18W fast charging. 

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • High quality, large display
  • Charges fast
  • NFC
  • High refresh rate display

Cons:

  • Mediocre camera results

$205 with Samsung flair

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Display: 6.5 inches with 90Hz refresh | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 | RAM: 4GB | Internal storage: 64GB storage with microSD | Rear cameras: 48MP main, 8MP ultra-wide, 5MP macro, and 2MP depth sensor | Front camera: 13MP camera | Weight: 205g | Battery capacity5000mAh

Samsung offers a range of A Series smartphones worth considering with one of the most affordable ones in the US appearing as the A32 5G. That’s right, for barely over $200 you get an Android phone that supports 5G mobile networks.

We also find a high refresh rate display, 90Hz, and if you have used anything better than 60Hz, it is tough to go back to anything less than 90Hz. We also find fast charging, NFC, and very capable quad rear cameras.

The Samsung Galaxy A32 5G is available only in Awesome Black, but one can’t be too picky at this price point.

Pros:

  • Low price
  • Capable display with high refresh rate
  • NFC
  • Large capacity battery

Cons:

  • Limited internal storage and RAM
  • Reported WiFi connectivity issues

Priced less than most insurance policies for phones

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Display: 6.5 inches (1600 x 720-pixel resolution) | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 | RAM: 3GB | Internal storage: 32GB storage with microSD | Rear cameras: 13MP main and 2MP depth sensor | Front camera: 5MP camera | Weight: 204g | Battery capacity5000mAh

The Moto G Play has a full retail price of $149.99 and it can be found on Amazon or directly from Motorola.

The Moto G Play has a 6.5-inch display with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 processor, 13MP rear camera with a 2MP depth sensor, 5MP front-facing camera, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage with a microSD expansion card slot, and a rather large 5000mAh battery. It has some water resistance and retains the 3.5mm audio jack.

The Moto G Play is priced less than most insurance policies for flagship phones, so if you need a low-cost phone or a backup, then this may be the one to consider. Motorola also does a great job of providing a stock Android experience that gets fairly regular updates, too.

Pros:

  • Very low price
  • Large capacity battery
  • Fairly stock Android UI

Cons:

  • Tiny amount of RAM and internal storage
  • Acceptable camera results

Three-day battery

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Motorola

Display: 6.6 inches (1600 x 720-pixel resolution) | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 | RAM: 3GB | Internal storage: 32GB storage with microSD | Rear cameras: 48MP main,  2MP macro, and 2MP depth-sensing | Front camera: 8MP camera | Weight: 199g | Battery capacity5000mAh

The 2021 edition of Motorola’s multi-day smartphone is somewhat of a sidegrade from its predecessor. While screen size grew, it the resolution dropped a bit. Similarly, base-level RAM and storage options dropped, but so too did the price, falling down to less than $180. What hasn’t changed is that massive 5000mAh battery that gives the device its claimed three-day battery life and raises the fast charging support to 15W for rapid top-ups. 

Motorola also continues to do a great job with a fairly stock Android user interface and cool proprietary enhancements. Software updates aren’t as readily provided as they are on high-end devices.

Pros:

  • Low price
  • Large capacity battery
  • Triple camera system
  • 15W fast charging

Cons:

Integrated stylus for just $300

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Image: Motorola

Display: 6.8 inches (2460 x 1080-pixel resolution) | CPU: MediaTek Helio G88 | RAM: 6GB | Internal storage: 128GB storage with microSD | Rear cameras: 50MP main, 8MP ultra-wide and macro vision, and 2MP depth sensor | Front camera: 16MP camera | Weight: 216g | Battery capacity5000mAh

Some people still find a stylus to be an extremely useful input device, but also don’t want to pay $1,000 and up for a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra with S Pen support. Motorola offers the Moto G Stylus (2022) with an integrated stylus that helps you navigate, input text, draw, and capture notes. It’s not as full-featured as the S Pen experience on a new S22 Ultra, but it provides the essential functions at a fraction of the price ($299.99).

In addition to the integrated stylus experience, the Moto G Stylus has an ample 6GB of RAM, 128GB internal storage, and a microSD card slot. It has a rear quad-camera system with a 50MP main camera, ultra-wide lens, and macro camera.

The large 6.8-inch display and MediaTek processor combine with a very large capacity 5000mAh battery to provide nearly two days of battery life. Moto Actions help you work efficiently too.

Pros:

  • Affordable price
  • Stylus support with integrated silo
  • Capable rear cameras
  • Fairly stock Android UI
  • 3.5mm audio port

Cons:

  • No NFC
  • No 5G support

The most affordable iPhone

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Display: 4.7 inches (1334 x 750-pixel resolution) | CPU: Apple A13 | RAM: Uknown | Internal storage: 64/128/256GB options | Rear cameras: 12MP main | Front camera: 7MP camera | Weight: 148g | Battery capacityUnknown

Apple satisfied those looking for a tiny phone a few years ago with the 2016 iPhone SE. In 2020, it introduced another SE model in a larger form factor that carries on the tradition of the Touch ID front fingerprint sensor. The 2020 iPhone SE is available now for a very affordable $399 in three color options of white, black, and red.

ZDNet’s Jason Cipriani spent a few days with the iPhone SE and offered up four quick thoughts on the new iPhone. I also picked one up and published a full review of this small iPhone.

The iPhone SE is essentially an iPhone 8 with upgraded internals to match the modern iPhone 11 range. A single camera is found on the back, but Apple is able to bring its expertise to play to make it a solid performer in the optical department.

Pros:

  • It’s an iPhone… for $399
  • Solid battery life
  • Excellent software support
  • Small phone
  • IP67 dust/water resistant

Cons:

  • Big bezels
  • Small display

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