If you’re looking to save money, the best cheap phones we’ve tested will make you wonder why people spend $800 or more on a new flagship. With how powerful the best budget camera phones are, you’re able to pick up a photography powerhouse for little money, which is fantastic for people who like taking pictures but don’t have a huge budget.
Those on a budget will find that the best cheap phones offer capable cameras, big-enough displays for watching video and playing games and plenty of battery life to get you through most of the day. And 5G connectivity is starting to become standard for cheap phones.
Best Budget Smartphone With Good Camera And Battery Life
1. Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro
There really is no phone quite like the Redmi Note 10 Pro. For starters, you’ve got that camera with its huge megapixel count. 108MP (one hundred and eight megapixels!) is a huge number, let alone at this phone’s starting price. More than just empty specs, the Note 10 Pro takes fantastic photos with a shallow depth of field, grabs stacks of detail, and shoots video at up to 4K resolution.
Believe it or not, the imaging credentials of the Redmi Note 10 Pro get better when you factor in the secondary cameras. There’s an 8MP ultra-wide camera for GoPro style, expansive photos, and there’s a telemacro camera, normally reserved for pricier phones. This 5MP sharpshooter might not pack the pixel-counts of the main or ultra-wide cameras, but for anyone who likes close-up photography, it’s a treat, capable of capturing glorious textures and macro photos inaccessible to most smartphones.
More than just a camera phone, the Note 10 Pro also matches excellent photography chops with a gorgeous AMOLED screen and sleek design. While it isn’t a powerhouse, and it doesn’t support 5G mobile data speeds, given everything it can do, those are two omissions from its spec sheet we’re okay with, especially if excellent photos on a budget is your number one goal when picking up your next smartphone.
2. Google Pixel 5a
Providing everything you could want for surprisingly little cash, the Google Pixel 5a replaces its Pixel 4a predecessor as our pick of the best unlocked phones. Even though it costs half as much as the typical flagship phone, the Pixel 5a’s 6.4-inch display and dual rear cameras can still keep up. It also boasts an IP67 water/dust resistance rating, important for keeping your device safe for as long as you own it.
There are a couple of limitations that are worth keeping in mind. First off, you can only buy this phone in the U.S. and Japan, so tough luck to U.K. readers who might have thought about picking this up. The other issue is a lack of computing muscle since the chip hasn’t been changed from the Pixel 4a 5G.
Nonetheless, you get a very capable camera phone — in fact, it’s the best camera phone under $500. Though the Pixel 5a doesn’t have flagship features like a high refresh rate display or a telephoto camera, it’s a great phone all around. But now the new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are here, which offer top-tier experiences thanks to the new Tensor chips and improved camera hardware.
3. OnePlus Nord 2
OnePlus’ Nord phones are a staple of this list of the best low-cost photography phones, and the newest entry in that line is the Nord 2 (which isn’t actually the second Nord phone – it’s the fifth).
The OnePlus Nord 2 has a fantastic 50MP main camera, that we’ve also seen on a few way-more-premium phones. This is joined by a less-impressive, but still useful, ultra-wide and monochrome duo.
Beyond that this phone has a good-looking screen, fast charging and lots of processing power.
4. iPhone SE 2022
The iPhone SE 2022 takes cheap phones to the next level of performance by including Apple’s powerful A15 Bionic chip. This is the same processor found in the iPhone 13, and it blows all Android phones away, whether you’re playing games or editing video on the go.
This chip also gives the new iPhone SE 2022 a number of photography powers that the previous model lacked, including Smart HDR 4, Magic Fusion for better detail and Photographic Styles. In fact, in some scenarios the iPhone SE takes better pics than the Google Pixel 5a. Unfortunately, Apple didn’t include Night mode for low-light situations.
The new iPhone SE features the same design as before, so that means a small 4.7-inch display and big bezels, but some may prefer the old-school Touch ID button for quickly unlocking the device. Despite some trade-offs, the iPhone SE 2022 is one of the best cheap phones around for people who like small phones.
5. Moto G200
Members of Moto’s affordable G series of smartphones haven’t always deserved a place on lists with ‘best camera phone’ in the title, but in 2021, that started to change, and the Moto G200 is the best example of this.
The phone has three rear cameras including a super-high-res main snapper, but its real power comes from the AI scene optimization, as Motorola’s software has been coming on leaps and bounds in that department. Low-light photography is good for a budget phone, and selfies look vibrant too.
Some may find the phone too big to be comfortable to use, and that’s a valid criticism, but if you’re on a budget, this is the best Moto mobile for you.
6. Galaxy A32 5G
We’re starting to see more and more affordable 5G phones popping up, and one of the best of the bunch is the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G. At $280, it’s one of the best bargains on this list, if you’re willing to put up with a mediocre display. However, if you’re strapped for cash and want a phone with decent cameras, the Galaxy A32 5G is one you should consider.
With its big 6.5-inch screen, the A32 is not a small phone. But it packs a 5,000 mAh battery that lasts a really long time — almost 12 hours in our testing with its adaptive refresh rate enabled. You can also expect the Galaxy A32 to last longer overall than many other budget options, with Samsung promising three years of Android updates and four years of security patches.
7. Realme 9 Pro Plus
The Realme 9 Pro Plus is fantastic for low-light photography, thanks to its 50MP main camera which has a large sensor, and purely on that merit it makes its way onto this list. Of course, it’s also great for other types of pictures, taking vibrant and bright snaps.
That’s not all there is to like about this phone, though, because it has a few novel features: its rear changes color in sunlight, and it has a heart rate monitor built into the fingerprint scanner.
Beyond that it’s also a top low-cost phone with a good-looking screen, powerful processor and super tempting price.
This is a top all-around Android smartphone, and its great camera is just one weapon in its arsenal.
8. TCL 10 5G UW
You won’t find too many 5G-capable devices on the list of best cheap phones — 5G modems can be a pretty pricey add-on. And yet, here’s the TCL 10 5G UW, which can connect to Verizon’s super-fast 5G network while still costing you less than $400.
There’s more to 5G to explain the appeal of TCL’s phone. The 6.53-inch display, while a little dim, produces great colors and gives you a lot of screen real estate. The TCL 10 5G UW has the same Snapdragon 765G processor you’ll find in more expensive phones, delivering comparable performance. That 5G connectivity doesn’t impact battery life, either, as TCL’s phone lasted more than 11 hour on our battery test.
9. Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G
This isn’t Xiaomi’s first entry in this list of the best budget camera phones, and it won’t be its last either. The Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G takes some of the key features from the Mi 11 and cuts some corners – and lots of the body – to make a smaller, cheaper phone.
This handset has the same fantastic macro camera we saw on the Mi 11 – and on the Redmi Note 10 Pro and Poco F3 on this list – and also packs a high-megapixel main camera, with an ultra-wide snapper to round out the party.
Beyond the cameras this is a fashionable phone, with a slim body and a range of colors to pick from. It’s not got much stopping power in terms of battery life, but it’ll be enough for most people.
10. OnePlus Nord N200 5G
The OnePlus Nord N200 succeeds the affordable Nord N100 from 2020, but adds 5G. It delivers a lot of great features for the money, giving you a 90Hz display, 5G, and a big battery for just $240. However, you’ll need to make some compromises.
Notably, the camera performance on the Nord N200 is quite lacking. And while the Snapdragon 480 5G processor gets the job done for basic task, anything intensive like gaming brings it to its knees, however. That said, if budget is your chief concern, and you want 5G, this is the phone to get.
The OnePlus Nord N200 5G won a highly recommended award from Tom’s Guide.