When it comes to the best cheap phones you can buy right now, we've got the definite rundown for you – and these handsets come in at much lower prices than the flagships in our best phones guide.
As a guideline, considering some of the premium smartphones will set you back over £1,000, we're treating everything under £500 as eligible for this list. You're still going to get a decent level of features and performance, but at a price that's right.
The cheap phone market is where the action is in 2023 – even from major brands like Apple and Samsung. All phone makers now realise we can't all afford to spend megabucks on a new phone, which means mid-tier and low-end phones benefit.
If you already know which brand you want, then you may find it easier to browse our lists of the best Android phones or best iPhones to find exactly what you’re looking for. Otherwise, let us guide you through the best cheap phones on the market today.
It's also worth noting that Black Friday and Cyber Monday (25 November and 28 November are fast approaching, so you may well be able to get these handsets for even less – check out our best Black Friday deals page for more information.
What are the best cheap phones 2023?
Why you can trust T3 Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
The best cheap iPhone (under £500) is the Apple iPhone SE (2022). If you're an Apple person but don't want to pay the big bucks, then the entry-level iPhone is still a strong contender. It just looks a little dated, but costs half that of a flagship Apple handset.
The best cheap Android phone (under £300) is the OnePlus Nord CE 2. Not only affordable, we called it "charming" in our review. It balances features to price really well, costing less than the next-best Samsung.
The best ultra-affordable cheap phone (under £200) is the Motorola G31. If you've got under a couple of hundred to play with then Motorola is always the go-to king of cheap devices. Its G series is always capable despite the lower asking price.
The best cheap phones you can buy in 2023
If you're all about Apple then the cheapest option into the company's ecosystem is the iPhone SE (2022), which still delivers a near-flagship experience but for a fraction of the cost.
The design does look a little older compared to the Apple flagships of today, but it also costs half as much! Yet it still delivers cutting-edge innards for a cut-price iPhone, with a superb camera and speedy A15 chip performance, all wrapped into a nice small-scale deisgn that's easy to pocket.
If you're not sold on Apple, however, then there are plenty of Android alternatives that we explore in this list that will suit your needs.
Want to know more? T3's iPhone SE (2022) review explores the device with in-depth details
Based around the OnePlus Nord 2, but even cheaper still, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 fits perfectly into the top cheap Android phone slot for its balance of features to price.
As we said in our review: "anyone on a budget who wants a small, light phone with decent battery life and a good display will be happy" - because OnePlus gets all the fundamentals right. All while hopefully leaving some spare change in your pocket.
Want to know the fulls ins and outs? Read our OnePlus Nord CE 2 review for the lowdown
The Moto G31 doesn't stray from the usual Motorola formula: it's an affordable Android handset that gives you more than you might expect at this price. And it's really this ultra-affordable asking price that seals the deal in locking this handset into this slot in our guide.
There's long battery life and a bright 6.4-inch display here, although the lower-end processor can mean some less-than-perfect performance at times, but you can still casually game, take successful snaps with the cameras, and not feel like there's excessive compromise.
Read our full Moto G31 review to see why it's the best ultra-affordable Android phone right now
Best cheap phone 2023: The best of the rest
The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G echoes the look of the tech giant's flagship S series, it looks fantastic and features a stunning 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate so it's genuinely on par with many flagship handsets.
On the back, you'll find an integrated module housing some great camera tech that blends well into the plastic casing of the phone - the photos come out well with the 64-megapixel main camera leading the charge. Complementing that is a new 5,000mAh battery that will last you for ages and ages without needing a charge.
So what's not to love? Well, the performance won’t blow you away, but let's get things in perspective: it's too easy to think this is a flagship handset when it actually costs a whole lot less. A sophisticated option if you're not on team iPhone.
Is this the best sub-flagship affordable phone money can buy? Read our full Samsung Galaxy A53 5G review for more info
You don’t need to spend loads of money to get a phone with impressive features - and the Oppo Find X5 Lite proves that. Combining two-day battery life with 65W charging that took just over 30 minutes to take the phone from flat to full, we were blown away by what it has to offer.
Even though it is a little flawed because it's not waterproof and the camera's zoom is admittedly quite weak, it's still really good value thanks to a lovely 6.43-inch screen with a 90Hz refresh rate for smooth results, a decent main camera, and very capable performance.
Want to know more? Read our full Oppo Find X5 Lite review
The big selling point when it comes to the Nokia G21 is the very, very low price – you can pick this up for around £150 in the UK at the moment. With a lot of us watching our bank balances very carefully right now, that's certainly appealing.
Of course you do have to make certain compromises to get down to that price point. There's no 5G on offer here, and the performance is on the sluggish side: it'll still do everything you need to do, but you might notice the occasional stutter when playing games or quickly switching between a lot of apps.
Another aspect of the Nokia G21 that we like is the excellent battery life, and as you would expect from Nokia the build quality is really good too – this is a phone that doesn't feel as cheap as it actually is.
Is this affordable handset the cheap phone for you? Read our full Nokia G21 review for a thorough breakdown of all its pros and cons
At this stage we pretty much know what to expect from these mid-range phones from Google: they offer a clean, slick Android experience and some very good photo and video capabilities for not much money at all.
The phone uses the same Google Tensor processor that's in the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro, and that means lots of AI goodness for powering Google Assistant, photo processing, and so on. If you're heavily invested in Google's apps and services, then this is the perfect mid-ranger.
Of course if you've got more money then the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro are superior phones, but at this kind of price point the Pixel 6a is difficult to beat – and its battery life between charges impresses as well.
Read our full Google Pixel 6a review to learn more about this premium design handset
Flick your eyes over the Xiaomi 11T's spec and you'll be left scratching your head as to why it's not a true flagship. There's a 6.67-inch OLED screen with 120Hz refresh rate, a top-tier (for yesteryear) Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, stacks of RAM, and a high-resolution main camera.
Well, we'll let you into a little secret: the 11T was originally £599 or more when it first launched, but has now dropped rather dramatically in price, making it a steal - and allowing us to put this bargain buy into our cheap phones, given that it sits sub-£500.
So what's not to like? The MIUI software can be irksome, as notification delays aren't uncommon, but that's about all. Everything else about this device shouts 'flagship', except the updated price.
Read our full Xiaomi 11T Pro review for the bigger picture about this almost-flagship handset
Realme is a rising star throughout various price points, but its key sell is to deliver more for less. And the Realme 9 Pro packs in a lot for not a lot of cash.
Not only is it a cheap phone, it's got a striking design, delivers solid performance, and a clear bright screen. However, as we said in our review, the camera system could be improved - but it'll still be good enough for most people.
Add really impressive battery life and fairly fast charging support and, certainly for such an affordable phone, the Realme 9 Pro has a lot to shout about.
Is Realme the upstart brand for you? Read our full Realme 9 Pro review to find out more details
It may be on the more expensive end of this list, but the TCL 20 Pro 5G is a very capable handset with a display that looks like it should cost twice the amount.
Glossy, curved and smooth, that 6.67-inch screen is perfect for streaming TV and movies. You won't need to worry about that draining the battery, either, as in our testing it lasted for a massive 20 hours of video playback. Downloading shows won't clog up the phone's memory either, as it has 256GB of in-built storage and that's expandable with a microSD card.
Admittedly the camera isn't going to win any prizes, as we found it fairly hopeless in low-light conditions and at night. However, if you care more about the screen and battery life anyway, that won't be a big deal.
Check out our full TCL 20 Pro review to see if this brand can deliver the sub-£500 goods for you
Looking for more? Read our other phone guides
We've written this guide to encompass the best cheap phones on the market right now, but if you like a specific manufacturer or operating system then we have plenty of specialist phone guides here too.
Our best gaming phones guide covers the high-powered handsets that we've found to be the best battlers in mobile gaming. Our best Android phones guide isn't going to offer you an iPhone if your heart is set on Android. If you prefer a particular brand, check out our guides to the top-rated Samsung phones, best iPhone, or Nokia phones. We've also got a guide to the best small phones for those of us who prefer our phones to fit in our pockets or purses.
How we test cheap phones
Smartphones today are incredibly powerful tools that act like small form factor computers, and as such there is a lot to consider when testing one.
Here at T3 we go about testing a smartphone in a five-stage process. Firstly, we evaluate the phone's build quality and fit and finish. At this stage we're looking to see how the phone feels in the hand and looks to the eye, as well as if it suffers from obvious defects such as a spongy screen or cheap-feeling plastic backplate or frame.
From this point we analyse the handset in terms of its core internal hardware and specifications. We're looking to see what processor, RAM, storage, GPU and battery the phone comes with, and then test out how that package combines in terms of benchmark scores and real-world performance. The benchmarks we use to test each phone are Geekbench 5 and 3DMark.
Next we take a closer look at the phone's screen, which is so important on any handset. We're looking to see what it delivers on paper as well as how it looks in real life in a variety of applications, such as streaming videos, viewing images, navigating the phone's UI and playing mobile games.
We then spend time exploring everything the phone has to offer in terms of camera system. This involves utilising the phone's shooting modes to capture a series of photographs, both inside and outside, as well as in good light and low-light environments. We test out the quality of key modes, like portrait, independently.
Finally, we take a look at the handset's software and any notable features. We then bestow a star score on the phone and, if it is high, consider it for out best cheap phones buying guide.
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