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Buying a mobile phone on a budget

Best cheap mobile phones

By Oli McKean

Article 1 of 3

Looking for the best cheap mobile phones? We reveal the best budget smartphones on the market, so you don't end up with a dud.

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The best mobile phone for you doesn't have to be a pricey Apple iPhone or Samsung smartphone. Here, we reveal our pick of the best cheap mobile phones that offer you great value for money - and three we think you should avoid.

We test mobile phones at every price point, from the expensive iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S8 to the super-cheap sub-£100 models. And while some inexpensive models are definite Don’t Buys, there are a few affordable gems out there that shine in our tests. 

To help you get the most for your money, we've put together the best-value models – including our cheapest Best Buys and a good choice if you want to spend no more than £100. And to help you avoid making a dreadful decision with your next smartphone purchase, we've highlighted a few cheap mobiles to steer clear of.

Just want to discover the best mobile phones you can buy? Take a look at our expert mobile phone reviews.

Our pick of the best cheap mobile phones

Sony Xperia XA1
Which? score 72%
Reviewed Jun 2017
Best Buy
Battery:
5 out of 5
Camera:
4 out of 5
Screen quality:
4 out of 5

This smartphone is excellent for the price. It takes good photos, lasts a long time before needing recharging, and lets you have clear phone conversations. It's not without flaws, but we're happy to award it a Which? Best Buy.

Samsung Galaxy J5 (2016)
Which? score 72%
Reviewed Oct 2016
Best Buy
Battery:
5 out of 5
Camera:
4 out of 5
Screen quality:
4 out of 5

This is our cheapest Best Buy mobile phone. It offers more than 25 hours of call time from a single charge, which is phenomenal. On top of this, it has a decent display and lets you have clear phone conversations.

Motorola Moto G5
Which? score 69%
Reviewed May 2017
Battery:
5 out of 5
Camera:
3 out of 5
Screen quality:
4 out of 5

This smartphone offers good bang for its buck, with very impressive battery life and is generally easy to use. It doesn't quite tick all the boxes, due to its mediocre cameras and poor sound quality, but it's a good phone for the price.

Sony Xperia XA
Which? score 66%
Reviewed Aug 2016
Battery:
3 out of 5
Camera:
4 out of 5
Screen quality:
4 out of 5

This is a decent sub-£150 Android smartphone. Its display is clear, and the battery life is acceptable - but it's not up there with best. All in all, it'll do the job and is a good choice for shoppers on a budget.

Motorola Moto E3
Which? score 63%
Reviewed Dec 2016
Battery:
4 out of 5
Camera:
3 out of 5
Screen quality:
3 out of 5

This is a good budget 4G smartphone you can pick up for less than £100. It doesn't come close to reaching the dizzying heights of the best phones we've tested, but it offers good battery life, brilliant call quality and reasonable photos.

The worst cheap mobile phones

Unfortunately, it's not all good news. While there are some bargain buys to be snapped up, there are other cheap mobile phones that aren't worth you spending a penny on.

Below, we highlight three cheap smartphones that you should avoid. They have horrible displays, take awful photos, and you won't be writing home about their battery life.

Three cheap mobile phones to avoid

Vodafone Smart First 7
Which? score 16%
Reviewed Jun 2016
Don't buy
Battery:
2 out of 5
Camera:
1 out of 5
Screen quality:
1 out of 5

This is an awful mobile phone that you should steer clear of at all costs. It has one of the worst screens that we've ever seen, it's slow and the battery life is abysmal.

Alcatel Onetouch Pixi 3 (3.5in)
Which? score 21%
Reviewed Jun 2016
Don't buy
Battery:
3 out of 5
Camera:
1 out of 5
Screen quality:
1 out of 5

This smartphone is so slow, and the screen is so poor that it makes for a very infuriating experience. Even if you're new to smartphones and considering this as a starter model, we simply can't recommend it.

Lenovo B
Which? score 33%
Reviewed Mar 2017
Don't buy
Battery:
3 out of 5
Camera:
2 out of 5
Screen quality:
1 out of 5

This phone is so poor that we've made it a Don't Buy. The low-resolution display is unpleasant to use, battery life isn't impressive and the cameras don't take good photos. It has a few redeeming features, but not enough to make it a phone worthy of recommendation.

How we uncover Best Buy mobile phones

We go further than anyone else when testing mobile phones. Each handset is treated in exactly the same way, so you can see how each device compares against its rivals. And because Which? is independent and we buy every sample we test, you can trust our reviews to give the full, honest and impartial truth about a product. 

A long-lasting battery is essential in any mobile, which is why we’ve designed a demanding battery test. We charge up each phone and then time how long it lasts when making calls, before charging it again to see how long it gives us when browsing the web continuously. 

We also know that more people than ever are using their phone as their main camera. So we put the front and rear cameras through their paces, too, taking test shots in nine sets of conditions to see whether the phone is a match for a standalone camera.

What do Janet Jackson and Rachmaninov have in common? We won't go into any direct musical comparisons, but they do both play a part in our mobile phone testing. With so many people listening to music through their phone, we've designed a test to assess whether the phone can take the place of an iPod. We play a series of six songs covering everything from Janet's 'Rhythm Nation' to Rachmaninov's 'Symphony Number 2'.

Now find the perfect mobile phone for your budget by checking out our mobile phone reviews.

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