Best cheap mobile phones
By Louise Muyanja
Looking for the best cheap Android phone, or a deal on an iPhone? We reveal some of the best budget smartphones on the market
There's no need to spend a fortune to find the right mobile phone - in fact for many people, a budget phone might be more than adequate enough. 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, and while some inexpensive models are definite Don’t Buys, there are a few affordable gems out there that are definitely worth considering.
To help you get the most for your money, we've put together the best-value models – including what we think is the best 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
Unexpectedly for its price, this new smartphone has become our highest-scoring budget smartphone to date. Not only does it have an extremely impressive display and a dual rear camera set up, it’s also equipped with an impressive camera array and a super-powered battery. At under £200, this phone is an excellent budget buy.
If you’re on the market for a smartphone that can keep up with the flagship premium models, this is one of the best options on the market, at least on the battery front. To top it off, it has one of the best cameras we’ve seen on such a cheap phone, offering features like Portrait Mode and AR recognition.
For such a big manufacturer, this phone is certainly a steal. As well as having a large display with a sleeker design than you'd find on most budget smartphones, it also performs pretty well in our tests. Proving that you don't need hundreds of lenses to do the job, its single lens rear and front cameras takes good pictures and its battery isn't bad either. The only big downfall is it suffers from lag when confronted with heavy tasks, but that aside, it's a good choice if you're on a budget.
Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of July 2019.
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.
Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of November 2018
How much should I expect to pay for the best cheap Android phones?
Many phones that cost less than £100 make it into our Don't Buy hall of shame. That said, our tests show that it is possible to find a few hidden gems in this price bracket.
Sub-£100 phones won't have all the latest features, like a fingerprint reader or super-fast processor, and some won't be compatible with 4G (the fastest type of mobile internet). But they can handle web browsing, run most apps and take a decent photo.
We recommend spending at least £150 to up your chances of bagging a decent smartphone - if you're buying it up-front and Sim-free, rather than on a contract. It's likely to have 4G connectivity, which is handy for speedy web browsing while you're out and about. Plus, it should have a sharp and bright screen, and long battery life..
And while it's true that the very best mobiles tend to cost well north of £300, we've found some superstar smartphones that earn our Best Buy award for less than £200. Browse our mobile phone reviews to find out how they compare to all their rivals.
Another way to save on a phone is to wait for a good discount - browse our guide to the best deals on Sim-free mobile phones.
What about cheap Apple iPhones?
If you have your heart set on an iPhone, it's time for an uncomfortable truth - you're far less likely to find an iPhone for anywhere near as cheap as some good, budget Android models.
But there may still be some options available. One is to consider buying a second-hand or refurbished mobile phone - you could save a packet, but there's more risk of ending up with a model that won't last.
You should also read our guide to Apple iPhones - you'll find plenty of advice here on how to choose, and can find out how much you may have to spend.
What to look for in a cheap mobile phone
We've compiled a checklist of essential features and things to consider to help you find the best cheap smartphone:
- Choose your operating system carefully Apple iPhones are expensive, and you'll struggle to find a recent model new for less than £300. If you’re looking to spend £200 or less we suggest you consider an Android phone (for example, Samsung, Motorola and Huawei make mobiles at this price point).
- Screen size and resolution In the past, cheaper phones tended to have small and cramped screens. That’s no longer the case - there are some great models on the market with 5-inch displays and bigger. You'll want a larger screen if you spend a lot of time browsing the web or typing emails. If you’re going for a big handset, look for a phone with a resolution of at least 720x1,280 pixels - this should provide a crisp display. If you're sticking with a smaller, 4-inch model then something with a resolution of 540x960 pixels may be sufficient.
- A micro-SD card slot is a must Phones at the cheaper end of the market often have smaller memory capacities - 16GB or 32GB is common. To ensure you don’t run out of space for storing apps, music and photos, make sure you opt for a phone with a micro-SD card slot. This will let you dramatically increase the onboard storage - often for a small extra outlay.
- Battery life Buying a phone on a budget doesn’t mean you have to put up with lousy battery life. We test each phone to see how long it lasts when making continuous calls before charging it up again to see how long it manages when browsing the web. Our tests show that many cheap phones can manage a day of normal usage without the need for a mid-day charge. But there are some that simply don’t make the grade - we highlight such battery issues in our reviews.
Now find the perfect mobile phone for your budget by checking out our smartphone reviews.