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6 October 2020

Best cheap mobile phones

Looking for the best cheap Android phone, or a deal on an iPhone? We reveal some of the best budget smartphones on the market
LM
Louise Muyanja

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 moneyand 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.

Best cheap mobile phones

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£217.00
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While Apple and Samsung compete to launch the most expensive flagships on the market, Xiaomi has come up with the Redmi Note 9 Pro, for a quarter of the price. If its totally seamless display isn’t enough to pique your interest, its huge 5,020mAh battery and quad rear camera surely will. But how fast is its processor, and is it easy to use? Our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro review will tell you.

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£219.00
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Realme is well known for its affordable smartphones and the Realme 6 is yet another model that will catch your eye if you don't want to spend a fortune on your next upgrade. It comes running on Android 10 and has a 90.5% screen-to-body ratio, so you’re getting as much use of the screen as possible. But how does its battery perform and is its camera any good? We’ve tested the Realme 6 at our labs to tell you the answer.

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£189.00
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Oppo’s smartphones are cheap when compared with the likes of Apple and Samsung, but the A9 2020 is an even more affordable model from the brand. With a 48Mp main camera and huge 5,000mAh battery, its specs are far from modest to match its price. But how well does it do the basics? Our review of the Oppo A9 2020 reveals all.

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£139.00
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Samsung has unveiled the revamped next generation of its A series, starting with the Galaxy A10, which sports new and impressive specs. One of its biggest talking points is that it has a large 'Infinity-V' display with much smaller bezels than previous A series devices. With brands such as Motorola dominating the budget smartphone market with new launches, how does this affordable Samsung model compare? Our full review of the Samsung Galaxy A10 reveals all.

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Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of August 2020.

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 August 2020.

Video: how we test mobile phones

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 mobile phone deals.

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.

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