Just because you want a cheap phone, doesn’t mean you have to totally compromise on the available features. There are plenty of bargain phones under $200 / £200, and they’re often so good it seems bizarre a flagship phone costs at least four times as much.
Budget phones might not have all of the latest features, but, an affordable smartphone can still be good-looking with decent specs, good battery life and solid performance – all while saving money at the same time.
Who can argue with that? Here’s our guide to the best budget phones around. If you have a little more to spend, check out our guide to mid-range smartphones.
Redmi Note 12 1. Best budget smartphone
The Redmi Note 12 continues Xiaomi’s tradition of delivering flagship-level specs to the budget end of the market.
Pros120Hz AMOLED display 33W fast charging 50MP main camera
The Redmi Note 12 is one of the most feature-rich smartphones you can find in this price range. It packs 4 cameras, microSD and dual SIM support, 33W fast charging and it even has a headphone socket – something you won’t often find on pricier counterparts.
Combine all this with a beefy 5,000 mAh battery, IP53 water and dust resistance, as well as a gorgeous 6.67-inch 120Hz AMOLED display, the Redmi Note 12 is ready for just about anything. This is a phone that punches well above its weight.
The only downside is that it never got a proper launch in the States. You can still get imported models easily enough, but be wary about carrier support and do your research before hitting that buy button.
Nokia G400 5G 2. Excellent value smartphone
$190 $270 Save $80
The Nokia G400 5G is a lot of phone for the asking price, if you want speedy connectivity combined with a smooth display, this is one to check out.
ProsFHD+ 120Hz screen 48MP camera 5G connectivity
The Nokia G400 5G offers very similar specifications to our top pick, and it comes from Nokia, who clearly knows a thing or two about putting together a reliable smartphone.
Compared to the Redmi Note 12, charging is a little slower at 20W, but it’s still fairly quick. You also lose out on the OLED display, as this model has an IPS panel, but it retains the 120Hz refresh rate for super-smooth scrolling.
So, why opt for this model? Well the main reason, in our view, is that it’s more widely available, and it comes from a trusted brand with a long heritage in the mobile space, which offers great peace of mind.
Realme 9i 3. Great all-round smartphone
$190 $210 Save $20
With a 6.6-inch FHD+ display and a 90Hz refresh rate, the Realme 9i is a smooth operator. The 50MP main shooter and fast charge support are appealing, too.
Pros90Hz display 33W fast charge Long battery life
The Realme 9i doesn’t excel in one specific area, but it’s well-rounded and offers a lot for its price point. You get a large and smooth 90Hz display, it’s only IPS, but it still looks nice. Battery life is good, and 33W fast charging gets you topped up in no time.
Performance is similar to the Redmi Note 11, so it’ll handle a bit of gaming if you stick to less graphically strenuous titles. Camera performance is decent, too, thanks to a 50MP main shooter.
Again, this is a model that’s not properly launched in the US, so if you live in the States, you’ll want to check up on carrier compatibility before you purchase. Elsewhere, its a solid pick for just about anyone.
Moto G Stylus (2023) 4. Stylus phone on a budget
$169 $199 Save $30
If you like to use a stylus, this phone is a rare model with one built-in – and it’s a fraction of the cost of the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
ProsComes with a built-in stylus Up to 2-day battery life 90Hz display
The Moto G Stylus is an attractive phone with a built-in stylus, so you can take notes and doodle on the go. This phone might not have the most impressive spec sheet, but it offers excellent battery life and comes from one of the most trusted names in the business.
The display could be better, it’s an IPS panel, rather than the OLED tech that’s found on most modern smartphones – but it’s large, bright and 90Hz, which makes navigating the OS feel smooth and responsive.
If the Stylus appeals, it’s one of the only models you’ll find with a built-in compartment, aside from the extremely pricey Galaxy S23 Ultra. Budget-conscious pen lovers will definitely want to give this one a look.
Samsung Galaxy A14 5G 5. Best big-brand budget phone
$99 $199 Save $100
Samsung’s trademark style and build quality at a really fantastic price. It’s got all the features you could need, we just wish it was a little bit quicker.
ProsSuperb main camera Stylish design Long battery life
There’s something to be said for owning a Samsung smartphone, as the manufacturer is one of the largest in the world for good reason. You tend to get great design and top-notch reliability, on the cheaper end of the scale, the same is true with the Galaxy A14.
We think this is the most stylish smartphone to make our list, but, beyond looks, it ticks a lot of other boxes, too. The A14 has a giant 5,000 mAh battery, expandable storage, a headphone socket and an impressive 50MP main sensor.
Unfortunately, when it comes to performance, it’s just a bit sluggish compared to similarly priced options. If you don’t demand too much from your smartphone, though, you’ll likely be very satisfied with the Galaxy A14.
How we chose these budget phones
When picking out the best smartphones under $200, we considered a range of factors including specifications, reliability, availability and brand reputation. We’ve had extensive experience with every brand that features on this list, so we know first-hand what to expect when purchasing a product from their lineup. You won’t find any no-name brands here, just trusted manufacturers that offer great devices in this price bracket.
We’ve tried to include a range of options that will suit various different users’ needs. Some models are focused on camera performance, whereas others prioritise processing power for gaming, and some are all about the visual fidelity of the display. It’s impossible to include the right phone for everyone, but there’s a good chance that a model on this list will fit your needs.
How to choose a cheap phone
Choosing a cheap phone is no easy feat, there are a staggering number of options on the market and all offer their own advantages and shortcomings.
To help you narrow down your options, here are a few things to think about before you commit to a new phone.
Determining your must-have features
A phone is a hugely personal thing and everyone uses theirs slightly differently. For example, if you’re a die-hard fan of wired headphones then you’ll obviously need a device that has a headphone jack. Luckily, at the budget end of the spectrum, the headphone jack is a lot more prevalent than at the high end. However, if you love Bluetooth headphones, then you aren’t going to care as much, you might instead want to pay attention to the Bluetooth versions supported by the handset to ensure that you’re getting the best wireless experience.
Another example is if you’re a fan of the great outdoors, you might want to seek out devices that have a degree of water and dust protection, for added peace of mind. Similarly, strong battery life is a must if you’ll be spending a lot of time far away from power outlets.
Have a think about how and where you’ll mostly be using your device and the must-have features will start to become apparent.
These days, your smartphone is likely one of the primary ways that you take pictures, so you might want to pay close attention to the cameras offered on your next phone.
The cameras offered by budget phones are becoming more and more impressive, some of the options on our list offer up to four separate cameras for snapping the perfect shot.
This is an area where looks can be deceiving, just because a phone has lots of lenses on the back, doesn’t mean that they’re good quality – or even particularly useful to begin with.
Specs that we think are most important are the resolution of the main sensor and whether or not the device has an ultra-wide camera. We tend to find the wide modes get a lot of use whereas telephoto and macro offerings aren’t as useful for most people.
Choosing where to compromise
The fact is, all phones at this price point, as impressive as they can be, will have to cut corners somewhere. Just as it’s important to figure out your must-have features, it’s equally important to figure out where you can afford to compromise.
For example, maybe you absolutely love taking photos and never play games on your phone. In that case, you can afford to skimp on the processing power in favour of a higher-megapixel sensor.
With budget smartphones, it’s all about finding the right balance of features, specifications and affordability. Hopefully, with these things in mind, you’ll be well on your way to budget phone bliss.