Best Cheap Phones for 2023: Most Value for Money


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You don’t need to splurge on the iPhone 14 or Galaxy S23 to get perks like multiple cameras, useful photography tools, the latest version of iOS or Android and access to your favorite apps and games. The best cheap phones provide plenty of value when it comes to the basics but cost noticeably less than their flagship competitors.

Our top picks come as cheap as $160, while more advanced models will run you $600 — which is substantially cheaper than top-of-the-line models from Apple, Samsung and Google. If you have a specific budget in mind, you can also check out our best phones under $200 and best phones under $500 lists for other affordable phone options.

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Samsung’s Galaxy A03S at $160 (£139, roughly AU$240) includes plenty of great features and could be a great fit for someone looking for the cheapest possible phone that can handle most essential tasks. The phone’s 6.5-inch screen, capped at 720p resolution, is great for reading news, watching videos and playing games. Despite some performance lag found during our review, the phone is good at multitasking. But the phone’s tiny 32GB of storage space could fill up fast, so if considering this phone, it may be worthwhile to consider expanding the storage with a microSD card.

Samsung also plans to support this phone with at least four years of security updates, which in this price range is as good as it gets. On the software side, it’s less clear how many Android versions are scheduled, but the phone ships with Android 11 to start.

Read our Samsung Galaxy A03S review.


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Apple’s new iPhone SE for 2022 is a mix of an older design with the latest smartphone features, including Apple’s latest A15 Bionic chip and 5G support, for $429. It’s also one of the few phones on the market that includes a smaller, 4.7-inch screen.

Yet it’s that throwback design, which continues the general shape that Apple has used since 2014, that could be what you will love or dislike most about this phone. If you want a larger iPhone in this price range, you can also consider the $599 iPhone 12 in order to get a bigger screen and Face ID.

Read our Apple iPhone SE (2022) review.


Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The $449 Pixel 6A is the newest device in Google’s more affordable A series, replacing the Pixel 5A. CNET’s Lisa Eadicicco called it the “best Android phone under $500” in her Pixel 6A review, citing how it keeps the same Tensor chip seen in the $599 Pixel 6 and many of its best features.

The phone is slightly smaller than the Pixel 6, featuring an 6.1-inch OLED display and a refresh rate of 60Hz. It also has a similar camera system as the Pixel 5A, which includes a 12.2-megapixel main camera and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera. But the Tensor chip brings additional benefits you won’t get on the Pixel 5A, such as Real Tone for more equitable skin tones, Face Unblur, Night Sight for low-light photography and the Magic Eraser for removing unwanted elements from a photo.

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Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The Galaxy A53 gets you an abundance of Samsung features and power at a fraction of the S-series price. It boasts a far larger screen and more versatile camera cluster than the iPhone SE, though Apple’s budget model delivers snappier performance. 

Still, Samsung fans will appreciate what they’re getting here considering the affordable price. The Galaxy A53 5G has an ultrawide lens for taking photos with a broader field of view and also supports night-mode photography. Image quality isn’t as good as what you’d get on a more expensive Samsung phone like the Galaxy S21 FE or Galaxy S22, but it’s certainly clear and colorful enough for basic shots. Other highlights include a long-lasting battery, four guaranteed generations of Android operating system updates and a microSD card slot for expandable storage.

Overall, the Galaxy A53 5G is a suitable choice for those who prioritize having a large screen and long battery life for less than $500. Just keep in mind, you might have to deal with some occasional lag, and the camera isn’t as advanced as those found on pricier phones. Read our Samsung Galaxy A53 5G review.

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Google’s Pixel 7 refines the design formula introduced with last year’s Pixel 6, while also throwing in the company’s new Tensor G2 processor. The phone keeps the $599 price as last year’s Pixel 6, but new Pixel-exclusive features like Photo Unblur add even more value. 

Read our Google Pixel 7 review.


How we test phones

We evaluate phones based on overall performance, features, design, cameras, battery life and value. We accomplish this by assessing how phones perform in daily use and by comparing them against competing phones. When evaluating lower-priced phones, we pay attention to whether these devices include features and specifications typically seen at higher price levels, such as a brand new processor, a display with a high refresh rate or advanced camera features. We also look at how well these features are executed and what they bring to the experience.

We test phone cameras in a variety of situations, including outdoors, indoors and in both bright and dim scenarios. We also test specific settings and shooting modes, like portrait mode and night mode. To test performance, we run benchmark tests that evaluate the processor’s general competence and observe how well the phone is able to handle everyday tasks.

Battery life is monitored in two ways: Seeing how much power remains after a day of normal usage, and by seeing how much battery is depleted during a more intensive hour with the phone. For the latter test, we’ll see how the phone’s battery performs during a series of video calls, gaming, video streaming and web browsing.

Best cheap phones FAQs

Can you find cheap phones on sale?

Yes, many of the cheap phones included in this list are available at a discount during shopping events. For instance, Google’s Pixel 6A received a $150 discount that temporarily brought its price down from $449 to $299. So if you have a phone in mind but also have the flexibility to wait for a shopping event like Black Friday, it may be worth it to wait for a price reduction.

Are cheap phones available unlocked?

Yes, many cheap phones are available unlocked by the manufacturer. This allows you to use the phone with nearly any wireless carrier by inserting your SIM card. IF you want the flexibility to switch carriers, make sure you buy an unlocked model. 

Are cheap phones good for kids?

Buying a cheap phone could be a great option when shopping for a kid or teenager, but that doesn’t mean the phone is customized to have a kid-friendly experience. Parents should still set up any necessary parental controls, restrictions or apps to help ensure a cheaper phone — whether its an iPhone or an Android — is set up appropriately for your kids.

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