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Best budget phones in 2022

Published Feb 13th, 2022 2:06AM EST
Image: Google

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Budget phones can be found everywhere and for all kinds of different prices. If you’re looking for the best budget phones, you’re probably looking for any way you can to save a little cash on your purchase. That’s why we consider the best budget phones to be underneath the $450 mark. Anything above that and you’re usually looking at a mid-range device, which is an entirely different category.

But how do you decide on what budget phone fits you? There are a number of things to take into account. Are you looking for something with a long-lasting battery? Do you play a lot of mobile games? Is screen refresh rate something you care about on your mobile device? All of these things can play a part in how you choose the best wallet-friendly phone. But the list doesn’t stop there.

You’ll also want to consider whether you care about a specific brand, or even if you want to buy an Android or iOS-powered device. With so many different experiences, and so many manufacturers tweaking those options to deliver their own, special version, finding a budget-friendly phone isn’t easy. That’s why we’ve taken a lot of the guesswork out of the equation with this list of the best budget phones.

Best budget phone overall: Google Pixel 5a

Google Pixel 5aImage source: Google

Pros: Stock Android experience, fast updates from Google, flagship specs at a budget-friendly price

Cons: Not as powerful as some options

When it comes to making budget phones, Google has made quite the name for itself by offering decently powered wallet-friendly phones that take advantage of the stock Android experience. One of the biggest pros here is the ability to get Android updates almost as soon as they become available, as well as Google’s various camera enhancements.

The latest budget version of the company’s phone pairs a solid design and performance with a 5G device that won’t break the bank to purchase. Since it’s also using stock Android, you won’t have to worry about unnecessary bloat slowing you down—something you see a lot of on other Android phones from other manufacturers.

Of course, there are some limitations to what kind of carriers might support the entire Pixel lineup, and if you aren’t a fan of the circle cutout camera, then you probably won’t like looking at it on the front of the Pixel 5a. Still, if you want to take advantage of a budget-friendly price and not give up all the things you love about a flagship phone, the Pixel 5a is a great choice for Android enthusiasts who don’t mind spending a little higher on the budget spectrum.

Google Pixel 5a Google Pixel 5a Available from a partner

Best Budget iPhone: iPhone SE

IPhone SEImage source: Apple

Pros: Same performance as more expensive iPhones, Touch ID

Cons: Smaller screen, may be locked to certain networks depending on purchase location

iPhones used to be notorious for being some of the more expensive smartphones out there, and for good reason. Pairing up the various privacy options that Apple has been offering lately, as well as the general performance of Apple’s in-house silicon chips, the iPhone lineup has always been a bit of an innovator in the smartphone category. The iPhone SE is no different.

The iPhone SE pairs all the features you’d expect from a more expensive iPhone—great camera, access to Apple’s various services, and great performance—with the price of a budget phone. If you aren’t a fan of Apple’s Face ID, then you’ll be happy to know that the iPhone SE still includes the tried-and-true home button, along with Touch ID.

All around, the iPhone SE is a perfect device for those who enjoyed the older style of the iPhone but want the performance and advancements that come with the newer offerings. Sure, it won’t offer the exact same types of cameras as the more expensive Pro iPhone models, but those looking for a good budget phone will be more than happy with what the iPhone SE has to offer. Want to dive deeper into the current iPhone offerings? Check out our guide to the best iPhones available right now.

Apple iPhone SE Apple iPhone SE Available from a partner

Best Budget Samsung Phone: Samsung Galaxy A42

Samsung Galaxy A42Image source: Samsung

Pros: Up to 1TB SD Card for expandable storage, 5,000mAh battery provides long battery life, support for fast charging

Cons: Slower chip, only 4GB of memory

Samsung is a big name when it comes to Android phones, and if you’ve ever looked at the budget phone offerings that many carriers have on display, you’ll probably see your fair share of this brand on the shelves. That’s because the Korean tech company has made it a habit to try to corner all sides of the market, which is beneficial for customers who love Samsung’s OneUI, as well as the general design of its Infinity Display technology.

The only downside to purchasing one of Samsung’s budget-level phones is the memory. With only 4GB of RAM, the Galaxy A42 isn’t the beefiest multitasker you’ll find on the market. Samsung also has a bad habit of including a lot of bloatware on its phones, especially its cheaper models, which means you’ll want to spend some time cleaning out some of those apps to save yourself some memory.

The Samsung Galaxy A42 isn’t the newest budget phone from Samsung, but it comes with everything you’ll need to make it another three to four years before you have to worry about another upgrade—including a great display, support for 1TB of SD card storage, and, of course, 5G support for future network upgrades. You can always check out more Samsung phone offerings if the A42 isn’t hitting all the right notes.

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Best Budget Phone for Gamers: OnePlus 8

OnePlus 8Image source: OnePlus

Pros: 90Hz display, built-in Alexa voice control, fast charging

Cons: Aging a little

If you stick with the more mainstream brands of smartphones, you might not have heard of OnePlus. While it started as a company creating smartphones that required invites to purchase, OnePlus has gone on to become one of the best companies when it comes to budget-friendly devices that pack a punch. The OnePlus 8 is no exception to that rule. Sure, it’s aging a little, but it’s still available from OnePlus’ website, and at a super cheap price.

Not only do you get a high-powered Snapdragon 865, but the OnePlus 8 also ships with a buttery 90Hz display. That display is a must-have for playing games that rely on smooth transitions—like FPS games and battle royales like Fortnite. It also ensures you’ll have great performance when scrolling through your browser and other apps. It isn’t as smooth as the 120Hz screens found on more expensive devices, but it will get the job done, especially for the price.

At under $400, you can usually find this device on sale and waiting to be purchased. There are some limits to which network carriers it might support, so you should always check with your carrier before purchasing it. If it’s useable on your network, though, the OnePlus 8 is a dream come true for budget users looking for a mobile gaming beast. Looking for a beefier OnePlus option? Check out our comparison of the OnePlus 9 Pro and OnePlus 9.

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Best Budget Phone for Battery Life: Moto G Power

Moto G PowerImage source: Motorola

Pros: Three-day long battery life, 16MP camera with rapid focus

Cons: Limited storage option, lower memory amount could lead to lagging

Battery life is a hot topic in the world of smartphones, especially as people spend more and more time relying on their pocket-sized computers to get things done. Sometimes you need to cut down the performance and instead focus on making things last a little longer. If you’re looking for a cheaper phone that doesn’t sacrifice battery life, then look no further than the Moto G Power.

The Moto G Power doesn’t have the fastest chip, the most memory, or the best camera. If you want a phone that can last up to three days without needing to be charged, you probably aren’t going to care about all that. It does offer limited storage options, but again, that’s to be expected in this price range.

Despite the cuts made to keep the price on this one down, though, there isn’t a device out there for this price that can deliver the same level of battery life. This one isn’t winning any awards for being the best Android phone out there, but if you want your phone to last as long as possible and don’t care about all the glitzy things that other phones on this list have to offer, then the Moto G Power is a solid pick.

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Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.