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Best cheap smartphones

17th September 2019

If you’re after an affordable phone you’ll find there’s a lot of choice and a lot of good options, with many handsets now offering surprisingly high-end features for not a whole lot of money.

Of course, what you’ll be able to get will depend on exactly how tight your budget is, and whether you want Android or iOS – the latter being far more restrictive if you’re on a limited budget.

In this guide

Best cheap Android phones

The following four handsets are among the best Android phones you can buy for a budget of under around £300.

Honor 10

Honor 10

The Honor 10 is a remarkable handset that was basically a flagship when it launched in 2018 and isn’t far off one now. It has a stunning glass body designed to let light beams bounce across it, and it has a 5.84-inch 1080 x 2280 screen coming in at a sharp 432 pixels per inch, with a tiny notch at the top.

The Honor 10 also uses an octa-core Kirin 970 chipset, which at launch was Huawei’s highest-end one and is still not far behind.

There’s also 4GB of RAM, a dual-lens rear camera with both 24MP and 16MP lenses, a 24MP front-facing camera, a 3,400mAh battery, a face scanner and a fingerprint scanner, which, while not built into the screen, is built into the glass, so it’s still very modern. All of this meant that the Honor 10 was a bargain at launch, but with it now often available for just over £200 it’s even more of a great deal.

If you find that it’s too steep though, consider the Honor Play, a somewhat similar phone that comes in at an even lower price.

Huawei P30 Lite

Huawei P30 Lite

The Huawei P30 Lite is a more affordable take on the flagship Huawei P30, one which stands out in large part through both its price and its triple-lens camera.

You get a 48MP main lens, an 8MP ultra-wide one, and a 2MP depth sensor, combining for one of the best photographic setups you’ll find for under £300, especially as there’s also a 24MP camera on the front.

Camera aside, the Huawei P30 Lite is also worth considering for its design, which includes a glass back, where many cheap phones settle for plastic, and a slim 7.4mm thick build.

The phone also has an impressive 6.15-inch 1080 x 2312 screen, and a meaty 128GB of storage. Power and battery life are middling, but for camera fans this one is hard to beat.

Samsung Galaxy A8

Samsung Galaxy A8

Samsung isn’t particularly known for cheap phones, but at around £250 the Galaxy A8 just about fits that criteria and it’s good too.

It has a 5.6-inch 1080 x 2220 screen, with a pixel density of 441 pixels per inch, meaning it’s one of the sharpest you’ll get for this sort of money, but it also uses Super AMOLED, meaning you can get a taste of the great contrast and vibrant visuals offered by the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S10. Nothing looks as good here of course, but it often comes close.

The Samsung Galaxy A8 also has a dual-lens front-facing camera, which is a real rarity and among other things means you can use a bokeh effect for striking selfies. And unlike most budget phones this is water-resistant.

Elsewhere the phone is as you’d expect for the money, but still very solid. It has a mid-range Exynos 7885 chipset, a 16MP rear camera, facial recognition, a glass back, 4GB of RAM and up to 64GB of storage, plus a microSD card slot.

Samsung Galaxy A40

Samsung Galaxy A40

The Samsung Galaxy A40 comes in a smidgen cheaper than the Galaxy A8 much of the time, yet in a lot of ways it’s a better phone.

It has a 5.9-inch 1080 x 2340 Super AMOLED screen, for great visuals on a large scale, plus you get both 16MP and 5MP rear lenses, a whopping 25 megapixels on the front camera, a mid-range Exynos 7904 chipset and 4GB of RAM.

The phone also has an all-screen look with a fingerprint scanner on the back. Plus, there’s 64GB of storage and a microSD card slot.

It feels a bit cheap in the hands and doesn’t have water resistance, but those issues are understandable given the low price.


Best cheap iPhones

After an iPhone? As there aren’t as many iPhones available and Apple typically charges more than other manufacturers, the selection of cheap options isn’t particularly wide, but your best bet is one of the following.

iPhone 8

Apple iPhone 8

Although there’s now an iPhone XR and iPhone 11, designed in both cases to be a relatively affordable option, they’re still quite expensive, so if you’re after a cheap handset you should probably consider the iPhone 8, which Apple still sells despite it being over two years old.

It’s the cheapest iPhone that you can get direct from Apple and it’s still got a lot going for it, including a premium metal and glass build, water resistance, and a compact 4.7-inch 750 x 1334 display.

The iPhone 8 also has a capable 12MP rear camera, a decent amount of power thanks to its A11 Bionic chipset, and it runs the latest version of iOS at the time of writing.

iPhone 7

Apple iPhone 7

If the iPhone 8 is too expensive for you then you could go back a year and opt for the iPhone 7. This isn’t sold by Apple anymore, but some other stores still stock it.

It has a similar premium design to the iPhone 8 and a similarly good 4.7-inch 750 x 1334 screen, along with water resistance, but it’s using an older – though still capable – Apple A10 Fusion chipset and doesn’t support wireless charging.

Still, as with the iPhone 8 you can get the latest version of iOS on it, and it should cost you a fair chunk less.


Best phones for under £200

So the phones above are a bit outside your price range? Not to worry, as below you’ll find a selection of even cheaper phones, all of which are good and can be found for under £200.

Nokia 7.1

Nokia 7.1

The Nokia 7.1 is a mid-ranger with a lot going for it beyond that tempting price. It has a 5.84-inch 1080 x 2280 screen with a notch, just like the Honor 10 above, and it’s a screen that supports HDR10, so content can look rich and vibrant on it.

The Nokia 7.1 also has a highly-capable Zeiss-branded dual-lens rear camera, with both a 12MP and a 5MP lens.

A glass back and metal frame ensures it looks good, and with a mid-range Snapdragon 636 chipset and up to 4GB of RAM there’s a decent amount of power.

The Nokia 7.1 also runs Android One, which is a more or less stock version of Android, meaning it’s slick and light on bloat. This also ensures it’s speedily updated to new versions and at the time of writing the Nokia 7.1 is running Android 9 Pie.

Honor 10 Lite

Honor 10 Lite

The Honor 10 Lite manages to capture the essence of the Honor 10 and squeeze it into an even cheaper package.

It has a 6.21-inch 1080 x 2340 screen, coming in at 415 pixels per inch. So it’s big and sharp, as well as having a tiny teardrop notch, hardly any bezel and a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, so it looks great and thoroughly modern from the front.

The back doesn’t impressive quite as much as it’s made from plastic, but it still manages to look good, recreating the light-bouncing effect you’ll find on the standard Honor 10.

The Honor 10 Lite also has both a 13MP lens and a 2MP one on the back, so it’s a dual-lens camera, and there’s a high-spec 24MP one on the front. It also has a Kirin 710 chipset and 3GB of RAM, which is a mid-range configuration and gives it more power than you might expect from a phone at this price.

Moto G6

Moto G6

Motorola has long been the budget king and the Moto G6 is one of the latest and greatest examples of that. While there is a Moto G7 now, that comes in at over £200, so the Moto G6 is still well worth a look.

It has a 5.7-inch 1080 x 2160 screen, a glass back and it’s splash-resistant. It also has a dual-lens 12MP and 5MP rear camera, and a fast-charging 3,000mAh battery.

Other highlights include 3GB of RAM, a fingerprint scanner and near-stock Android software, which is currently up to version 9. There are fewer standout features to the Moto G6 than most of the handsets above it in this list, but it’s a solid, dependable, great-value phone.

Moto E5 Plus

Moto E5 Plus

The Moto E5 Plus stands out for one thing in particular: its massive 5,000mAh battery. That makes it one of very few phones that you can realistically get two days of moderate use from between charges.

That such an affordable phone has such a big battery is remarkable, but that battery is certainly the main thing it has going for it. It’s fine in other ways, but less exceptional.

It has a 12MP single lens camera on the back, a 6-inch 720 x 1440 screen, 32GB of storage and a fingerprint scanner, plus a low-end Snapdragon 425 chipset and up to 3GB of RAM. That’s not bad for the money, but the battery is why you’d buy it.

Honor 9 Lite

Honor 9 Lite

We’ve already covered the Honor 10 Lite elsewhere in this list, but the Honor 9 Lite pulled off a similar trick the previous year – packing in almost-flagship level specs and features at a low, low price, one that’s dropped ever more since launch.

This phone has a 5.65-inch 1080 x 2160 edge-to-edge screen, fairly slim bezels, a glass back, and dual-lens cameras on both front and back, with both sides sporting a 13MP main lens and a 2MP depth sensor. That’s an unusual and impressive camera setup, especially for a budget phone.

It also has a lower mid-range chipset, a fingerprint scanner and 3GB of RAM. At under £150 it's excellent value for money.

Moto E5

Moto E5

The Moto E5 typically creeps in at just over £100 and stands out largely thanks to its big 4,000mAh battery, which gives it lots of life.

It also has a decent 5.7-inch 720 x 1440 screen, a fingerprint scanner and a near-stock version of Android.

This is a basic phone in other ways, even more so than the Moto E5 Plus, but it does the basics well, with a reliable Snapdragon 425 chipset, 2GB of RAM, a 13MP rear camera and a 5MP front-facing one – with its own LED flash.


Best phones for under £100

We’re now into the territory of the truly cheap. The following are all great examples of some of the cheapest phones you can get that are still actually any good. If you’re on a budget of £100 or less, then one of these could be for you.

Alcatel 3V

Alcatel 3V

The Alcatel 3V generally comes in at under £100, making it really one of the cheapest smartphones you can get, but you get quite a lot for your money.

It’s a big phone, with a 6-inch 1080 x 2160 screen and a pixel density of 402 pixels per inch. That’s a great start for what it costs, but it also has an 18:9 aspect ratio, a fingerprint scanner and a dual-lens rear camera (with 12MP and 2MP lenses).

It’s not especially powerful, but it has a fairly nice design and a microSD card slot, plus a recent version of Android (version 8).

Moto E5 Play

Moto E5 Play

Motorola has long been making great phones for an affordable price, and the Moto E5 Play is one of its cheapest yet, coming in at just around £60.

So just what do you get for your money? More than you might think, starting with a 5.3-inch 18:9 screen, so it’s got a modern aspect ratio.

On the back meanwhile there’s a fingerprint scanner, plus an 8MP camera, while the front has a 5MP selfie camera, complete with its own flash – which is something far pricier phones often don’t offer.

Don’t expect top-tier performance from the Moto E5 Play’s Snapdragon 425 chipset and 1GB of RAM (despite the name this won’t be great for gaming) but for general navigation and all the smartphone basics it should do just fine.

Rounding out the specs there’s 16GB of storage, a microSD card slot and a 2,100mAh battery. However, one of the most interesting features is the software rather than the hardware, as this thing runs Android Go, which comes with minimal bloat and lighter versions of key apps, so you space goes further and your phone runs more smoothly.

Nokia 2.1

Nokia 2.1

The Nokia 2.1 is a mix of the impressive and the basic, but let’s start with the good bits. The highlight of the phone is almost certainly its huge 4,000mAh battery, giving you some of the best battery life you’ll get for £100 or less.

It also has a large and fairly sharp 5.5-inch 720 x 1280 screen, with a pixel density of around 267 pixels per inch, and it runs a recent version of Android, namely Android 9 Pie. It even has an aluminium frame, for a touch of quality in the design.

The rest is not so impressive, but still reasonable for the price. The Nokia 2.1 has for example a 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon 425 chipset, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, a microSD card slot, an 8MP rear camera and a 5MP front-facing one. Not bad at all, but this is definitely one to buy for the screen and battery.

LG K4 (2017)

LG K4

The LG K4 (2017) has a 5.0-inch screen, so it’s a compact option, especially as it’s just 7.9mm thick, while its quad-core chipset and 1GB of RAM ensure it can handle the basics you’d expect from a smartphone.

There’s only 8GB of storage, but you do also get a microSD card slot, and there’s a 5MP camera on both the front and back, plus a 2,500mAh battery, which isn’t a bad size for a phone this small. It’s a removable battery too, so you’re free to carry a spare if you need it to last longer.

The LG K4 (2017) can’t match the phones above it on this list, but for the money there’s no area where it’s overly lacking, making it a solid choice for the basics.

Honor 8S

Honor 8S

The Honor 8S stands out largely through its screen, as it has a 5.71-inch 720 x 1520 one with a pixel density of 295 pixels per inch. That’s a good balance between size, resolution and sharpness for the money.

The phone also has a solid 13MP rear camera with an LED flash, while around the front there’s a 5MP one.

Other specs include a quad-core 2GHz chipset, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a microSD card slot and a 3,020mAh battery. So the power is pretty standard for the money, but it’s got a bit of an edge for photography.


Conclusion

Hopefully if you’ve read this article in full you’ll now have a good idea of what phone to go for, as there’s something for almost anyone on a budget here.

Our top picks from each section are the Honor 10 if you want an Android phone, the iPhone 8 if you want an iOS one, the Nokia 7.1 if you have under £200 to spend, the Honor 9 Lite if you have around £150 to play with, and the Alcatel 3V if you're on a super tight budget of £100 or less, but any one of the phones above should serve you well.

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