Finest low-cost telephone: 5 smartphones for beneath $500

A few of us take a type of “I eat to reside” somewhat than an “I reside to eat” method to devices. They’re instruments that provide help to get issues performed, not one thing you need to make investments plenty of time or cash in. If that’s you — and there’s no judgment right here from a certifiable gadget nerd — then you’ll be able to most likely consider extra worthwhile methods to spend $1,000 than on a telephone.

Finances telephones to the rescue. These units are roughly $500 or beneath, they usually’re extra succesful than ever earlier than. You gained’t get all of the bells and whistles, however you’ll save just a little cash to spend on, I don’t know, precise bells and whistles. It’s your world.

Lots of our picks run about $400 or $500, however there are nice choices for $300 and beneath, too. Yow will discover a vivid, high-definition OLED display or a battery that lasts for days. For those who can hone in on the one or two options which can be most vital to you and also you’re prepared to compromise elsewhere, you may get a telephone that fits your wants for half the value of a flagship.

What compromises are you able to anticipate from a funds telephone? Some mixture of the next: slower processors, much less storage, and lousier cameras than flagship telephones, virtually throughout the board. Many have lower-resolution screens, and most lack official water-resistance rankings, wi-fi charging, and NFC chips for contactless fee.

The very best iPhone beneath $500


The 2022 iPhone SE will final for over 5 years if it’s taken care of because of Apple’s wonderful monitor report of providing iOS updates to older units. However its tiny 4.7-inch display feels cramped now and could also be powerful to make use of in 5 years’ time whereas apps and webpages proceed to be designed for greater screens. Learn our evaluation.

Display: 4.7-inch, 1334p LCD / Processor: A15 Bionic Cameras: 12-megapixel f/1.8 with OIS, seven-megapixel selfie / Charging: 20W wired, 7.5W wi-fi / Climate-resistance ranking: IP67

In case your funds has a strict $500 cap and also you’re searching for a brand new iPhone, the selection is simple. The 2022 iPhone SE is the solely new iPhone beneath $500. It’s the least costly method to get into the iOS ecosystem and it’ll do the job, however I might strongly encourage anybody wanting on the SE to contemplate whether or not it’s doable to spend a bit extra on an iPhone 13, now priced at $599.

The vital factor to know in regards to the SE is that it comes with a really small, very dated 4.7-inch display. It’s the identical dimension because the one on the iPhone 6, and it’s beginning to really feel cramped in an age when apps and net pages are designed for greater screens. The SE’s huge bezels make the gadget look dated, too, however the usability of a small display might be a much bigger issue over time to return.

The 2022 iPhone SE is a low-cost entry level to the iOS ecosystem.
Photograph by Allison Johnson / The Verge

That’s the most important knock towards the SE — and it’s an vital one. However for those who’re not frightened a few cramped display, then the SE has plenty of upsides. Its A15 processor is similar because the one within the iPhone 13 Professional Max, so efficiency is excellent.

There’s IP67 waterproofing and wi-fi charging — each unusual on this worth vary — and though it makes use of an older 12-megapixel digicam, it takes very good photographs and high-quality video clips. The digicam has no night time mode, which is a curious omission — mainly each different midrange telephone presents some form of low-light photograph mode, and the telephone’s processor is definitely as much as the duty. Apple gonna Apple.

Learn my full evaluation of the Apple iPhone SE (2022)

The very best Android telephone beneath $500

Google Pixel 7A standing upright on a table showing home screen.Google Pixel 7A standing upright on a table showing home screen.

The Pixel 7A contains a number of options which can be arduous to seek out for round $500, together with wi-fi charging and an IP67 ranking for mud and water resistance. It’s not the most affordable telephone within the class, however it’s the one which’s greatest suited to go the space.

Display: 6.1-inch, 1080p OLED, 90Hz / Processor: Tensor G2 Cameras: 64-megapixel f/1.89 with OIS, 13-megapixel ultrawide, 13-megapixel selfie / Battery: 4,385mAh / Charging: 18W wired, 7.5W wi-fi / Climate-resistance ranking: IP67

The Google Pixel 7A raises the stakes for what you’ll be able to anticipate from a midrange telephone. At $499, it’s proper on the prime of what we’d take into account “funds” — and a bit dearer than the $449 Samsung Galaxy A54. However with a class-leading digicam and flagship-esque extras like wi-fi charging, it’s a step forward of the rest within the midrange bracket.

One of many 7A’s main upgrades is a brand new 6.1-inch, 90Hz show, which makes animations and scrolling look a lot smoother than on final 12 months’s 60Hz panel. The 7A makes use of the identical Tensor G2 chipset that’s within the Pixel 7 and seven Professional coupled with a wholesome 8GB of RAM. That interprets to wonderful efficiency for day-to-day duties and even heavy lifts like gaming. The 7A is harder than your common midranger, too, with an aluminum body and an IP67 ranking for resistance towards mud and dunks in water.

The Pixel 7A is available in an eye catching coral coloration for those who order it from the Google Retailer.
Photograph by Allison Johnson / The Verge

Battery life is sweet sufficient to get by way of a full day with reasonable use, however for those who add an prolonged gaming session, you may have to prime it off earlier than bedtime. Wi-fi charging is out there, which is extraordinarily uncommon within the funds telephone class. If you have already got a wi-fi charging behavior, then the 7A will match proper into your routine.

The digicam is the place the Pixel 7A actually shines. It’s primarily based round a brand new 64-megapixel most important digicam with optical stabilization together with a succesful ultrawide. It’s not the whole lot you’ll get from a flagship digicam — no video portrait mode or telephoto lens — however it’s dependable even in dim lighting situations the place rivals just like the A54 battle.

There are many causes to contemplate the 7A, however the most effective purpose not to purchase one is the Pixel 8A. It hasn’t been confirmed but by Google, however it’s very more likely to be launched later this spring. If the 8A comes with the identical seven years of software program assist promised for the Pixel 8 and eight Professional, that alone would make it value ready just a little longer.

Learn my full evaluation of the Google Pixel 7A.

The very best funds telephone that performs like a flagship

OnePlus 12R on a green background with blue translucent squares.OnePlus 12R on a green background with blue translucent squares.


The OnePlus 12R comes with a superb display and a top-notch processor, making it really feel far more costly than its $500 price ticket.

Display: 6.78-inch, 1264 x 2780 120Hz OLED / Processor: Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Cameras: 50-megapixel f/1.8 with OIS, eight-megapixel ultrawide, two-megapixel macro, 16-megapixel selfie / Battery: 5,500mAh / Charging: 80W wired / Climate-resistance ranking: IP64

The OnePlus 12R is $500, however it might simply trick you into pondering it prices twice as a lot. It comes with a really huge, very good display, with refresh charges that go as much as 120Hz and all the way in which right down to 1Hz, making for a {smooth} scrolling expertise whenever you want it and financial savings on battery life whenever you don’t. It’s a function hardly ever seen on a telephone beneath $800.

The 12R is supplied with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, which is a era behind 2024’s processor du jour, the 8 Gen 3. However the 8 Gen 2 nonetheless whips — it’s arduous to throw something at this telephone that it might’t deal with. Much less good: the 12R’s IP64 ranking, which suggests it’s splash resistant however not totally water immersible, just like the Pixel 7A.

The 12R misses out on sturdy water resistance however delivers on efficiency.
Photograph by Allison Johnson / The Verge

Quick charging is type of OnePlus’ trademark, and the 12R stays true to the model with as much as 80W quick wired charging within the US (it’s as much as 100W in different areas). It’s good if you wish to cost your telephone on a extra compressed schedule, like throughout your morning routine somewhat than at night time.

Personally, I’d somewhat have slower wired charging if it meant I might have a function that’s not current on the 12R: wi-fi charging. That’s, as soon as once more, one thing the Pixel 7A presents. However that’s the great thing about the 12R — it is aware of what it’s and what it isn’t. And if a low-cost telephone with a giant, high-quality display and wonderful efficiency is what you’re after, then the 12R is it.

Learn my full evaluation of the OnePlus 12R.

The very best telephone beneath $400

Google’s Pixel 6A comes with a comparatively small 6.1-inch OLED display however is a wonderful performer with a very good digicam and battery life.

Display: 6.1-inch, 1080p OLED / Processor: Tensor Cameras: 12-megapixel f/1.7 with OIS, eight-megapixel selfie / Battery: 4,410mAh / Charging: 18W wired / Climate-resistance ranking: IP67

The Pixel 6A most likely isn’t lengthy for this world. It was introduced in 2022, Google not sells it new, and its successor, the 7A, is due for alternative quickly. However the 6A is hanging round at third-party retailers like Amazon, and for those who can rating one for $300, it’s a heck of a deal. It’s scheduled to get yet one more OS improve and three extra years of safety updates, which is an honest return on that funding.

The telephone’s largest asset is Tensor, the custom-built chipset Google used within the firm’s 2021 flagships, the 6 and 6 Professional. Not solely does it allow good total efficiency now, however it additionally signifies that the 6A will sustain for a few years to return. It’s solely scheduled to get two extra OS model upgrades (Android 14 this fall and 15 subsequent 12 months), however it’ll obtain safety patches till no less than July 2027. The 6A additionally comes with an IP67 water resistance ranking, so it’s nonetheless a very good all-around wager if you would like a funds telephone that may final.

The 6A’s 6.1-inch 1080p OLED presents a typical 60Hz refresh fee. It wasn’t too spectacular for the telephone’s unique $449 retail worth, however for beneath $400 it’s one of many higher screens on the market. Sadly, the fingerprint sensor beneath the show can be on the sluggish aspect. It’s not unusable, however it’s noticeably a beat slower than the most effective fingerprint sensors on the market. Then once more, so is the one on the 7A.

The Pixel 6A nonetheless presents a very good digicam for a funds telephone.
Photograph by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

The 6A makes use of the identical 12-megapixel commonplace large digicam as many Pixel telephones earlier than it, which remains to be an excellent digicam — particularly for the midrange class. The telephone’s 4,410mAh battery is on the small aspect, however total battery efficiency is best than its dimension would counsel. 

Learn my full evaluation of the Google Pixel 6A.

Different funds telephones we examined

The 2024 Motorola Moto G Energy has all of the makings of a very good funds telephone, together with a stunning vegan leather-based exterior and wi-fi charging. However it’s loaded with bloatware of the worst sort, and that alone disqualifies it from our suggestions.

We additionally examined the OnePlus Nord N300, which doesn’t make an look amongst our suggestions. The N300 may be very inexpensive at $228 however cuts too many corners to incorporate quick charging. The marginally pricier N30 that snags our suggestion above is a presents significantly better total efficiency.

In case your funds has some wiggle room, there are a few $600 telephones value contemplating which can be simply outdoors the scope of this information. The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE is a late addition to the S23 lineup that provides a telephoto lens and an amazing display. And for one thing fairly completely different, the Nothing Telephone 2 is an choice with its glossy look and flashy interface (actually, it flashes) — simply know that it’s not totally suitable with Verizon’s community.

Replace April twelfth, 5:00PM ET: Eliminated the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G and the OnePlus N30; added the OnePlus 12R. Added details about the 2024 Motorola Moto G Energy.

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