The next generation of smartphones is here. Between the recently released iPhone 13 and Pixel 6, and the slightly older Samsung Galaxy S21, there’s some serious firepower in the mobile phone game right now. But is it really worth dropping nearly $1,000 on a new phone every year just to stay up to date? While there are worthwhile upgrades coming out year after year, it really isn’t a big deal to hold back a couple of generations to save money or find a cheaper option altogether.
Whether you’re sticking to a strict budget or just don’t want to be in the new phone rat race, there are plenty of budget options out there that will serve you well. You’ll be missing out on the absolute latest mobile camera systems, software, and features, but you won’t be living in the Stone Age with a cheaper phone. You’ll still be able to take solid photos, text and talk with your friends and family, and use your favorite social apps, even on a sub-$200 phone.
Companies like Nokia, Samsung, and Motorola have always had phones available at lower price points, and the most recent models have features that feel pretty top-tier, like edge-to-edge displays and quad-camera systems. There are also some great iPhone and Pixel models available from third-party sellers that are only a couple of years old. No matter what you’re priorities are — style, a long battery life, an advanced camera, etc. — there’s a budget phone out there for you.
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The Galaxy A12 is no Galaxy S21, but it's the best budget Samsung phone. With an edge-to-edge display, a teardrop selfie camera cutout, and a four-camera array (led by a 16-megapixel primary) on the back, the A12 has a premium look despite the low price tag. This is a great option for heavy media consumption.
The G20 has a fresh design that’s a lot sleeker than the brick models Nokia has become synonymous with. This phone has a giant 5,050mAh battery that’s rated to last a few days, a four-camera array with a 48-megapixel main, and a designated teardrop selfie camera. The display and software are a little lacking, but it’s a solid budget phone.
With the release of the iPhone 13, the price for an unlocked iPhone XR (released in 2018) has dipped below the $200 mark. We don’t need to tell you about iPhone quality — you’ll have a stylish design, a solid camera, and an overall reliable phone that was the best of the best just a few years ago. The XR was discontinued this fall, so you’ll have to hunt for a good deal on a refurbished model.
The Moto G Power lives up to its name — the 5,000mAh battery will keep the phone on for a couple of days without a charge. The big, bright 6.6-inch LCD display looks great at a glance and the triple-camera system has a 48-megapixel main lead camera. There’s also a bonus MicroSD card slot if you want to expand its storage.
The Moto G Fast has is similar to the Moto G Power, but is much more responsive. The Snapdragon 665 processor is one of the best in phones under $200 — you won’t feel like you’re being slowed down. Unfortunately, for the faster processor, you’re sacrificing a few things: the lead camera is just 16-megapixels and it has less storage space.
If you’ve been eyeing Google’s new Pixel 6 but don’t have the budget, you can still pick up a Pixel 3. It has a stylish, slim design, and a great camera system (with machine-learning software for better photos). This is still a great phone. Unfortunately, it looks like Google is going to stop updating it soon, but you can still find solid refurbished models from third-party sellers.
The BLU G90 Pro is designed to be a budget gaming phone. It’s got a bright 6.5-inch LCD display, a Mali G76 GPU, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage (there’s also a MicroSD slot for more). Everything else takes a back seat. The cameras aren’t great, but they’re OK. The construction and look of the phone also feels lower-end.