Best budget and affordable phones in 2023: a buyer's guide
The absolute best budget phones for 2023
When it comes to technology, some people just don’t find it reasonable to spend crazy amounts of money on a gadget that gets old in just a couple of years. Yet, those same people still want the full smartphone experience, the camera, the apps, and the speed. Are there any budget phones that fulfil these criteria?
The good news is that with recent launches the answer is a resounding 'yes'. We now have phones that are cheap without being downright ruined by terrible issues - those budget phones do not lag terribly, they have decent cameras, and some of them even come with a very likeable design. But separating the best budget phones from the fluff could be difficult, and even worse - time consuming. That's why we've cherry-picked the very best budget phones you could get right now depending on a set of simple criteria.
But which ones are they? We've picked the best affordable phones, where affordable does not mean ‘cheap’ in any embarrassing way.
- Budget phones guide
- Our 3 top picks for budget phones
- Budget phones under $500
- Budget phones under $400
- Budget phones under $300
- What's to come?
What to look for in a budget phone
In their essence, budget phones are all based around premium features that trickle down from the upper echelons. As flagship phones become more and more advanced, features and functionalities that were previously reserved for only the best devices can now be found in phones that cost merely a fraction of the price. That's exactly the case with our top three picks here: the iPhone 11 still has a top-performing A13 chipset, the Pixel 6a has the exceptional camera performance of Google phones, while the Galaxy A53 5G is the closest you'd get to a Galaxy flagship for less than $500. And that's a characteristic of almost all best cheap and affordable phones.
When it comes to budget phones, price is naturally the most important aspect, whereas the rest is compromises you're willing to make. You can't get a good battery, display, and camera all in the same package, you normally have to pick two of these and learn to live with the third. Premium build materials and design aren't really a thing with budget phones, which often are made of plastic, but then again, you shouldn't be expecting much.
Flagships are great, but budget phones often offer greater value
Budget phone nice-to-haves
First things first, you will have to settle on what type of budget phone you want. Nine out of ten budget phones are running Android, but an iPhone, be it a new iPhone 11 or a used former flagship, will easily be a better device for many, many people. But finding the best budget phone is a hard task.
The display and overall performance should be evaluated thoroughly. Don't get fooled by the number of cameras at the back of the phone and don't go for the absolute highest number of lenses you see: often, a single good camera easily beats any triple or quad-camera system. A high-refresh rate display is also something that's beginning to appear on more and more affordable devices.
Our 3 top picks for budget phones in 2023
What is the best cheap phone to buy? We've generally narrowed our recommendations to three devices: the Google Pixel 6a, the iPhone 11, and the new Galaxy A53 5G, which can often be found on the cheap.
|Comparison table||Google Pixel 6a||Apple iPhone 11||Samsung Galaxy A53 5G|
|Display||6.1" OLED||6.1" IPS LCD||6.5" 120Hz AMOLED|
|Processor||Google Tensor||Apple A13 Bionic||Exynos 1280|
|Storage||6GB RAM, 128GB storage||4GB RAM, 64GB storage ||6GB/8GB RAM, 128GB/256GB storage, microSD|
|Camera||12.2MP w/ OIS, PDAF|
|12MP w/ OIS, PDAF|
|64MP main, 12MP ultra-wide, 5MP macro, 5MP depth|
Best budget phones under $500
Google Pixel 6a
Apple iPhone 11
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
Motorola Edge (2021)
The phone follows the Motorola basics: decent specs for the price, clean software and good-enough camera. There's a 108MP main sensors paired with two more cameras that aren't really that useful. Still, at for that price, these are great, especially since a big part of this phone's bill of materials went towards the Snapdragon 778G chip. The 8/256GB RAM/storage combo is more than adequate for this phone's price range. This phone packs a massive 5,000mAh battery which will surely last you two days, even three if you're not a heavy user. The Motorola Edge (2021)'s display has a 144Hz refresh rate. It is an LCD panel, but even so, it is still a nice and big screen with an FHD+ resolution and small bezels.
- Best phones under $500 - complete guide
Best budget phones under $400
Apple iPhone SE (2022)
You may also like:
Best phones under $400: a summarized list
Best budget phones under $300
OnePlus Nord N200
Motorola Moto G Power (2022)
Samsung Galaxy A32 5G
Best phones under $300 - buying guide
Best phones under $300 - buying guide
What's to come
As you might have noticed, all of these phones weren't released this year. With a new year comes new hope for even better budget-friendly devices. 2023 should offer plenty of those. For example, you should expect even more mid-range budget phones to come, like Samsung's Galaxy A54 and the Motorola Edge (2023).
LG might be gone, but HMD Global has probably set its sights on taking a bigger slice of the cake with its Nokia-branded phones. Another company that started putting more effort into the budget smartphone class is OnePlus, and you should definitely expect some nice devices from it as well. Here's to another great year for budget phones!
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