Best budget and affordable phones in 2024: a buyer's guide

Best budget and affordable phones in 2024: a buyer's guide
If you don't feel like spending $1,000 on a new phone because you probably have a thousand better ideas on how to spend that cash, we won't judge you. Budget phones are here to save the day!

As long as you don't expect absolutely everything in a budget phone, chances are you can be pretty happy with a phone that costs $500 or even less.

And as of 2024, most good budget phones cost somewhere between $350 to $500. There are a few cheaper options that are still good, but they make bigger compromises. There are also a few slightly more expensive phones that we feel we need to mention.

So let us walk you through all the best affordable phones in 2024, explaining all their pros and cons along the way, so you know what you are getting into.

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Best Budget iPhone

If you want a truly cheap, sub-$500 iPhone, your only option is the iPhone SE 3rd generation, which Apple sells for $430.

Unfortunately, that phone was released way back in March 2022, making it nearly two years old and even when it launched it felt outdated, so we cannot recommend it in good conscience to most people today. It has a tiny, 4.7-inch screen which uses the older LCD screen technology which is nowhere nearly as vibrant and good-looking as an OLED screen, and its battery life is quite poor. It is an iPhone and it runs on a fast processor, but that's about the only thing it has going for it.

Instead, if you want an iPhone that you will be happy with in the long term, we recommend going a bit over the typical budget for this article and getting the iPhone 13 instead.

The iPhone 13 has also been released yeasr ago, but it launched with top-end specs at its time, and now it sells for only $600, which is more than most budget phones, but well worth it. It has a much bigger 6.1-inch OLED screen, which not only has prettier colors, but it has the much need extra screen space. It also comes with 128GB of storage, an absolute minimum for a phone in 2024 (and that is double what you have in the iPhone SE).

Unlike the iPhone SE, it also uses Apple's new gesture navigation and Face ID, which are also very convenient. Additionally, it has substantially better battery life and it has both a main camera and an ultra-wide camera, while the iPhone SE only has a single camera on its back. It is just the better phone all around and you won't regret spending a bit more to get it instead of the iPhone SE 3rd gen.

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Best Android budget phones under $500

#1. Google Pixel 8a

MSRP $500 | Released in May 2024

The Google Pixel 8a remains our top choice for a budget Android phone in 2024.

The Pixel 8a arrived in May 2024 and it was updated in a few key areas: it got the latest Tensor G3 chipset, the same as in flagship Pixels and much faster than most other Android phones in this price class.

It also got a 120Hz screen, an upgrade from a 90Hz screen used on the previous generation, and that makes for a slightly smoother experience. And it has a slightly larger battery than before (but not by much), and the cameras don't seem to have changed, but they were excellent already. The price remains at a reasonable $500, great for a device that will get updates for the next seven years!

The Pixel 8a still has some shortcomings though. It only comes in one smaller, 6.1-inch size, and it has a chunky bezel around the screen. It also charges slowly, taking nearly two full hours for a full charge, plus, like other budget phones, you don't get a zoom camera on board.

#2. OnePlus 12R

MSRP $500 | Released in January 2024

OnePlus is back making budget phones in 2024 with the $500 OnePlus 12R.

And it is back with a bang!

The OnePlus 12R has the fastest chipset in the $500-ish price class, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and its performance is faster and smoother than rivals. It also has the largest screen: a 6.8-inch OLED display with a smooth 120Hz refresh rate.

On top of all that, it has a massive, 5500mAh battery AND an insanely fast 80W charging speed (a full charge takes merely 25 minutes!).

The one area where it falls a bit short of the Pixel is the camera performance, and that is the only reason why the Pixel still manages to hold on to the top spot in this ranking. However, if you place more value on the performance, battery life and screen size, the OnePlus 12R should probably be your top pick.

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Best budget phones under $400

#1. Samsung Galaxy A35 5G

MSRP $400 | Released in April 2024

Samsung will not release the popular Galaxy A55 5G model in the US this year, but it has the more affordable, $400 Galaxy A35 5G and it offers good bang for the buck.

The A35 5G has a spacious 6.6-inch AMOLED screen with 120Hz refresh rate and a big, 5,000mAh battery. The camera system is also quite good for this price.

On the list of downsides is an adequate, but not exactly zippy Exynos 1380 chipset and only 6GB of RAM. If you are after a fast and zippy device, you'd probably need to spend a bit more.

#2. Nothing Phone 2a

MSRP $350 | Released in March 2024

You have to jump through some hoops to buy the Nothing Phone (2a) in the United States (you need to sign up at the website, before you can order), but it is a phone that offers a lot of value for its $350 price. It works well on T-Mobile and AT&T, but it might not have full 5G band compatibility if you try using it on Verizon Wireless.

Nothing released its first smartphone just two years ago, but despite being a young company, its new Nothing Phone (2a) is a very good budget phone at $350.

It has the stand-out design that Nothing is known for with an LED light "glyph" on the back, so it is probably the best looking budget phone around. But it is not just about the looks: it has a decent chipset and a good enough camera system at this price. Additionally, it has the biggest battery on a Nothing Phone at 5,000mAh and you have very fast 45W charging, so you in just 20 minutes you can get a 50% top-up. Nothing is also known for its clean UI and monochrome themes that allow you to be more mindful about your smartphone usage.

The Nothing Phone (2a) is available in the United States, but you have to sign up at the website, before you can order it. 

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Best phones under $400: a summarized list

Best budget phones under $300

#1. Moto G Power 5G (2024)

MSRP $300 | Released in late March 2024

You would think that the Moto G Power 5G (2024) comes with some extraordinarily large battery, but not really. It features a 5,000mAh battery, as large as most other phones of its size, but what is new that it actually takes design seriously with a prettier look and it now adds wireless charging too.

It is powered by a middling MediaTek Dimensity 7020 chipset, but it has an impressive 8GB of RAM.

What is not impressive is the screen: it's an LCD screen, which looks nowhere nearly as good as OLED screens that most phones use these days. But hey, at least you have a 120Hz refresh rate on board.

#2. OnePlus Nord N30 5G

MSRP $300 | Released in June 2023

Another good option for budget shoppers is the OnePlus Nord N30 5G.

The main advantages here are the clean and smooth performing UI, and the typical for OnePlus super-fast charging. The Nord N30 5G supports 50W wired charging speeds, meaning a full charge takes around 55 minutes.

The 108MP main camera also does a great job in even more challenging conditions.

The compromises you have to take here are the lack of an ultra-wide camera and the somewhat average battery life. Another big downside is you only get ONE major Android update (and three years of security updates), which is less than the competition.

Also see: 
Best phones under $300 - buying guide

Best budget phones under $200

#1. Samsung Galaxy A15 5G

MSRP $200 | Released in December, 2023

The Galaxy A15 5G is not the most stylish phone around, but it offers a lot for its dirt cheap $200 price.

It all starts with a gorgeous 6.5-inch AMOLED screen that supports 90Hz fast refresh rate and gets up to 800 nits of brightness (but reflections are quite noticeable outdoors).

The Galaxy A15 is powered by the MediaTek 6835 chipset with 4GB of RAM. That's the main compromise as the phone feels slow, but that seems to be the reality in this price class. You do have a generous 128GB of storage, though.

With a 5,000mAh battery on board, battery life is solid and you also have 25W fast charging support, so a full charge takes around an hour and a half (no wireless charging on board, but we don't expect it at this price).

You also get a 50MP main camera and a 5MP ultra-wide camera. Samsung also offers a 2MP macro shooter, but it could have easily skipped it as image quality is quite bad there. The main and ultra-wide camera perform surprisingly well at this price, just don't expect stellar performance in low light.

One downside is video capture maxes out at just 1080p, but again, this is expected for the price.

Finally, the Galaxy A15 ships with Android 14 and Samsung promises an incredible FOUR years of software updates. More expensive phones we have listed above only support one year, so this is great. 

2. Moto G 5G (2024)

MSRP $200 | Released in March 2024

Another dirt cheap option you can consider is the Moto G 5G (2024), which actually looks quite stylish.

It runs on a Snapdragon 4 Gen 1 chip with 4GB of RAM, and it has a 6.6-inch 720p LCD display with 120Hz refresh rate.

On the back you have a 50MP main camera and a practically useless 2MP macro camera, but the main feature is just the incredibly affordable price.

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