The Best Budget Android Phones (2024)

The research

  • Why you should trust us
  • Who this is for
  • How we picked and tested
  • Our pick: Samsung Galaxy A15 5G
  • Runner-up: Motorola Moto G Power (2024)
  • What to look forward to
  • The competition

Why you should trust us

Wirecutter staff writer Roderick Scott has been reviewing consumer tech, including Android phones, for more than a decade. His Android experience goes all the way back to the HTC G1, the Google Nexus, Samsung’s first Galaxy S model, and Motorola’s Droids, in addition to every current flagship Android phone—and everything in between.

Previous testing for this guide was done by Ryan Whitwam, who has reviewed Android phones for Wirecutter since 2015.

Who this is for

The best smartphones have never been more expensive, but you can still find a phone with high-end features for a fraction of the price of a flagship phone. You’ll just be giving up a few fancy features, such as water resistance, wireless charging, or a dedicated telephoto camera lens. Cheap phones usually can’t compete with the quad-HD (1440p) screens or top-of-the-line processors in the most expensive phones, but you don’t need those things to have a good daily experience.

Budget phones are excellent first smartphones, especially for kids and teenagers, or the terminally clumsy. If you lose or break a higher-end phone, especially one that you’re still paying your carrier for, you may have to shell out a lot to replace it—often $500 or more. If you don’t have insurance, you can end up paying the balance on a phone you don’t have anymore, plus the price of a new phone.

We also like that budget phones are usually unlocked whether purchased online or directly from the manufacturer; you can use these phones on AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon in the United States, and on most networks in the rest of the world. More importantly, you can use an unlocked phone on a prepaid mobile virtual network operator (MVNO); these low-cost carriers operate on national networks but tend to impose more data-usage restrictions or calling limits. You can use an MVNO, and if a better deal comes along, you can pop a different carrier’s SIM card into your phone and get on with your life.

It’s a good idea to stick to a more reputable manufacturer of budget phones with a strong US presence and retail operation, as such companies are more likely to deal with any security issues swiftly with the deployment of patches. And choosing a phone from Google or Samsung makes it less likely you’ll encounter major security flaws in the first place.

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How we picked and tested

After testing dozens of budget smartphones, we’ve found that most of them aren’t worth recommending despite their low prices—they often have abysmal performance, bloated software, useless cameras, infrequent or nonexistent updates, or some combination of those issues. Here are the things we look for in a phone before recommending it:

  • Software: A budget phone is slower than a high-end model, so it’s important that the phone isn’t loaded down with unnecessary, poorly performing apps or customized user interfaces. Lower-cost phones also tend to receive fewer updates, so they should have the latest Android software with recent security patches out of the box. If a manufacturer doesn’t have a good history of keeping phones updated, it’s harder for us to recommend that company’s phones.
  • Performance and battery: Most budget phones have a midrange processor and less memory than expensive phones offer, but any phone we recommend is fast enough to handle basic tasks like email, web browsing, and streaming videos and music. Less powerful hardware is usually less battery-hungry, so these phones run longer on a charge than flagship phones.
  • Carrier support: The best budget phones work on every major phone network, and we don’t recommend models locked to a single carrier or with poor cellular band support. Because most budget phones are unlocked, you can usually switch carriers, and this gives you the most choice when you’re shopping around for good deals on a plan.
  • Display: Our minimum acceptable resolution for budget phone screens is 720p. Budget phones almost always have LCD screens, and they’re dimmer and less vibrant than the OLED screens in many high-end phones, but we only recommend phones with decent brightness, viewing angles, and colors. (Our pick offers an AMOLED display, which is rare for the price.)
  • Extra features: Phones toward the top of the budget range should have features such as a good fingerprint sensor to unlock the phone without a passcode, NFC for mobile payments, support for newer, faster Wi-Fi, and 5G connectivity. Cheaper phones might lack some or all of those features but can still be worth buying if the price is right.
  • Camera: If a good phone camera is a key feature for you, we recommend buying a Google Pixel model—either the Pixel 6a if you can find one in stock or the newer Pixel 7a if you find it on sale. Otherwise, your budget options are limited. Even high-end Android phone cameras sometimes struggle, and things get worse the cheaper you go. A good budget-phone camera should do okay outdoors or in bright light, but you’ll have to spend more to get a phone with a good low-light camera.
  • Design and build quality: If your new phone falls apart within a few months of buying it, that defeats the purpose of getting a budget phone in the first place. Water resistance is still rare in budget phones, but they should have sturdy bodies that don’t bend or creak if you sit on them, and their buttons and ports should be secure, with no wobble.

Our pick: Samsung Galaxy A15 5G

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Our pick

Samsung Galaxy A15

The best screen and longest support

The Galaxy A15 has a vibrant AMOLED display, solid performance, and a long-lasting battery. Plus, Samsung offers an unprecedented four years of software updates for a cheap smartphone.

Buying Options

$200 from Amazon

$200 from Best Buy

The $200 Samsung Galaxy A15 5G isn’t made of the most premium materials—it’s still plastic —but the latest Samsung budget phone offers nearly everything you need. It has a colorful OLED screen, solid performance, a large, long-lasting battery, and a decent 50-megapixel camera. Its only shortcoming is that it offers little protection against water and dust. However, the Galaxy A15 is one of the few budget Android phones to promise lengthy software support—Samsung will continue rolling out upgrades through 2028, which is longer than any other budget phone we’ve tested.

The A15’s OLED display is stunning. The Galaxy A15 has a new, vivid OLED panel with the same 90 Hz refresh rate as its predecessor (it’s also slightly smaller than the A14). Samsung also boosted the maximum outdoor brightness to 800 nits, which is much brighter than most budget phones, and the colors are dynamic and beautiful.

It offers good enough performance. The A15 is powered by a MediaTek 6835 chip and has 4 GB of RAM, which is capable enough for multitasking and graphic-intense games like Call of Duty: Mobile. Its plastic shell only got slightly warm to the touch after extended gaming sessions. This chipset and RAM combination won’t get you flagship levels of performance, but it was smoother and outperformed most budget phones we’ve tested. The A15 also comes with 128 GB of storage and a microSD card slot for expandable storage.

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It has a large, long-lasting battery. The A15’s 5000 mAh battery lasted a day and a half with moderate usage, and on days we played demanding games, we went to bed with about 10% battery life left. And while the A15’s OLED display is bright, it doesn’t appear to drain the battery life any faster than the previous version’s LCD screen did. Samsung doesn’t provide a USB-C charging brick in the box, and the A15 lacks wireless charging support, but the phone can charge up fully from 0% to 100% in less than two hours over 25 W USB-C charging.

The Galaxy A15 will get longer updates than most budget phones. Samsung has extended software update support for its current budget phones, and the A15 will get updates to the latest versions of Android until early 2028 and security updates until early 2029. This is longer than any budget Android phone we’ve recently tested.

Its cameras can capture great results—with enough light. The A15 offers a rear triple camera setup with a 50-megapixel main sensor, a 5-megapixel ultrawide lens, and a 2-megapixel macro lens. As with nearly all budget phones, the main sensor is the only one you should probably use, and only with good lighting. Images shot in low light produce grainy results with minimal detail, and even Samsung’s software-based Night Mode can only help so much with details in low-light situations.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

It doesn’t offer much protection against dust and water. As with many budget phones, Samsung has a plastic build to keep the A15’s costs down. Because of this, the A15 doesn’t offer an official IP rating, and it’s missing any internal seals for additional protection. This means it shouldn’t be dropped in water, and be kept safe from sand and dust.

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Runner-up: Motorola Moto G Power (2024)

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Runner-up

Motorola Moto G Power (2024)

Good for gaming

The Moto G Power has a fast LCD screen with a high refresh rate, good performance, and great speakers. It also has a two-day battery and supports wireless charging. But it’s much more expensive than the A15 5G, its screen isn’t as good, and it will only get one major software update.

Buying Options

$290 from Amazon

$300 from Best Buy

The Motorola Moto G Power (2024) is a great budget option, though it’s $100 more than our pick. It’s stylish, with a vegan leather backing, and it offers a large 6.7-inch LCD screen, a long-lasting battery, and better performance than most other phones in this price range. The Moto G Power adds NFC for wireless payments and wireless charging, which is a combination rarely seen in cheap phones. It also produces stellar sound thanks to its dual stereo speakers. However, like most budget Android phones, you’ll have to deal with a shorter window of software updates and a subpar camera.

The Moto G Power has a large, fast display. Its 6.7-inch LCD screen, framed by minimal top and bottom bezels, has a 120 Hz refresh rate. The large screen is great for watching videos, and its faster refresh rate means smoother scrolling and a more fluid gaming experience. Overall, the screen delivers sharp and bright output, though it lacks the rich colors that an OLED panel like the one on the Galaxy A15 offers.

It’s more stylish than most budget phones. The G Power has a plastic shell, like most cheap phones, but Motorola added a premium touch: a vegan leather back. It adds a grippable surface to the rear of the device, which feels good in hand, but it can attract hair and lint, which is especially obvious on the brighter, pale lilac color we tested. This helps the G Power stand out in the budget crowd of bland plastic rectangles.

It performs better than the competition. The Moto G Power runs on last year’s MediaTek Dimensity 7020 chip and is powered by 8 GB of RAM, which provides mildly better performance than our pick. Opening and closing apps is faster, and playing Call of Duty: Mobile is much smoother. The G Power isn’t going to beat a newer Galaxy or Pixel, but it gets a lot closer than other budget phones we’ve tested. The Moto G Power also has NFC for mobile payments, which is a first for a Moto G phone.

It supports wireless charging and can last nearly two days on a charge. The G Power’s massive 5,000 mAh battery outlasted all of the other budget phones we tested. On a moderate day of usage, with web browsing, messaging, 20 minutes of gaming, and 30 minutes of streaming YouTube and Disney+ content, we made it a day and a half before needing to plug in the G Power. Using it for longer periods of time to play games and stream videos, we still had 10% battery life left by the end of day. The G Power supports 15 W wireless charging and 30 W wired charging, so it takes just under two hours to fully charge with its included charging brick.

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The camera takes just so-so pictures. Photos taken with the Moto G Power aren’t great, even in good lighting. The results from its 50-megapixel main sensor lack details and sharpness, even when capturing photos in broad daylight. The results are even worse when using its 8-megapixel ultrawide, and its low-light photos are plainly terrible.

It won’t get software updates for very long. The Moto G Power offers one software update and two years of security updates, which is unfortunately standard for budget phones. It will receive the Android 15 update and security updates until 2026, but that falls short of the software support offered by Samsung’s Galaxy A15.

Motorola pre-installs more bloatware than most phones. On top of the included folder of Google and Motorola apps, the G Power also pre-installs apps like Booking.com, GoodRX, Walmart, and 1Weather, to name a few of them. Then there are apps bundled within the phone’s Shopping, Discover, Entertainment, and GamesHub folders. You can uninstall these unnecessary apps one by one, but this adds an extra, annoying step in setting up your new phone.

It’s not waterproof. Motorola doesn’t offer an IP rating for the G Power. The phone has a water-repellent barrier to help against spills and light rain, but these won’t help if you drop it in water.

What to look forward to

Our former budget pick, the Galaxy A03s, is low in stock and appears likely to be discontinued. We’re currently evaluating sub-$200 options.

In April, Samsung announced the $400 Galaxy A35. (A Galaxy A55 model was also announced, but it won’t be available to buy in the US.) Both models are powered by Exynos processors and have a 6.6-inch 120 Hz OLED display with 1,000 nits of maximum brightness, 50-megapixel main camera sensors and 5-megapixel macro sensors, and 5,000 mAh cell batteries with 25 W fast charging. Each promises four years of software updates and five years of security updates, and both offer Samsung’s Knox Vault, a security feature from Galaxy flagships that encrypts personal data and keeps it away from the main OS and processor.

The Galaxy A35 offers up to 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB of storage, and an additional 8-megapixel ultrawide sensor. It’s available to buy now, and we plan to test it soon, but $400 is a little more than we recommend people spend on a budget Android phone.

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The competition

You can often save money by buying an older budget phone, but be careful—such devices are sometimes refurbished and may not work as well as a new one. Budget phones also have shorter support lives than flagship handsets do, and getting a budget phone that’s already a year or more old means that it may not receive any security updates.

The $300 OnePlus Nord N30 is our former top pick and remains a good budget Android experience with its 6.7-inch 120 Hz display and Snapdragon 695 chip, plus 8 GB of RAM and a fast-charging, long-lasting battery. However, the Galaxy A35 offers better features for less.

Google raised the price of its budget A-series lineup when it released the $500 Pixel 7a, but it is an all-around upgrade over its predecessor. The 7a looks identical to the Pixel 7, complete with a metal frame and camera bar, but it has a smaller plastic body compared with the Pixel 7’s glass one. The 7a has a 6.1-inch 1080p display, Google’s Tensor G2 processor, 8 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage, a fingerprint scanner, a 64-megapixel main camera, a 13-megapixel ultrawide camera, and a 13-megapixel selfie camera. It also offers solid battery life with 18 W fast charging and 7.5 W wireless charging. And, like the Pixel 7, the 7a has facial recognition. The bad news: It’s just too expensive to be considered a budget phone. We do recommend it if you have more money to spend, or if you find it on sale.

On paper, the Moto G Stylus seemed like a potential pick for this guide, but in real-world usage, it didn’t hold up. Although the stock Android software is smooth and easy to use, there is a significant amount of bloatware, with some unnecessary software disguised as native apps and folders, which was frustrating. Additionally, the camera app can be slow to open, capture, and preview images.

Additional reporting for this guide was contributed by Ryan Whitwam.

This article was edited by Caitlin McGarry and Arthur Gies.

The Best Budget Android Phones (2024)

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