7 Best Smartphones You Can Buy For Under $500

7 Best Smartphones You Can Buy For Under $500
7 Best Smartphones You Can Buy For Under $500

1. Apple SE 2020 iPhone (2nd-generation)The Apple iPhone SE is a great choice if you want a phone that lasts for years.

Most people will be satisfied with Apple’s iPhone SE 2020 (2nd generation) for its camera, build quality, speed and battery life, software and longevity. As long as it’s been around for at least a year, it should still pay off handsomely. Upgrade to the $449 model with 128GB of storage, which is $50 more expensive than the base model, is highly recommended.

iPhone SE adheres to a well-known formula. Apple has been using the same 4.7-inch LCD screen and body design since the iPhone 6 launched. To put it another way, this means that the phone’s bezels are larger than anything else on the market today. Smoother animations and scrolling have made their way down into the budget class in recent years, but you won’t find any of that technology here.

There is no way the 2020 SE will win any benchmark races because it has an A13 Bionic processor, which is two years out of date. (The iPhone 13’s A15 chipset is an example of this.) However, it’s still very fast, and it’s often difficult to tell.

The SE doesn’t have the fastest wireless connectivity available.

the difference between an iPhone processor that is two years old and one that is brand new. However, longevity is what really matters when it comes to processors. Apple’s phones receive software updates for at least four years after purchase. As compared to Android, where getting software updates on anything but the Pixel is still a challenge. As a result of Apple’s decision to use a fast processor, the iPhone SE will continue to run smoothly and receive iOS updates for many years to come.

For the time being, cellular connectivity is limited to LTE, which is fine, but in a few years, when 5G networks are more widely available, it may become a limitation. The SE won’t provide the fastest wireless connectivity if that’s a priority for you.

However, the battery life isn’t the best in its class. Ideally, it’ll last for a day or so. Even at this low price point, wireless charging is still uncommon. Because it has the same form factor as the iPhone 6, 6S, 7, and 8, a wide range of accessories are available for it as well, including chargers and protective cases. The iPhone SE will be easy to accessorize, unlike many low-cost Android phones.

2. Google Pixel 5AGoogle Pixel 5A.

Google’s Pixel 5A is the best sub-$500 Android phone on the market today.

The Pixel 5A’s 6.34-inch OLED display is smaller than the Pixel 4A 5G’s 6.2-inch display, but it is larger than the Pixel 4A 5G’s 6.2-inch panel. With a 4,680mAh battery, you can get through a full day of heavy use and even into the second day if you’re a more light user. In the event of an accidental spill or tumble into water, the 5A’s IP67 water resistance provides additional peace of mind.

In terms of improvements over its predecessor, the 5A is essentially unchanged. With its dual rear-facing cameras (main and ultrawide), Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor, and 6GB RAM and 128 GB storage, the 5A 5G still delivers solid performance compared to its predecessor, the 4A 5G.

The 5A’s software is another example of how well Pixel phones perform across the board. Android 11 was pre-installed when it was first released, but it has since been upgraded to Android 12. The software is refreshingly uncluttered compared to what you might find from other manufacturers. Although it’s not as long as Apple or Samsung’s standard software support timeframes, the Pixel 5A’s three-year OS and security updates guarantee is still better than most of the Android competition.

5G connectivity is also available. mmWave 5G support is not available, but you will be able to connect to the slower sub-6GHz 5G network, which is more common but less fast.

The 5A is also water-resistant to IP67 standards.

It’s unclear whether Google will be able to use the C-band frequencies, which AT&T and Verizon are expected to begin using in the near future. Although the hardware supports it, the company has yet to commit to making the necessary software update. The 5A’s otherwise impressive feature set is marred by this oddity.

If you’re looking to buy the 5A from the Google Store or Google Fi, you won’t be able to do so from any of the major US carriers. We still recommend the Pixel 5A as the best budget Android phone. The design isn’t particularly eye-catching, but it’s reasonably priced and equipped where it counts.

3. Samsung Galaxy A52 5G


The Galaxy A52 5G offers a 120Hz fast refresh-rate screen.

If you want the best display for your money, the $500 Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is a great option for future-proofing your phone. It’s at the very top of this buying guide’s price range, but it’s well worth it.

The A52 5G’s 6.5-inch screen is an OLED panel that is bright, has good contrast, and is generally pleasing to the eye. But its best feature is a subtle one: a 120Hz refresh rate, which gives animations and content a much smoother appearance as you swipe and scroll through menus and social feeds. This feature is likely to make its way into more low-cost phones in the near future, but for now, the A52 5G is one of only a few in its class to offer a screen that is faster than the standard 60Hz, and it improves the overall user experience.

With a Snapdragon 750G processor and 6GB of RAM, the phone performs admirably for its class. With heavy tasks, you may notice the occasional hesitation or stutter, but otherwise, everyday scrolling, app switching, and navigating are simple. Even with a power-hungry display, the Galaxy A52 5G’s 4,500mAh battery should last at least a day of moderate to heavy use before requiring recharging.

One of the A52 5G’s flaws is Samsung’s current take on Android, which installs a slew of pre-installed apps on your phone that you probably don’t want, and it even installs adware.

more of an investment in a phone that you will be able to use in three or four years

includes the occasional advertisement in places such as the native weather app Look to the Pixel or OnePlus for a cleaner, more mature Android skin. Another factor to consider is the camera on the Galaxy A52 5G: it’s capable, but it has an oversaturated appearance. If you prefer a more natural look to your photos, the Pixel 5A comes out on top.

There’s also 5G, which we still don’t think is a feature worth buying a new phone for, but it’s nice to have the support here — especially if you intend to keep your phone for a few years. This device does not support super-fast mmWave 5G, but it is difficult to find, so it is not a huge loss. Importantly, it supports more widely available sub-6GHz bands and should be able to benefit from improving 5G networks in the United States in the coming years.

You can get by just fine with a much less expensive device for the next couple of years. However, if you want to make a larger investment in a phone that you will be able to use in three or four years, the A52 5G is your best bet right now on Android.


4. OnePlus Nord N10 5G

OnePlus, N10 5G
The N10 5G is priced well under $500.
Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge

The OnePlus N10 5G, which costs $299, brings 5G and some upscale features to a low-cost phone.

While the screen isn’t spectacular, its large 6.46-inch LCD does have a faster-than-average refresh rate of 90Hz. The device’s somewhat “tall” 20:9 aspect ratio is noteworthy, as it makes the phone slightly narrower and easier to use with one hand. Its processor is capable, though it occasionally reaches its limits and only supports sub-6Hz 5G networks. It was released alongside Android 10, and

This model is unlikely to receive Android 12.

OnePlus has already released the Android 11 update. But that’s all there is to it — don’t expect Android 12 on this model. In addition, OnePlus provides two years of security updates.

On the camera front, the N10 has a 64-megapixel main camera that performs admirably in both daylight and moderately low light. There’s also an 8-megapixel ultrawide camera, as well as macro and monochrome cameras that aren’t worth mentioning. It’s not as good as the Pixel 5A, but if you don’t push it too hard, the N10’s main camera takes good photos in low light.

If you prefer Samsung phones, the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G is also worth considering for two reasons: it’s slightly less expensive at $279 and will receive security updates for the next four years. However, it lacks some of the N10’s more appealing features, such as a higher refresh rate screen, good cameras, and a more polished Android implementation. The A32 5G is a better choice if you want to keep your phone for as long as possible, but the N10 is a more appealing device overall.

What if the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G and the OnePlus Nord N10 5G are both slightly out of your price range, but you still want a 5G-ready phone in this price range? Fortunately for you, the unlocked OnePlus Nord N200 5G costs $240 (or less from carriers) and comes with a slew of premium features. Although it has a 1080p display that refreshes at 90Hz and a 5,000mAh battery, it only has 64GB of internal storage. Yes, it is only compatible with T-sub-6GHz Mobile’s 5G network, but it will function as a 4G phone on Verizon and AT&T. It’s not a bad way to get in on the 5G action for the price.

5. TCL 20S


The TCL 20S demonstrates that even $250 can get you a good phone with few compromises. It simply nails all of the fundamentals that anyone would want in a phone: good performance, a good screen, and a good battery life, all for a reasonable price.

You may be familiar with the TCL brand from its popular budget smart TVs, and its screen expertise is what distinguishes the TCL 20S’ vibrant, 6.67-inch 1080p screen. The 20S has a layer of fingerprint-resistant “micron-sized prismatic crystals” on the back that adds a subtle shimmer. It has a quick fingerprint sensor built into its power button, as well as face unlock as an option.

The $250 TCL 20S is a good bet for the best bang for your buck.

While the camera system on the 20S isn’t particularly impressive, its 64-megapixel main camera and 15-megapixel front camera are more than capable of taking detailed photos in good lighting conditions — just don’t use them for night or macro photography.

The 20S has no noticeable lag in performance for a budget phone, thanks to its Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor and 4GB of RAM. It has 128GB of internal storage by default, a microSD card slot, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a 5,000mAh battery that lasts for about two days without being recharged.

If your budget is less than $300 and you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, the $250 TCL 20S is a solid option that should work on all major 4G networks in the United States.

6. Motorola Moto G Stylus (2021)

There are few options for Android users looking for a new low-cost phone with a stylus. With LG exiting the smartphone market this year and Samsung pausing (or possibly discontinuing) its premium Galaxy Note series, Motorola’s Moto G Stylus is the only one left to hold the line.

The Moto G Stylus (2021) offers the best balance of features and cost-cutting measures among the Motorola budget devices we’ve tested this year. It’s a good phone for $280, whether you’re a stylus fanatic or just curious about them.

It has a large 6.8-inch LCD display with 1080p resolution, a 4,000mAh battery, and plenty of internal storage with 128GB capacity. The G Stylus performs admirably with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 678 processor and 4GB of RAM.

It’s a good phone for $280, whether you’re a stylus fanatic or just curious about them.

Occasionally, a hiccup occurs. The cameras, while flawed, are adequate for the job. You won’t find an amazing night mode or top-tier picture quality here, but for a phone under $300, it’s perfectly adequate.

The stylus on the Moto G Stylus, like the one on the Galaxy Note, is built into the device. When you pull it out, a quick menu of shortcuts to stylus-friendly apps, such as its coloring book app, appears.

There’s no telling how long Motorola will continue to produce the Moto G Stylus, so if you want a low-cost phone with a built-in stylus, you should get one while you can.

Moto G Stylus (2021)


There aren’t many great phones under $200, but the $190 TCL 20SE is a rare find in its class. It has a 5,000mAh battery, plenty of internal storage, and a lovely “nano-photoetched” back that makes this low-cost phone appear more expensive than it is.

The TCL 20SE, the most affordable model of the TCL 20 series, has a massive 6.82-inch display with a low resolution of 720p but brighter and more vibrant colors than other phones in its class — thanks to TCL’s television screen expertise.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 processor on the 20SE is backed up by 4GB of RAM, and the two work well enough together to make Pokémon Unite playable, albeit with some lag.

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