Best cheap Android phones 2022 #GeekLeap

For the most part, 2022 was a far better year for budget phones than 2021 ever was. We’ve seen a few disappointing releases — like the OnePlus N300, which still isn’t as good as the N200 — but most other releases were impressive. Even companies like Motorola that had rough releases in 2021 did far better throughout 2022, delivering some of the best budget phones you can buy.

We’ve put these phones through our series of tests (opens in new tab) to ensure you’re getting only the best recommendations.

Our top pick is the Samsung A53 5G, which comes in at under $500, and offers some of the best features of Samsung’s more expensive flagship phones. It’s got a gorgeous 120Hz AMOLED display, four cameras on the back (that are actually good), a big battery that’ll last many users well over a full day, and software support for years. It’s hard to argue with Samsung’s position in the Android world these days for this last reason, alone.

But if you’re looking to save even more money and are on the T-Mobile or AT&T networks in the U.S., our top pick under $300 is the OnePlus Nord N20 5G. The Nord N20 sports a vibrant AMOLED display, a great processor, surprisingly excellent cameras, and battery life that’ll last well over a day for any user. OnePlus even includes a 33W charger in the box, making it a rarity among phones these days, let alone one that costs under $300. Just be aware that it only has proper 5G support on T-Mobile’s network.

If cameras are your most important pick, though, you’d be remiss to not consider the Google Pixel 6a first. This phone makes the most of its hardware with excellent image processing on the cameras, and reasonably snappy performance with the latest version of Android.

This phone also supports sub-6 5G so you’ll be able to work with any carrier’s latest network technology as it continues to expand over the next couple of years. It costs quite a bit more than the Nord N20, but it’s hard to go wrong with Google’s award-winning cameras and commitment to years of software updates.

These are the best cheap phones you can buy

The vibrant display of the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G

Display: 6.5-inch AMOLED, 2400×1080, 120Hz refresh rate | Processor: Exynos 1280 octa-core CPU | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 128GB | Cameras: 64MP primary, 12MP ultra-wide, 5MP macro, 5MP depth, 32MP selfie | Charging: 25W wired | Battery: 5,000 mAh | Water Resistance: IP67 | Dimensions: 159.6 x 74.8 x 8.1mm | Weight: 189g

Good-looking hardware

Vibrant AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate

Four good rear cameras

Large 5,000 mAh battery

IP67 water and dust resistance

No 3.5mm headphone jack

Cameras aren’t as good as a Pixel

The Galaxy A series is one of Samsung’s greatest achievements with solid specs and nice designs on mid-range and low-end phones. We called it the mid-range phone to beat in 2022 for a reason. This one is a stellar release that feels more like a flagship at half the normal flagship price. It’s even more impressive than the more expensive Galaxy A73 (opens in new tab) because of the value for the price.

Samsung keeps up the trend with the Galaxy A53 5G, a refresh of the A52 with improved performance thanks to the Exynos 1280 CPU octa-core CPU, which has two cores running at 2.4GHz and the remaining six running at 2.0GHz. This is paired with a solid 6GB RAM and powered by a large 5,000mAh battery. And unlike some cheaper phones, charging is fast at up to 25 watts.

Perhaps the most impressive inclusion with this phone is a very complete 5G chipset. This phone supports sub-6 and mmWave 5G including mid-band with C-band. If you were looking for an affordable phone with full 5G support, this is a great choice. Wi-Fi isn’t great with only Wi-Fi 5 supported but it should still be fine for most people.

On the front of this phone, you get a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display running at 120Hz so you get great colors and contrast with smooth animations. This phone comes with 128GB of storage but it is expandable if you want to get a memory card to drop in. Check out our full Samsung Galaxy A53 review (opens in new tab) for more info. 

Looking at the display of the OnePlus Nord N20 5G under a Japanese maple

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

OnePlus Nord N20 5G

Display: 6.43-inch 60Hz AMOLED | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G | RAM: 6GB LPDDR4x | Storage: 128GB UFS 2.2 | Cameras: 64MP main, 2MP macro, 2MP monochrome, 16MP front | Charging: 33W SUPERVOOC | Battery: 4,500mAh | Water Resistance: IP52 | Dimensions: 159.9 x 73.2 x 7.5mm | Weight: 173g

Gorgeous AMOLED display

Excellent cameras

3.5mm jack and microSD card slot

5G connectivity and NFC

Great-looking and feeling build

Lots of software features

USB port compatibility issues

Only one OS update

Limited 5G support

The odd $282 price tag of the Nord N20 is just the beginning of OnePlus’ latest expectation-defying budget phone. Inside is a Snapdragon 695 5G — the same one in the Motorola G Stylus 5G (2022), which is nearly double the price — 6GB of RAM, and even 128GB of fast UFS 2.2 storage. You’ll find from our OnePlus Nord N20 5G (opens in new tab) review that the phone consistently performed more like a phone twice its price.

On top of that, it’s got an AMOLED display on the front, which is almost never seen in phones in this price range. As you would expect from an AMOLED panel, the colors are gorgeous, black levels are perfect, and everything just looks great. It could be a little brighter and it’s “only” got a 60Hz refresh rate, but it’s hard to argue with AMOLED quality when most phones in this price range are stuck with a bland LCD.

The cameras are also above and beyond the level of quality of most phones in this price range. It really only has a 64MP main camera on the back — the 2MP monochrome and 2MP macro cameras are mostly useless on their own — but that main camera produces some seriously great photos with wide dynamic range, impressively smart AI-powered multi-frame software that automatically picks the best shot after you take it, and even takes quality 1080p video.

Keep in mind that, while the processor feels fast for daily tasks and can run some games quite well, more intensive 3D games like Fortnite are basically unplayable. Additionally, some gaming controllers that connect via USB-C don’t work on this phone for some reason, so keep those things in mind before buying.

There are so many reasons to choose a OnePlus Nord N20 5G if you’re on a budget and, while the phone is now available unlocked after a period of T-Mobile exclusivity, it only supports 5G speeds on T-Mobile. AT&T customers can use the phone but will only get a 4G LTE signal.

The back of the Google Pixel 6a on a bridge

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Google Pixel 6a

Best cameras on any budget phone

Display: 6.1-inch AMOLED, 2400×1080, 60Hz refresh rate | Processor: Google Tensor | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 128GB UFS 3.1 | Cameras: 12MP primary, 12MP ultra-wide, 8MP selfie | Charging: 18W wired | Battery: 4,410 mAh | Water Resistance: IP67 | Dimensions: 152.2mm x 71.8mm x 8.9mm | Weight: 178 grams

Simply amazing cameras

Fast performance across the board

Beautiful OLED display

Great Pixel-exclusive features

Supports 5G networks

Comfortable size

Only a 60Hz display

No headphone jack

No wireless charging

Oftentimes, when you spend less than $500 on a phone, you have to compromise on the processor and the build of the phone. But Google is doing things differently with the Pixel 6a which, as we said in our Google Pixel 6a review (opens in new tab), is a phone of few compromises.

It all starts with the Google Tensor processor inside. That’s the first processor designed in-house by Google, and is the exact same one included in the more expensive Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. That means that no matter what you do on the phone, performance is as good as it gets. 40% better than most phones in this price range, in fact.

Then, of course, are the cameras Pixel phones are so well known for. Tensor takes a standard 12MP sensor and adds in some AI magic including intelligent object recognition that helps keep objects in motion perfectly clear. It can even take crisp pictures of moving kids or pets, making it invaluable in everyday situations.

Great features like call screening, instant Google assistant text-to-speech, real-time on-device translation, and plenty more combine to make a phone that only gets better with time, not worse. Google has even substantially improved the fingerprint sensor with a few software updates, and the Pixel 6a already runs Android 13 which is something you’ll have a hard time finding on other phones for a while.

The downsides? The screen is only 60Hz, which is on par with what you’d get from any older phone you’re likely upgrading from. That means the Pixel 6a won’t look as smooth as phones with 90Hz or 120Hz displays. Personally, I don’t think this is a huge deal, and didn’t find that it bothered me at all when reviewing it, even coming from phones with higher refresh rates.

It doesn’t have a headphone jack or support for wireless charging. Even with these negatives, however, it’s hard to argue with the value Google brings with the Pixel 6a, and there’s no real competition with the cameras. They’re the very best you’ll get on any phone under $500.

Motorola One 5G Ace standing against a brick wall.

(Image credit: Android Central)

Motorola One 5G Ace

Display: 6.7-inch LCD, Full HD+ | Processor: Snapdragon 750G | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 128GB | Cameras: 48MP wide, 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro, 16MP front | Charging: 15W | Battery: 5,000mAh | Water resistance : IP52 | Dimensions: 166.1 x 76.1 x 9.9mm | Weight: 212g

Fast Snapdragon 750G with 6GB of RAM

Fantastic battery life

Headphone jack

5G supported

Bland design

Camera performance isn’t great

Older Android version

Like we said in our Motorola One 5G Ace review (opens in new tab) we realized this is a budget phone with a set of features that makes it one of the best choices for someone that wants a long battery life with decent performance. The Snapdragon 750G with 6GB RAM under the hood keeps this phone humming along with solid performance in most apps, and the huge 5,000mAh battery makes sure you can keep going all day without a charge — and maybe even a second day.

The display is nothing special at 6.7 inches, with a Full HD+ resolution running at 60Hz, but it’s still solid for the price. The 128GB of storage is plenty for a lot of apps and pictures, and can even be expanded with a microSD card. The cameras are alright, and the 48MP main shooter can actually capture some solid images in good lighting. Ultra-wide photos are also decent and a good color match to the main camera. 

One of the biggest drawbacks of this phone is the software. Motorola released this device with Android 10, but it has since been updated to Android 11. Motorola also lists this as one of the devices it expects to update to Android 12. However, the update is still nowhere to be found for some carriers like AT&T. At least the phone is only $200 these days, making it the best budget Android phone with the best battery life.

A close-up look at the cameras on the back of the Samsung Galaxy A32

(Image credit: Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G

Best Samsung phone under $300

Display: 6.4-inch TFT, 720×1600 | Processor: MediaTek MT6853 Dimensity 720 5G | RAM: 4/6/8GB | Storage: 128GB | Cameras: 48MP primary, 8MP ultra-wide, 5MP macro, 5MP depth, 13MP selfie | Charging: 15W wired | Battery: 5,000 mAh | Water Resistance: IP67 | Dimensions: 164.2 x 76.1 x 9.1mm | Weight: 205g

Attractive design

Great cameras

90Hz AMOLED display is excellent

Three platform updates

Long battery life

Can be a bit laggy with heavy use

“Fast” charging is only 15W

Samsung’s lineup of mid-tier Android phones has gotten a lot better in recent years, with one of the latest examples being this one as shown in our full Galaxy A32 5G review (opens in new tab). This is at the mid-range of Samsung’s more affordable Galaxy phones, and it should absolutely be on your shortlist.

The heart of the Galaxy A32 5G is its 48MP primary camera, and photos taken with it look excellent despite what you might expect at this price. There’s a lot of detail, good dynamic range, and vibrant colors. To help expand the types of pictures you can take, the A32 5G is also equipped with an 8MP wide-angle camera, a 5MP macro camera, and a 5MP portrait camera.

Outside of the camera department, the Galaxy A32 5G is just as impressive. It delivers a quality 6.4-inch TFT display at 720p, decent performance in day-to-day tasks thanks to its MediaTek MT6853 Dimensity 720 5G, and a beefy 5,000 mAh battery that allows for long endurance. Tie all of that together with USB-C charging and a headphone jack, and you end up with quite the package.

Holding the Samsung Galaxy A13 and showing off the glossy back

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy A13 5G

Best carrier phone under $200

Display: 6.5-inch HD+ PLS LCD, 720 x 1600, 90Hz refresh rate | Processor: Mediatek Dimensity 700 | RAM: 4GB or 6GB | Storage: 64GB or 128GB | Cameras: 50MP primary, 2MP macro, 2MP depth sensor, 5MP selfie | Charging: 15W wired | Battery: 5,000mAh | Water Resistance: ❌ | Dimensions: 164.5 x 76.5 x 8.8 mm | Weight: 195 g

Less than $200

Side-mounted fingerprint sensor

Two-day (or longer) battery life

Good camera during the day

5G connectivity

microSD card support

Not good for gaming

Dim display

Slow charging

Macro camera is useless

Samsung offers great phones at just about any price point, and the Galaxy A13 5G is no exception. Many U.S. carriers offer this phone for free or just a few dollars per month, so picking one up when you’re on a very tight budget is practically a no-brainer. If you need an unlocked phone for under $200, check out the TCL 20S below.

As with any phone under $200, you shouldn’t expect the world from the Galaxy A13 5G. While the processor is just fine for scrolling through social media, browsing the web, or chatting with friends, it’s not going to do much for gaming. Sure, simple 2D games like Angry Birds are just fine but anything more graphically intense won’t run very well (or at all).

The display is also a bit dim and it charges slowly compared to more expensive phones, but you won’t have to worry about charging often thanks to the huge battery inside. That, combined with the low-power processor means you’ll have no trouble getting 2-days of battery life out of the A13 5G. I’ve seen the phone last nearly a week on a charge with very light use, so there’s potential here for longer than 2-day battery life depending on usage.

It’s also got a side-mounted fingerprint sensor located in the power button which, to me, is the best kind of fingerprint sensor. It’s super responsive and already located in a place you’re naturally tapping when you pick up the phone.

As the name suggests, it’s also got 5G connectivity, so downloading apps or watching videos on the go should give you a great experience. The Galaxy A13 supports microSD cards which helps negate the fact that it only ships with 64GB of internal storage.

If you can believe it, that 50MP camera will get you some pretty impressive pictures during the day, which isn’t always expected in this price range. Low-light photos leave a lot to be desired but at least there’s a flash on the back to help make up for that.

Showing off the fingerprint quick launch feature on the TCL 20S

(Image credit: Android Central)


Best unlocked phone under $300

Display: 6.67-inch FHD+ LCD, 2400×1080, 60Hz refresh rate | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 64GB | Cameras: 64MP primary, 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro, 2MP depth, 16MP selfie | Charging: 18W wired | Battery: 5,000 mAh | Water Resistance: ❌ | Dimensions: 162.2 x 76.9 x 9.1mm | Weight: 199g

Crisp and vibrant display

5,000 mAh battery

Has an NFC chip

Improved primary camera

OTG reverse charging

Supports T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon LTE

No 5G

No official IP water-resistance rating

TCL has been at the helm of phones under the Alcatel and BlackBerry brands, but with the TCL 20S, the company is finally entering the Android space with a device under its own name. Surprisingly, it’s one of the most feature-rich budget handsets you can buy right now. Our full TCL 20S review (opens in new tab) found that, while the phone’s performance made it feel a bit dated, it’s hard to argue with the price, especially now that the phone can be readily found for $150.

Starting with its display, the TCL 20S offers a 6.67-inch FHD+ LCD panel with its NXTVISION screen technology — offering true-to-life colors, great viewing angles, and support for HDR video content. If you want to use the display to showcase games, the Snapdragon 665 processor with 4GB of RAM offers more than enough horsepower to keep everything running smoothly.

Also offered are four rear cameras, including a 64MP primary camera, 8MP ultra-wide camera, 2MP macro camera, and 2MP depth camera. The actual image quality isn’t the very best we’ve ever seen, but the fact that you have so many sensors to work with allows for lots of shooting possibilities. It’s also got a faster processor than most phones in this price range, which is helpful for everyday tasks.

Rounding out the feature list is a huge 5,000 mAh battery, USB-C charging, NFC for Google Pay, and it comes in two fabulous colors, North Star Blue and Milky Way Black. Plus, you can use your 20S to charge another device thanks to its OTG reverse charging capability.

TCL just announced the TCL 40 series (opens in new tab) at CES 2023 in early January so a proper replacement for the TCL 20S should be on the way soon. Hopefully, it’s more widely available than the TCL 30 series which was hard to find since its announcement in 2022.

Seafoam Green Moto G Stylus 5G (2022) with gradient background

(Image credit: Motorola)

Moto G Stylus 5G (2022)

Best stylus phone under $500

Display: 6.8-inch LCD, 2400×1080, 120Hz refresh rate | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G | RAM: 4GB/6GB/8GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB | Cameras: 50MP primary, 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP depth sensor | Charging: 18W Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 wired | Battery: 5,000 mAh | Water Resistance: Water-repellent coating | Dimensions: 168.9 x 75.8 x 9.3mm | Weight: 215g

Included stylus for writing/drawing

Three rear cameras

Good all-around specs

Works with every U.S. carrier

Big battery

3.5mm headset jack

No water or dust resistance

It can be challenging to keep track of all the value phones Motorola has in its lineup, but one that manages to stand out is the Moto G Stylus 5G (2022) (opens in new tab). Along with being one of the few Android phones that comes with a built-in stylus, it’s also just a perfect combination of specs, features, and value. Motorola also offers a less expensive Moto G Stylus (2022) (opens in new tab) but, as you would expect, it’s missing 5G and some other important features when compared with the Moto G Stylus 5G (2022).

You’re getting a large 6.8-inch display that looks great, and thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate, this one will feel a lot more expensive than it is because of the smooth presentation. There’s also ample performance thanks to the Snapdragon 695 processor, along with 128GB of built-in storage and a very large 5,000 mAh battery. Given the affordable price of the G Stylus, these are all impressive specifications.

As the name implies, the main draw to the Moto G Stylus 5G (2022) is its built-in stylus experience. It’s certainly not the most premium stylus we’ve ever used, but it works well enough for drawing, note-taking, etc. It can also be stored seamlessly at the bottom of the phone when you aren’t using it, which is a nice touch that ties the whole experience together.

Motorola includes NFC in the Moto G Stylus 5G (2022) — unlike most of its budget phones — but there’s still no IP rating for water or dust resistance. It launches with Android 12 and will see an update to Android 13, including three years of security updates to ensure your phone stays safe while you own it.

How to decide which cheap Android phone to buy

The side-mounted fingerprint sensor on the Samsung Galaxy A13

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Most people have a budget to stick to, and that’s where deciding the right budget-minded phone comes into play. You want to pick a phone that’s not just in your budget, but one that will last a while, too. That way you’re not spending even more on yet another phone down the road.

But before you ever think about a phone’s processor, cameras, or storage space, you need to think about connectivity. All modern phones support Bluetooth earbuds and Wi-Fi, but not all phones support all cellular networks. Make sure the phone you’re looking for supports your network of choice, especially if choosing an unlocked phone from the list.

The quickest way to end up with a phone that feels sluggish and old is to undersell yourself on the phone’s chipset.

Next, keep a phone’s processor in mind before pressing that buy button. The quickest way to end up with a phone that feels sluggish and old is to undersell yourself on the phone’s chipset.

Lots of phones feature Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors, but that doesn’t mean all of them are worthwhile. Unless your budget absolutely doesn’t allow for anything faster, you probably want to avoid any phone powered by a Snapdragon 400-series or lower chipset. Those phones are really only good as communication devices and for browsing the web or social media.

Likewise, MediaTek’s Dimensity series of processors are the only ones you want to consider from the company. Phones like the TCL Stylus 5G (opens in new tab) — which is only available at T-Mobile — sport the excellent MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G chipset, which is speedy enough for just about anything you throw at it.

Moto G Stylus 5G (2022)

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

Storage isn’t much of a concern these days thanks to excellent cloud storage services like Google Photos.

You’ll also want to make sure your new phone has at least 4GB of RAM if you’re ever planning on doing more than one thing at a time on it. Less RAM means the phone has less operating space for apps, creating a scenario where apps take a long time to load and often have to reload if you switch back and forth between apps.

Storage isn’t much of a concern these days thanks to excellent cloud storage services like Google Photos (opens in new tab), which can offload the photos and videos you’ve taken to a safe and secure cloud drive. That means they not only won’t be taking up precious space on your phone but they’ll also be backed up in case something happens to your phone.

Services like Google Photos also archive your photos and make it easy to search for even the most minute details, like your old black and white cat, or the blue shoes you wore to that wedding several years ago.

With a few exceptions, the camera on the phones above will all deliver a good experience in most lighting conditions.

Cameras on smartphones have become increasingly important over the years and, with a few exceptions, the phones above will all deliver a good experience in most lighting conditions. As these are less expensive phones, you’ll need to be aware that most models will only take great pictures in adequate light. Phones like the Google Pixel 6a or Samsung Galaxy A53 5G offer great low-light support, and that function is becoming more common on phones even under $300 these days.

No phone on this list has poor battery life, but some folks might have a unique need for a smartphone to last more than a single day on a full charge. We’ve noted that several options above will offer that but specifically highlight one phone as having the best battery life of them all.

The bottom line on cheaper Android phones

The Motorola Edge (2022) and Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Most Android phones these days are pretty good, but a few stand above the rest. We’ve outlined many of our favorites here but if you want a few more options and are on a tighter budget, we’ve got picks for the best phones under $300 (opens in new tab) and the best phones under $100 (opens in new tab) . Each of these categories comes with a few concessions but, if you’re looking for a specific niche — like a stylus — you’ll find a few more options there.

Just remember, though, that you’re paying hundreds less than what it costs to buy a Galaxy S22 Plus (opens in new tab) or Pixel 7 Pro (opens in new tab). While those phones might offer faster processors, better cameras, or brighter screens, they’re extremely expensive to replace if they accidentally get broken. Splurging on the best overall phone that throws in everything and the kitchen sink isn’t always the ideal solution — especially when you’re looking to cut costs.

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