Your buying guide for the best budget phones in 2017
In our experience the best way to get a cheap phone is to buy it SIM-free then grab a great-value SIM-only deal. You won't be paying £50-odd per month for a phone for the next two years, and you can swap it for a newer model whenever you fancy it.
All the phones here cost under £200 (higher than our previous limit of £150 to reflect the changing market), which is just a third of the price you'd often pay for flagships such as the Galaxy S8, HTC 10 and LG G6 - take a look at our guide to the best phones on the market for more on those flagships.
Ranked in order below are our reviews of what we consider to be the best budget phones on sale right now. We've based this chart on the SIM-free price, specifications and performance.
You can click on a phone in which you're interested to read the full review, see example photos from the camera, and check out the benchmark results. And if you're ready to buy one, check out our best phone deals to make sure you find the best price.
If you're after a phone for under £50 take a look at our Best basic phones roundup, which includes decent phones that trade off features for the best prices and cost from just £10.
Should I buy a locked phone?
You'll quickly find that some of the best deals on cheap phones are sold via mobile operators. What you need to watch for is whether these phones are sold locked to that operator's network.This is the case with the Vodafone Smart Prime 7, but if you don't want to become a Vodafone customer you should look elsewhere on the list for a non-network-branded handset, such as the Moto G5.
What about a Chinese phone?
An alternative is to buy a Chinese phone - you'll find some of these in our chart too. You might not have heard of the brands, and they won't be available on the UK High Street (save for the likes of Huawei and ZTE), but Chinese phones are well-known for offering amazing specs for the money and undercutting their European rivals.
In most cases you'll get a phone with a mid-range specification at a budget price. Also see: What is Android Go?
Of course there are down sides - for example, what should you do if a phone bought from China is faulty? We've rounded up the major pitfalls in our article on buying grey-market tech, but if you're still interested you should see our round-up of the best Chinese phones for 2017.
What's the best phone for a child?
If you're looking for a budget phone for a child, look at our selection of the best kids' phones which includes some of the best budget phones along with a few others particularly well-suited to kids.
What will you get for your money?
If you're looking for a cheap phone, you have to accept the fact that the manufacturer is going to cut some corners to achieve that low price and you aren't going to get the same speed, features, and display quality as you might with a phone costing two, three, or even four times the price.
It used to be the case that budget phones were instantly recognisable by their low-resolution displays, meagre storage, and chunky, plastic bodies, but things are improving in this area all the time. These days, for £200 or less it's quite possible to buy a phone with a full-HD display and an 8mm-thick metal body.
Most will support 4G connectivity, but not all will support NFC (Chinese phones will often feature HotKnot which is a similar technology, but not the same as NFC.)
1. Moto G5
- Reviewed on: 11 July 2017
There’s plenty of competition in Android’s budget market, but the Moto G5 is the best around right now. The build quality alone feels like it belongs on a much more expensive phone, while the fingerprint gesture controls genuinely improve the Android experience. The benchmarks and battery hold it back, but they're not unreasonable given the price - and you won't find a much better looking phone at £169. All that said, it may be worth holding on until 25 July when Motorola may be announcing a premium version of the G5 and G5 Plus.
Read our Moto G5 review.
- Reviewed on: 25 July 2017
A similar performer to the UK’s best budget phone, the Moto G5, but with enhanced cameras and more storage, the Elephone P8 Mini is a great buy if you’re happy to import it from China.
Read our Elephone P8 Mini review.
3. Lenovo P2
- Reviewed on: 26 January 2017
The Lenovo P2 is really being sold on the strength of its battery, and the great news is that it lives up to the company’s hype, offering you days of usage and a power bank in a pinch. Throw in the premium design and build quality, and you have a phone that delivers tremendous value for money. It may not boast flagship performance, but by the time you hit your third day without charging, you’re not likely to care that much.
Read our Lenovo P2 review.
- Reviewed on: 30 May 2017
Overall, we enjoy the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus. It's an all-rounder, with features you'd expect from a flagship such as its fingerprint sensor and gorgeous design. But when you dig deeper you notice the flaws that better reflect its price tag, which is a bit of a shame. Closer inspection of its design shows that it's a bit rough around the edges, and the screen quality and battery life are beaten by similarly priced rivals. Therefore it's a tricky one to offer a solid verdict on. For the price, you're getting a good phone that looks deceivingly premium, but you could opt for the Moto G5 for a better screen and similar overall features at a lower price.
Read our Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus review.
5. UMI Z
- Reviewed on: 31 January 2017
The UMI Z is an excellent-value Android phone with a large battery, a decent screen, the most powerful MediaTek processor you can get and a very good selfie camera. Unfortunately the primary camera doesn't quite live up, but it's otherwise difficult to fault. With full UK 4G connectivity it's a great buy.
Read our UMI Z review.
6. Elephone S7
- Reviewed on: 12 January 2017
The Elephone S7 is a very good-looking phone at an affordable price, with decent performance and a generous helping of storage. On the down side the cameras are disappointing and the rear panel is plastic. Even at this price you don't need to compromise so heavily.
Read our Elephone S7 review.
- Reviewed on: 13 July 2016
The Moto G4 Plus is a nice phone but it's very similar to the regular model. Since we're disappointed in the camera (with no noticeable difference), it's not worth paying the extra money to get a fingerprint scanner which can't even be used with Android Pay since there's no NFC. The only real reason to opt for the Plus is to gain more storage and the extra RAM which comes with the 64GB model; however, the Micro-SD card slot negates this somewhat.
Read our Motorola Moto G4 Plus (2016) review.
- Reviewed on: 29 June 2016
We like the improved design of the Smart Prime 7 and Vodafone has even dropped the price, even if it is by £4. You get a decent phone for the money but we can't help but be a little disappointed by the downgrade to a Snapdragon 210 and that the camera is suddenly limited to 720p. Prime 6 owners have little reason to upgrade and although you can't go too wrong for just £75 you might be better off spending a little more on a better rival.
Read our Vodafone Smart Prime 7 review.
- Reviewed on: 8 May 2017
It isn’t a huge upgrade over the Redmi Note 3 or Note 4, but the Note 4X Global edition is a fine budget phone for UK users.
Read our Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X review.
10. Xiaomi Redmi 3S
- Reviewed on: 11 August 2016
Right now the Redmi 3S Pro is available for just an extra £5 over the 3S, but ordinarily we would have said you will struggle to find better value for money than what is offered by Xiaomi's new Redmi 3S. This budget Android phone is feature-packed and capable, and has a new fingerprint scanner. You can't expect any more for £120, just remember that Google Play isn't installed out of the box.
Read our Xiaomi Redmi 3S review.