Flagship phones are more expensive than ever in 2019, but as the top-end gets better so do cheap smartphones. It's possible to buy a mobile phone on a budget of under £200/US$200 and still get a cell phone capable of everything you throw at it.
Our current favourite is the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7. It might not be the most familiar brand name but it is the best combination of value, specs and design.
The best budget phones are also more attractive in the long-term thanks to cheaper contract prices, though you might prefer to buy these smartphones outright and then pay only for your minutes, texts and data.
If value for money is your number-one priority, you won't find a more useful list of budget phones available in the UK, US and elsewhere. We've tested, rated and ranked the best cheap phones from Nokia, Motorola, Honor and other big brands, and alongside those reviews you'll also find our expert buying advice that can help you decide whether a particular cheap phone really is the bargain it seems.
Your buying guide to the best budget phones in 2019
In our experience the ideal 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. This is especially the case for cheap Chinese phones, for which you can't get a contract.
All the phones here cost under £200/$200, which is up to a quarter of the price you'd often pay for flagship phones - take a look at our guide to the best phones on the market for more on those high-end smartphones.
Ranked in order below are what we consider to be the best cheap phones on sale right now. We've based this chart on the SIM-free price as contracts change so often.
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.
Should you 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.
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 Xiaomi), 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.
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 2019.
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 same phones we have here 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 a sub 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.)
- Reviewed on: 15 July 2019
A mid-range phone with a budget price, it's difficult to argue with the incredible value offered by Redmi Note 7 - nothing even comes close to it in the UK budget phone market.
Looking more like the Mi flagship line than ever, it has a gorgeous all-glass design and rocks an impressive dual-camera with 48Mp lens.
With a big screen and all-day battery life, we love Redmi Note 7's headphone jack and IR blaster, dual-SIM functionality and microSD storage expansion, and given the low price can turn a blind eye to the lack of NFC and premium features such as an in-display fingerprint sensor, wireless charging and waterproofing.
General performance is decent, up there with other Snapdragon 660 phones costing around £350, and even Xiaomi's own Mi 9 SE, making this a great all-rounder.
Read our Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 review.
- Reviewed on: 17 July 2019
Budget Android phones don't come better than this. The Mi A2 Lite has a premium design with 19:9 notch display, dual rear cameras and decent performance. Storage is generous, and we like the fact you can bolster the 64GB internal space with microSD cards up to 256GB in capacity without sacrificing dual-SIM support. A great budget buy.
Read our Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite review.
- Reviewed on: 7 January 2019
Honor has done it again with the 10 Lite, one of the best budget smartphones you can buy. For just £200 it has the best battery life of a phone in its price range, a large screen and dual cameras.
Those cameras fall down in low light and it's a very clearly a plastic phone but the performance is excellent. It's up there alongside the Moto G range as the best cheap phone about.
Read our Honor 10 Lite review.
4. Elephone U2
- Reviewed on: 17 August 2019
A very strong contender at the sub-£250 price point, Elephone's U2 is a good-looking phone with a cool pop-up selfie camera and conveniently located fingerprint sensor. Under close scrutiny some corners have been cut, including the lack of support for NFC and personal audio, relatively slow charging and a disappointing camera app. Performance and design go a long way to making up for this, however.
Read our Elephone U2 review.
- Reviewed on: 18 February 2019
With a near-pure Android interface, the G7 Power is a decent alternative to Huawei and Honor's offerings around this price, and its huge battery means a comfortable two-day battery life that can easily be made to stretch to three if needed.
Read our Moto G7 Power review.
6. Moto G7 Play
- Reviewed on: 12 March 2019
The G7 Play is a solid smartphone that despite not having high-end internals can provide a smooth, lag-free mobile experience – even when playing demanding games like PUBG Mobile, and that’s impressive. The build quality is great despite the use of plastic on the rear, with fine detailing giving the G7 Play a more premium look.
Of course, there have to be concessions made in a sub-£150 smartphone, and in the case of the G7 Play, that’s the cameras. While images are generally well-lit, the lack of a decent autofocus system means that most of your pictures will come out looking a little bit soft.
Still, if you're not a photographer in-the-making, the Moto G7 Play is an impressive bit of kit and you’ll struggle to find something better at this price point.
Read our Moto G7 Play review.
7. Moto E5
- Reviewed on: 2 August 2018
The Moto E5 is one of the best budget phones around. Of course, you can spend a bit more and get something better but if you're looking for the cheapest phone around that won't make you want to throw it in the bin after a few days then this is it.
We're very impressed by the design and build quality along with a number of features including the screen, camera, fingerprint scanner and battery life.
Just bear in mind that you don't get some of the features available from more expensive alternatives.
Read our Moto E5 review.
- Reviewed on: 10 January 2019
Since the P Smart 2019 and Honor 10 Lite cost the same and are basically clones of each other, you're better off choosing the latter for its higher resolution front camera and bundled case.
Read our Huawei P Smart (2019) review.
9. Moto G6 Play
- Reviewed on: 16 November 2018
The Moto G6 Play is a great little surprise of a phone. It holds its own next to the other two G6 phones and has better battery life (and a cooler fingerprint sensor).
The 18:9 display and premium (but plastic) design means it feels just as well-made as phones double the price but doesn’t compromise on performance to do so.
With a headphone jack as a plus, a minus is micro-USB but we’ll forgive that on its strengths and can recommend the G6 Play as one of the best budget phones of 2018.
Read our Moto G6 Play review.
- Reviewed on: 19 June 2019
The highest compliment you can pay to this phone is that no-one would suspect it retails for just £105.
A modern design, superb battery life and above-par cameras mean there are few phones like it in the truly budget market. Of course, in an ideal world you’d have USB-C fast charging, a faster processor and a higher resolution screen, but at this price point we’re not complaining.
If you’re making your first foray into the smartphone world, or have become tired of spending hundreds of pounds on phones, the Smart V10 could be the phone for you, provided you are happy to be on Vodafone.
Read our Vodafone Smart V10 review.