1. Realme 6
The Realme 6 is hands-down one of the best budget phones we've ever tested.
It's slightly chunky size won't be for everyone but this is currently the cheapest phone you can buy with a 90Hz display and it also has some decent cameras, speedy performance and solid battery life.
There's very little to dislike, especially when you can get it for just over £200. It can rival phones more than double the price.
Read our full Realme 6 review
2. Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S
The Redmi Note 9S is one of the best budget phones we've seen. This is a fantastic phone for less than £200, a real all-rounder with decent performance and cameras, as well as mind-blowing battery life. The Redmi recorded the longest time in the Geekbench 4 battery life test that we've seen to date.
We are not fans of the rear camera module, and the lack of NFC in some territories is a shame, but those niggles aside it ticks all our boxes at this price point.
A fine example of not a lot of money very well spent.
Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S review
3. Oppo A9 2020
The Oppo A9 2020 is a budget handset the manages to excel in multiple areas - with an attractive design, a 48MP quad-camera and a massive 5000mAh battery that outshines even some of the most expensive phones on the market.
It's not without faults, of course. Though the battery life is excellent, there's no fast charging. Though the night mode on the camera is stellar, the user-experience of taking photos really needs refining to be simpler and cleaner.
For the price point, however, you're getting a very good camera smartphone that feels high-end and a device that won't die on you quickly. For these reasons we'd definitely say that the Oppo A9 2020 is a budget contender.
Read our full Oppo A9 2020 review
4. Xiaomi Redmi Note 9
If you're on a tight budget, Redmi Note 9 is a fantastic smartphone below £200. It ticks a great many boxes and, though it isn't flawless, you can't argue with the value it offers.
Though it's plastic it is well designed, and it comes with impressive-sounding features such as a quad-lens camera that performed mostly well in our tests, save for lacking some finer detail.
There's enough power for casual users, though we had hoped for better performance from the huge-capacity 5,020mAh battery.
Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 review
5. Realme 6i
Compared to its older brother - the Realme 6 - the 6i loses out on that 90Hz display and embraces some lower specs too.
However, a big battery and surprisingly-premium features like NFC and a quad-camera setup on the back make this a compelling affordable buy.
Read our full Realme 6i review
6. Oppo A5 2020
The Oppo A5 2020 is a great affordable option without making too many compromises. With a huge 5000mAh battery, a classy exterior design and a big display, you'd find it hard to believe that it's priced at just £179.99.
Of course the quad camera doesn't quite match up to it's rivals - with just a 12Mp main lens and limited options, especially when it comes to low light. However, at this price compromises are expected, and these downfalls don't quite detract from what is a powerful entry-level phone.
Read our full Oppo A5 2020 review
7. Moto e6s
Once you recognise just how cheap the Moto e6s is, it’s hard not to be impressed by everything you’re getting.
Performance, an area cheap phones so often cut corners, is surprisingly great despite what the benchmarks tell you. There was no need for Motorola to change what was already great software, while the modern design does a good job of imitating more expensive handsets.
The cameras are a bit hit and miss, but if you’re prepared to be patient it will pleasantly surprise you. There are compromises dotted throughout the Moto e6s, but for what you’re paying these are incredibly easy to forgive.
Read our full Moto e6s review
8. Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T
The Note 8 line-up has now been replaced by the Note 9 series, but the Redmi Note 8T is still available and at a lower price it offers extraordinary value.
This is a mid-ranger with a budget price, offering a 48Mp quad-lens camera, a 6.3in AMOLED display, a 4,000mAh battery and a capable Snapdragon 665 processor.
It also adds NFC and 18W wired charging to the standard Redmi Note 8.
Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T review
9. Moto G8 Power
If battery life is your main concern the Moto G8 Power is the best budget phone for battery right now, and one of the best for simple software too, with stock Android shipped as standard.
On the downside it’s not much of a looker, it can get a little sluggish, and while the main camera lens is fine the additional shooters - an ultra-wide, telephoto, and macro - don’t add much.
This price point is all about compromises and priorities though, so you’ve got to decide what matters most to you. And if that’s battery, then look no further.
Read our full Moto G8 Power review
10. Xiaomi Redmi 7A
The Redmi 7A offers a lot of smartphone for under £100, with a decent camera, great battery life and solid speakers among the highlights.
However, there are a number of frustrations which affect everyday usage, most notably the paltry 2GB of RAM.
If you’re on a strict budget this is a good option, but we’d recommend spending just a few pounds extra to get a more complete experience.
Read our full Xiaomi Redmi 7A review
Your buying guide to the best budget phones in 2020
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. This is especially the case for cheap Chinese phones, with which you usually can't get a contract.
All the phones here cost under £250/$250, which is up to a quarter of the price you'd often pay for select flagship phones - take a look at our guide to the best phones on the market for more on those high-end offerings. We may occasionally put a phone it if it's only just over the limit.
Below are what we consider to be the best cheap phones on sale right now. We've based this rundown on their SIM-free pricing, 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 benchmarking 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 out 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 some of the brands featured and many aren't 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, not to mention undercutting their more established rivals.
Of course, there are downsides - 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 2020.
What's the best phone for a child?
Most children want to make up their own mind about phones as they enter young adulthood, but if they're a little younger you'll probably want to make the decision for them.
You'll want to look at something ultra-affordable for a first smartphone, so you've come to the right place. It'll need to have a decent sized screen, long battery life and be fairly durable, so you should probably avoid phones with a glass back.
As it'll probably be your main point of contact with your child, you'll also want it to have good call quality, something that's often overlooked on modern smartphones.
Which phone is best for students?
That's a tricky one. Much like the general market, it depends what you're looking for in a phone.
We'd recommend a more affordable phone here too, but many of the options in this chart may be within reach.
General buying decisions should be whether you prefer a 'stock' version of Android (as is available on Google, Sony, Nokia and Motorola phones), or don't mind the heavier 'skin' seen on Samsung, Huawei and many Chinese phones.
Also, consider what the most important aspect of a phone is to you, and how many compromises you're willing to make in other areas. Many handsets at this price point will target one specific feature, meaning corners are inevitably cut elsewhere.
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 performance, features or display quality as that of 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 £250 or less, it's quite possible to buy a phone with a Full HD display, a svelte body and a camera that takes pictures you might actually want to share.
Most will support 4G connectivity but features like NFC, wireless charging and water resistance will likely be absent unless specifically stated.
Going forward, USB-C should become a standard for budget phones - a document unearthed by XDA-Developers notes that Google is demanding support for USB-C Power Delivery in all new Android devices and those updated to Android 9 or 10.