The world of the high-value cheap android smartphones continues its relentless push forward with the launch of new flagships but not everybody either wants or can afford to spend an exorbitant amount of money on their next smartphone.
The reality is that there’s no real reason to spend the cost of a new computer or a used car on a smartphone either. Most smartphones above a certain price and value point will more than meet the needs of most users. The majority of those will be replaced by users with a new gadget within just a few years.
Fortunately, the technology keeps moving forward too, whittling away at the contrasts between a ‘premium’ device and a ‘budget’ device. That shift offers potential buyers a bit more flexibility when it comes to brands and models.
Top 10 Best Budget Smartphones 2021 Summary
But not all high-value Android smartphones are quite up to par and some could legitimately be described as ‘cheap’ in the pejorative sense. There are still plenty of differences and caveats to consider for those looking for a great experience that suits their individual needs. Given the sheer number of OEMs and devices to consider, choosing one can be a daunting task. Here at Android Headlines, we do a lot of research and reviews to help make the decision easier.
That doesn’t mean that every device that deserves placement here is going to have earned it. Device evaluations are subjective and there are dozens upon dozens of devices to select from. A significant portion of those may suit any single user’s needs as well as the phones listed here.
With that in mind, here’s our take on the top devices available to buy now. Each offers a great value to users that we feel surpasses all others without breaking the bank.
Below the summary, you’ll find a slightly longer description of each item along with the where to buy links.
Where to buy
OnePlus Nord N10 5G
POCO X3 NFC
Moto G Power
Samsung Galaxy A51
TCL 10L/10 Pro
Samsung Galaxy A71 5G
Google Pixel 4a
Best world-ready cheap Android smartphone
OnePlus Nord N10 5G
Where to buy: OnePlus
OnePlus is a company that’s well-known for its “flagship killers” and Nord N10 5G brings those same values to the mid-range. Not only does this smartphone deliver all the bands you’d need to access mobile networks in the US and abroad. And it doesn’t just offer one of the best Android UI overlays on the market, either. This phone is great almost across the board.
To begin with, OnePlus Nord N10 5G brings great battery life for its price. Under review, it garnered around 11-hours of screen-on time. And that’s despite packing a Snapdragon 690 chipset driving a 6.49-inch 90Hz FullHD+ display panel. This phone took less than an hour to charge up.
On the design front, the hardware is exceedingly well-put-together too. The design is much closer to a flagship than to a budget phone, with glass all around and coloration that adds sophistication without breaking the bank.
Cameras continue that trend, with OnePlus including a snapper that will get the work done under just about any circumstances. Especially in daytime shots, the 64-megapixel shooter captures high detail in HDR quality with clarity and ease.
But the headlining feature here, or one of them at the very least, is 5G. The Nord N10 5G from OnePlus is more than ready to take you to the next level of mobile networking. Without charging a whole lot of money for access.
Buy OnePlus Nord N10 5G
Best cheap smartphone for gamers
POCO X3 NFC
Price: From $269
Where to buy: Amazon
If you’re looking for the best cheap mobile gaming experience, look no further than Xiaomi-associated POCO. Specifically, the Snapdragon 732G-powered POCO X3 NFC. Not only does this budget-friendly flagship-like cost under $300. It lasts up to 7+ hours on a single charge and charges relatively quickly. That’s despite a 6.67-inch FHD+ HDR10-compatible display rated at 120Hz for refresh and 240Hz for its touch rate.
Backing up that hardware is up to 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. So there’s plenty of room for games to be stored and plenty of memory for those to play at their highest settings. Solid 4G, NFC, Bluetooth 5.1, and WiFi 5 connectivity round things out when it comes to getting connected too.
Now, there isn’t much by way of gaming-related lighting or visual customization with the POCO X3 NFC. Its focus is squarely on offering lag-free performance without overheating. But there is a power-mounted fingerprint scanner, an IR Blaster for controlling a TV soundbar, or other electronics, and a great camera on board.
Better still, a stylish Cobalt Blue or more subdued Shadow Gray coloration is available. So users can pick up whichever fits their personality best and design hasn’t been completely ignored.
Poco X3 NFC – Amazon – $249.02
Best cheap rugged Android smartphone
Price: From $249.95
Where to buy: Amazon
Finding a good rugged smartphone can be a hassle. Especially since they tend to either not work with US carriers or to be so low-powered as to render them effectively useless. And that’s where the Bullitt Group-built, Caterpillar CAT S42 enters the equation in our list of the best, relatively cheap, Android smartphones.
Engineered for reasonable performance, battery life, and exceptional protection against wear and tear, this is arguably the phone to buy for its ruggedization.
Setting aside the 4200mAh battery, quad-core 1.8GHz processor, Android 11, and frequent security patches offered with this device, it’s really made to survive the harshest conditions users can throw at it. And that’s because the CAT S42 is designed to be dropped onto steel, without a case, from 6-feet. Summarily, CAT S42 has achieved MIL-SPEC 810H certification and IP68 water- and dust-proof ratings. It’s also protected against thermal shock, vibration, humidity, and salt mist.
Perhaps as importantly, that’s topped by a reasonable camera, a bright and responsive 5.5-inch HD+ Gorilla Glass 5 screen, and decent audio. A 3.5mm audio port is included as well. And all of the latest hardware and component features are part of the package too. All but making up for the 3GB RAM and 32GB storage — expandable up to 256GB via a standalone microSD card slot.
CAT S42 – Amazon – $249.95
Best cheap smartphone for battery life
Moto G Power
For those who are looking at smartphones that are cheap but have a ton of battery without skimping on power, Motorola has stepped forward its ‘Power’-branded offerings this year with the launch of the Android 10-powered Moto G Power. And it’s available unlocked for use on all GSM carriers.
The now-Lenovo-owned Moto division built the G Power with to serve those who need a smartphone that can last up to 3 days. But Motorola also stuffed its latest G-series smartphone with enough specs to fit in just about anywhere. To begin with, there’s a respectable 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, doubling down on last year’s G7 Power.
That hardware is backing up an updated Snapdragon 665 SoC. There should be plenty of performance to power through most smartphone tasks and even enough for most mobile games without issue.
The company also built-in a 5,000mAh capacity battery to drive the other components. That’s including a 10W fast-charging system this time around. So, not only is that coupled with a more battery efficient chipset. Moto made sure this handset will refuel comparatively quickly.
The previously released Moto G7 Power was capable of surviving two full days of use still left the 30-percent to 50-percent battery mark remaining. That’s a serious step above what’s usually available in the mid-range value segment. At just under $250, if battery life is what really matters, this device should only improve on that and at a price that is well worth the expenditure.
Moto G Power – Motorola – $249.99
Best cheap smartphone under $350
Samsung Galaxy A51
Price: From $349
Where to buy: Samsung
The Samsung Galaxy A-series is now a firmly-set staple when it comes to high-performance, high-value Android smartphones on the cheap. Centered in the middle of that range is Samsung’s newest available entry, the Galaxy A51. Like other handsets in the Galaxy A-Series, this Samsung handset is all about testing experimental upcoming features for flagships. For end-users, that means it delivers a flagship-like experience at a fraction of the cost.
The Galaxy A51 comes in at a slightly higher cost than its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy A50. It starts out at $349.99 in the US, direct from Samsung. An upgraded in-house Exynos processor lies at the center of the price increase, as well as a larger 6.5-inch Super AMOLED 6.4-inch slim-bezel Super AMOLED Infinity-O display. In the states, that’s backed by 4GB RAM with 6GB available internationally and up to 128GB storage.
The big-ticket item, however, is its quad-camera array centered around a 48-megapixel primary snapper with Super Steady OIS Mode. An-display fingerprint scanner, top-tier Android 10-based OneUI 2.0 software experience, and fast charging 4,000mAh capacity battery round things out.
Of course, that’s loaded with the same features found in the reputation-building flagship Galaxy S series. And it’s all packed into a premium-looking frame that’s delivered in
All of that is packed into a frame that comes in three colors. Those include a gradient-laced Black, White, or Pink, although US buyers appear stuck with just the black option for now.
Fans of Samsung would do well to start their buying process by considering the Samsung Galaxy A51 or the next entry in place of its much pricier flagships. At under $350 in the US, the Galaxy A51 performs and delivers its complete package at a bargain.
Samsung Galaxy A51 – Samsung – $289.99
Best cheap smartphones for a great display
TCL 10 Pro/10L
Price: From $249.99
Where to buy: Amazon
Any discussion surrounding the best cheap Android smartphones on the market would be remiss to exclude the TCL 10 series. That includes the TCL 10L and TCL 10 Pro. These two devices are easily a cut above the rest for their price.
Now, other devices here, it’s fair to start by pointing out that there’s no waterproofing rating for this device. But, due mostly to TCL’s history and a partnership with Pixelworks, these phones arguably have the best display in their class. In fact, they function much more closely to flagships than just about any device at their price point. And there are plenty of advanced features and options underneath to ensure a personalized experience.
That personalized experience carries over to the OS side for both handsets too. With Android 10 and at least one update guaranteed atop frequent security updates promised, this device is nearly stock where it matters. If users want a gesture-driven experience, they can have it. If they like more traditional navigation or a combined experience, that’s possible too. Meanwhile, the app drawer functions as a straightforward aftermarket launcher. And there’s no lag to speak of on either device.
The primary differences are going to be in…