The Best Cheap Smartphone for 2022
Looking for a new phone that won't wipe out your bank account? Whether you want a flip phone or a smartphone, we've gathered the best budget-friendly handsets on the market for around $200 or less.
Affordable phones are better than ever. Sure, you’ll still find plenty of flimsy handsets with dated software out there, but if you do some digging, there are lots of excellent flip phones and smartphones that work far better than their low prices suggest. If you're buying on a budget, we're here to help. We've gathered the top phones you can buy for just about $200 or less at carrier stores, along with the most important features to look for when shopping.
What to Look For in an Affordable Phone
While budget-friendly phones don't have all the perks that come along with midrange or flagship models, that doesn't mean you can't find a perfectly capable device to suit your needs. Let's start with the features we believe are absolutely essential when choosing a cheap phone. Keep in mind that most of these recommendations are for smartphones, so if you're in the market for a flip phone, many of these tips don't apply.
Battery Life: There are lots of variables to consider when it comes to battery life, but ultimately you want your phone to last at least until the end of the day. If you're shopping for a phone with a screen smaller than 6 inches, look for a battery capacity of 3,500mAh or higher. For phones with larger screens, you'll want to look for a minimum battery capacity of 4,500mAh.
Chipset: In Qualcomm's busy processor line, avoid any number lower than a Snapdragon 460, unless it's a flip/voice phone. Mediatek's Dimensity 700 line is also good, with the company's Helio line being a bit less appealing.
Compatibility: Before you make a purchase, you'll want to decide whether you're ready to jump on the 5G bandwagon or if you'd rather stick with LTE. No matter your choice, make sure your phone has the appropriate band support for your carrier. Search for 5G and LTE bands by the phone's model number, not its name. Once you have a list of bands, you can check out this handy article from Phone Scoop to make sure the phone will work on your carrier. You'll also want to know if the phone has support for the bands that best suit your needs. For example, T-Mobile customers in rural areas will want a phone with LTE band 71 support, while AT&T and Verizon customers will want to look out for C-band coverage on 5G phones.
2022 Moto G power
Connectivity: Connectivity has a huge impact on call quality and data speeds. For the most part, you're going to want a phone with a Qualcomm X12 or higher modem. If you're looking at flip phones, make sure the modem has voice over LTE (VoLTE), voice over Wi-Fi (VoWIFI), and Enhanced Voice Services (EVS) for the best call quality. You'll also want 802.11ac Wi-Fi as well as Bluetooth 4.1 or later.
Operating System: The current version of Android is Android 12, but very few budget phones have that. Don't go back any farther than Android 10 for security and compatibility reasons. Also, don't assume a budget phone will ever get an Android version upgrade, no matter what the manufacturer says.
RAM: Simply put, the more RAM the merrier. For phones under $200, look for at least 4GB of RAM. If you're willing to spend more, make sure you get a minimum of 6GB.
Storage: Like RAM, you can't have too much storage. Look for at least 32GB of storage on phones under $200, and make sure the phone has a microSD slot. If you spend more, you'll want no less than 64GB of storage, ideally with a microSD slot.
Not Essential, But Nice to Have
Once you have the essentials covered, you'll want to see what extra perks you can find. Keep in mind you won't find many of these features on the majority of budget-friendly phones, but chances are we'll start seeing them trickle out more over time.
Multi-Lens Cameras: Most affordable phones have multi-lens camera stacks that allow you to capture wide-angle and macro shots. For the most part, these phones can capture solid images with their primary and wide-angle cameras if you have a steady hand and good light. The macro lenses are almost always awful.
NFC: NFC is slowly making its way to the affordable phone market. It's a great feature to have as contactless payments become more popular.
Stereo Speakers: A handful of budget-friendly phones have stereo speakers and even advanced features such as custom tuning and Dolby audio. Though no phone is going to sound as good as even an inexpensive Bluetooth speaker, it's definitely an upgrade over a single driver.
Splash Resistance: Though we've yet to see a budget offering with an official ingress protection (IP) rating, a handful of affordable phones now feature splash resistance. They're usually treated with a nanocoating such as P2i and can withstand rain and other minor splashes, but not a drop in the pool.
Strengthened Glass: If you're spending more than $100 on a phone, it should have strengthened glass to protect the display from crack and scratches. Gorilla Glass 3 seems to be the standard for most budget models, but we've seen a few with Gorilla Glass 5. In general, each generation of Gorilla Glass is softer than the last; phones with Gorilla Glass 5 displays are less likely to shatter when dropped, but they're also more likely to accumulate hairline scratches.
What's the Cheapest iPhone?
You'll notice that we've made an exception in pricing here for the $399 iPhone SE. If you're looking for an affordable new iPhone, it's the one to get. The iPhone SE will likely be refreshed this spring with a new model, so wait for that to happen if you can. If all you have is $200, that will get you a used iPhone 8. Don't go older than that, as older models will start to lose compatibility with new software in the next year or two.
For more, see our in-depth explanation of which iPhone to buy.
Finally, see our stories on the best cheap phone plans and how to get the best price on a new phone. We also have a few other affordable options in our list of the best phones for seniors. And we'll be adding new phones here as we review them, so make sure to check back soon.