The beauty of Android is that you can find some amazing phones at some pretty low prices. Sure, you can go for the top phones on the market that cost more than $1,000. However, there’s always the chance that the life-changing phone you’re looking for is sitting at half of that price. In fact, some of the best Android phones are actually under $500.
That’s true! You’re looking for a phone that looks nice, has a pretty screen, sports some amazing speakers, or runs smoothly, right? Well, you don’t have to set your sights so high. There are phones out that show you that you don’t need the latest Galaxy S phone. So, here’s a guide to show you what great Android phones that you can buy for under $500.
Best phone under $100: TCL 40 XE
This is for you if you’re funds are low, but not your expectations
So, you’re looking for a phone that’s affordable enough not to burn a hole in your wallet; however, you still want a smartphone experience that’s not absolutely terrible. That’s a tough thing to ask for, but companies like TCL have your back. This company has the Verizon-exclusive TCL 40 XE 5G. This Verizon-exclusive phone comes in at only $99.99. At $99, most barely expect it to turn on, let alone provide a good experience. However, TCL has a way of making phones that are insanely good for their prices.
What makes this phone worth more than its price? It’s the all-around experience. Most phones in this price range are doomed to have a consistently slow and laggy experience. This phone, on the other hand, doesn’t have that issue. You’re able to use this phone perfectly fine without lag or stutters. You can check out our TCL 40 XE Review right here. During our testing, we found that there was only the occasional dropped frame in the software, and that wasn’t bad at all. You’ll be able to use this phone as you would any phone, and you won’t have to worry about a laggy UI.
But, the best thing about this phone is what you’re using to see the UI; the display. TCL makes its own high-quality displays, and it’s not shy about trickling it down to its phones. Not only is this a pretty display, but the company’s NXTVISION technology gives the videos and games you’re enjoying a nice boost. You’ll see more juicy colors and more contrast.
You’re getting a solid smartphone experience with an amazing display for only $100. This makes it one of the best phones on the market that you can get for that price. If you’re a Verizon customer, you should consider it.
Best bang for your buck: TCL 40 X 5G
TCL was able to deliver a phone that breaks boundaries, not the bank
If you’re looking for a high-reaching phone at a low price, then TCL is the company that you should look to. TCL has a way of making great phones that offer a solid overall experience without coming close to that $500 mark, and the TCL 40 X 5G is one of them.
The experience with this phone begins the second you pick it up. You’re instantly met with the feeling that this phone was built to last, and it is. We’re not talking about a rugged phone, but it’s much more sturdy than its price suggests. It can take drops and years of abuse and keep going, which is the true meaning of value. Gone are the days when an affordable phone meant a cheap phone.
The screen is probably the best part of the whole experience. TCL is a TV company, so it knows how to masterfully create a screen for its phones. The TCL 40 X 5G has a great display for the price. It’s not the sharpest, but it’s more than enough to make the content you’re watching look amazing. It uses technology that boosts the colors and contrast of videos and games, so you can enjoy your favorite visual media with an HDR experience.
There’s no point in having a nice screen if everything you’re looking at is slow. The TCL 40 X 5G runs smoothly. You don’t want a slow and laggy phone, no matter how cheap it is. There will be times when you notice some stutters, but the overall experience is really smooth.
You’re getting a phone with a smooth experience, an amazing display, the latest software from TCL, and a solid design. This is all for a mere $200. This is why this phone gives you the best bang for your buck. Read our TCL 40 X 5G Review for more information.
Best Software Features: OnePlus Nord N30
This is a phone for people who love to tinker with their software
Buying an affordable phone doesn’t mean that you have to settle for fewer features. Most cheaper phones have what is called “Stock Android”. Think of it as the most basic version of the software. But, what if you’re looking for a ton of fun and exciting features? You want to personalize your phone to your liking; you want something fresh and new. Well, it’s time to take a breath of Oxygen.
The OnePlus Nord N30 uses what’s called OxygenOS. Without getting too far into the details, this is a version of Android that has a ton of great and fun software features. You can change the shape of your app icons and even dial in how rounded the corners are on the icons. You can swipe from the edge of the display to compress all of the apps to the bottom when you can’t reach the top of your screen. How about being able to pop apps out into floating windows? That’s only a handful of the fun things you can do with the software on this phone.
The software experience is one part, but OnePlus truly made an amazing all-around phone that you’ll enjoy. It’s just so good in several ways, and you can read our OnePlus Nord N30 Review to know more.
However, here’s the gist of it. Using this phone is just a generally great experience. You’ll love it if you love watching movies and TV shows because the screen and speakers are just amazing. Maybe you just value smooth performance. Well, this phone is a powerful performer as well, just gliding through the software. This smooth performance also translates into the gaming department.
OnePlus made a phone that should cost much more than its price. However, this phone can be had for the price of $299.
Best stylus experience: Moto G Stylus 5G (2023)
This phone has such an optimized stylus experience
Motorola is one of the few companies making phones with built-in styluses. It’s also one of the very companies offering their phones for less than $1,000. The company has honed and perfected the stylus experience of its phones over the years, and the company delivered the most advanced model earlier this year.
The Moto G Stylus (2023) is the phone to get if you’re looking for a powerful stylus experience without paying the “Samsung Premium”.
What makes this phone to get over other phones? Well, we can talk about the specs all we want, but those aren’t important. What matters is the optimization. When you take the stylus out of the silo, you’re instantly greeted with a toolbar of the tools you can use. Do you need to take a quick screenshot? That’s in the toolbar. Do you need to record a part of your screen? That option’s also there.
Motorola has taken Android and morphed it around the stylus experience. You can handwrite notes, sign documents, and draw with it. You’re even able to take a note on the screen when the phone is locked. Also, you don’t even have to download 3rd-party software to do it. This functionality and utility are built right into the phone.
Along with the powerful stylus experience. This is a capable phone. Everything about the phone just comes together in this amazing harmony. You’ll love watching movies on the display, listening to music with the speaker, navigating the software, and gaming with the smooth performance. Not to mention, this is a stunning-looking device. The Motorola G Stylus 2023 is just an all-around amazing handset that you’ll love if you’re in the market for a phone with a built-in stylus. Who says that only premium phones can have a great stylus experience?
Best display: Samsung Galaxy A54 5G
You’re sure to get a cinema-like experience with this phone
If you’re looking for a phone with a great display, then you’ll want to go with a Samsung phone. Samsung is the “Display company”, and the company is not shy about decking out its cheaper phones with beautiful displays. In the case of the Galaxy A54, the display is a window to an equally beautiful smartphone experience. Using Samsung’s One UI software, you’re getting a powerful user experience.
Samsung has mastered the smartphone experience over the years, and it’s been able to optimize its software for less expensive phones. The Galaxy A54 is the next just a step behind the more expensive Galaxy S23, but you don’t feel it. The moment you pick up the phone, you’ll be hit with the feeling that you’re holding a premium flagship. It feels so sturdy that you know it can take a tumble and keep going. Not only that, but it also has the look of a true flagship.
Now, you’re likely going to want to use this phone for all of your movies and TV-watching. Well, that’s a good choice because Samsung gave this phone an amazing display. It’s one of the prettiest displays on a device of this price. You’re going to love watching all kinds of content and viewing your photos on this screen.
There’s almost no point in having a beautiful display if you can’t view it when you’re outside. So, along with being nice, the screen on this phone is very bright. Viewing it when outside is not an issue whatsoever.
The Galaxy A54 has so much going for it in the screen department. Not only that, but it’s also just a generally great phone, and it gives you a full-fledged Samsung Galaxy experience for an affordable price. It’s worth the price of $449 and so much more.
Best camera: Sony Xperia 10 V
This is proof that a pro camera experience isn’t reserved for expensive phones
Sony’s Xperia line of phones has long left the average consumer market with the top-tier handsets costing nearly $2000. However, the company decided to bring the Xperia formula down to a more affordable price point. The Xperia 10 V is the phone to get if you’re tired of missing out on the Sony experience.
Just about every smartphone’s camera is meant to give you a great point-and-shoot experience. This phone gives you a good experience, it’s more focused on giving you more control. When you’re using the camera, you can go to the manual camera mode. This is a mode for people who like to adjust their camera settings and craft the photo specifically to their liking.
The Sony Xperia 10 V is a great phone for you or a loved one who’s looking to get into photography but doesn’t have the funds for an expensive camera. Good cameras cost a lot of money and most cheaper cameras produce photos so bad that they’re not even worth it. The Xperia 10 V is an excellent middle ground between affordability and great camera performance.
What else makes this phone great? Well, this phone offers a great software experience through and through. The phone comes with a pretty pure version of Android, but Sony added some bits and pieces of its own influence to give it a unique flair. So, you’ll have a customized version of Android that performs great.
Aside from the camera, the best aspect of this phone is the battery life. On a single charge, you’re able to get more than a day and a half of light to moderate usage. If you’re going to be using the camera a lot, then you’ll still be able to get a full day out of this phone on a single charge.
Best battery life: Moto G Power 2023
This is a phone that can outlast your long workday
We’re all talking about the most powerful phones on the market with the best specs, but what’s more important than power is duration. Motorola is a master at crafting phones with excellent battery life, and it’s a shining example that you don’t need to pay a ton of money for that luxury. The Moto G Power 2023 is the latest in the line of phones that can power your day and then some.
This is the latest version of the phone, so you know that you’re getting an up-to-date experience. You’re not going to be missing out on powerful software features provided by Motorola. The company has a pretty pure take on Android, but it adds its own special flair to the software. So, you will have access to some of the features that make Motorola phones great. All of these features are wrapped up in a phone that offers a great experience from the moment you power it on.
Speaking of power, this phone can remain powered on for quite some time. Since it’s in the Moto G Power series, this phone is meant to give you some of the best battery life of any phone in this price range. The Moto G Power 2023 comes with a large battery. It’s the same battery size that much more expensive flagship phones use, so you know we’re talking about some size.
If you’re a casual user, and you use your phone for mostly light tasks, then you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting two days of battery life on a single charge. If you’re a heavier smartphone user, you will still be able to get about a day and a half on a full charge. This phone is for people who value longevity over the best specs on the market.
Best rugged phone: Nokia XR21
A phone that can take whatever you can throw at it
If you’re looking to save money on a phone, you shouldn’t have to skimp on the durability. While you’re buying a cheaper phone, you’ll still want to make sure that you’re able to keep it for a good amount of time. That’s where the Nokia XR21 comes in. The company brought this phone with the goal of providing an affordable phone that will last you through years of abuse.
The Nokia XR212 is a phone that brings some decent power along with its durability. It has good hardware, so you’ll get a smooth smartphone experience overall. You’ll be able to download all of your favorite apps and use them with no issues. The same thing mostly goes for gaming; you’re able to play most of the games on the Google Play Store smoothly, with some of the more graphically intensive games giving it trouble.
But the main selling point of this phone is its durability. The Nokia XR21 is a rugged phone through and through. It’s not made from fragile premium materials like most flagship phones. Rather, once you pick up the phone and you feel the heavy-duty materials, you’ll know that it’s a phone meant to be taken on the job.
The screen won’t shatter when it’s dropped, and the chassis is tough enough to protect the insides. You can drop the phone time after time, and it won’t show any signs of damage. That’s thanks to the MIL-STD-810 durability rating. That’s a standard held by military-grade equipment.
Aside from that, this phone can survive being under the water as well. It’s strong enough to even withstand a pressure washer, so getting caught in the rain or dropping it in some water will not phase this phone at all. It’s a phone that you won’t need a case for.
Best gaming phone: Poco X5 Pro
If you’re a gamer, you don’t have to spend a ton just for a decent gaming phone
Sure, any smartphone that comes out has the capacity to play games, but there’s a subset of phones that are the best suited to play these games. There are a bunch of gaming phones out there on the market that promise an epic gaming experience, but they’re usually very expensive. Well, if you’re interested in saving money, then you should look into getting a Poco X5 Pro.
This is from a brand that’s known for delivering amazing smartphones at lower prices, and this phone is no exception. It’s a phone to get if you’re a true gamer who wants the most from their phone. At $295, you wouldn’t expect a good experience, but price isn’t everything.
The company fitted this phone with some amazing hardware, so it will just fly through everything that you throw at it. Whether you’re gaming, watching videos, or just scrolling through social media. You’ll get a smooth experience throughout every moment you’re using it. You can’t have a great gaming phone if it can’t do the basics.
Speaking about gaming, this phone uses hardware that’s great for gaming, so you’ll be able to tackle most of the titles that are available on the Play Store. It’s good enough to tackle many of the graphically intensive games that have been slowing down phones over the years. Being a cheaper phone, there are some titles that will cause it to chug, but you can always crank down the graphical settings.
Aside from that, this phone has a beautiful screen to view the games through. It’s bright, colorful, and pixel-packed. If you’re playing Genshin Impact on this phone, it will look stunning. This is all wrapped up in an extremely affordable and good-looking package. Taking the price and performance of the Poco X5 Pro, it’s a no-brainer.
Best all around: Pixel 7a
If you’re looking for the best point-and-shoot experience, look no further
Google offers the purest Android experience on any phone on the market and it offers the best camera performance of any phone in this price range. The Google Pixel 7a is a shining example of Google’s commitment to bringing its amazing optimized Android experience to lower price points.
When you’re using this phone, you know that you’re covered by Google. This phone is going to be getting all of the newest software updates and features for the next couple of years. When there’s some shiny new update, you’ll be one of the first to get it. You don’t have to shell out for a more expensive Pixel 7 or Pixel 8 in order to do so.
Using this phone, you wouldn’t know that it’s a cheaper device. You won’t see any stutters or hiccups in the software whatsoever. This is because Google used the same chip that’s in the Pixel 7 Pro inside of the Pixel 7a. This means that everything you do on the phone will be perfectly smooth. All of your apps will run smoothly and you’ll have a great time gaming.
The main reason you’ll want this phone is the camera. Google makes it extremely easy to take your phone out and snap a quick photo. Every photo you take with this phone is going to be amazing. Google has honed its software to give you consistently amazing and detailed photos. You don’t even have to mess around with settings. All you have to do is take your phone out and shoot the picture.
If you’re looking to be a photographer or you just produce mesmerizing photos, then you won’t regret picking up this phone for its super cheap price. It could be for you or it could also be an excellent gift for a loved one.