You want a new phone and you don’t want to pay a small fortune. We understand this. A lot of our favorite phones are affordable, and we probably had the same reaction you did when Â£ 1,000 Androids started to be ‘a thing’.
The good news is that there is no functionality to forgo when spending, say, Â£ 200-250 instead of Â£ 900. You can get superb gaming performance, a great camera, a fancy glass back, 5G, or a dazzling OLED display.
The bad news is, you can’t get all of these items in one phone and expect to pay peanuts for it. This is why there is still a market for much more expensive mobiles.
Choose an economical smartphone
How much should you pay for a budget phone?
Phones start to get really good around Â£ 200. The sign of a truly budget-friendly mobile is when we start to wonder why a sane person would consider spending four times as much on something that looks pretty similar 95% of the time. This happens often.
The closer you get to Â£ 100, the more likely you are to see some fundamental performance issues that just might get on your nerves. These include things like a virtual keyboard that takes a while to appear, long app load times, and obvious lag when switching between apps. Considering how much most of us use our phones, these should be avoided at all costs.
That said, a few inexpensive phones are always a joy to use. But maybe not, for example, having amazing cameras or tons of storage for your apps.
Hit the Â£ 200 mark and you can take your pick from the advanced features. You can have 5G, great gaming performance, premium design cues like a glass back cover, or a surprisingly high-quality camera (or two).
No phone offers all of this in one package until you spend a lot more, so you’ll have to think about which of these questions is more important. And to get the most out of your money, consider switching from well-known brands like Samsung to companies you might never have considered before, like Xiaomi, Oppo, and Realme.
- Best buy around Â£ 100: Xiaomi Redmi Note 9, Â£ 109
- Best camera: Pixel 4a, Â£ 349
- Ideal for games: Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro, Â£ 199
- Ideal for high-end design: Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro, Â£ 269
- Best budget 5G choice: Motorola Moto G 5G Plus, Â£ 299.99
- Great for zoom photography on a budget: Realme 8 Pro, Â£ 259
- Best 5G Buy Under Â£ 200: Motorola Moto G50, Â£ 199.99
- Ideal for uniform coverage of features: Oppo A54 5G, Â£ 219
- Great for Samsung fans: Samsung Galaxy A32 5G, Â£ 249.99
Xiaomi Redmi Note 9, Â£ 109
Best buy around Â£ 100
- Excellent value
- Long battery life
- Reasonable daily performance
If you’re only looking to spend around Â£ 100 instead of Â£ 200 or more, we recommend the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9. Why? Unlike much of the budget competition, this phone isn’t extremely slow to use on a daily basis. It’s the first thing to look for at this price, even in 2021.
However, the Redmi Note 9 offers a lot more, including a ridiculously good display considering the cost and the long battery life. Spend a little more if you want to play console-style games like Fortnite. But it’s a hit at its current price online.
Buy the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 under contract:
Pixel 4a, Â£ 349
- Great camera
- Fast software updates
- Clean version of Android
- One rear camera
- No 5G
- Battery life is below average in this class
A Google Pixel phone doesn’t offer the kind of exorbitant technological wealth you get with some of the phones designed by Chinese companies, but its strengths are compelling. The Pixel 4a has a flagship-level camera, enough to convince many to buy this phone.
It also runs the cleanest version of Android and will get software updates faster than anything else. The Pixel 4a is also small, handy if you don’t like the look of the many (many) fairly large alternatives floating around Â£ 349 and under. Battery life isn’t amazing for heavy users and it lacks 5G. If you want better results, check out the more expensive and slightly larger Pixel 4a 5G.
Read the whole Pixel 4a 5G review.
Buy the Pixel 4a on contract:
Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro, Â£ 199
Great for games
- Fantastic gaming performance
- Stereo speakers
- Large 120 Hz display
- The camera is beaten by its rivals
Do you like mobile games? Don’t ignore the Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro. It’s one of the most powerful Android phones under Â£ 200 we’ve ever used and just ranks in another league compared to others in this price class for gaming performance.
That’s because Xiaomi uses the Snapdragon 860, which has the chops of a slightly older flagship phone at several times the cost. You also get stereo speakers and a 120Hz display, which are pretty impressive on their own for under Â£ 250. The Poco X3 Pro doesn’t have the best cameras in its class, but they can still produce great photos, and the sacrifice will be worth it for many.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro, Â£ 269
Ideal for high-end design
- Glass back
- Excellent OLED display
- Good network of cameras
We loved using the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro. It has good cameras, a big battery, fast charging, a great display, and enough power to tackle demanding games. Unlike most models in this class, it also has a glass back rather than plastic. This gives the phone an extra touch of sophistication.
There is only one problem. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro has 4G mobile internet, not 5G. This might not be a big deal if you upgrade your phone every two years and live in an area without 5G yet, but keep that in mind.
Read our full Redmi Note 10 Pro review.
Motorola Moto G 5G Plus, Â£ 299.99
Best budget 5G choice
- Good power
- Good value for money
- Decent display
One of our favorite Motorola phones was released in 2020, rather than 2021. It’s the Moto G 5G Plus, one of the company’s first affordable 5G androids.
It has an excellent processor, capable of handling tough games well. The main camera beats the newer Moto G50, while the battery life is good and the overall performance is excellent. This phone is slightly more expensive than this new Moto aimed at low budget buyers who want 5G. But we think this little classic is still the one that many should buy. It is less bulky than it looks on paper, as a 6.7 inch screen phone, because the screen is of an unusually tall 21: 9 shape.
Read our full Motorola Moto G 5G Plus review.
Buy the Motorola Moto G 5G Plus under contract:
Realme 8 Pro, Â£ 259
Great for zoom photography on a budget
- Exceptionally good for enlarged images
- Powerful main camera
The Realme 8 Pro may not look as attractive as some of the other phones on this list on paper. He doesn’t have 5G. It doesn’t have a high refresh rate screen or a glass back. But Realme has gone the extra mile here.
We really notice it in the camera. The Realme 8 Pro has a 108MP main camera and takes remarkably good photos with 3x zoom. They are on par with some phones that have legitimate optical zoom. It even performs well at night, making it one of the most accomplished and fun-to-use camera phones you can get at the price. You’ll have to make peace with the dubious “dare to jump” slogan engraved on the back, however.
Read our full Realme 8 Pro review.
Motorola Moto G50, Â£ 199.99
Best 5G buy under Â£ 200
- Camera photos are more sparkling than the competition
- Low resolution display
The Moto G50 is Motorola’s new affordable 5G phone for 2021. It’s a bit cheaper than the Moto G 5G Plus and falls into that all-important Â£ 200 line. However, there are some tradeoffs.
This phone doesn’t have as crisp a screen as the slightly older 5G Moto or the Xiaomi or Oppo alternatives. 720p displays like the Moto G50 don’t look bad, but when your rivals offer more at a very similar price, we’ll raise an eyebrow. The camera of the Moto G50 is not as good as these phones or the Moto G 5G Plus. We like to use the G50, but you can get a bit more bang for your buck from one of the Chinese brands.
Buy the Motorola Moto G50 on contract:
Oppo A54 5G, Â£ 219
Ideal for uniform feature coverage
- Good set of versatile features
- Full HD display
- Strong overall performance
The Oppo A54 5G is a Â£ 220 5G phone with a better screen than what you get from rivals Motorola or Samsung 2021. That alone makes us love the phone a lot, for buyers who want 5G without spending a fortune.
However, we found even more love after living with the A54 5G for a few days. Its battery life is excellent, the overall performance is sonic, and its main camera is a lot of fun to use. It is responsive and captures beautiful images during the day. This is no master of night photography, secondary cameras just fall short and you’ll find better phones to play around at this price point. But the Oppo A54 5G hits all the right notes for frustration-free everyday use.
Buy the Oppo A54 5G under contract:
Samsung Galaxy A32 5G, Â£ 249.99
Great for Samsung fans
- Has the credibility of the street Samsung Galaxy
- 5G at a reasonable price
The Samsung Galaxy A32 5G is the obvious Android phone to get if a) you want 5G, b) you want a Samsung, and c) you don’t want to pay too much. It’s available in pretty shades of pastel blue and lilac if you don’t fancy solid white or black.
However, this phone is not on par with the best 5G options from Motorola, Xiaomi, and Oppo. Its screen is of a lower resolution and lacks the high refresh rate that others offer. It’s not a bad phone, but it makes more sense if you specifically want a Samsung, not just a good 5G phone.
Buy the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G under contract:
You might also be interested in our roundup of the best Xiaomi phones, the best Huawei phones, and the best iPhones on the market.