Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro starts at $1,000, while the iPhone 11 Pro Max starts at $1,099, and the Samsung Note 10 Plus starts at $1,099. These manufacturers, along with wireless carriers, offer monthly payment plans to help people accept these high prices, but no matter how you slice it, the price of flagships is still a deterrent for many folks.
Thankfully, there are some outstanding affordable alternatives, and these alternatives have significantly improved over the past few years. Various manufacturers, including many from China and Korea, have compelling products that are becoming more popular as we reach smartphone saturation. Amazon has its Alexa Built-in phones that offer reasonable prices on current models and ones that might be a year or two old but are still valuable options.
Also: Money no object? The 10 best smartphones you can buy right now
It’s tough to justify a $1,100 iPhone 11 Pro Max as your first phone, but any of these following phones may be great to have as a second phone for the beach or forest, or as a first phone for your teen, or in case of an emergency.
The best cheap phones
These phones are in order from lowest to highest price.
Coolpad Legacy for free
The new Coolpad Legacy, see my review, is designed with a large display, huge capacity battery with Quick Charge 3.0, high-quality plastic and glass materials, a microSD expansion card, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and even launches with Android 9 Pie out of the box. There have to be trade-offs made at the $130 price (now free on Metro by T-Mobile), but it’s hard to see where these compromises were made on the Coolpad Legacy.
The Coolpad Legacy is being offered for free at Metro by T-Mobile. This means you get service with no annual contracts on a pre-paid basis. This is a great first phone, one for someone who needs a phone battery that will last a couple of days on a single charge, or someone who wants a big display that is easy to read.
It has modern features and solid design aspects while performing reliably to help you get things done. I am still stunned by the low price of this phone and did not expect it to be this good.
Moto G6 for $140
The Moto G6 has a full retail price of $249.99, but it is currently priced at just $139.99 on Amazon.
The Moto G6 has a 5.7-inch display with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 processor, 12MP, and 5MP rear cameras, 8MP front-facing camera, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage with a microSD expansion card slot, front fingerprint scanner, and a rather large 3,000mAh battery.
The Moto G6 is priced at less than most insurance policies for flagship phones, so if you need a low-cost phone or a backup, then this may be the one to consider. Motorola also does a great job of providing a fairly stock Android experience that gets fairly regular updates, too.
Apple iPhone SE (128GB) for $160
You probably didn’t expect to ever see an Apple iPhone in this sub-$400 list, but the 128GB Apple iPhone SE is available now from Amazon in a couple of colors at various prices. You can also find some 64GB models on Amazon for a bit less. These are renewed phones that come with a 90-day Amazon guarantee.
Many people keep buying this iPhone because its the last of the small devices with a 4-inch display, but it still has all of the great iOS functionality. Other specs include a rear 12MP camera, a front 1.2MP FaceTime HD camera, a fingerprint scanner integrated into the front home button, and 64GB of internal storage.
The Apple iPhone SE is powered by the Apple A9 chip and M9 motion coprocessor for a fast experience with a standard 3.5mm headset jack still present on the phone.
CNET: Apple iPhone SE review
Moto G7 Power for $210
The Moto G7 Power, see our full review, is available at Amazon for just over $200 or at Motorola for $219.
ZDNet’s Jason Cipriani stated that the Moto G7 power is the budget phone you are looking for with very long battery life, solid performance, and affordable price. The photo quality won’t match flagships priced five times higher, but photos are still good enough for social media sharing.
The Moto G7 Power has a 6.2-inch display, rear 12MP camera, an 8MP front-facing camera, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage with a microSD card slot, and whopping 5,000mAh battery. It is a mid-level phone available at an entry-level price.
Moto G7 for $240
Motorola seems to be focusing on the low- to mid-range with its Moto G series and the G7 is priced just a bit higher than the G7 Power with a focus on aspects other than battery life. The Moto G7, see our full review, is priced at $239.99 on Amazon.
The Moto G7 has a 6.- inch display, 4GB of RAM, dual rear cameras, a front 8MP camera, water repellent coating, a 3,000mAh battery, and a premium look and feel.
A headphone jack is something we don’t see on many phones today, but you will find it on the Moto G7. A USB-C port is present, another feature we don’t see on low price phones.
Samsung Galaxy A50 for $350
While we tend to focus on the Samsung Galaxy S and Note series, Samsung is making waves with its extremely capable A series. The Samsung Galaxy A50 recently launched on Xfinity Mobile for just $349.99. If you are an Xfinity customer, the service and this phone are great deals for many people.
The Samsung Galaxy A50, see our full review, sports a gorgeous 6.4 inch Super AMOLED screen, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage with a microSD card and a Samsung Exynos 9610 processor. There are three cameras on the back: 25MP, 8MP, and a 5MP depth sensor with a whopping 25MP front-facing camera. A very large 4,000mAh battery keeps this gorgeous phone powered up.
An optical fingerprint sensor under the display works very well while we also still have a 3.5mm headset jack and USB-C port. The Galaxy A50 is a very good phone and will give you an appreciation for the A series.
LG V35 ThinQ for $400
LG’s flagships continue to offer a ton of features, but the company can’t seem to gain market share in the US. The LG V35 ThinQ, see the CNET review, is a worthy successor to the Galaxy S9 Plus and last years LG flagship is available now for a reasonable price.
The LG V35 ThinQ is designed for those who want to capture video with its Snapdragon 845 processor to power its 6-inch OLED display, 6GB of RAM, and 64GB internal storage. This is one of the most powerful phones under $400 and has cameras that won’t disappoint.
Dual rear cameras are present for standard and wide-angle shots with an 8MP wide-angle front-facing camera. A 3,300mAh battery powers the device with wireless charging supported, too.
Google Pixel 3a for $400
Google’s Pixel line of phones has been competing with flagships from Apple, Samsung, and Huawei. Google revealed the Pixel 3a at just $399 a few months ago, and the press has been extremely pleased with its performance. It’s a mid-level phone, but the standout camera from the Pixel 3 is included, so if you want the absolute best phone for under $400 that will be updated for years, then you can’t go wrong with a Pixel 3a in Just Black, Purple-ish, or Clearly White.
Even better for the masses, Google is selling these in T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint stores. Stay tuned as Google gets ready to announced the Pixel 4 in October.
The Pixel 3a is running Android 9 Pie and is assured of getting updated to Android 10 on a timely basis. It has a 5.6-inch display with a rear 12.2MP camera, and front 8MP camera with Google’s fantastic image processing software.
A Snapdragon 670 powers the Pixel 3a with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a 3,000mAh battery, and stereo speakers. A fast rear fingerprint scanner unlocks the phone while it also still retains a 3.5mm headphone jack.
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