Google Pixel 5a back held in hand
Jusin Duino
Update, 9/3/21: We’ve reviewed our recommendations, and have replaced the Google Pixel 4a 5G in the Best Android Camera Phone section with Google’s new and improved budget flagship, the Pixel 5a.

What to Look For in a Budget Android Phone in 2021

As technology continues to evolve, features that were once acquainted with flagship phones have since trickled down into more affordable alternatives. This couldn’t be any truer when it comes to the smartphone market.

In this day and age, budget smartphones, particularly budget Android phones, have the capacity to master the fundamentals of a great smartphone while not draining your bank account. Depending on which manufacturer you buy from, you could be getting a fantastic phone for a great price. You just need to know where to look!

Of course, finding that perfect deal can be a tedious process with so many different Android options on the market. It can also be confusing if you’re unsure of which processor, RAM and storage capacities, camera specs, and battery sizes to look out for.

That’s where we come in. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the best budget Android phones you can buy right now, depending on how much you want to spend and which features matter to you. This list covers a range of manufacturers and price points, so you’ll be able to find what you need.

Best Budget Android Phone Overall: Moto G Play (2021)

Moto G Play
Motorola

Pros

  • Big screen
  • Good performance for the price
  • Clean software

Cons

  • Underwhelming cameras
  • Slow recharge speed

Our pick for the best overall budget Android phone is the Moto G Play (2021). For under $200, this device offers a well-rounded experience with a nice combination of features, design, and specs.

Fans of large screens will like the 6.5-inch 720p display, despite its lack of brightness in direct sunlight. It’s an LCD panel, but at this price, OLED screens aren’t really possible anyway.

Under the hood, the Motorola Moto G Play includes a Snapdragon 460 and 3GB of RAM. This combination will prove to be sufficient when you’re flipping through apps, touching up your photos, playing light games, and most tasks for the casual phone user. The Moto G Play also comes with 32GB of internal storage, which may not be enough for everyone. Luckily, there is a microSD slot available, so you can upgrade your storage as needed.

On the back, you’ll find a 13MP camera paired with a 2MP telephoto lens for improved zoom photography. Photos taken with the G Play won’t blow your socks off, but when you’re saving this money over typical flagship phone prices, you don’t expect perfect pictures. Regardless, the photos this device produces should look good enough for Instagram and Snapchat.

This phone also has a big 5,000mAh battery, a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, the Android 10 operating system, and a water-repellent coating that should help with light splashes and trips in the rain.

Priced at $170, the Moto G Play is a solid phone with some compromises that, while inconvenient, won’t likely be dealbreakers for anyone interested in picking it up.

Best Budget Android Phone Overall

Moto G Play (2021)

Coming in at around $170, this budget Android phone is packed with more features than you'd expect! You'll get a decent camera, good battery life, upgradeable storage, and more for a surprisingly low price.

Best Budget Android Phone for Battery Life: Moto G Power

Moto G Power on yellow background

Pros

  • Fantastic battery life
  • Good performance
  • Big, sharp screen

Cons

  • Cameras do poorly in limited light or with video recording
  • Display not all that bright

When it comes to battery life, Motorola has another solid option for cheap: the Moto G Power. This device, priced at around $250, offers a 5,000mAh cell paired with efficient specs that allow the phone to last two to three days on a single charge. When it comes time to recharge, there’s a USB-C port on the bottom of the phone, which supports 15W fast charging.

Motorola is able to achieve this with the proven-efficient Snapdragon 662 processor. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 series has always been known for providing an incredible balance between performance and power efficiency, and the 662 inside the G Power is no different.

The Moto G Power also comes with a sharp 6.6-inch 720p LCD display, up to 4GB of RAM, and up to 64GB of storage. You’ll find three cameras on the back with a main 48MP lens, a 2MP macro lens, and a 2MP depth-sensing lens. All three combined can help you take decent portrait mode and zoom photos, although things tend to fall apart at night and while recording video, which tops out at 1080p.

Overall, the Moto G Power is a solid option for anyone who wants the most endurance they can get out of a phone on a budget while still being given the necessary tools they need to perform their daily tasks.

Best Budget Android for Battery Life

Moto G Power (2021)

With a huge 5,000 mAh battery coupled with the efficient Snapdragon 662 processor, the Moto G Power can last two or three days on a single charge. It's capable of fast-charging, too!

Best Budget Android Camera: Google Pixel 5a

Back of google pixel 5a
Justin Duino

Pros

  • Same cameras as the pricier Pixel 5
  • Wide-angle camera is nice to have
  • Fast updates and clean camera UI

Cons

  • Not top-notch build quality
  • Only IP67 water resistance
  • Average battery life

When it comes to the best cameras on phones, Google’s Pixel series is always at the top. The Pixel 5a not only has great cameras, but it has a great price tag as well.

For a price of $450, the Pixel 5a gives you the exact same cameras as the $700 Pixel 5. That means a 12.2MP main camera, 16MP wide-angle camera, and an 8MP front-facing camera. All of this comes with Google’s top-notch camera software too.

Some of those features include Google’s great portrait mode, Night Sight, and Astrophotography. The nice thing about Google’s camera experience is it’s not overly complicated. Anyone can essentially point and shoot to get a really great photo, ready for social media.

The other important specifications include the 6.34-inch display, Snapdragon 765G processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and 5G support. It has IP67 water resistance, which isn’t the best, but it’s better than nothing at all.

With the Pixel 5a you’re getting one of the best cameras out there, regardless of price. On top of that, you get fast software updates, clean software, and an easy user experience.

Best Budget Android Camera

Google Pixel 5a

With the Google Pixel 5a, you get the same fantastic cameras as the flagship Pixel 5, as well as Google’s great camera software, for just S450.

Best Android Phone Under $500: Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

A purple Samsung A52 held by hand
Samsung

Pros

  • 5G support
  • 120Hz display
  • Good performance
  • Solid cameras

Cons

  • Infamous Samsung bloatware
  • Cheap build quality

With the increased competition over the past couple of years in the mid-range sector of the smartphone market, Samsung has proven it can step up to the game and deliver great phones at great prices. For our under $500 pick, we’re highlighting the Galaxy A52 5G.

One of the latest in Samsung’s Galaxy A series boasts a design similar to the company’s more expensive flagships like the Galaxy S21 and Note 20. It has an IP67 certification for dust and water resistance, and it even comes with a headphone jack, a rarity nowadays. No need to mess with Bluetooth here!

The Galaxy A52 5G has a big 6.5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED display that produces inky blacks and gets bright enough in direct sunlight. The phone also comes with a 120Hz refresh rate, making everything you do on the phone look super smooth.

Under the hood, there’s a Snapdragon 750G processor and 6GB of RAM that’s more than enough to tackle everyday tasks. You also get 128GB of storage, 5G connectivity, and Android 11 with four years of guaranteed security updates.

On the back, you’ll find a quad-camera setup (that’s right,Β four cameras) capable of taking solid photos with good contrast and plenty of saturation. The hardware struggles in low-light and video quality could be better, but you shouldn’t have any major issues overall. Meanwhile, the front-facing camera can take pleasant selfies with good sharpness and clarity.

As far as downsides go, the phone is covered in plastic, making it feel kind of cheap. Meanwhile, the software is loaded with bloatware, which can be an annoyance. But all in all, the Galaxy A52 5G checks many boxes and offers a well-rounded package for under $500.

Best Android Phone Under $500

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

If you can get past the typical Samsung software bloat, the A52 is a solid $500 smartphone. A beautiful Super AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate provides a great Android experience.

Best Android Phone Under $300: Samsung Galaxy A32 5G

Multiple Samsung A32 devices on a pedestal
Samsung

Pros

  • 5G support
  • Decent performance
  • Versatile cameras

Cons

  • Display is underwhelming
  • Photo quality could be better

For under $300, the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G is a stand-out smartphone focusing on premium features for less.

The headlining feature is, of course, 5G support. In the sub-$300 range, 5G connectivity is rare, and the Galaxy A32 makes a name for itself for being one of the only devices in its price range to support it. Mind you, it only supports sub-6GHz (the spectrum of 5G that has the widest availability and slower speeds compared to mmWave), but at least you can get on the network nonetheless.

RELATED: Not All 5G Is Equal: Millimeter Wave, Low-Band, and Mid-Band Explained

The phone ships with aΒ MediaTek Dimensity 720 processor and 4GB of RAM. There’s 64GB of onboard storage with a microSD card slot, and you’ll find a huge 5,000mAh battery supplying power to the device. You’ll also find a side-mounted fingerprint reader for security and unlocking your phone.

Unlike many budget Android phones, the Galaxy S32 5G supports Qi wireless charging. This flagship feature” is hard to find at this price range.

There are a few areas where you can tell the low price forced Samsung to make some compromises. For one, the display’s resolution is only 720p and uses a TFT panel instead of LCD or OLED. That means the picture won’t come off as clear as you might expect. At least it’s pretty large at 6.5-inches.

Meanwhile, while decent in well-lit environments, the quad-camera setup struggles in a lot of other situations like dimly-lit rooms and when taking portrait shots. The MediaTek chip Samsung includes isn’t the best, but again, this is a $279 phone we’re talking about. Sacrifices need to be made somewhere.

When it’s all said and done, you really won’t find another budget phone that includes 5G this well-rounded.

Best Android Phone Under $300

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G

It’s difficult to get a 5G phone at this price point, but Samsung has done it. You’ll also get a fair amount of storage space and a nice 5,000mAh battery to keep your A32 going strong.

Best Android Phone Under $200: OnePlus Nord N100

OnePlus Nord N100 on a colorful background
OnePlus

Pros

  • 90Hz screen
  • Decent specs
  • Clean software

Cons

  • No water resistance
  • Poor cameras

If all you have to buy a new phone is $200, we’ve got you covered. The phone you should be looking at is the OnePlus Nord N100.

Priced at $180, the N100 is one of OnePlus’ latest offerings in its mid-range Nord series. The company has impressed us with the quality of smartphones it can cook up at such low prices, and the N100 is no exception.

The device sports a big 6.52-inch 720p display with a 90Hz refresh rate (something commonly found in much more expensive phones), a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and a USB-C port. Inside, you’ll find a Snapdragon 460 processor that can handle basic tasks just fine, though you won’t be able to run resource-heavy apps and games on it. You also get 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.

On the back, OnePlus includes a triple camera setup on the N100 that can take photos that won’t impress, but are at least sharable. The company also includes stereo speakers and Android 10 with a promised upgrade to Android 11. Notably, that will be the only major upgrade the N100 will get, so you better be okay with never getting Android 12. This is relatively common among budget phones, though.

The phone doesn’t come with the ability to connect to 5G networks, lacks any water resistance, and the specs aren’t particularly impressive. However, for under $200, the Nord N100 is a solid device that doesn’t leave out any fundamental features. It does its best to offer a basic smartphone experience, and the barrier to entry couldn’t be lower.

Best Android Phone Under $200

OnePlus Nord N100

If you're running on a really tight budget, you'll want to go with the OnePlud Nord N100. This is a solid Android phone that doesn't do anything spectacular, but provides a decent phone experience for just $180.

Profile Photo for Max Buondonno Max Buondonno
Max Buondonno is a technology enthusiast and writer who’s been covering the future of computing since 2015. His blog, Matridox, serves as a creative outlet for him where he can share thoughts on the latest technology news, gadgets he reviews, and more.
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Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has close to a decade of experience covering consumer technology and previously worked as a News Editor at XDA Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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