Best Cheap Android Phones Of 2020: Google, Motorola, Samsung, OnePlus & More

Best Cheap Android Phones Of 2020: Google, Motorola, Samsung, OnePlus & More

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“Phone prices are too high!” has been a recurring complaint from consumers in 2020. We hear you. But while prices of top dog phones from Samsung, Huawei, OnePlus, and others have indeed escalated, the reality is budget, and mid-tier phones have also gotten much better. If you’re shopping in the US, there’s no shortage of devices with a vibrant screen, a capable processor, and a reliable camera system that won’t leave your wallet hurting. And if you’re willing to look outside the US market and import, there are even more options.

Sure, it’d be nice to own the greatest and most cutting-edge devices, but if saving money or getting the best value is your priority, these handsets are more than powerful enough for your daily usage needs.

These are the best Budget Android Phones:

Best overall: Google Pixel 4a

Google Pixel 4a

Let it be known that the Google Pixel 4a doesn’t have the most features, the flashiest look, or the most cutting-edge hardware of other phones on this list. But it takes the “best overall” category due to one thing: software. This is, after all, a pure Google phone, so its version of Android is the cleanest, most up-to-date, and will get support the longest. But that’s not all — that software also helps the reliable camera hardware punch way above its weight and price class. This is a phone in which you point and shoot, and chances are you’ll have captured a beautiful shot with perfect dynamic range and lighting. The camera experience is so good we’re even willing to overlook the lack of focal length versatility: there is no ultrawide-angle or telephoto camera.

The rest of the package is, ironically, an improvement over even the “flagship” Pixel 4. The Pixel 4a has much better battery life thanks to a larger (3,160 mAh) battery and a less power-hungry processor (Snapdragon 730). It has a higher screen-to-body ratio because it ditched that unreliable and easily-fooled face scanning system seen in the 4. Instead, you unlock the 4a with a trusty capacitive fingerprint scanner on its backside.

Sure, the plastic build and only black color option leave it a looking a bit drab, and this particular model doesn’t support 5G, but this is a $350 phone with a photography experience and software experience that beats not just everything else on this list, but even phones that cost three times as much.

    Google Pixel 4a
    It's not the most exciting looking smartphone, but the Google Pixel 4a is the best budget smartphone. Flagship-level camera, guaranteed the cleanest and latest version of Android, and improved battery life over the Pixel 4 makes this an easy recommendation.

Best endurance: Moto G Power

Moto G Power

Thanks to the absence of Chinese budget brands such as Redmi and Realme, Motorola has enjoyed a relatively unrivaled run as a top option for reasonable budget Android phones in the US, and this year’s G Power continues that trend. For around $250, you get a 6.4-inch screen with decently thin bezels and a large battery 5,000 mAh battery. The processor (Snapdragon 665), RAM (4GB), and camera performances fall short of other phones on this list, but they’re all still serviceable. The lack of NFC support could be a dealbreaker for those who use Google Pay, however.

On the software front, Motorola’s software is about as close to the Pixel 4a’s clean Android experience as you can get, aside from some additional Moto software features like arguably the best Always-On Display on the market. Overall the Moto G Power is a worthy option for those who value battery life and clean software above all else.

    Moto G Power
    Don't stress about battery life with the Moto G Power -- its 5,000 mAh battery will surely power you through the day. Sure, the RAM and processor are not the greatest, but its low price tag and clean Moto software make the whole package worth it.

Best for Samsung fans: Samsung Galaxy A51

Samsung Galaxy A71 5G launches in the US this week for $599

The benefit of buying a mid-tier phone from a top brand like Samsung is that it has the resources to pass down premium components. Case in point: the $400 Galaxy A51 sports a gorgeous 6.5-inch Samsung AMOLED panel with the trademark vibrant, punchy colors Samsung’s known for, and it managed to cram a 32-megapixel selfie camera into a tiny hole-punch cut-out that barely leaves a mark.

It’s also got a sizable 4,000 mAh battery and a capable 48-megapixel primary camera and 12-megapixel ultrawide camera. However, the haptic engine on this is weak, and the Exynos 9611 chip lags behind the other SoCs on this list.

Still, for those loyal Samsung fans who love One UI but cannot stomach paying over $1,000 for a Galaxy S or Note flagship, the A51 at least approximates the feeling of using a top Galaxy phone at 40% of the price.

    Samsung Galaxy A51
    With a gorgeous Samsung AMOLED screen and One UI, the Galaxy A51 is perfect for Samsung fans who don't want to spend so much on a phone.

Best newcomer: TCL 10L

TCL 10L tcl 10 pro

Best known for its televisions, TCL officially entered the Android space in 2020 with a $250 handset packed with an impressive 6.5-inch LCD screen.

Despite its plastic back, the construction of the phone is impressive, considering its price tag and newcomer status of TCL. But flip the phone around, and that screen shines — colors pop with rich details and is bright enough to be easily visible under direct sunlight.

The quad-camera system on the back houses a 48-megapixel primary shooter that produces good shots, but the other three lenses — an 8-megapixel ultrawide, and a pair of 2-megapixel macro and depth sensors — are average at best. The Snapdragon 665 processor and a clean and light UI make for a good combo.

Perhaps not surprising considering its company roots, the TCL 10L is one of the last phones left to offer an IR blaster for easy controls of televisions and other appliances.

    TCL 10L
    With a bright and vibrant LCD screen and a versatile quad camera array, this is quite the solid smartphone debut for Chinese television brand TCL.

Best for stylus users: Moto G Stylus

 

If you want a phone with a stylus but the Galaxy Note series is too expensive, the Moto G Stylus is one of the very few viable options. This $300 phone may pack just 4GB RAM and does not support NFC, but you do get Snapdragon 665, clean UI, a headphone jack, and of course, that stylus. It works mostly well — if you’re not comparing to the S-Pen of the Note 20 or Note 10 — there’s no Bluetooth connectivity nor palm rejection when the stylus tip touches the screen. Still, latency is relatively low, and the software adapts to the input well. For example, if you pull the stylus out from the bottom of the phone while the screen is off, the screen jumps to a dark notepad — just like the off-screen memo of the Note series.

The 4,000 mAh battery can also power this thing all day, the screen looks pretty nice, and you have a strong pair of stereo speakers. The cameras, however, are just decent.

    Moto G Stylus
    Who said the Galaxy Note is the only phone in town with a stylus? The Moto G Stylus, with its 6.4-inch near all-screen front and a stylus of its own, is a great option for those who like to jot down notes or make the occasional sketch.

Best Android One device: Nokia 5.3

For those who want their software as light as possible, the Nokia 5.3 is a worthy option running Android One, a near-stock version of Android guaranteed to get timely Google software updates for at least two years.

You also get a 4,000 mAh battery, 6.5-inch 720 x 1600 screen (both large at this price range), and a reliable 13-megapixel primary camera. The 5-megapixel ultrawide camera and 3GB of RAM will probably leave you wanting, but at it’s $199 price, it’s hard to fault.

    Nokia 5.3
    One of the original big mobile phone brands is back with a $200 smartphone. None of the specs will pop off the spec sheet but its affordable price, near stock Android software, and a 4,000 mAh battery give it plenty of appeal.

Best features and specs (not sold in the US yet): OnePlus Nord

OnePlus’ phones have gotten better and better over the years, but prices have also gone higher and higher. The company hyped the Nord as a return to its roots, and we’re happy to report it delivers. The Nord is a mid-tier device in the $400 range, but it feels like a flagship thanks to its 90Hz OLED panel, versatile camera system, a UI that’s optimized for speed and fluidity, and full 5G connectivity thanks to that Snapdragon 765G.

The main 48-megapixel camera is very good, and we find the 8-megapixel ultrawide selfie camera useful for group selfies. There’s even an included 30W fast charging brick in the box that tops up this phone faster than most devices on this list. However, the Nord is not sold in North American — for now. Rumors say the US will get a slightly different version of the Nord by the end of this year.

    OnePlus Nord
    With the OnePlus Nord you're getting the same super fast, super fluid OnePlus experience thanks to its 90Hz OLED screen and OxygenOS. And there's 5G support. For those in the US, don't fret -- a US version of the Nord is coming soon. But if you can't wait, this one is an easy import.

Best value (not sold in US): Poco X3 NFC

Here’s an open secret among Android fans: the US phone scene is relatively limited due to the fact that almost all Chinese brands do not sell stateside. If you’re willing to import, Xiaomi’s Poco X3 NFC has hands-down the best dollar-for-dollar value of any phone released in recent memory. Here’s what you get for a starting price of 199 euro ($234): a 6.7-inch 120Hz screen; a 5,160 mAh battery that can go two full days for all but the heaviest of users, the brand new Snapdragon 732G chip, and a capable quad-camera system headlined by a 64-megapixel main camera.

The display is just an LCD panel instead of the OLED seen in phones like the Google Pixel 4a OnePlus Nord, but it refreshes at 120Hz. The stereo speaker system and haptic engine are better than anything we’ve seen at this $200-ish price range too.

The caveat is, of course, the fact this phone doesn’t sell officially in the US, so there’s no guarantee it will work on all carriers, and importing will likely drive up the price by a bit.

    Poco X3 NFC
    If we're going by pure specs and bang-for-buck value, this is very hard to top: you get a 120Hz screen, 5,160 mAh battery, four useful cameras, and the first phone to run Snapdragon 732G at a very attractive price. But Xiaomi's UI is not everyone's cup of tea, and this also does not sell officially in North America, so you should check the bands to ensure carrier compatibility before importing one.