These are the Best Cheap Android Phones in August: Google, Motorola, Samsung, OnePlus & More

These are the Best Cheap Android Phones in August: Google, Motorola, Samsung, OnePlus & More

Smartphones get better year after year. For flagships, this improvement usually come with price increases too. Fortunately for many of us, this is not the case with budget and mid-tier phones — they improve year on year but the prices stay mostly the same because the definition for “cheap” or “budget” remains the same. Sure, budget phones tend to omit some of the bells and whistles on offer from the best Android phones, but if you keep your expectations realistic, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you can get for under $400 in 2021. The selection is certainly better than the same offerings a couple years ago.

We here at XDA have the luxury of testing almost every phone that comes out, so here’s our list of the best cheap Android phones you can buy right now.

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Best Overall: Google Pixel 4a

Google Pixel 4a

The Google Pixel is an easy selection for this “Best Overall” category because of two things — software and camera. Being a pure Google phone, the Pixel 4a will be first in line to upgrade to Android 12. While it doesn’t have the focal length versatility of more premium phones, the main camera here is flagship level and can go toe-to-toe against any main camera from phones two or three times its price.

Despite the Pixel 4a’s modest pricing, the phone has a flagship-level screen-to-body aspect ratio and a large battery that will last all day. Sure, the plastic build and only black color option leave it looking a bit drab, and this particular model doesn’t support 5G. But this is a $350 phone with a camera and software experience that beat not just everything else on this list, but even phones that cost $1,000 or more.

    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 in the US, Motorola has enjoyed a relatively unrivaled run as a top option for reasonable budget Android phones, and the Moto G Power continues that trend — although Samsung is bringing good competition. For around $250, you get a 6.4 inch screen with decently thin bezels and a large 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 A42 5G

Samsung Galaxy A42 5G in black

The benefit of buying a budget phone from a big brand like Samsung is it has the resources to pass down premium components from higher-tier phones. Case in point — the $280 Galaxy A42 5G has a large 6.6-inch AMOLED panel with the trademark vibrant, punchy colors Samsung’s known for, and it managed to cram in a 48-megapixel main camera plus a sizable 5,000 mAh battery.

There’s a Snapdragon 750G that can handle 5G, plus all your daily tasks without issues, and while the 60Hz refresh rate is a tad disappointing, we can’t complain too much at this price. Ultimately, the Galaxy A42 5G is for loyal Samsung fans who love either the Samsung brand or One UI but can’t stomach paying over $1,000 for a Galaxy S or Note flagship.

    Samsung Galaxy A42 5G
    The Galaxy A42 5G is one of the most affordable 5G phones around, with a large screen and battery to boot.

Best newcomer: TCL 20S

TCL 20S back

Best known for its televisions, TCL officially entered the Android space last year with the solid TCL 10 series, and now the 2021 update brings an updated TCL 20 series, including the middle device, TCL 20S

The TCL 20S offers a large 6.7-inch punchy AMOLED panel with thin bezels and a large 5,000 mAh battery with 18W fast charging. Such a large battery for a 60Hz AMOLED panel means you can expect all-day battery life easily. Under the hood, the phone is powered by a Snapdragon 665 with 4GB of RAM. For optics, you have a 64MP main shooter flanked by an 8MP ultra-wide-angle camera (plus a pair of sensors for depth and macro photography).

Despite its plastic back, the construction of the phone is above average, considering its price tag and the somewhat newcomer status of TCL.

    TCL 20S
    TCL's second smartphone series brings a big screen and capable Qualcomm processor at a low price.

Best for Stylus users: Moto G Stylus

Moto G Stylus

If you want a phone with a stylus, but find the Galaxy Note series and Galaxy S21 Ultra too expensive, the Moto G Stylus is one of the very few viable options. This $300 phone may pack just 4GB RAM and doesn’t support NFC, but you do get Snapdragon 665, a clean UI, a headphone jack, and of course, that stylus.

It works mostly well if you’re not comparing it to the S-Pen of the Galaxy Note 20 or Galaxy 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 the 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

 

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 its $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: OnePlus Nord N10

oneplus nord n10 5g

Last year, OnePlus released the OnePlus Nord, a mid-range phone with upper mid-tier specs, for the European market. For North Americans waiting their turn, they have the Nord N10, which is even cheaper at $299. The Nord N10 features a 6.49-inch FHD+ display with a 90Hz refresh rate, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 4,300mAh battery that supports OnePlus’ fast 30W charging.

The Snapdragon 690 processor here isn’t going to blow anyone’s socks off, but it’s pretty serviceable and 5G ready. The main 64MP camera produces sharp and vibrant images, and there’s a decent ultra-wide lens as well. Oh, and you get a headphone jack too.

    OnePlus Nord N10 5G
    The OnePlus Nord N10 is a 5G device with a high-refresh display on a budget. The overall hardware package is modest yes, but it'll work out for average consumers on a tighter budget.

Best Rugged Phone: Blackview BV5900

Blackview BV5900

If you constantly drop your phone or if you work in rough environments like construction sites, the Blackview BV5900 may be worth a look. Costing less than $200, it offers a large 5,580 mAh battery, a 5.7-inch 720p LCD screen, NFC functionality, and IP68 water and dust resistance. The phone is also wrapped in aluminum and rubber, so while it’s not the sleekest design, it will be able to take drops better than any other phone on this list.

The single 13MP main camera leaves a lot to be desired, but at this price point, it’s hard to gripe too much. This is a heavy-duty, workman-like phone for those who just need something that won’t break easily.

    Blackview BV5900
    The Blackview BV5900 is a heavy-duty rugged phone that should be able to survive a drop or two -- or six.

Best Value (not sold in US): Poco X3 Pro

POCO X3 Pro in white

Here’s an open secret among Android fans — the US phone scene is relatively limited due to the fact that most Chinese brands don’t 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 very capable and new Snapdragon 860 chip, and a solid main 64-megapixel main camera.

The display is just an LCD panel instead of the OLED seen in phones like the Google Pixel 4a and 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’ll work on all carriers, and importing will likely drive up the price a bit.

    POCO X3 Pro
    The POCO X3 Pro is possibly the best value in the smartphone space right now bar none -- the catch is the phone doesn't sell officially in North America so readers in the US and Canada will have to import if they want one.

None of the phones listed here are going to be confused for premium flagships, but they’re more than serviceable and offer a lot for the money. The OnePlus Nord N10 and the POCO X3 Pro, in our opinion, offer the best bang for your dollar. But photography lovers or those who want the most hassle-free software experience should go for the Pixel 4a.

About author

Ben Sin
Ben Sin

I'm a senior editor at XDA Developers. I have been a journalist for a decade, the last five years covering the mobile tech scene closely, reviewing just about every phone and attending trade shows and launches. I also run a gadget review channel on YouTube.