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Premium phones such as theor Apple’s boast the best tech you can find on cellular devices. Those mobile phones deliver stellar performance and offer a ton of great features. If you want the best phone on the market, it will come with a much higher price, but many of us simply don’t need the fastest processor, an OLED display or the best rear camera (or cameras, in some cases) available. In fact, some of the most expensive phones have specs that are so overloaded that it may seem like overkill for the average user.
These days, it’s possible to get a great phone without breaking the bank. Shopping for a phone is much easier and more accessible, even if you’re in the market for a brand-new handset that’s more affordable by way of discounted models from previous generations. And you don’t have to worry about getting less bang for fewer bucks. You can still get an advanced, feature-filled phone with plenty of storage, fast processors, impressive battery life and wireless charging, fantastic multilens cameras, a fingerprint scanner, and even 5G connectivity, all on a modest budget. And your options increase exponentially, if you’re open to buying an unlocked smartphone.
This list below has the best phones under $500. Check back often, since we update it regularly, and check out CNET’S in-depth reviews of each product, to help you find exactly what you need, and what to look out for. Notice, we’ve attached links to unlocked versions of each phone on our budget phone list, so that you can meet your individual needs with the best phone under $500. Needs vary, so you’ll want the one with the flexibility you desire and the specific stats that you need. Unlocked phones run on most of the big four US wireless carriers, except for rare exceptions, which are specified below.
With a four-year gap between the 2020 iPhone SE and the previous one, Apple packed its latest budget phone with a bunch of upgrades. That includes wireless charging, better camera specs and water resistance. If you’re looking for a new iPhone but want to save as much money as possible, the $399 iPhone SE is your best bet for a cheap iPhone option.
In addition to its main Galaxy S21 phones, Samsung has a more cost-conscious A series line of phones. This year it launched the Galaxy A52 5G, which has four cameras including a selfie camera, an in-screen fingerprint sensor and expandable memory. Samsung released this Android phone in quite a few fun colors, but for those shopping in the US you are more likely to only find it in black.
With the launch of the iPhone 13 series, Apple gave its iPhone 11 lineup a healthy discount meaning you can now pick up the base 64GB model for only $499. It might be a couple of generations old, but this phone is still more than capable, handling gaming well and equipped with two superb rear cameras.
The OnePlus 8 impressed us with its solid lineup of specs, its good screen and its attractive design. Better still, this Android phone also offers 5G data speeds and its affordable launch price is now even lower and can be bought online for around $400, making it a superb value all round.
The Moto G Power packs a robust 5,000-mAh battery that lasted an impressive four days of battery life without a charge in our testing. The Android phone has three rear cameras (one of which is a macro lens), a 6.4-inch display and expandable memory. Not bad for its $180 asking price.
OnePlus is expanding its more affordable Nord family of phones with the launch of the $300 Nord N10 5G. Though it doesn’t have wireless charging or an in-screen fingerprint reader like higher-end OnePlus phones, it does have a 90Hz display, a headphone jack and 5G connectivity.