Best Cheap Android Phones in 2020

0
178

Source: Jose Negron / Android Central

Best
Cheap Android Phones
Android Central
2020

It’s 2020, and flagship smartphones are all nearly a thousand dollars or more. But as high-end phones get more expensive, cheaper phones are getting better. We’ve researched and ranked all of the best cheap Android phones you can buy, and with our buyer’s guide, you’ll find the perfect phone for you.

Best Cheap Android Phone: Moto G Power

Moto G Power ReviewSource: Joe Maring / Android Central

Year after year, Motorola stands out as one of the best companies to watch for delivering good, cheap Android phones. 2020 saw the release of the Moto G Power, and if you’re in the market for an affordable smartphone, it’s hard to do much better than this.

The Power name is a reference to the phone’s best feature — battery life. With a 5,000 mAh battery crammed inside, you can easily get two or three days of use on a single charge. In a world where it’s the norm to throw your phone on the charger every single night, being able to go a few days without worrying about that is a dream come true.

Outside of the legendary battery life, the rest of the G Power’s hardware is just as good. The 6.4-inch Full HD display is easy on the eyes, performance is plenty fast thanks to the Snapdragon 665 processor and 4GB of RAM, and graphical performance in mobile games is vastly improved compared to last year’s Moto G7. The G Power also has a trio of solid cameras, which allow for a wide variety of different types of shots you can take with the phone. Image quality is also pretty good considering how cheap the G Power is.

Tying all of this together is Motorola’s excellent software. The user interface is nearly identical to what you’d find on a Pixel, meaning it’s clean, pure Android as Google intended it. Motorola throws in a few software tweaks to further enhance your experience, such as Moto Display and Moto Actions. The former is arguably the best always-on display out there, with the latter allowing you to move the phone in a chopping motion to turn on the flashlight or twist it to open the camera.

There are two complaints we have about the Moto G Power, the first of which is its lack of NFC. Contactless payment solutions like Google Pay are becoming more and more commonplace with every day that passes, and buying a phone in 2020 that doesn’t support this feels kind of silly. There’s also the fact that Motorola only promises one major OS update for the G Power, meaning it likely won’t be updated beyond Android 11 — a potential deal-breaker if you plan on keeping the phone for a long time.

If neither of those two things bothers you, however, the Moto G Power is a wonderfully complete package that we think a lot of people will be overly happy with.

Pros:

  • Great build quality and design
  • Three rear cameras are a lot of fun
  • Up to three-day battery life
  • Moto Display and Moto Actions are great
  • Compatible with all major U.S. and international carriers

Cons:

  • Moto G line isn’t known for swift software updates
  • Lacks NFC

Best Overall

Moto G Power

The best budget Android phone for most people

If you need a cheap phone, you want the Moto G Power. It’s built well, has a good display, fun cameras, and insane battery life.

Best Upgrade Pick: Google Pixel 4a

Google Pixel 4aSource: Alex Dobie / Android Central

Google didn’t change much about the Pixel 4a over its predecessor, the Pixel 3a; it kept the plastic body, the austere design, and the no-nonsense approach to Android. But what it did change, it improved on a wide scale: it’s faster, it’s got more RAM and memory, a nicer display, and three additional years of Android platform and security updates to soothe even the most critical of users.

The Pixel 4a limits user choice, though: it only comes in one color, black, and in one storage variety, 128GB. It’s also only available in one size, a 5.8-inch model that’s easy to hold and use in one hand.

Where the Pixel 4a excels is in the basics, the fundamentals. Its 3180mAh battery lasts all day, thanks to the power-sipping properties of its upgraded Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 processor. Its 5.8-inch OLED display goes edge-to-edge, with only the slightest hint of a bezel and a camera cutout near the top left. There’s only a single camera on the back, too, but that 12MP sensor combines with Google’s best-in-class post-processing for the best photos you’ll find in a phone at this price point. It’s so good, in fact, you’ll have a hard time telling the difference between photos produced on the Pixel 4a and those from the much more expensive Pixel 4.

So where does the Pixel 4a cut costs? There’s no wireless charging or water resistance, and the plastic body, despite a premium matte finish, can feel a little less premium than its metal-and-glass counterparts. Otherwise this is a near-perfect phone for its very reasonable price, and should be at the top of your list if you can spring the extra money over the Moto G Power.

Pros:

  • Incredible camera
  • Excellent build quality with polycarbonate shell
  • Three years of updates
  • Clean Android build
  • Has a headphone jack

Cons:

  • Lacks wireless charging
  • Lacks water resistance
  • Only available in one color and size option

Best Upgrade Pick

Google Pixel 4a

The uncontested budget photography king

The Pixel 4a takes absolutely stunning photos and comes with the promise of three years of software updates. Thanks to a lower price over the Pixel 3a and improved internals, this is the best phone on this list if you can swing it in your budget.

Best Value: Moto G Fast

Moto G FastSource: Joe Maring / Android Central

If the Moto G Fast looks eerily similar to the Moto G Power, that’s because it’s identical to the phone in more ways than one. It strips down a couple of features in favor of an even lower price, making this one of the best values the Android market has to offer right now.

In regards to similarities, the Moto G Fast has the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor, Adreno 610 GPU for competent gaming, and support for expandable storage along with a headphone jack. You’ll also find the exact same rear camera setup, consisting of the 16MP primary camera, 8MP ultra-wide camera, and 2MP macro camera.

The G Fast does cut a few corners in order to reach its lower price, but it doesn’t take too much away from the overall user experience. The 6.4-inch display is lowered from Full HD+ to HD+, but in-day-to-day use should be perfectly fine for most people. It also has just 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, along with a 4,000 mAh battery. The smaller RAM count could prove to be an issue in a couple of years as you load the phone with apps, games, movies, and more, but it’s still a decent amount for a phone this cheap.

Factor all of that together with how you can use the Moto G Fast on all major carriers in the U.S., and you end up with a value proposition that’s nearly impossible to argue with.

Pros:

  • Snapdragon 665 processor is plenty fast
  • Large HD+ display
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Motorola’s software is excellent
  • Compatible with all major carriers

Cons:

  • Small amounts of RAM and storage
  • Lacks NFC

Best Value

Moto G Fast

One of the best values Android has to offer

For folks that love finding a good deal, the Moto G Fast is one of the best Android phones available.

Best Budget Samsung Phone: Samsung Galaxy A51

Samsung Galaxy A51 reviewSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

Samsung has a lot of decent budget offerings in 2020, with one of its better options being the Galaxy A51.

You’ll find a lot of specs to keep you interested, including an AMOLED display, a 4,000 mAh battery for long endurance, and an Exynos 9611 processor. It’s a decent chipset, but on the A51, it results in some laggy performance every now and then.

The A51 is touting a total of four sensors on its backside. There’s a 48MP primary camera, 12MP ultra-wide camera, 5MP macro camera, and a dedicated 5MP portrait camera. Not only does this setup allow for virtually endless possibilities with the kinds of photos you can take, but the 48MP primary camera is a fantastic shooter that captures wonderful detail and dynamic range.

Pros

  • Good-looking hardware
  • Vibrant AMOLED display
  • Four rear cameras
  • Large 4,000 mAh battery

Best Budget Samsung Phone

Samsung Galaxy A51

Samsung packs quite a punch

Want a quality Samsung phone without going broke? Make sure to check out the Galaxy A51!

Best Features: TCL 10L

TCL 10L backSource: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

TCL has been at the helm of phones under the Alcatel and BlackBerry brands, but with the TCL 10L, the company is finally entering the Android space with a device under its own name. Surprisingly, it’s one of the most feature-rich cheap handsets you can buy right now.

Starting with its display, the TCL 10L offers a 6.53-inch LCD display with the company’s own NXTVISION screen technology — offering true-to-life colors, great viewing angles, and support for HDR video content. If you want to use the display to showcase games, the Snapdragon 665 processor with 6GB of RAM offers more than enough horsepower to keep everything running smoothly.

Also offered are four rear cameras, including a 48MP primary camera, 8MP ultra-wide camera, 2MP macro camera, and 2MP depth camera. Actual image quality isn’t the very best we’ve ever seen, but the fact that you have so many sensors to work with allows for lots of shooting possibilities.

Rounding out the feature list is a 4,000 mAh battery, USB-C charging, NFC for Google Pay, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The phone does not work with Sprint, but it’s perfectly fine to use on AT,amp;T, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

Pros

  • 6.53-inch display looks great
  • Snapdragon 665 paired with 6GB of RAM
  • Four rear cameras
  • Has a headphone jack and USB-C
  • NFC for Google Pay support

Cons

  • Generic design
  • Camera quality could use some work

Best Features

TCL 10L

One phone, so many features

Whether you want a vibrant display, lots of cameras, or Google Pay support, the TCL 10L does it all while keeping costs low.

Best Build Quality: Nokia 7.2

Nokia 7.2Source: Joe Maring / Android Central

The Nokia 7.2 is the successor to the ultra-successful (see what we did there?) Nokia 7.1, and it’s better in every way. It continues the company’s legacy of outstanding build quality with a super-strong polycarbonate frame — that green colorway is even nicer-looking in real life — that feels like metal but can withstand scratches and drops far better.

The hardware has been given a nice boost over the 7.1, too: a Snapdragon 660 processor powers the Nokia 7.2, along with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, which ensures it’s going to last well into the 2020s. Nokia also puts Android One on all of its phones, providing at least two platform updates and regular security patches — something the company has over our top pick, the Moto G Power.

But the real reason to look into the Nokia 7.2 is its triple-camera setup, which includes a massive 48MP primary camera. You can also choose to use the ultra-wide camera for incredible landscape shots, or grab some impressive portrait photos with the dedicated depth sensor.

Pros:

  • Great build quality
  • Awesome big screen
  • Triple camera is super useful
  • Android One software is unbeatable
  • Works on Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT,amp;T

Cons:

  • Snapdragon 660 is already quite dated
  • Doesn’t work on Sprint

Best Build Quality

Nokia 7.2

Hard to beat, harder to destroy

The Nokia 7.2 is an excellent follow-up to one of our favorite phones. It’s fast, beautiful, and can withstand abuse. What more do you want?

Best With a Stylus: Moto G Stylus

Moto G Stylus 2020 Hands OnSource: Joe Maring / Android Central

The Moto G Stylus is an interesting device. It released alongside the Moto G Power mentioned above, offering a very similar experience but with a couple of feature tweaks and a higher price. It’s not an easy general recommendation, but for some people, it could be a great fit.

Compared to the G Power, the G Stylus has a lot in common. You get the same 6.4-inch Full HD+ display, Snapdragon 665 processor, 4GB of RAM, USB-C charging, 3.5mm headphone jack, and support for every single U.S. carrier.

The biggest difference is that the Moto G Stylus comes with, well, a stylus. It’s not as advanced as something like the S Pen you get with the Galaxy Note 10, but it still works great for taking handwritten notes, drawing, or easier navigation. When you aren’t using it, the stylus stores neatly inside the phone. Motorola also switched up the cameras, giving the G Stylus a 48MP primary camera, 2MP Macro Vision camera, and 16MP Action Cam. That Action Cam is pretty unique, as it allows you to hold the phone vertically and record horizontal video.

Just like the Moto G Power, you’re still missing NFC on the Moto G Stylus and need to put up with Motorola’s disappointing software updates.

Pros:

  • Included stylus for writing/drawing
  • Action Cam is pretty unique
  • Good all-around specs
  • Works with every U.S. carrier

Cons

  • No NFC
  • Only one promised OS update

Best With a Stylus

Moto G Stylus

Draw and doodle the day away.

It’s not as good of a deal as the G Power, but the Moto G Stylus offers some fun features that certain shoppers may be drawn to.

Best Under $200: Nokia 4.2

Nokia 4.2Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central

If you were impressed by the Nokia 7.2’s build materials for the money, the Nokia 4.2 features the same design, and similar construction (the frame is metal, but the body is plastic) for just over half the price. Its tiny teardrop notch means you get an almost all-display device, and it’s now running the latest build of Android 10.

There’s a fingerprint sensor along the back, and a dedicated Google Assistant button on the side for quick voice commands. The power button doubles as a notification LED, glowing different colors to denote specific apps, and remarkably, this ultra-cheap phone has NFC to allow for Google Pay — something you rarely see in this price range.

You do have to sacrifice a bit of performance, but in the end, Nokia’s latest is a steal at under $200.

Pros:

  • Outstanding build materials
  • NFC-compatible
  • Android One software
  • Notification LED in the power button
  • Smooth performance over Snapdragon 439

Cons:

  • Micro- USB charging
  • Not CDMA-compatible

Best Under $200

Nokia 4.2

Excellent hardware and clean software on the cheap

The Nokia 4.2 has a fantastic metal and glass design and a clean build of Android 9 Pie with the promise of timely, continued updates thanks to Android One. It even has NFC for mobile payments. For under $200, there’s really not a lot to complain about.

Best Under $150: Moto E (2020)

Moto E 2020 ReviewSource: Joe Maring / Android Central

Year after year, Motorola’s Moto E series stands out as being home to some of the most affordable Android phones on the market. However, while they are undoubtedly cheap, they don’t deliver a bad user experience. In fact, with the new Moto E for 2020, the formula is better than it’s ever been.

For being as cheap as it is, the Moto E has a good design. The glossy plastic isn’t anything to write home about, but the 6.2-inch HD+ display with slim bezels and a waterdrop notch looks right at home here in 2020. You’ll also find two cameras on the back, along with a fingerprint sensor — both firsts for a Moto E handset.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 processor and 2GB of RAM certainly won’t knock your socks off, but for basic apps and possibly some light games, it should get the job done just fine. You’ll also find 32GB of expandable storage, a 3,550 mAh battery, Micro-USB charging, and a headphone jack.

Motorola’s out-of-the-box software with Android 10 is top-notch, but it comes with a catch. Unlike Moto G phones that are promised one major OS update, the Moto E is confirmed to not get any. That means it won’t ever move beyond Android 10 to Android 11 or anything else, which is something to consider before throwing your money down.

Pros:

  • Extremely affordable
  • Large display with respectable bezels
  • Great out-of-the-box software
  • Has a headphone jack
  • Expandable storage

Cons:

  • Charges with Micro-USB
  • Won’t get any OS updates

Best Under $150

Moto E (2020)

A super-low price tag with outsized value

If the lack of software updates doesn’t bother you, the Moto E packs quite a punch given just how cheap it is.

Best Cameras: Samsung Galaxy A71

Samsung Galaxy A71 reviewSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

Samsung’s lineup of mid-tier Android phones has gotten a lot better in recent years, with one of the latest examples being the Galaxy A71. This is at the higher-end of Samsung’s more affordable Galaxy phones, and it should absolutely be on your shortlist.

As hinted at above, this is the cheap Android phone to get if you care about cameras. The heart of the Galaxy A71 is its 64MP primary camera, and photos taken with it look excellent. There’s a lot of detail, good dynamic range, and vibrant colors. To help expand the types of pictures you can take, the A71 is also equipped with a 12MP wide-angle camera, 5MP macro camera, and a 5MP portrait camera.

Outside of the camera department, the Galaxy A71 is just as impressive. It delivers a gorgeous 6.7-inch AMOLED display, fast performance thanks to the Snapdragon 730 processor, and a beefy 4,500 mAh battery that allows for long endurance. Tie all of that together with USB-C charging and a headphone jack, and you end up with quite the package.

U.S. buyers take note: The version on Amazon U.S. is an international model and won’t work on Sprint or Verizon or any of their MVNOs. It will work perfectly on AT,amp;T and T-Mobile. It also has no U.S. warranty.

Pros

  • Stunning design
  • Best camera system in its class
  • AMOLED display is excellent
  • Snappy, reliable performance
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a U.S. warranty
  • Only compatible with AT,amp;T and T-Mobile

Best Cameras

Samsung Galaxy A71

An excellent camera package, regardless of price

Samsung went all out with the Galaxy A71’s cameras, giving you a 64MP primary lens and three other ones to play around with.

Best Outside the U.S.: Xiaomi Mi 9T

Xiaomi Mi 9TSource: Xiaomi

Xiaomi isn’t a brand that many U.S. shoppers are likely familiar with, but if you venture outside of the country and look to markets like India and China, you’ll see that it’s one of the most well-known there. If you’re comfortable with buying an international Android phone, the Xiaomi Mi 9T is one of the best you can get.

So, what all do you get with the Mi 9T? For starters, there’s that design. With a 6.39-inch bezel-less AMOLED display and stunning back design, the Mi 9T looks incredible. The selfie camera pops up out of the top frame, allowing the screen to shine without any ugly bezels or hole-punch cutouts.

Under the hood are the Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 4,000 mAh battery. For the camera department, you’ll find a 48MP primary camera, 8MP telephoto camera, and 13MP ultra-wide camera.

U.S. buyers take note: The version on Amazon U.S. is an international model and won’t work on Sprint or Verizon or any of their MVNOs. It will work perfectly on AT,amp;T and T-Mobile. It also has no U.S. warranty.

Pros

  • AMOLED display with zero bezels or notches
  • Super-sleek and modern design
  • Snapdragon 730 processor
  • Capable camera system
  • Large battery

Cons

  • No warranty in the U.S.
  • Not compatible with Sprint or Verizon

Best Outside the U.S.

Xiaomi Mi 9T

Take a look at what Xiaomi’s offering

It probably wouldn’t be your first choice, but the Xiaomi Mi 9T is one of the best cheap Android phones you can buy.

Bottom line

There’s no shortage of excellent Android phones these days, whether you want to spend more than $700, less than $300, or even $100. The above phones represent the best of a set limitation — that of not wanting to overspend on a product that, inevitably, will need to be replaced in a couple of years.

But that’s the beauty of a device that costs a third of what you’d spend on a Galaxy S20 or Pixel 4. It offers 90% of what those phones cost and can be replaced more easily. While you may miss out on some of the more advanced features like waterproofing and wireless charging, and you may not receive as many updates, or for as long, these phones represent a new breed of budget devices, you can feel confident in buying.

And the Moto G Power is the best value of the bunch.

Splurging on the best overall phone that throws in everything and the kitchen sink isn’t always the ideal solution — especially when you’re looking at cost-cutting phones in the first place. Instead, you should figure out what you value the most. If you’re looking to spend even less, the Moto G Fast delivers a reliable experience at one of the best prices around. Similarly, the Samsung Galaxy A71 easily has the best camera, and if you’re looking for luxurious hardware, it’s tough to beat the Nokia 7.2. Every manufacturer has something of value to offer.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Daniel Bader is the Managing Editor of Android Central. As he’s writing this, a mountain of old Android phones is about to fall on his head, but his Great Dane will protect him. He drinks way too much coffee and sleeps too little. He wonders if there’s a correlation.

Joe Maring is a Senior Editor for Android Central and has had a love for anything with a screen and CPU since he can remember. He’s been talking/writing about Android in one form or another since 2012 and often does so while camping out at the nearest coffee shop. Have a tip? Send an email to [email protected]!

Andrew Martonik is the Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central. He has been a mobile enthusiast since the Windows Mobile days and covering all things Android-related with a unique perspective at AC since 2012. For suggestions and updates, you can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @andrewmartonik.

We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.