The 8 Best Cheap Cell Phones 2021 – Budget Cell Phone Reviews – Popular Mechanics

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Don’t assume that a mobile with a price tag of $400 or less isn’t worth considering.
There are cell phones on the market that soar past a couple thousand dollars and a wide range of mid-priced options for roughly $500 and up. But if you want to replace your mobile phone—perhaps it’s cracked and not covered, or you just want something new—there are several worthwhile phone to consider for $400 or less. Whether you’re looking for a phone that has strong 5G connectivity or a better camera than what you’re currently carrying, we’ve rounded up the best cheap phones for your budget.
When shopping for a cheap phone, if you’re tied to a particular provider, first make sure that the phone you buy is supported by the carrier. Budget aside—and if you’re married to iOS versus Android—start off by deciding which features are most important to you. Is it a phone that takes great pictures, has excellent battery life, or a large, vibrant display for gaming? Phones on the lower end of the price spectrum often aren’t waterproof, so you may want to purchase one with a foolproof case. Also, some less expensive phones don’t have a ton of storage space, though buying a microSD card can be added.
Every phone we wrote about below has an average rating of at least four stars. During our research, we read though countless user reviews, plus consulted several expert sources, including Tom’s Guide and Wired. We chose phones across multiple price points, ranging from under $200 to $400, and highlight the most important features for each, including processing speed, display, camera capabilities, battery life, overall design, and more, plus broke out pros and cons for every phone we cover.
The Google Pixel 4a offers excellent value—and dropped in price the previous generation Pixel 3. One of the best reasons to buy this phone is for it exceptional 12.2-megapixel camera, upgraded from the Pixel 3 with nifty features like Live HRD+ and Night Sight for taking photos in low light.
It also features a bright 5.8-inch OLED screen, a more streamline design than the Pixel 3, and durable plastic body (not super attractive, but certainly practical), plus a headphone jack and battery life that’s said to last up to 24 hours on a full charge. Downsides include no wireless charging or water resistance.
Finding a mobile phone that delivers a solid performance for well under $200 isn’t easy, but the Motorola Moto G Play fits the bill, with good processing speed and battery life. It features a 5,000mAh battery, along with a sizable 6.5-inch HD display. The 13-megapixel camera takes decent pictures during the day, but lacks capability in low-light conditions, and it’s considerably responsive to taps and swipes.
Overall, it’s a smart pick if you’re on a budget, but keep in mind that it only has 32GB of storage, so you may wish to spring for a microSD card if you need more space.
One of the major selling points of the Moto G Power is that it delivers serious runtime on a single charge. It features a 5,000mAh battery, and while it may be on the heavier side at roughly 7 ounces, if you’re the kind of person who often finds your phone down to 3%, toting around extra weight may be worthwhile. 
Another major highlight is its sharp, full HD resolution and generous 6.6-inch display. The camera is fine, with three lenses including the standard 48-megapixel, but don’t expect anything close to what the Google Pixel 4A delivers.
The TCL 10L isn’t as fancy as the TCL 10 5G or the TCL 10 5G, but there’s a lot to like about this phone in addition to its budget-friendly price point. It offers a sharp, color-rich 6.53-inch LCD display and good performance despite its Snapdragon 665 processor, which is slower than the brand’s 5G model for only $50 more.
Reflected in the price point, the phone’s battery life is decent, but far from stellar, and the camera is average. You’ll be able to snap fairly good photos during the day, but not after dark. 
If you’d rather opt for a stylus over constant swiping and tapping, but don’t want to plunk down a grand for a Samsung Galaxy Note, Motorola’s Moto G Stylus is the mobile phone for you. The stylus is tucked into the right-hand corner of the phone, and offers everything from quick note-taking without unlocking the screen to scribbling on screenshots and photos.
It also checks boxes across the board for performance, with a 4,000mAh battery, adequate processing speed, and an above-average camera, though it lacks extras like optical zoom. Also, the display’s vibrancy is nothing to write home about.
If you’re ready to upgrade to 5G but can’t swing a $500 phone—and are a Verizon customer—your best bet is the TCL 10 5G. Along with strong 5G connectivity the phone also has a Snapdragon 765G processor, typically found in pricier phones, plus there’s great battery life said to last all day on a single charge.
Although the sizable 6.53-inch display appears slightly dim, colors are considerably crisp and vibrant, and while the camera does fine in the daylight, you won’t get any fab shots around the fire pit at night. Aside from having to be a Verizon customer to purchase the phone, its biggest drawback is that it isn’t waterproof and it lacks wireless charging.
If you’re a diehard Apple fan who wants a new iPhone minus the high price tag, you’ll be pleased as punch with the SE. It’s also a great choice for those who’ve grumbled about the iPhone’s increasing size. Its 4.7-inch display is smaller but is just as fab, with ultra-vibrant, crisp colors. 
In terms of performance it’s on par with the iPhone 11, with an A13 Bionic processor, plus it offers wireless charging. If a good camera is important to you, the SE’s is well above average and won’t disappoint, with a 12-megapixel rear camera and a 7-megapixel front-facing lens. But this is one feature where you’ll have to make a bit of a sacrifice—reflected in the price—as it doesn’t have the iPhone 11’s Night Mode.
The TCL 10 Pro is one of the best Android phones you can buy for around $400, with a fast processor, super-solid battery life, a sharp display, plus a great camera. It’s also sleekly designed and looks more expensive than it is. 
The phone features a 4,500mAh battery and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 chip inside, with a 6.5-inch 1080p OLED display. There’s also a headphone jack. In terms of its camera, there are four rear-facing, including a 64-megapixel main camera, along with a 24-megapixel front camera—all of which work decently and give you lots of options for taking photos in a range of conditions—but perhaps not as well as they should for the price.