The Best Cheap Android Phones [August 2020]
Smartphones are a necessary part of everyday life, but even if you have some spare cash, no one enjoys shelling out more than a thousand dollars for small improvements in performance, cameras, and design. Phones started to reach four figures a few years ago, but they haven’t slowed down—this year’s Note 20 Ultra from Samsung is a great device, but at $1,300, you might as well buy a full-blown laptop instead. And while features like 5G and a lineup of five cameras on the back of a device may seem like they’re must-haves, for most users, taking an Instagram-worthy photo and being able to reliably send messages is all you really need.
Flagship devices might be reaching astronomical prices, but thankfully, affordable devices continue to grow more powerful each year, with improved designs, performance, and more. If you aren’t a heavy user and you just need something cheap and reliable, we’ve gathered the best cheap Android phones you can grab as you head into the last few months of 2020. From the cheapest Android phones around to a good middle-ground that’ll last you years to come, there’s something for everyone in our list. Let’s dive in.
It arrived months later than most expected, but finally, Google’s Pixel 4a has hit the market, and it’s one of the best phones of 2020. Coming in at just $349, the Pixel 4a is a far cry from the Pixel 4—it’s cheap, it’s basic, and it’s dropped the gimmicks for all-day battery life, fixing a major complaint of that device. It’s not a revolution in smartphones, but it shows Google has finally learned some key lessons about what people want from an affordable device.
Unlike Pixel phones from the past, the Pixel 4a comes in one size. A 5.81″ 1080p display might sound large on paper, but it’s surprisingly easy to hold in one hand, and the edge-to-edge display helps to maximize the screen real estate. Covered in black plastic, the phone feels solid in the hand, though it’s a far cry from the premium materials included in $1000+ phones from Apple or Samsung. The features that matter are here though: a single camera on the back, a hole-punch camera on the front, a fingerprint sensor on the back (no facial recognition here) and maybe most importantly, a headphone jack. Wired headphones users rejoice.
If we’re being honest, the Pixel 4a really shines when you look inside the device. For $350, this is a hell of a phone, offering users 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM out of the box. That beats basically anything else in this arena, and while we’d prefer Google to still offer expandable storage on their budget devices, it’s hard to argue with their default offerings here—especially when their closest competitor, Apple, starts the iPhone SE at just 64GB. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 730, well beyond the needs for anyone but the most dedicated mobile gamer. If you’re interested in playing Fortnite for hours on end, consider looking at flagship devices; everyone else will find the Pixel 4a’s performance more than satisfactory.
On the software side, if you’ve used any Google-branded device before, you’ll feel right at home. Google hasn’t changed their software game much in recent years, and that remains true to this day. Google did remove some of the software and hardware features from flagship Pixel devices, including the squeezable sides that so many have loved on previous devices.
That said, the camera—specifically for still images—remains incredible, even against phones that cost more than twice this device. The Pixel 4a uses the same sensor that the Pixel 3 and Pixel 4 both used, along with the software tweaks that Google have become renown for. Night Sight remains incredible, and while Google can’t quite compete in the video department compared to Apple, new modes like an astrophotography mode help to keep the Pixel’s camera on top of ever-stronger competition.
At $349, it’s hard to beat the Pixel 4a. While it isn’t the cheapest phone on this list, it’s easily the best combination of performance, price, and availability. The Pixel 4a works on all carriers in the US and most carriers throughout the world, making it an unbeatable phone for almost anyone on the hunt for a new device. The other phones on this list are worth consideration, but if you have $350, you don’t need to think about it too hard. The Pixel 4a is the Android phone for you.
- Superb camera
- Solid performance
- All-day battery life
- Headphone jack
- Video quality can't hold up to photo quality
- Only one size
- Squeezable sides are dead
It’s been the better part of a decade since OnePlus arrived on the phone scene to shake things up, but if you ask a lot of their early fans, they may have lost their way. Sure, the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro both undercut Samsung and Apple’s newest flagship devices, but no one in their right mind would call them cheap. While early OnePlus devices met flagship-specs with prices far below $500, the last few years have seen the company offering their phones for around $700 to $800. With this in mind, OnePlus finally moved to bring back the old school budget phone with the OnePlus Nord. It’s a great device, but unfortunately, a couple of key elements keep it from being number one on our list.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: this phone isn’t available in the United States. Designed for use in Europe and India, the company has no plans to bring the device to the West outside of an extremely limited beta test that has already closed. Even if you imported the phone from Amazon or other resellers, the device is missing key band support that will prevent the device from work across large swaths of the United States. Basically, if you aren’t in Europe or India, you should count this one out—at least for now.
That said, the Nord is too great of a phone to ignore, even if many readers may not be able to pick one up today. So, here’s what you need to know about the OnePlus Nord: the phone takes a lot from OnePlus phones of the present and past to create an incredible value. The 90Hz OLED display looks incredible, the battery life is impressive, and the camera is taken directly from the OnePlus 8 (for better or for worse). OxygenOS contines to be one of the best forks of Android not made by Google, and the Snapdragon 765G isn’t far off in performance from the flagship Snapdragon 865 you’ll find in the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro.
While we hope that the US gets their own version of the Nord before the end of 2020, for around $500USD, it’s hard to beat. While that does put the Nord right on the border of being called “cheap,” when new flagship devices are constantly launching for well over twice the price of the Nord, it’s an easy distinction. If the OnePlus Nord works in your region, you should strongly consider picking one up.
- Great performance
- Solid battery life
- 90Hz display
- Only available in certain regions
- $500 isn't as cheap as older OnePlus flagships
- Camera doesn't hold up to the Pixel 4a
Nearly every year since its inception, we’ve praised Motorola’s G-series, a budget line of devices best known for their affordability and clean build of Android. Last year’s Moto G7 featured a premium glass build, a modern display, and solid specs, all capable of handling almost anything you would throw at it through day to day usage. Even in 2020, the G7 continues to be a solid option, but this year, Motorola has opted to drop the numbered branding in the US with two unique models: the Moto G Power and the Moto G Stylus.
Both phones are nearly identical, though most people will likely be more interested in the G Power. Starting at $249 Motorola’s mid-range phone for 2020, featuring a Snapdragon 665, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage. The front of the phone is adorned with a large 6.4″ 1080p display that looks great for this price range, though not everyone will fall in love with the hole-punch camera in the top left corner. The real star of the show here is the 5000mAh battery, which Motorola claims is enough to keep you powered for up to three days without a charge. That’s by far the longest lifespan we’ve seen on any phone here, and it makes it hard to pass over in favor of the G Stylus.
That isn’t to say the G Stylus won’t win over fans, of course. Though it’s a bit more expensive at $299, the G Stylus includes a few additional features that may make it a bit more appealing to some consumers. For one, it comes with the included stylus implied by the name, and although the stylus isn’t quite as advanced as the S Pen Samsung includes with the Note line of devices—you can’t use it as a shutter button, for example—it’s a nice addition for capturing notes. The battery shrinks down to 4000mAh, which is still pretty large all things considered, and the whole package feels a bit slimmer and lighter. The G Stylus also adds an additional “Action Camera” lens, and improves camera quality overall.
Still, these are very similar phones, and which you buy comes down to personal choice. Both offer decent cameras that make large improvements over what was offered on the G7, and both still miss out on NFC, something that is really starting to feel lacking on Motorola’s part. But for $300, it’s hard to beat these phones as the best budget offerings on the market today. Cheaper phones exist, but they just aren’t nearly as good as the G-series for 2020.
- Incredible battery life
- Solid camera quality
- Great battery life in the G Power
- Stylus less advanced than competition
- Smaller battery in G Stylus
- Mediocre design language
It’s harder than ever to find sub-$200 phones worth buying in 2020, but if you have a hard budget and can’t move to either the Moto G Power or G Stylus, you should still stick with the Moto G series of devices. The company released the Moto G Fast earlier this summer, and while it doesn’t quite hit the highs of either phone, it’s a great alternative for anyone with a set budget. The G Fast has one of the best designs you’ll find on a phone under $200, with solid battery life and all the basics you might need in 2020.
Of course, the standard caveats with any budget phone are included here as well, including poor cameras, a tinny speaker, and a low-res 720p screen that may disappoint some users. If you aren’t picky, and you just need a smartphone for basic browsing, you could do a low worse than the G Fast. However, if you can spare an extra $50, the additional features on the G Power will go a long way in improving your day-to-day use.
- Extremely affordable
- Solid battery life
- 720p resolution
- Middling performance
The Nokia brand has really made a comeback since relaunching as an Android phone manufacturer in 2016, and while it might not be the same “Nokia” that was around in the 2000s, that hasn’t stopped the phones from being excellent devices, available at every price point you can imagine. As the successor to the wildly popular Nokia 7.1, the Nokia 7.2 takes everything we liked about that phone and makes it that much better.
The Snapdragon 660 isn’t the newest processor on the market, but it’s far from a bad chipset. Alongside it, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage are also great additions for a phone designed to carry you into 2020, and the larger 6.3″ display reduces both the notch and the bottom bezel of its immediate predecessor. Battery life has received a bump too, with battery capacity bumped by nearly 500mAh. All in all, as long as you’re on AT&T or T-Mobile in the states, the Nokia 7.2 is a great upgrade over 2018’s Nokia 7.1.
- Android One, with solid support
- Solid specs
- No CDMA support for Verizon
- Battery life is just okay