I have owned and used some of the most memorable premium flagship smartphones in the history of mobile. Those devices have all the bells and whistles and are drool worthy. Yet, in the last 5 years, I have seen less of a need to own one any more, for the simple reason that the best budget phones in the market deliver 80% of what you put to use in a premium flagship.
The truth is that most of us do not put 50% of the features in a premium flagship to use. We don’t even come close to maxing such devices out. And that is the crux of the matter: most cheap budget phones have that set of features and performance. Why spend $999 on a smartphone, 50% of whose features you won’t use, when the best budget phones have the features you do need and use, and at half the cost?
Below is a list of smartphones that I readily recommend as the best cheap phones of the year 2021. Come with me.
My Recommended Best Budget Phones of 2021
Redmi Note 10 Pro: Xiaomi’s 2021 darling boy is unarguably one of the best budget phones of the year. If you are looking for a more affordable, value-packed smartphone that delivers a near premium-experience, you cannot go wrong with the Redmi Note 10 Pro. It has a beautiful 90Hz AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass 5, IP53 dust and splash protection, a capable Snapdragon 732G chipset, up to 8 GB of RAM, stereo speakers, a massive 5020 mAh battery, and 33W fast charging. Let’s not forget that superb 108-megapixel camera at the back. All of this for just $265 to $350, depending on the variant you choose.
Google Pixel 4a: Android purists and those who want the speediest software updates now have only Google’s Pixel range to turn to. The Pixel 4a is the best cheap smartphone in that line-up right now. It is relatively pricey for the features it brings to the table, but its unique selling proposition includes things you won’t find on competing devices from other Android brand. For $349, you get a 5.81-inch OLED display with Gorilla Glass 3 protection, Snapdragon 730G chipset, 6 GB of RAM, 64 GB built-in storage, Google’s superb cameras, 3140 mAh, and 18W fast charging.
Apple iPhone XR: If you are not a fan of the Android ecosystem, there is only one other direction to look in 2021: Apple’s iOS. And the iPhone XR is the best budget phone you can find in Apple’s camp. You get a compact 6.1-inch display, IP67 dust and water protection, Apple A12 Bionic chipset, stereo speakers, 3 GB of RAM, and up to 256 GB built-in storage. The battery is tiny too – a mere 2942 mAh capacity, along with 15W fast charging. Price: $310. I’d have picked the iPhone SE 2020, but that tiny 4.7-inch display is a turn-off.
OnePlus Nord 2: Last on my list of the best budget phones of 2021 is the OnePlus Nord 2. It has a 6.43-inch 90Hz AMOLED display with Corning Gorilla Glass 5, and is powered by MediaTek’s Dimensity 1200 chipset, and so is 5G-enabled, has 8 GB of RAM and up to 256 GB built-in storage. For $400, you also get a premium flagship grade 50 MP camera, stereo speakers, a 4500 mAh battery, and blazing fast 65W fast charging.
All the above smartphones works on all 3 major US carriers and telecom operators. All of them also work on almost all GSM networks in most of the world, including the United Kingdom, Europe, South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya. Do check their detailed specifications to be double sure that your choice budget smartphone is compatible for your needs. Happy shopping.
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Founder of MobilityArena. Yomi’s journey in mobile started in 2001. Besides obsessing over mobile phones, he also started creating WAP sites (early mobile-friendly websites created with WML). He began writing about phones in 2004 and has been at it since then. He has owned over 200 devices, from Symbian, Palm, PocketPC/Windows Mobile, BlackBerry/BB10, webOS, Windows Phone, Firefox, Ubuntu Touch, to Android, iOS, and KaiOS operating systems.