Best phones under $500: iPhone SE, Pixel 4A 5G, Galaxy A51 and more

With the launch of its iPhone 12 lineup last year, Apple has discounted a few of its older models, including reducing the 2018 iPhone XR to $500. That pricing tier has been popular of late, and many big-time mobile phone-makers are offering great new phones in that range. One of them is Google’s new Pixel 4A 5G, which joins the Pixel 4A from August.

With so many phones hitting the market, people on a tight budget have more options to choose from. Further, in addition to the new ones, there are plenty of reliable options from 2019 and 2020 still available. The best part: All of them cost about $500 or less. And despite their low prices, budget phones are getting more advanced and pack features akin to a premium phone, like amazing cameras, fast processors, lots of internal storage, great front camera (for selfies!) and the latest software features. Further, if you’re willing to buy an unlocked phone, your choices become even broader.

Check out the list below of the best phones under $500 (which we’ll be updating regularly), and read CNET’s reviews. Note that we’ve linked to the unlocked version of each phone, and they should run on most of the big four US wireless carriers, unless specified otherwise.

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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. (Unfortunately, for wired headphone users, it doesn’t have a headphone jack.) If you’re looking for a new iPhone but want to save as much money as possible, the $399 (£419, AU$749) iPhone SE is your best bet for a cheap phone option.

Read our Apple iPhone SE (2020) review.

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If you want an affordable 5G phone, the Pixel 4A 5G is a worthy consideration. Available for $499 (£499, AU$799) handset has a solid battery life, fantastic dual rear cameras and robust software support from Google. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

In addition to its main Galaxy S20 phones, Samsung has a more cost-conscious A series line of phones. This year it launched the Galaxy A51 5G, which has four cameras including a selfie camera, an in-screen fingerprint sensor and expandable memory. CNET reviewed the non-5G version that goes for $399, though we’ve seen it go on sale for as low as $280.

Read our Galaxy A51 review.

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The $445 One 5G is one of the best, most affordable 5G phones available. This cheap smartphone option has a total of six, yes six, cameras, a 90Hz high-refresh rate display and fast-charing technology. It’s available now in the US on AT&T and on Verizon at a later date.

Read our Motorola One 5G review.

OnePlus Nord N10 5G

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OnePlus is expanding its more affordable “Nord” family of phones with the launch of the Nord N10 5G. Available in Europe and North America at a later date, the phone costs £329, which is about $430 or AU$590. 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. Read our OnePlus N10 5G review.


Available now on AT&T and Cricket, the K92 is a competitively priced 5G phone that features a 6.7-inch display with thin bezels and a hole-punch camera on the front. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 690 chipset and a 4,000-mAh battery. In addition to a 16-megapixel front-facing camera, it has four other cameras on the back: a 64-megapixel standard shooter, a 5-megapixel wide-angle camera, and two other cameras for depth sensing and macro images. Read our LG K92 first-take.

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Released in August, Google’s Pixel 4A costs $349 (£349, AU$599). The 5.81-inch Google Pixel phone only comes in one color (black) and one size (as in there’s no Pixel 4A XL unlike past years). This Google Pixel features a headphone jack, a slightly larger screen and a bigger battery than the Pixel 4 and 128GB of storage right off the bat.

Read our Google Pixel 4A review.

Josh Miller/CNET

The iPhone XR may be two years old, but second to the SE above, it’s one of the cheapest iPhones you can get new from Apple. Currently starting at $499 (£499, AU$849) off-contract with 64GB, it features a 6.1-inch LCD display, a 12-megapixel rear camera and the A12 Bionic processor. It’s also compatible with Apple’s latest iOS 14 software update.

Read our Apple iPhone XR review.

Angela Lang/CNET

Although the Galaxy A50 came out last year (and is the predecessor to the A51 phone mentioned above), it’s still a great phone for $350. This Samsung phone has a 6.4-inch AMOLED screen, an in-screen fingerprint reader, front facing camera for selfies and a headphone jack.

Read our Samsung Galaxy A50 review.

Angela Lang/CNET

When it debuted last year, the OnePlus 7T was a strong flagship device. It’s now available for $350 at T-Mobile, which is a great deal for a phone with a 90Hz display, a solid triple-rear camera array and a zippy performance.

Read our OnePlus 7T review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you’re looking for a cheaper Note 20 alternative, the Moto G Stylus features a stylus that you can store inside the phone along with a built-in Notes app to help with productivity. Currently priced at $200 from Motorola, the phone also features triple-rear cameras, 128GB of storage and a robust 4,000-mAh battery.

Read our Moto G Stylus review.

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It’s been two years since its launch, but the Galaxy S9 is still worthy of consideration. Discounted at about $400 to $500 from Samsung and other retailers, the Android phone is water resistant, has wireless charging, expandable storage and a headphone jack. Plus, its curved OLED screen display lends the phone a modern-day look that still endures.

Read our Samsung Galaxy S9 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Moto G Power is a tad cheaper than the G Stylus at $180, but it packs a robust 5,000-mAh battery. During our testing, it lasted an impressive four days without a charge. The phone has three rear cameras (one of which is a macro lens), a 6.4-inch display and expandable memory.

Read our Moto G Power review.

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