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Best budget smartphone 2020: the best cheap mobiles around

Best budget smartphone
Image Credit: TechRadar

The best budget-price phone can't just be an acceptable handset with a low price tag; since there are so many cheap phones, there's a lot of competition.

To help you work your way around all the budget handsets and phone brands around, we've made this list of the best cheap phones you can buy.

Don't be put off by the 'budget' title. That doesn't necessarily mean bad phones as these affordable handsets have good build quality, decent performance, competitive cameras and more, all without costing too much.

When we say a cheap phone, that means a lot, and compared to a R25,000 iPhone, a decent mid-ranger could be seen as cheap. For this list, our cut-off point is phones with a R4,000 price tag. That doesn't mean all the phones cost that much; some cost  less than R2,000. That's because when we review a handset, its price is important in how we rate it. 

Bear in mind, these won't be smartphones that with all the bells and whistles of flagships like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10, iPhone 11 Pro Max, and Huawei Mate 30 Pro but with commendable specs and solid features considering the price.

Some brands do aim for the budget phone market, so there may be some TECNO, Vivo and even Doogee phones on this list at any one time, but there are some big brands too.

The phone at the top of this list has been there a while, and that's because there hasn't been anything to dismount it since it was released. We've got a few cheap phones being tested right now though, and one of them could nab the top spot.

Best cheap phones at a glance:

  1. Huawei P Smart (2019)
  2. Redmi Note 7
  3. Nokia 4.2
  4. Nokia 3.2
  5. Redmi 7A

Best cheap phones:

Huawei P Smart (2019)

1. Huawei P Smart (2019)

The best cheap phone you can buy right now

Weight: 160g | Dimensions: 155.2 x 73.4 x 8mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 6.21-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 2340 | CPU: Kirin 710 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32/64GB | Battery: 3,400mAh | Rear camera: 13MP + 2MP | Front camera: 8/16MP

Slick design at great price
Ample storage
Only one speaker
Camera can overly process

The Huawei P Smart 2019 is the best cheap phone you can buy right now, and has been for some time.

It packs a usable camera, plenty of storage and great battery life as well as a screen and design that punch way above their weight.  

There is very little between the Huawei P Smart and the Honor 10 Lite, and they're practically the same device, but the P Smart tops our list with its slightly sharper design.

Read our full review: Huawei P Smart (2019)

Xiaomi Redmi Note 7

2. Xiaomi Redmi Note 7

A great mix of features for an attractive price tag

Weight: 186g | Dimensions: 159.2 x 75.2 x 8.1mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 6.3-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 2340 | CPU: Snapdragon 660 | RAM: 3/4GB | Storage: 32/64/128GB | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 48MP + 5MP | Front camera: 13MP

Stellar battery life
Big, vibrant screen
Overblown software
Camera could be better

Xiaomi should be proud, the Redmi Note 7 is a real achievement - one that puts many other smartphone manufacturers to shame.

It's difficult to find many other phones than can offer what the Redmi Note 7 does at its price point, and as long as you can look past the software with a few minor niggles and the services it tries to push, you'll be happy with your purchase.

Read our full review: Redmi Note 7

Nokia 4.2

(Image credit: Future)

3. Nokia 4.2

The best cheap Nokia phone

Weight: 161g | Dimensions: 149 x 71.3 x 8.4mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 5.71-inch | Resolution: 720 x 1520 | CPU: Snapdragon 439 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32/64GB | Battery: 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 13MP + 2MP | Front camera: 8MP

Sharp design
Good-looking UI
Sluggish performance
Underwhelming display

Nokia is known as a great budget smartphone manufacturer, but few of its phones actually fall below the £200 threshold we had for this list. The Nokia 4.2 is one such device, and it'll do you well without costing you much.

Sure, its specs are a little on the low side, but that's to be expected in a phone at this price, and there are very few compromises you might notice.

But at its core, the Nokia 4.2 is a standard and conventional Android phone, and at a glance it's not that different from a mid-range or even high-end device with the same design.

Read our full review: Nokia 4.2

Nokia 3.2

(Image credit: Future)

4. Nokia 3.2

Another solid workhorse from the comeback king

Weight: 181g | Dimensions: 159.44 x 76.24 x 8.60mm | OS: Android 10 | Screen size: 6.26-inch | Resolution: 720x1520 | CPU: Snapdragon 429 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 16/32GB | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP

Big, decent screen
Big battery
Slightly fragile build

Nokia continues its comeback with another impressive budget offering. The Nokia 3.2 feels extremely thin and light in hand so much so that we doubted there was enough space for a whopping 4000mAh battery as claimed , but we felt more convinced when the phone ran for nearly two days, even playing some music and social media video clips in between.

Its extraordianary to have a quality 6.2inch screen at this low price and we even foud the single 13MP rear camera to deliver pretty sharp, colour balanced photos in natural light (less so in low light, obviously, even with a flash).

Almost best thing about Nokia phones is the commitment to rapid Android upgrades, and this phone is now running the latest Android 10.

Read our hands-on review: Nokia 3.2

Xiaomi Redmi 7A

(Image credit: TechRadar)

5. Xiaomi Redmi 7A

Xiaomi's attempt at budget leadership

Weight: 165g | Dimensions: 146.3 x 70.4 x 9.6mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 5.45-inch | Resolution: 720 x 1440 | CPU: Snapdragon 439 | RAM: 2/3GB | Storage: 16/32GB | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP

Great one-handed design
Great battery life
Bloated software
Not enough RAM

Xiaomi has its sights set on the budget smartphone segment, and the Redmi 7A (from its sub-brand Redmi) is one of its most affordable handsets right now.

There's a lot to like in the Redmi 7A, given it's a cheap phone, from the chunky 4,000mAh battery to the small size, which is great for one-handed use.

It's not perfect, and performance-wise you might find it a little slow, but that's okay given the super-low price.

Read our full review: Xiaomi Redmi 7A