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The 5 best budget smartphones under $500

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Daniel Howley
·Technology Editor
·5 min read
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LG is officially biting the bullet and dipping out of the smartphone game. That means there’s one less budget-friendly smartphone maker on the market. But fear not, there are still plenty of solid smartphones out there for shoppers looking for a great phone that won’t break the bank.

Whether you’re looking for a smartphone for less than $200 or one just shy of $500, these are the best phones to get on a budget.

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Apple iPhone SE

Apple's iPhone SE is the go-to for Apple fans looking for a budget-friendly smartphone. (Image: Apple)
Apple's iPhone SE is the go-to for Apple fans looking for a budget-friendly smartphone. (Image: Apple)
  • $399

  • 4.7-inch Retina HD display

  • Water resistant

  • Fingerprint reader

  • Wide-angle camera

  • (Not 5G capable)

If you’re a fan of Apple's (AAPL) iPhone and looking to stretch your bills as far as you can, this is the only phone you want to look at. The iPhone SE doesn’t have the flashy design of the iPhone 12, but it does offer plenty of power for a pint-size phone. The SE — or the SE 2nd generation, as it’s also called — uses the same body styling as the iPhone 8, and packs a 4.7-inch Retina HD display.

You’ll also get a Touch ID fingerprint reader, a single wide-angle camera lens, and water resistance. But what makes the SE a truly solid deal is its A13 Bionic processor. The same chip found in the iPhone 11, the A13 Bionic ensures the SE will last you quite a while before it starts to feel sluggish. We’re talking years here.

The one downside? The SE doesn’t include 5G cellular connectivity like some other phones on this list. 5G lets you download and upload content far faster than 4G LTE, but so far, 5G isn’t a necessity, since the speeds aren’t quite what carriers have promised. In other words, 5G is nice, but shouldn’t be a reason for skipping the SE.

Google Pixel 4A 5G

Google's Pixel 4A 5G offers some of the best camera technology on a smartphone. (Image: Google)
Google's Pixel 4A 5G offers some of the best camera technology on a smartphone. (Image: Google)
  • $499

  • 6.2-inch OLED screen

  • (Not water resistant)

  • Fingerprint reader

  • Wide-angle and ultra-wide angle cameras

  • 5G capable

Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) Pixel 4A is the company’s lowest cost smartphone at $349, but if 5G and future proofing your phone are of the utmost importance, you can’t go wrong with the $499 Pixel 4A 5G.

Packing a 6.2-inch OLED display-that means more vibrant colors and deeper blacks than LCD screens-and a rear fingerprint reader, the 4A 5G is a heck of a lot of smartphone for a relatively low price.

Powered by Google’s Android, naturally, the 4A 5G also gets wide-angle and ultra-wide angle camera lenses. What’s more, it features Google’s incredible low-light shooting mode Night Sight.

The one downside? Google didn’t outfit the phone with water resistance, meaning you’ll need to be careful around puddles and pools.

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

The new Galaxy A52 includes a host of Samsung's best technologies at a low cost complete with 5G. (Image: Samsung)
The new Galaxy A52 includes a host of Samsung's best technologies at a low cost complete with 5G. (Image: Samsung)
  • $499

  • 6.5-inch Infinity-O display

  • Water resistant

  • In-screen fingerprint reader

  • 4 camera system

  • 5G capable

Samsung is known for its Galaxy S and Galaxy Note line of smartphones, but don’t sleep on the Galaxy A series. Starting at $499 and equipped with a 6.5-inch Infinity-O display — that’s Samsung’s take on an AMOLED screen that takes up the entire front of the phone — the A52 5G offers many of the key features of its pricier stablemates.

We’re talking water resistance, an in-screen fingerprint reader, and a 4-camera system that includes a wide-angle camera, ultra-wide angle camera, and macro lens camera. And, of course, there’s the A52’s 5G capabilities that allow you to connect to high-speed data networks. Samsung also just debuted its less expensive Galaxy A32 5G, which forgoes many of the features found on the A51 including a Super AMOLED screen, but still gives you 5G connectivity for just $279.

OnePlus Nord N10 5G

The OnePlus Nord 10 5G packs impressive features including a sleek design for just $299. (Image: OnePlus)
The OnePlus Nord 10 5G packs impressive features including a sleek design for just $299. (Image: OnePlus)
  • $299

  • 6.49-inch display

  • (Not water resistant)

  • Fingerprint reader and face unlock

  • 4 camera system

  • 5G capable

OnePlus isn’t a mainstream name in the smartphone space, but for techies and enthusiasts, it’s a major player. Offering high-end specs for relatively low prices, OnePlus has carved out its own niche in the smartphone market.

The OnePlus Nord N10 5G starts at $299 and features a 6.49-inch display, as well as a fingerprint reader and face unlock. OnePlus also tosses in a 4-camera setup. You’re not getting any kind of water resistance, or an OLED screen, though, so don’t expect the kind of fantastic perks of its more expensive brethren. Still, you can’t beat a smartphone for $299.

Motorola Moto G Power

The Moto G Power might not have 5G capabilities, but for just $179 it includes all-day battery life and a big-screen display. (Image: Motorola)
The Moto G Power might not have 5G capabilities, but for just $179 it includes all-day battery life and a big-screen display. (Image: Motorola)
  • $179

  • 6.4-inch display

  • Water-repellant design

  • Fingerprint reader

  • 3 camera system

  • (Not 5G capable)

Motorola is still doing its thing in the smartphone space. And while it might not have the massive following its original Razr had in the 2000s, its Moto G Power is certainly worth checking out. At $179, this phone includes a large 6.4-inch display and a built-in fingerprint reader. The G Power also has a 3-camera setup and water-repellant design. There’s no 5G included with the G power, but you still get 4G LTE connectivity, which will get you by until 5G is a necessity.

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