Companies such as Apple, Google, and Samsung are extending the abundance of capabilities available on their flagship devices to less costly models. Other brands, such as TCL, are also looking for methods to compete with more established manufacturers by offering lower costs and more premium features.
The bad news is that this makes choosing the best cheap phone much more difficult. At this pricing point, it’s impossible to find a phone that does everything well. So prioritize the qualities that are most important to you, whether it’s 5G connectivity with a specific network, a high-resolution screen, a low price, the greatest camera, or software update longevity. It’s tough to obtain straight A’s in all of these categories, but if you can live with the occasional B, you’ll find a phone you’ll adore. For the best pricing and mobility, we recommend getting an unlocked phone, but you may discover better rates by purchasing through a carrier and signing up for a wireless plan.
Now, if you are in the market for a smartphone that has the latest features but doesn’t burn a hole in your wallet, this is the guide for you, as we count down 5 budget smartphones that you should definitely consider buying in 2022.
Number 1. Apple iPhone SE 2022
The iPhone SE continues to be the best value proposition on the smartphone market, bar none. Even if the price increased by $30 over the second-generation model, it’s still a great deal at $429 when you consider it will continue to receive iOS updates for up to five, if not six or seven years.
However, if you’re ready to pick up a SE and glide through much of the next decade without having to buy a new phone, there’s one important consideration to make: dealing with its very little, very antiquated 4.7-inch screen. It’s the same one that was used on the iPhone 6, and it’s beginning to feel quite little in an age when apps and web pages are meant for larger screens. The SE’s large bezels also make the smartphone appear antiquated, but the usability of a small screen, in the long run, is the most crucial thing to consider.
That is the most serious criticism leveled about SE. Otherwise, it’s an excellent intermediate tablet. It has the same A15 CPU as Apple’s top-tier iPhone 13 Pro Max, so performance is great. It has IP67 waterproofing, which is unusual in this price bracket, and while using the same 12-megapixel camera that iPhones have had since the beginning of time, it captures extremely beautiful images and high-quality video clips. An odd omission is the lack of a night setting for brighter images in low light. Many other midrange phones include a low-light photo mode, and the phone’s chipset is undoubtedly capable. Apple will be Apple.
Of course, this generation SE has a 5G connection — only low- and mid-band, which is good. You won’t receive the speedy millimeter-wave 5G that you could see at an NFL stadium, but it’s nothing to worry about. The battery life has also been increased over the previous generation, and it will generally last a whole day unless you really push it with demanding tasks like gaming and video streaming.
If you don’t mind the small screen and don’t mind the lack of night mode, we recommend getting the 128GB version. The base model’s 64GB of storage is insufficient, and you’ll be pleased you invested the extra $50 when you use this phone for years to come.