Best budget smartphone 2022: The best cheap phones you can buy in the UK


Looking to save money on your next smartphone? We reveal the best budget handsets you can buy in the UK

Aren’t modern smartphones excellent? It’s like having a mini-supercomputer in your pocket compared to the bulky handsets of old. Technology, on the whole, has been getting better every year and – crucially – much cheaper, too. You no longer need to hand over wallet-wilting sums of cash for your annual upgrade. Move your gaze away from those usual smartphone flagship big-hitters and you’ll find yourself a fantastic bargain, as there are some cracking budget smartphones to be found.

READ NEXT: Best mid-range smartphones

Yes, headline-grabbing flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, Galaxy Z Fold 4 and the iPhone 14 Pro are wonderful, but you no longer have to spend top dollar for a superb smartphone experience. Want to know more? Well, that’s where we come in. These are the very best budget smartphones you can buy.

Every year, Expert Reviews puts hundreds of smartphones to the test so you don’t have to, with the best coverage in the UK. That means we can definitively tell you which budget smartphone is perfect for you. Take a look below and you’ll spot our regularly curated list of the best budget smartphones you can buy, as well as a helpful budget smartphone buying guide.

Boxing Day deals: This budget 5G phone is cheaper than ever

Right now at Amazon, you can pick up the excellent Motorola Moto G62 5G for £170, down from £200. That's as cheap as this budget 5G smartphone was over Black Friday - so if you missed out then, you've been given a second chance this Boxing Day.
Was £200
Now £170

How to choose the best budget smartphone for you

Picking the perfect budget phone isn’t easy, and there are all sorts of factors to consider when making your purchase. Before you head to the checkout, you’ll want to make sure you have all the bases covered. To make your decision a bit easier, we’ve highlighted the main criteria you need to look out for.

Should I buy a phone on contract or SIM-free?

Budget smartphones are, as you’d expect, cheaper to buy outright than other handsets, with prices starting as low as £100 or so. As a result, if you have the cash, we recommend you buy one SIM-free. You can then find the right SIM-only deal from any network and sell your phone when you want to upgrade. If you don’t have the cash, you’ll need to go for a contract deal, but these don’t tend to be great value for budget phones as you end up spending much more by the time your contract ends.

Which smartphone operating system do I need?

With budget phones, there isn’t much choice when it comes to mobile operating systems. Bar one exception, every budget smartphone runs Google’s OS, Android. Rest assured, though: Android is easy to use, whether you’re a first-time user or mobile veteran. Just check which Android version the phone is running as older versions may no longer be supported with regular security updates and lack essential features.

READ NEXT: Best Android smartphone

If iOS is more your thing, you only have one choice. Apple’s iPhone 8 might begin to be showing its age, but it’s still on sale and remains an excellent budget Apple device.

What should I look for in a smartphone display?

While flagship phones are fitted with the best, biggest and highest-resolution screens, you can still find budget smartphones with high-quality displays. Cheap handsets usually have a minimum screen resolution of 720p, but some slightly more expensive alternatives offer Full HD (1,080p) resolution displays for sharper viewing.

The majority of budget smartphones we recommend use LCD panel technology, which is more than good enough for the price you're paying. However, we’re starting to see AMOLED displays crop up at the lower end of the scale as well, which produce even better colours and a deeper black level. Read our full reviews if you want to know how good a phone’s screen is.

Battery life and performance

Budget phones aren’t equipped with top-end internals. But that’s not to say their performance is bad – far from it, with reasonably speedy chips often making an appearance in affordable handsets. To get an idea of what to expect from a phone’s performance, look at the clock speed of the chip (measured in GHz) and how much RAM is inside (anything more than 4GB will do the job nicely).

Battery life is crucial, and each phone’s stamina is different. When considering your next budget phone, keep an eye out for the phone’s battery capacity (listed in mAh) – the higher the number, the longer you can expect the battery to last on a single charge. If you’re stuck, we’ve rounded up the longest-lasting phones in one place.

How much storage do I need?

It’s amazing how much storage you can eat through on a phone with apps, games and images. You’ll want at least 32GB of onboard storage and look out for phones with a microSD card slot, as you can cheaply add more space when your internal storage eventually fills up.

Best budget smartphone: At a glance

Best budget smartphones to buy in 2022

1. Xiaomi Redmi Note 11: The best budget phone in 2022

Price: £200 | Buy now from Amazon

Xiaomi hit a rich vein of form with the first few of its budget handsets to launch in the UK, and its newest smartphone is no different. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 is far, far better than it has any right to be for a phone that costs this little and with upgrades across the board, it's an even more tantalising option than ever before.

Yes, the phone we’d recommend above all other wallet-friendly options on the market is the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11. Xiaomi’s latest budget handset is powered by a surprisingly speedy Snapdragon 680 processor, which in our tests produced speeds that easily matched handsets costing twice the price. Its triple camera array, which includes a massive 50MP sensor, is also remarkable for the price and the large 6.43in FHD+ AMOLED screen with a 90Hz refresh rate is a delight, too.

You might expect to see these sorts of high-level specs in a flagship phone, so it’s a proper treat to see these features in a handset that costs a fraction of the price. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 is the very definition of a budget smartphone, setting the benchmark for affordable handsets to come. At this price, you can’t do much better.

Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 680; Display: 6.43in 2,400 x 1,080; Storage: 128GB or 256GB; Camera: 50MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (macro), 2MP (depth); Operating system: Android 11; Weight: 179g

2. Nokia C21 Plus: The most affordable budget smartphone

Price: £110 l Buy now from Amazon

A £100 smartphone used to bring about negative connotations, but the Nokia C21 Plus is far better than its bargain price suggests. Running a specially tweaked version of Android that caters to low-powered devices, the Nokia C21 Plus exceeds all expectations for a phone so cheap. Despite the comparatively weak hardware (it only has 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage), it runs surprisingly well and has a bright IPS display with a camera that isn’t half bad for the price.

Its sturdy build materials and compact design should help it last the test of time and the battery life lasted long enough in our tests as well. It may be lacking when it comes to raw processing speeds, and there are far better alternatives if your buying budget can stretch beyond £100, but when it comes down to sheer affordability, the Nokia C21 Plus is the undisputed champion.

Read our full Nokia C21 Plus review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Quad-core 1.6GHz Unisoc SC9863A; Display: 6.52in 1,600 x 720; Storage: 32GB; Camera: 13MP, 2MP (depth); Operating system: Android 11 Go; Weight: 178g

3. Apple iPhone 8 (renewed): The cheapest iPhone

Price: From £150 | Buy now from Amazon

It isn't Apple’s most up-to-date iPhone, but the iPhone 8 is still a reliable purchase. If your smartphone buying budget can’t quite stretch to the new iPhone SE (£419), then the iPhone 8, despite launching in 2017, will still serve you well so long as you don’t mind buying a renewed model.

The iPhone 8's build quality holds up in 2022, as does its lovely-looking 4.7in Retina display. Likewise, the A11 Bionic processor, while no match for the newest iPhone 13 and its A15 Bionic chipset, is still more than capable with a variety of intensive tasks. The iPhone 8 also supports the newest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 15, if you were worried that you might be outdated on the software side of things.

If you want an Apple phone on a budget and aren’t fussed about it being slightly outdated, then the iPhone 8 is your best bet.

Read our full iPhone 8 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Hexa-core 2.39GHz Apple A11 Bionic; Display: 4.7in 1,334 x 750; Storage: 64GB, 256GB; Camera: 12MP; Operating system: iOS 14; Weight: 148g

4. Xiaomi Poco X4 Pro 5G: Unbeatable value

Price: £220 l Buy now from Amazon

The Xiaomi Poco X4 Pro 5G is yet another astonishingly well-priced Xiaomi handset. Featuring specifications that are more befitting of handsets that cost double the price, the Poco X4 Pro offers unbeatable value for money, especially if you live in a 5G area.

For not much money you're getting a smartphone with a surprisingly speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 chipset, a large 120HZ Full HD display and plenty of internal storage. Another huge bonus is its 108MP camera, which is pretty much unseen from phones at this price, as is the blisteringly fast 67W fast charging. Add in the fact that this is one of the cheapest phones that can connect to the 5G network in the UK, and there's not much else you would want at this price.

Read our full Xiaomi Poco X4 Pro 5G review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 695; Display: 6.67in 2,400 x 1,080; Storage: 128GB; Camera: 108MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (macro); Operating system: Android 11; Weight: 205g

5. Apple iPhone SE 3 (2022): The best-value (new) iPhone

Price: £419 l Buy now from Amazon

The iPhone SE 3 (2022) might be stretching the definition of a budget smartphone, but Apple’s idea of what constitutes cheap isn’t exactly the same as everyone else’s. If you want a new iPhone – the renewed iPhone 8 above is a few years old – then your best-value option is the iPhone SE.

Despite having the look and feel of a phone from days gone by, the iPhone SE 3 is a formidable small-sized handset that benefits from Apple’s fastest-ever mobile chipset, the A15 Bionic. That’s the same processor found inside the iPhone 13, which costs more than twice as much. The cheapest iPhone by quite a distance, the iPhone SE’s 12MP camera is also absolutely exceptional. The only fly in the ointment is the short battery life, but if you’re able to spend twice as much compared to other phones on this list, then the iPhone SE 3 (2022) is well worth considering.

Read our full iPhone SE 3 (2022) review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Hexa-core 3.23GHz Apple A15 Bionic; Display: 4.7in 1,334 x 750; Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB; Camera: 12MP; Operating system: iOS 15; Weight: 144g

6. Realme 9 4G: The best alternative budget phone

Price: £249 l Buy now from Realme

The Realme name might still be a bit unfamiliar in the UK, but it's slowly gaining traction as a brand that provides top-tier handsets at affordable prices. Its latest effort, the Realme 9 4G continues this trend, with lavish internals, a stunning design and a great set of cameras for not much money.

The Realme 9 4G's Super AMOLED display is one such highlight, with far better colour accuracy than you can expect at this price. Not to mention that it's also a 90Hz panel, opening the doors for high frame rate gaming and social media scrolling. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 680 also proved to be a rapid performer in our testing, while the primary 108MP camera stood toe-to-toe with handsets costing twice the price.

What's most impressive, however, is the Realme 9 4G's battery life. In our video rundown test, the Realme 9 4G lasted a whopping 28hrs 17mins before needing to recharge – that's the third-best smartphone we've ever tested. If you aren't fussed about 5G connectivity and you're after an affordable handset that not only looks the part but plays the part, too, then the Realme 9 4G is a no-brainer.

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 680 4G; Display: 6.4in 2,400 x 1,080; Storage: 128GB; Camera: 108MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (macro); Operating system: Android 12; Weight: 178g

Buy now from Realme

7. Motorola Moto G62 5G: The best budget 5G phone

Price: £200 | Buy now from Amazon

Motorola keeps upping its game with budget handsets. Taking everything that made the previous Moto G50 such a bargain and building even further upon the formula, the Motorola Moto G62 is the brand’s best-value smartphone to date.

Two of our biggest concerns with the Moto G50 were that the display was lacking and the fingerprint sensor was in an awkward position, both of which are rectified here. The screen still uses an IPS panel, but the resolution has been upped to a more acceptable 2,400 x 1,080 and is paired with a smooth 120Hz refresh rate. The fingerprint sensor has moved to beneath the display, making it much more accessible, and the triple camera array on the rear has seen some minor but appreciated improvements.

The battery life has dipped slightly, but a score of over 21 hours is still nothing to sniff at, and should easily see you into a second day of use. Add to this the best performance you can get from a £200 smartphone, and the Moto G62 emerges as an astounding budget choice.

Read our full Motorola Moto G62 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 Plus; Display: 6.5in 2,400 x 1,080; Storage: 64GB; Camera: 50MP, 8MP (ultrawide), 2MP (macro); Operating system: Android 12; Weight: 184g

8. Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC: Another great-value Xiaomi

Price: £300 | Buy now from Amazon

Xiaomi’s Poco X3 NFC is astonishing value for money. You’re getting a heck of a lot for relatively little cash with the Poco X3 NFC, punching through the budget boundaries in terms of screen quality, cameras and overall performance.

Its name might be a bit of a mouthful, but the feature-rich Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC exceeds expectations in pretty much all areas. With a speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G processor, it’s faster than most of its peers, and the quadruple-camera array (which includes a massive 64MP main sensor) even manages to give high-cost flagships a run for their money. Not to mention that the large 6.67in FHD+ display also has a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz, which is still a bit of a rarity at this price.

With flagship-class specifications at an alarmingly low price, if you love a bargain, then this is as good as it gets.

Read our full Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G; Display: 6.67in 2,400 x 1,080; Storage: 64GB; Camera: 64MP, 13MP (wide), 2MP (macro), 2MP (depth); Operating system: Android 10; Weight: 215g

9. Nokia G50: A solid 5G phone for less

Price: £187 l Buy now from Amazon

The Nokia G50 is one of the cheapest 5G handsets we've reviewed, so if you live in a 5G-covered area and you're hoping to make the most out of the brand-new mobile network without spending much money, then this is a great choice.

It helps that the Nokia G50 is a phone with plenty of positives. With a stunning design for the price and a generously large screen, the Nokia G50 is a bit of a beauty. The only reason it isn't much higher on this list is that performance isn't much better than its rivals and the cameras are rather uninspired. Still, if you can look past these relatively minor faults, you can do much better for your money when it comes to 5G connectivity at the budget end.

Read our full Nokia G50 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 480; Display: 6.82in 1,560 x 720; Storage: 64GB; Camera: 48MP, 5MP (wide), 2MP (depth); Operating system: Android 11; Weight: 220g

10. Motorola Moto G31: A low-cost phone with great battery life

Price: £149 l Buy now from Argos

If battery life is at the top of your smartphone buying agenda, then the Moto G31 is a great fit. Lasting for almost a full 24 hours in our continuous video rundown test, the Moto G31's stamina is truly astonishing, with its remarkably energy-efficient MediaTek processor and large 5,000mAh battery.

But you also get a heck of a lot more for your (relatively little) money. The addition of a large 6.4in AMOLED display is a huge improvement both in terms of colour accuracy and brightness. Getting a screen as good as this for a phone this cheap is pretty much unheard of at the moment. The clean installation of Android is also a big bonus if you want your phone to be completely free of bloatware applications.

The only major downside is that the Moto G31 doesn't support 5G – for that, you'll want to get the Moto G50 listed above – and the phone's video is a bit lacking in detail. If you don't mind either of these setbacks, however, then the Moto G31 is a tremendous choice and is yet another stonking low-priced effort from Motorola.

Read our full Motorola Moto G31 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2GHz MediaTek Helio G85; Display: 6.4in 2,400 x 1,080; Storage: 64GB; Camera: 50MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (macro); Operating system: Android 11; Weight: 181g