If you are looking to buy a new phone on a budget this season, we’ve got your back: you have a very good chance to get a mid-range sub-$500 smartphone from many of the most popular flagships of 2021. Tech giants like Apple, Google, and Samsung are reaching the wealth of features enjoyed by their flagships down to less expensive options. Other developing brands like OnePlus are also trying hard to challenge more established manufacturers with lower prices and more premium features. So here is our pick of best smartphones under $500.
We suggest prioritizing the features that matter most to you, whether it’s 5G compatibility, best camera, or something else. It’s difficult to get straight A’s in every single aspect, but if you’re able to compromise on the occasional B, you’ll find the best phone.
Best Smartphones Under $500
Apple iPhone SE 2020
Apple’s iPhone SE 2020 (2nd-generation) is built with just the right balance of the camera, build quality, speed, battery life, software, and longevity for most people. Even though it’s over a year old now, it is still competent to give you an outstanding return on investment. We recommend upgrading to the model with 128GB of storage for $449, which is $50 over the base price but still the ideal option for best smartphones under $500..
The iPhone SE supports a very refined and precise formula. It has the same body and 4.7-inch LCD screen that Apple has been using since the iPhone 6. The 2020 SE is part of the iPhone 11 generation, so its A13 Bionic processor is two years behind the latest but still one of the best ones. Cellular connectivity is limited to LTE, which is fine for now but might be limiting in a few years when 5G networks become more publicly available.
Google Pixel 5A
The next is the $449 Pixel 5A which has a 6.34-inch OLED screen that’s on the smaller side for the budget class, but it’s bigger than the previous-gen 6.2-inch panel on the Pixel 4A 5G. There’s a bigger battery, too: a 4,680mAh cell that will last through a full day of heavy use and well into day two if you’re a more moderate user. The 5A also gives IP67 water resistance for added peace of mind in the event of unexpected spills or drops into the water.
The 5A’s dual rear-facing cameras (main and ultrawide), Snapdragon 765G processor, as well as the 6GB RAM and 128GB storage combination, were inherited from the 4A 5G and still give a steadfast performance in this model and yes, there’s also 5G connectivity.
Samsung Galaxy A52
If you’re interested in the best display in return for your money, the $500 Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is the best choice for future-proofing your phone. The A52 5G’s 6.5-inch screen is an OLED panel that’s rich with high-grade contrast that’s generally pleasant to look at. But its best trait is a detailed one: a 120Hz refresh rate that provides a much smoother appearance to animations.
The overall performance of this phone is great with a Snapdragon 750G processor and 6GB of RAM. Galaxy A52 5G’s 4,500mAh battery should get you through at least a day of medium to heavy use before needing another charge and there’s also 5G support.
OnePlus Nord N10
Now we are moving to more budget-friendly smartphones that still offer the best premium features. At $299, the OnePlus N10 5G brings 5G and some upscale features to a budget phone. Its large 6.46-inch LCD does come with a faster-than-average 90Hz refresh rate.
On the camera side, the N10 offers a 64-megapixel main camera that’s amazingly great in daylight and even moderately low light.
The TCL 20S is living proof that even with $250 you can buy a good phone without compromising on some premium features. It just features all the basics that anyone would need from a phone: good performance, a good screen, and good battery life, all for a good price.
While the 20S camera system is nothing to brag about, but still its 64-megapixel main camera and 15-megapixel front camera are both more than capable of taking detailed photos in good lighting conditions.
It comes with 128GB of internal storage, 4GB of RAM, Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor, a microSD card slot, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a 5,000mAh battery that lasts for around two days without a recharge.