Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021

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.

Yes, headline-grabbing flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is 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 cheap android phone 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 cheap android phone you can buy, as well as a helpful budget smartphone buying guide.

Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021

Here come our 10 best cheap android phone. Every product has specific features to serve multiple purposes. Find out which one pleases you most!

1. Google Pixel 4a 

Google didn’t change much about the Pixel 4a over its predecessor, the Pixel 3a; it kept the plastic body, the austere design, and the no-nonsense approach to Android. But what it did change, it improved on a wide scale: it’s faster, it has more RAM and memory, a nicer display, and three additional years of Android platform and security updates to soothe even the most critical of users.

The Pixel 4a limits user choice, though: it only comes in in one storage variety, 128GB. It’s also only available in one size, a 5.8-inch model that’s easy to hold and use in one hand.

Where the Pixel 4a excels is in the basics. Its 3,180mAh battery lasts all day, thanks to the power-sipping properties of its upgraded Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G processor. Its 5.8-inch OLED display goes edge-to-edge, with only the slightest hint of a bezel and a camera cutout near the top left. There’s only a single camera on the back, too, but that 12MP sensor combines with Google’s best-in-class post-processing for the best photos you’ll find in a phone at this price point. It’s so good, in fact, you’ll have a hard time telling the difference between photos produced on the Pixel 4a and those from the much more expensive Pixel 4.

Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021
Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021

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2. Samsung Galaxy A51

The Galaxy A51 is probably the best mid-ranger you can get from Samsung. It sports a great display and a fantastic build quality, considering the price of the phone. It also has dual-SIM capabilities and four rear cameras that take decent photos.

The handset comes equipped with a headphone jack and a microSD card slot. The battery has a capacity of 4,000mAh and should get you through the day. Other specs and features worth mentioning include a punch-hole display, Android 10 with Samsung’s One UI on top, and 128GB of storage.

However, the performance of the device isn’t the best, which you can read more about in our review here. Additionally, the in-display fingerprint scanner is slow and often unreliable. Despite these drawbacks, the Galaxy A51 is still one of the best cheap phones you can get.

It also provides a relatively affordable entry-point to 5G, with the special edition Galaxy A51 5G. It will cost you around £100 more but is still far more affordable than other current 5G-capable phones.

Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021
Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021

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3. TCL 10 5G

You won’t find too many 5G-capable devices on the list of best cheap phones — 5G modems can be a pretty pricey add-on. And yet, here’s the TCL 10 5G UW, which can connect to Verizon’s super-fast 5G network while still costing you less than £200.

There’s more to 5G to explain the appeal of TCL’s phone. The 6.53-inch display, while a little dim, produces great colors and gives you a lot of screen real estate. The TCL 10 5G UW has the same Snapdragon 765G processor you’ll find in more expensive phones, delivering comparable performance. That 5G connectivity doesn’t impact battery life, either, as TCL’s phone lasted more than 11 hour on our battery test.

Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021
Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021

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4. Samsung Galaxy S10e

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is an affordable sibling of the Galaxy S10 and has fewer features to shave off cost. What does the S10e miss out on? Mainly, a telephoto lens, a higher-resolution display, and an in-screen fingerprint sensor.

But for most users, a Full HD+ (2280 x 1080) screen will work just fine, and the smaller 5.8-inch display means this phone fits more comfortably in hand. The side-mounted physical fingerprint sensor-and-lock-button is large and generally more accurate than in-screen ones, anyway.

You may not miss the rear telephoto, either, given how many use cases are covered by the main and ultra-wide cameras. With wireless charging (and reverse wireless charging), the S10e still has most of the top flagship features anyway.

Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021
Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021

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5. Nokia 5.3

If your smartphone use is limited to checking a few apps, sending messages and emails, and playing the occasional mobile game, you really don’t need to spend much at all. The Nokia 5.3 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is a perfectly good phone that’s often less than £200. Unlike many cheap phones, it will get three years of security updates and two years of Android version upgrades, and it even includes NFC so you can use services like Google Pay.

Its performance and screen are decent, the battery runs for more than a full day, plus there’s a fingerprint reader, a MicroSD card slot to expand on the 64 gigs of storage, and a headphone jack. Unfortunately, as is the case with most cheap phones, the cameras are subpar in low light.

Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021
Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021

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6. OnePlus N10 5G

The first OnePlus Nord wasn’t sold in the US, but the Nord N10 5G is finally here to change that, adding an affordable option to OnePlus’ lineup. What stands out? You get a 90-Hz screen refresh rate and a high-speed 5G (sub-6) connection (if your area has 5G), features often available only on phones costing $500 or more.

The N10 5G performs better than our previous £300 recommendation, the Moto G Stylus, thanks to the slightly improved Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 chip and 6 gigabytes of RAM inside, but you’ll still notice some stutters here and there. The 690 can’t match the Snapdragon 730G in the Pixel 4A. The 6.5-inch screen, while large, sharp, and bright, is an LCD panel, so it doesn’t get as black as the OLED on the Pixel.

Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021
Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021

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7. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Samsung surprised everyone when it dropped the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE  (that stands for Fan Edition, by the way) late last year, with the phone delivering the best core S20 functionality along with 5G but for a more affordable price point.

The S20 FE is in terms of where it fits into the S20 range technically the S20e or S20 Lite, but aside from a few things that have been cut from the more expensive models, it is actually nothing like a budget handset, as it is still loaded with premium hardware and features.

Take the S20 FE’s large 6.5-inch HDR10+ rated screen, for example – it boasts a 120Hz refresh rate which is buttery smooth and shared with many of the very best flagship phones that cost significantly more. Heck, even the brand new iPhone 12 Pro (the top phone Apple makes) only has a 60Hz screen!

Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021
Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021

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8. Xiaomi Mi 9T

Xiaomi hit a rich vein of form with the first few of its budget handsets to reach UK shores, and its newest smartphone is no different. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T is far, far better than it has any right to be for a phone that costs less than £250, and the fact that it now supports the 5G network makes for an even more tantalising option.

Yes, the phone we’d recommend above all other wallet-friendly options on the market is the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T. Xiaomi’s latest budget handset is powered by a speedy MediaTek Dimensity 800U processor, which not only has a bundled 5G modem, but performance easily matches handsets that cost twice the price. Its triple camera array, which includes a massive 48MP sensor is also remarkable for the price, and it has a large 6.53in FHD+ screen too.

You might think to see these sorts of high-level specs in a flagship phone, so it’s a proper treat to see these features in a phone that costs this little. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T is the very definition of a budget smartphone – setting the benchmark for upcoming handsets – and at this price, you can’t do much better.

Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021
Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021

Buy Now on Amazon

9. Xiaomi Redmi Note 9

Affordable Xiaomi phones are hard to beat for the bang-for-buck features they offer. The Redmi Note 9 is a 2020 phone that offers a few extras we can’t take for granted. It has a basic degree of water resistance, looks very similar to much more expensive phones and has an IR blaster. It can replace remote controls for most TVs and set-top boxes.

The camera’s Night mode is the part we appreciate most. Many phones at the price do not have one, and the Remi Note 9’s significantly improves the clarity and dynamic range of the main 48MP sensor’s low-light images. This is one of the best budget phones for night shooting. It uses the Samsung GM1 sensor, a detail for the tech fiends out there.

Other cameras are closer to what we expect at the price; an 8MP ultra-wide and a pair of 2MP cameras for depth processing and macro shots. Such a low resolution does your close-up shots no favors, but the macro camera does also have autofocus. This phone also has excellent stamina life, thanks to the large 5,020mAh battery.

Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021
Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021

Buy Now on Amazon

10. Nokia 6.2 

The Nokia 6.2 runs Android with no extraneous software, and because it’s an Android One phone, it will receive prompt software updates for at least two years after its release (so until at least late 2021). It has a sturdy glass and aluminum design, capable cameras, and great performance. Its rear-mounted fingerprint sensor is fast at reading a finger to unlock the phone, and there’s an NFC sensor for contactless payments. And its 1080p screen is brighter and more vibrant than those of other phones in this price range.

Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021
Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021

Buy Now on Amazon

How to choose best cheap android phone for you

Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021
Top 10 best cheap android phone in UK 2021

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 at around £50 in some cases. 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.

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 1,280 x 720, but some slightly more expensive alternatives offer Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution displays for sharper viewing.

Nearly all of the budget smartphones we recommend use LCD panel technology, which is more than good enough. 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 deeper blacks. 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 as we’re starting to see reasonably high clock speed chips make an appearance in handsets at the bottom end of the spectrum. 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 suffice).

Battery life is crucial and each phone’s stamina is different. When considering your next budget phone, keep an eye out on the phone’s battery capacity (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 16GB 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.

Conclusion

Cheap phones have come a very long way in recent years, and the relentless pace of smartphone innovation means technology gets passed down from high-end models really quickly. Some budget phones have better cameras than the smartest smartphones of just a few years ago, and intense competition in the budget phones market means manufacturers have really upped their game to deliver great cheap phones that don’t cut any important corners.

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