5 best budget smartphones 2021
Want a great handset that doesn’t cost a fortune? Find out more about the best budget smartphones of 2021 – and get a great deal while you’re at it
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In 2021, the best budget smartphones will give you a great screen, a speedy processor, a decent camera, and a battery that won't die on you – all for a great price.
Yes, the top-of-the-range flagship phones from Apple and Samsung may be pretty amazing, but you no longer need to spend top dollar to get a premium build from a reliable brand.
In recent years, the world's leading phone manufacturers have all released high quality models at pleasantly low prices. There are also some diamonds out there you may not yet have discovered, which have glowing customer user ratings and are ultra-affordable right now.
To save you time and effort, we've tracked down the best budget smartphones in the UK in 2021. We have recommendations for Apple aficionados, those sworn to Samsung, and anyone who wants to stand out from the crowd.
Check out the table below for a quick summary, or simply dive in to find your next budget smartphone – and get a great deal too.
Which is the best budget smartphone?
What's the best mobile phone for business in 2021? Our top picks are:
|Huawei P Smart 2019||6.21-inch LCD||160 grams||3400mAh||64GB |
microSD up to 512GB
|Great specs and an eye-catching look||£0 upfront, £18 a month|
|Samsung Galaxy A20e||5.8-inch LCD||141 grams||3000mAh||32GB|
microSD up to 512GB
|A great bargain smartphone||£0 upfront, £18.33 a month|
|Samsung Galaxy A40||5.9-inch Super AMOLED||140 grams||3100mAh||64GB|
microSD up to 512GB
|Compact and full of class||£7.50 upfront, £21.67 a month|
|iPhone 6S||4.7-inch LCD||143 grams||1715mAh||32GB||Gorgeous design and a premium feel||£24.17 upfront, £21.67 a month|
|Samsung Galaxy A50||6.4-inch Super AMOLED||166 grams||4000mAh||128GB|
microSD up to 512GB
|Massive storage and a big, beautiful screen||£7.50 upfront, £21.67 a month|
As you can see, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to great budget smartphones. The Huawei P Smart 2019 backs up its beautiful looks with strong specs and great battery life, while the Samsung Galaxy A20e delivers performance that belies its price tag. The Samsung Galaxy A40 packs loads into its petite package, the iPhone 6S is a timeless classic that’s still going strong, while the Samsung Galaxy A50 is a premium phone without a premium price.
Huawei P Smart 2019
OS Android 9.0 | Screen 6.21″ LCD | Storage 64GB (microSD up to 512GB)
Back Camera 13MP + 2MP dual camera | Front Camera 24MP
PROS – Great value, eye-catching look, good battery life
CONS – Plastic case attracts fingerprints; photos can look overly processed
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei has taken little time to make a big impression, delivering great smartphones that cost far less than similar models from Apple and Samsung. The Huawei P Smart 2019 continues this fine tradition, packing an array of cameras, a battery that will go all day, and performance that should satisfy everyone except hardcore gamers into a svelte, stylish body. The Aurora Blue colour option is sure to appeal to fashionistas, while everyone can appreciate the strong LCD display, near 90% screen-to-body ratio, and hefty 64GB of storage.
There are some negatives, although these are relatively minor. The plastic case attracts fingerprints and can scratch easily, the onboard image processing sometimes gets things wrong and goes a bit OTT, while the micro USB charging port is less widely used than USB-C.
But despite these issues, this is still a great smartphone at a great price.
Samsung Galaxy A20e
OS Android 9.0 | Screen 5.8″ LCD | Storage 32GB (microSD up to 512GB)
Back Camera 13MP + 5MP dual camera | Front Camera 8MP
PROS – Ultra affordable, solid camera, good battery life
CONS – Modest performance, average screen, plastic case scratches easily
If you’re on a tight budget and just need a smartphone that is small, efficient, and understated, you’ll love the Samsung Galaxy A20e. For the most part, this is a phone that simply gets on with its job – it takes decent photos in good light, has enough grunt to function perfectly as a business phone, and the battery will comfortably last a day’s use. It also runs the same Android 9 OS as phones many times the price, so there’s no drop-off in terms of UI.
Given the price, there are some obvious weak points. Neither the screen nor the processor are good enough for any sort of serious mobile gaming, while the plastic case both attracts fingerprints and scratches easily. Buy a good case, though, and you have a dependable, everyday smartphone at a bargain price.
Samsung Galaxy A40
OS Android 9.0 | Screen 5.9″ Super AMOLED | Storage 32GB (microSD up to 512GB)
Back Camera 16MP + 5MP dual camera | Front Camera 25MP
PROS – Great screen, compact design, good cameras
CONS – Average battery life, plastic case, poor resolution on ultrawide photos
The Samsung Galaxy A40 sits roughly in the middle of Samsung’s A range, meaning it’s got a higher spec than the A20e, but doesn’t quite offer everything you’d expect from a higher end model like the A50. What you get is very good, with a bright and detailed 5.9” Super AMOLED screen squeezed into a phone that only weighs 140 grams. This efficient, elegant approach to design is evident throughout the phone, with an 85% screen-to-body ratio and a stylish waterdrop notch housing the 25MP front camera – perfect for selfie addicts. It’s got enough power to run most games, and the 16MP rear camera takes good, natural shots.
There are a few minor issues – the plastic case feels less than premium, and the ultrawide camera’s resolution is rather low at 5MP – but this is a great phone for the price, and that screen really is rather special.
OS iOS 13 | Screen 4.7″ LCD | Storage 32GB
Back Camera 12MP | Front Camera 5MP
PROS – Gorgeous design, good cameras, premium feel
CONS – Substandard battery life, small screen
While it may be four years old and entering the twilight of its career, the iPhone 6S continues to be a great budget smartphone. While it may not have the highest specs nowadays, it’s still a beautifully designed bit of kit, with the aluminium body giving it a really nice feel. Both the cameras outperform their specs – the 12MP rear camera takes accurate and detailed photos, while the 5MP front camera produces perfectly decent selfies. It even runs the recently released iOS 13, meaning that you benefit from all of Apple’s UI enhancements – something that only adds to the high-end feel.
There’s only one major weakness for the iPhone 6S, and that’s battery life. It was acceptable in 2015, but is now lagging behind, and you’ll definitely need to keep a charger handy if you’re planning to use your phone for more than calls and a bit of web browsing. Aside from that, the storage is fixed (like every iPhone) and the physical home button means the screen is on the small side for a phone of this size. If you can live with the battery life, though, the iPhone 6S is a solid budget smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy A50
OS Android 9.0 | Screen 6.4″ AMOLED | Storage 128GB (microSD up to 512GB)
Back Camera 24MP + 8MP + 5MP triple camera | Front Camera 25MP
PROS – Beautiful screen, powerful triple camera system, superb battery life
CONS – Tinny speaker, plastic case
The Samsung Galaxy A50 is a premium phone, without the premium price tag. Inside its beautifully designed body, you’ll find a gorgeous 6.4” AMOLED screen – perfect for showing off the photos you can take with the phone’s four cameras. That’s right, four cameras, with the 25MP front camera (perfect for selfies) joined by a triple camera system on the rear, which produces great shots and handles everything from ultrawide landscapes to bokeh portraits with ease. You also get an in-screen fingerprint scanner and some serious specs, including 4GB of RAM, a powerful processor, and 128GB of storage (which, as ever with Samsung, is also expandable). Battery life is also exceptional – this is a phone that will easily go all day, and get through part of the following day too.
Drawbacks are minimal. The plastic case does undermine the premium feel a little, the mono speaker is a bit tinny, and you can only shoot 1080p and not 4K. Those minor quibbles aside, this is a great phone at a great price, and a very strong contender for your next budget smartphone.
Should I buy a refurbished phone?
There’s no denying you can save a bit of cash by buying a refurbished phone. However, there’s nearly always a catch. Refurbished phones are usually faulty phones that have been repaired – meaning they’ll be less reliable than a new smartphone fresh out of the box.
You may also miss out on bundled accessories such as chargers or headphones, so the amount you save in the grand scheme of things may not even be as big as you imagined.
If you're seriously cash-strapped, you might still want to consider a refurbished phone from a trusted, reputable supplier – but if you can afford it, your phone is more likely to last if you buy it new.
How to choose the best budget smartphone
Smartphone technology continues to progress by leaps and bounds, and mobile phones are now cheaper and better than ever before. But how do you choose the best budget smartphone for you?
Here are three questions you should consider to help you decide:
- Which operating system (OS) is for me? – The primary choice is between the Apple iPhone OS range, and Android phones that are produced by a range of manufacturers. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so be sure to research this subject thoroughly as part of your decision.
- What size screen do I want? – Our best budget smartphones range from four to over six inches in size – smaller phones tend to be easier to hold and operate with one hand, but big screens are great for watching YouTube or playing games during the morning commute.
- How much am I comfortable spending? – You can spend anything from £20 to an eye-watering £1,000 on a mobile phone these days, and there’s more choice than ever – regardless of your budget. However, there are three essential features you should expect from a budget smartphone: a decent screen, good camera(s), and respectable battery life. Beyond this, you’ll need to decide if you care more about specs or a premium feel – the most powerful budget smartphones often have plastic cases, while a budget smartphone that has a metal case and feels like a flagship phone will inevitably make compromises in other areas.
No matter what your preference is, the five phones featured in this article offer great value for money, and are great options for your next budget smartphone.
Here's a summary list of our top picks for the best mobile phones for business in 2021:
- Huawei P Smart 2019 – Great specs and an eye-catching look; £0 upfront or £18/month
- Samsung Galaxy A20e – A great bargain smartphone; £0 upfront or £18.33 a month
- Samsung Galaxy A40 – Compact and full of class; £7.50 upfront or £21.67 a month
- iPhone 6S – Gorgeous design and a premium feel; £24.17 upfront or £21.67 a month
- Samsung Galaxy A50 – Massive storage and a big, beautiful screen; £7.50 upfront or £21.67 a month