APR 15, 2024

The best affordable smartphones of 2023

Whether you need all the bells and whistles modern phones have on offer is debatable. If you only want a phone to stay in touch with friends and family, there are plenty of affordable smartphone devices available.

Here’s our affordable smartphone buying guide.

Quick tip!

Before we begin, it would be remiss of us to mention that your best bet for purchasing an affordable smartphone is to wait for a new model to be released and purchase the previous year’s model instead.

In fact, most retailers will continue to stock the older models for 2-3 years after a new phone has been released, knowing that not all consumers need the latest edition the moment it drops. The Apple iPhone 11, Samsung Galaxy S21 FE and Oppo A96 can all still be purchased online, with all 3 phones still offering future-is-now features for well under $1,000 outright.

What are the best affordable smartphones?

To help you explore all the various definitions of the word “best” we’ve settled on 5 quick-fire questions that should go some way towards helping you determine which smartphone you want in your pocket. Once you’ve got an idea of how you would answer these questions, then we have some more to-the-point questions complete with actual answers – options if you will – so you can make an informed decision.

What are your must-have features?

This is where you ask yourself what it is that you need your phone to do. These are the essentials rather than the “wouldn’t it be cool ifs”. You might have things like a camera, email functionality and a music player.

What does affordable mean to you?

No one has an unlimited amount of money. Okay, maybe Elon Musk. But regardless of how much you have, you’re going to have a budget, a set amount that you’re willing to spend on your next smartphone purchase. Affordable could mean a level or two below the top of the line, the cheapest there is, or simply your idea of value for money.

Who is this phone for?

Different people need their smartphones for different reasons. These reasons are often but not always age-related, but they will always go a long way to determining the kind of phone you’re looking for. If the phone you’re purchasing isn’t for you but is rather for your son or daughter, your mum or dad, or your grandma or grandpa, you’re going to need to put yourself in their shoes when assessing what the phone needs to do.

Does brand matter?

Short answer? Of course, it does. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Owning an Apple or a Samsung branded product is important to a lot of people. Humans are funny like that. Call it brand loyalty, call it an unwillingness to deviate from what is known and understood. Either way, iPhone folk generally remain iPhone folk and Galaxy geeks generally remain Galaxy geeks.

Are you buying this phone outright?

We don’t want to address this question in full here, but we do need to mention that purchasing a new phone as part of a mobile phone plan can prove more affordable in the short term simply because you will be paying the phone off on a month-by-month basis over several years. Of course, this option does mean that you will be locked into a contract with a specific carrier over that period, but it can also extend your definition of affordability, adding a choice of phones that would have otherwise been outside your budget into the mix. 

Does Apple make affordable smartphones?

So, you’re after a new iPhone but you’re not interested in mortgaging your house and lining up for 3 days for a chance to obtain the latest iPhone. Good for you. More often than not, latest equals greatest when it comes to Apple products, particularly when it comes to their industry-leading telecommunication devices, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up a feature-packed iPhone that ticks all your requirement boxes without blowing up your budget.

The iPhone SE 5G

Of course, we don’t want to mislead you, the iPhone SE 5G 64GB will still set you back considerably more than most of the non-iPhone brands on the market. Affordability in this instance is a relative term. However, when compared to Apple’s flagship iPhone 14, the price difference between the best of the best iPhone and the entry-level model is put into perspective.

Consider the iPhone SE a great way to dip your toes into the iPhone waters at a less confronting price point. Plus, whether you get the 64GB, 128GB or 256GB model, it still comes with the familiar functionality, easy-to-use interface, and brand recognition of an Apple iPhone.

How about Samsung?

Samsung has been going head-to-head with Apple in the smartphone game for over a decade now, and while Apple arguably still holds the edge when it comes to their respective flagship offerings, Samsung has put considerable efforts into ensuring that they offer an Android-powered phone to fit just about every budget. The reasonably priced Samsungs that we lean towards are all from the Galaxy A series and all offer slightly different user experiences.

The first cab off the rank here is the Samsung Galaxy A13, an entry-level smartphone with more than adequate hardware, upgradeable storage via MicroSD and generous battery life. It also features 5G connectivity and a 3.5mm headphone jack, so it combines a bit of the old with a bit of the new, exactly what you want when making the switch to new technology.

The Samsung Galaxy A53

Next up we have the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G arguably the best mid-range smartphone currently available, which is no faint praise. Faster and more robust than its immediate predecessor, it gives you a 120Hz AMOLED screen, great cameras front and back, and super-fast battery charging. Plus, it includes the latest version of Android OS right out of the box, which is a must for multi-taskers and those who enjoy next-level functionality.

Brand new to the Samsung family is the Galaxy A33 5G. Well, we say brand new but really it is just the more impressive follow-up to the Samsung Galaxy A32. The improvements and new features added to this model include an OLED screen with a 90Hz refresh rate, a faster processor and faster charging. It is also, arguably, a step forward in terms of design, though beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder.

Perhaps the best thing about all the phones in the Samsung A Series is that as of 2023 they all receive 4 guaranteed Android OS updates along with 5 years of security updates, just like Samsung’s flagship phones. 

What other brands make affordable smartphones?

Now, this is where things really get interesting. Outside of Apple, Samsung and another industry dynamo we’re going to talk about soon, there are several affordable-on-any-budget smartphones available right now. The 3 that we’re going to speak about in this section are from 3 different, perhaps lesser known, manufacturers, each one providing a different blend of pros and cons.

If you’re still a little unsure about your personal list of must-have pros and must-avoid cons, we suggest having another read of the quick-fire questions we asked at the beginning of this article before continuing below.

A 5G smartphone that is built for the now and for the future, the Nokia G21 Smartphone boasts 4GM of RAM and 128GB of internal storage, with the ability to expand to 512GB via a microSD card. This phone features a 50MP outward facing camera, allowing you to snap memories in excellent quality. The 6.5” LCD screen has a HD resolution, so while it might not be as sharp as other models, it’s still perfectly acceptable quality for the average user.

The TCL 30 SE

Stylish and powerful, the TCL 30 SE gets pretty much all the basics right, which is nothing to sneeze at considering the enticing price point. It even looks more premium than it is thanks to the considered design and glossy finish. With a good camera setup and great battery life, you can overlook some of the performance issues and lack of core software updates, particularly if you, or the person who will be using this phone, isn’t the type to be glued to their phone all day every day.

Smartphones really don’t come much more affordable than the Opel Mobile Smart J2, which will cost you less than an annual Netflix subscription. It will handle all your social media and other communication apps admirably and has surprisingly stout battery life. You won’t be getting a top-of-the-line camera with this phone, and you’re probably not going to want to do all that much multi-tasking, but the inclusion of Bluetooth, WiFi and a handy earphone jack make this a serviceable smartphone companion.

What’s the best value flagship smartphone?

While the Pixel 7 is the current flagship of Google’s range, the Google Pixel 6a is technically the flagship of their affordable range of phones. At least, that’s what we’re going with in this instance.

The Google Pixel 6a

A more affordable version of the Google Pixel 6, and definitely cheaper than the current flagship model the Pixel 7 Pro, the 6a is all about user experience, offering a wide range of features you simply can’t get from Apple or Android devices, performance comparative to Google’s higher-end phones, and one of the more impressive camera set-ups on the market, regardless of price.

The battery life isn’t anything to write home about and may put off heavy-duty phone users, but if you’re anything like us, you’re never too far from a charging cable. And if you’re really worried, there is the option of putting the phone into Extreme Battery Saver mode. Besides, we’re willing to gamble that the people homing in on this section are going to be more concerned with the Pixel 6a’s excellent photography, imaginative, Tensor chip-powered functionality and compact size.

What is the best-looking budget smartphone?

Apple iPhones and leading Android flagships are generally considered to be the most eye-catching smartphones on the market, but we’ve already spoken about them and agreed that they’re not exactly affordable. The good news is attractive design isn’t solely the domain of the rich and famous. We’ve rounded up a couple of visually appealing smartphones that won’t have you up all night, worrying about how much you spent and ruining your beauty sleep.

The Oppo A17

The colourways available for the Oppo A17 – Lake Blue and Midnight Black – really do match the names they’ve been given by the Oppo marketing team. The attractive, leather-feel finish disguises the fact that it is a plastic handset, with the only downside being that it’s not quite fingerprint-proof. Plus, it has a smooth display with sharp visuals and a 60Hz refresh rate, which only adds to the aesthetic appeal,

Inching closer to the cost of your entry-level Samsung Galaxies and Apple iPhones, but still providing excellent value for money in a visually appealing chassis is the Motorola G82. A gorgeous display with a high-speed refresh rate is the main draw here, which is good news because that’s the side of the phone you’ll be looking at more often than not. The rounded edges and smart rear camera housing also add to the overall allure.

Do you need additional help to ensure you choose the most appropriate affordable smartphone for you?

Regardless of which option you decide to go with – one of the affordable smartphones listed above, or one of the dozens of other options out there – we can help! Geeks2U can provide expert advice and make sure that your new tech purchase is not only appropriate for your needs but also that it is calibrated exactly how you need it to be.

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James Farish-Carradice