The 9 Best Budget Smartphones for Under $300 in 2021

Shop for the top budget smartphones on the market without breaking the bank

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown
"For a phone that doesn't need to be recharged all the time, the Moto G Power comes with a capacious battery to keep you running for multiple days."
Best Design:
Nokia 7.2 at Amazon
"A strong, budget-friendly phone with a nice design, great screen, and solid performance."
"This mid-range phone from Samsung offers a great mix of performance and features."
"The Moto G Stylus is Motorola's budget competitor to LG's Stylo and Samsung's Note series, offering productivity and performance in one package."
Best with Stylus:
LG Stylo 6 at Amazon
"If you envy the productivity and handwriting capabilities of Samsung's Note series, LG's Stylo 6 offers an affordable alternative."
Best Ultra-Budget:
LG K51 at Amazon
"For a basic phone that won't hit your wallet too hard, the LG K51 offers reasonable day-to-day performance."
Best Mid-Range:
Nokia 7.1 at Amazon
"Not quite under $300, but very close — and it punches above its weight class in terms of price."
Best Nokia:
Nokia 4.2 at Amazon
"Boasts two back cameras for added depth sensing and advanced editing capabilities and a battery that will last all day at work."
"If you're willing to sign up to Yahoo Mobile, an MVNO for Verizon, the quirky purple ZTE Blade A3Y can be yours for just $50."

The best budget smartphones under $300 don't have to be a compromise even if you don't have much money to spend. Despite being more affordable than top-tier smartphones, the budget smartphones on this list still offer solid overall performance, decent cameras, and often incorporate features found on higher-end devices. Samsung has a wide range of devices that incorporate features from their top-tier lineup to hit multiple price points, as does LG. Despite spending less, you can get a device with edge-to-edge screens, multiple rear cameras for telephoto zoom, wide-angle shots, and newer software.

If your budget needs are even tighter, there are some barebone options that can offer day-to-day connectivity from Motorola, ZTE, LG, and Nokia. Despite their lower price they have some unique features like a stylus for writing and taking notes and super-sized batteries. Here, read on to see the best budget smartphones under $300.

Best Overall: Motorola Moto G Power

Moto G Power
What We Like
  • Big, crisp display

  • Solid specs for multitasking

  • Good camera capabilities

  • Long-lasting battery

What We Don't Like
  • No wireless charging or fast charging

  • No waterproofing

The Moto G Power is the phone for everyone who doesn't want to be tied to a charging cable or tote around a portable charger. The phone builds on the features and capabilities of the Moto G7 Power, adopting a big screen to go along with the big battery. Front and center, you get a 6.4-inch IPS display with a camera cutout in the top left corner. The display resolution is 2300x1080 pixels, which works out to 399ppi, making for a crisp display for multimedia, gaming, and browsing.

Under the hood, the phone is no slouch either. It comes with a Snapdragon 665 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage. This is a fairly decent mid-range processor giving you the ability to run most apps, do some multitasking, and even handle some games. Camera capabilities are impressive for the price, consisting of a 16MP primary sensor, 8MP ultrawide, and 2MP macro. It can record 4K at 30fps and boasts a 16MP selfie camera.

But the real selling point here is the 5,000mAh battery. According to Motorola, the runtime should be enough to last three days without needing to recharge. You get 10W charging, but no wireless charging or waterproofing (there is a water-repellent coating though).

"I was actually able to get 3+ days of use out of this phone with my regular level of phone calls, texting, web browsing, and app usage." Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Best Design: Nokia 7.2 Phone

What We Like
  • Attractive, standout design

  • Large, crisp 6.3-inch screen

  • 128GB and microSD support

  • Solid battery life

  • Good value for the price

What We Don't Like
  • Cameras can be inconsistent

  • Middling video recording

  • Mediocre speaker

The Nokia 7.2 is the successor to the mid-range Nokia 7.1. It keeps some of the design flourishes but comes with revamped specs and some new features. The design is attractive, with a glass black in a number of sleek, attractive colors. Bezels are minimized along the side and there's a fingerprint sensor on the back. The screen is a 6.3-inch 1080p panel with 403 pixels per inch, making for a crisp display. It's HDR10 compliant, letting you support compatible content for better colors and saturation.

Under the hood, you have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor. It's a mid-range chipset, but it works well with Android 9.0 Pie. The 4GB of RAM is also enough for a reasonable level of multitasking and it can handle games like Asphalt 9. Camera quality is also solid, with a triple camera setup on the back, which includes a 48MP main sensor, an 8MP ultra-wide camera, and 5MP sensor for depth data on portrait and bokeh shots. All in all, it's a great phone in a nice package.

"The Nokia 7.2 is a strong sub-$400 smartphone, with eye-catching design and a great screen, along with solid power and battery life." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Value: Samsung Galaxy A50

What We Like
  • Large and vibrant screen

  • Sleek aesthetic, albeit plastic

  • Strong battery life

  • Takes pretty good photos

  • Great value for the price

What We Don't Like
  • Spotty in-display fingerprint sensor

  • Recurring performance hitches

  • So-so sound quality

The Samsung Galaxy A50 is a sleek and attractive mid-range phone that manages to retain much of Samsung's design flourishes and features from higher-end flagships. It has a big screen, minimized bezels, though it's made of plastic. The screen is a bright and colorful 6.4-inch Super AMOLED panel that looks almost as crisp and clear and Samsung's flagship panels.

Under the hood, you're looking at an Exynos 9610 chipset with 4GB of RAM. It's not the most powerful processor, but it'll do decently for browsing and opening apps. It even handled games reasonably well. The triple camera sensor array on the back also proved to be surprisingly good, though it won't be as detailed as higher-end phones.

"What’s impressive is how much of the Galaxy S experience remains intact on the Galaxy A50, which still looks like a high-end phone, has a very good triple-camera setup, and boasts an excellent screen." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Unlocked: Motorola Moto G Stylus

Moto G Stylus
What We Like
  • Big 1080p screen

  • Capable processor and specs

  • Solid camera capabilities

What We Don't Like
  • No wireless charging or fast charging

  • No waterproofing

The Moto G Stylus is an affordable alternative to expensive devices like the Galaxy Note 20, with a stubby little stylus tucked away conveniently inside its chunky frame. In addition to the stylus, it features a big, beautiful 6.4-inch IPS display, 48MP rear camera, and a beefy 4,000 mAh battery.

The killer feature here is clearly the stylus, and it’s right there in the name of the phone. While the nearly identical Moto G Power boasts a massive battery, the Moto G Stylus trades on the inclusion of a stylus with some handy note-taking features. Palm rejection could be better, but it’s super easy to pull the phone out and jot a note any time you want.

Aside from the stylus, this phone looks and performs great. It also has surprisingly sonorous stereo Dolby speakers, and a battery that lasts longer than you might expect. While that isn’t its strongest feature, the battery is plenty big enough to go a few days between charges.

"The phone automatically launches Motorola’s note-taking app if you remove the stylus with the screen off, making it easy to jot things down any time you want."Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester



Best with Stylus: LG Stylo 6

LG Stylo 6
What We Like
  • Big, bright display

  • Solid productivity with stylus

  • Decent camera performance

What We Don't Like
  • No waterproofing or wireless charging

  • Can't handle gaming

The LG Stylo 6 is a budget phone with a flagship look. Featuring a massive 6.8-inch IPS display and a mirror-finish glass back, it both looks and feels high end despite its modest price tag. It also features a built-in stylus with some nice features. The MediaTek Helio P35 processor fails to impress though, resulting in a phone that looks fantastic, but stumbles in terms of performance.

The two reasons to love this phone are the upscale look and excellent stylus functionality. This is one of the best-looking sub-$300 phones around, and that extends to the beautiful FHD display. It’s a bit dim in full sunlight, but looks fantastic anywhere else.

The stylus is spring-loaded, and removing it automatically brings up a handful of memo and note options. It’s quite responsive and accurate, with no real lag unless you move it especially fast. Forget to put it back in its holster, and the phone even sounds a little alarm when you try to turn it off.

You can find phones that perform better than the Stylo 6 for the same money, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that looks this fantastic at this price point. If you don’t ask a lot out of your phone and just want something that looks great while performing basic tasks, the Stylo 6 fits that description perfectly.

"Holding this phone in your hands, it’s hard to believe it’s a budget model and not a flagship."Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester


Best Ultra-Budget: LG K51

What We Like
  • Big screen

  • Decent processor

  • Solid camera capabilities

What We Don't Like
  • Won't handle games well

  • Limited internal storage

  • No extra features

The LG K51 is a budget smartphone that features a huge 6.5-inch display, big 4,000 mAh battery, and some of the best sound you’re likely to hear out of a phone in this price range. It’s powered by a somewhat anemic processor, but it performs well enough in daily use if you don’t demand too much of it.

The best thing about this phone is undoubtedly the price. With a reasonable MSRP for the unlocked version, and even more attractive pricing when locked to a carrier, the K51 punches way above its weight class in terms of premium look and feel, sound quality, and battery life.

While the K51 underdelivers in terms of performance thanks to an underpowered processor, this phone is still a fantastic option at such an affordable price point. If your budget won’t allow you to step up to a more powerful phone, or you can find this one at a price that really speaks to you, it won’t disappoint in terms of premium look and feel, sound quality, or battery life.

"I was able to go two and three days at a time without a charge, using the phone for calls, texting, and some light web browsing and email." Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Best Mid-Range: Nokia 7.1

What We Like
  • Great screen

  • Stylish design

  • Surprisingly good camera

  • Android One for guaranteed updates

What We Don't Like
  • Lower-end battery life

  • Weak speaker

If you’re willing to spend around $300 but also willing to throw down just a tad more on a premium phone experience, then you should certainly check out the Nokia 7.1. This Android phone is one of the nicest you’ll find in this price range. One of the first things our tester noticed was its beautiful 5.84-inch HDR screen with high contrast. He thought videos and other content looked great.

Under the hood, the Nokia 7.1 has 4GB of RAM and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor, meaning this can run every app you can throw at it. For charging, it has a fast-charging USB-C port. It also has a stunningly good dual-lens camera for a mid-range phone, with one 12-megapixel camera and one 5-megapixel camera on the back that provide great photos. For software, the Nokia 7.1 is running the latest version of the Android OS and is part of the Android One program, which means the phone runs stock Android and you also get two years of Android updates and three years of security patches. While the Nokia 7.1 isn’t quite under $300, it’s very close — and it punches above its weight class in terms of price.

"The Nokia 7.1 is a mid-range handset in terms of price, but it packs a lot of features that you’d expect from a much more expensive phone."Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Best Nokia: Nokia 4.2

Nokia 4.2
What We Like
  • Includes Google Assistant

  • Has two back camera for depth sensing

  • All-day battery life

  • Clean Android One software

What We Don't Like
  • Average performance at best

Despite being one of the cheapest options in Nokia’s range of flagship smartphones, the Nokia 4.2 doesn't skimp on any essentials. Because it includes the trusty Google Assistant, you don’t have to worry about missing any important dates. Its advanced AI, meanwhile, learns the more you use it, so you can set reminders, respond to texts, and, with the help of its visual snapshot of the day, make sure you’re ready for your plans.

On top of that, the phone boasts two back cameras for added depth sensing and advanced editing capabilities and a battery that will last all day at work. If it starts getting low, the Adaptive Battery savings will help you preserve those last few percentage points so you can really use the full potential of the Nokia 4.2. You have to worry about third-party apps cluttering your phone, thanks to Android One, so updates will be quick and easy, too.

Best MVNO Phone: ZTE Blade A3Y

ZTE Blade A3Y
What We Like
  • Very affordable price

  • Nice color and design

  • Includes rear fingerprint sensor

  • Supports expandable storage

What We Don't Like
  • Weak processor and RAM

  • Camera doesn't seem impressive

The ZTE Blade A3Y is a budget smartphone from Yahoo Mobile. It features a 6.4-inch high definition display, decent performance for a budget handset, and cheerful purple coloration that Yahoo Mobile calls grape jelly. It also has a fantastic price tag when you consider how well it performs compared to other budget phones.

The standout feature here is the price, as the Blade A3Y clocks in at the very bottom of the budget category, offering a decent mix of performance and affordability if your budget is pretty close to nonexistent. Even at full price, it’s significantly more affordable than any of our other favorite budget phones.

Despite its low price, the ZTE Blade A3Y is a solid little performer. It lacks the processor power and RAM to truly impress, but it’s perfect if you’re mainly looking to place calls, send messages, write emails, and browse the web. If you’re working with a really tight budget, and you aren’t averse to using an MVNO like Yahoo Mobile, the ZTE Blade A3Y is worth a look.

"The removable plastic back is the most interesting design choice here, as it’s a bit of a throwback to the days when cell phone batteries were user serviceable." Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Final Verdict

The best budget smartphone for under $300 is the Moto G Power (view at Amazon). It's a fast, responsive phone with smooth software, various Motorola tweaks for improved functionality, and one of the most impressive battery runtimes we've seen. We also like the Nokia 7.2 (view at Amazon). It has a big, bright 1080p display, a capable Snapdragon 660 processor, and a triple camera setup that allows for bokeh and wide-angle shots. It's not the very latest phone, but the combination of price and performance is hard to beat.

How We Tested

When testing these budget smartphones, there are a handful of tests our trusted experts use in addition to everyday use to determine which are the best for you. Apart from the ever-important camera quality, our testers look for things like audio output, storage size, and battery life to make sure you're always getting the best bang for your buck.

About Our Trusted Experts

Eric Watson has written for Lifewire since 2019. Previously published on PC Gamer, Polygon, and others, he's had five years of experience writing for tech and gaming websites. He liked the camera quality of the Nokia 6.1.

Jeremy Laukkonen has written for Lifewire since 2019. He's had years of experience writing for major trade publications and personally owns a Pixel 3 and One Plus 6T.

Bill Thomas has written for Lifewire since 2018. He's previously been published on TechRadar and has extensive experience reviewing consumer tech products.

Andrew Hayward is an experienced tech reviewer who's been covering gadgets since 2006. He's previously been published by TechRadar, Stuff, Polygon, Macworld, and worked as an editor for Mac|Life. He reviewed a number of the phones on this list, singling out the Nokia 7.2 for its strong overall performance and design quality, and the Moto G7 Power for the long-lasting battery.

Ajay Kumar is Tech Editor at Lifewire with a specialty in mobile products. He's previously been published in PCMag where he reviewed hundreds of phones, tablets, and other devices.

FAQ

What is the best budget Samsung smartphone?
The best budget Samsung smartphone on our list is the Samsung Galaxy A50. It's a great mid-range offering with great overall value due to its sleek design, large and vibrant screen, and strong battery life. The Samsung Galaxy A series, in general, is a good option for those looking to save some money while still getting a newer design and features.

Which budget smartphone has the best camera?
Cameras aren't typically a strong suit for budget phones, but there are some devices that stand out. The Moto G Power comes with a triple camera sensor array, offering a 16MP primary, 8MP ultrawide, and 2MP macro camera. It can even record 4K video at 30fps. The aforementioned Galaxy A50, also has a trip camera sensor array which proved to be surprisingly good during testing.

What to Look for When Buying Smartphones Under $300

Screen size - Your average smartphone display is around 5.5 inches, measured diagonally. That’s comfortable for most hands — small enough for one-handed use but large enough to make watching YouTube enjoyable. There are larger phones on the market as well, which are better for streaming media but might be harder to slip in your pocket.

Screen resolution - Displays can be the most expensive and energy-consuming part of a smartphone — and thus a major deciding factor. A screen with a resolution of at least 1,280 x 720 pixels should work well; anything higher will be fantastic.

Camera - Camera technology has advanced leaps and bounds in the past years — some people upgrade their phones just to get a nicer camera. While it won’t match the quality of a dedicated DSLR, certain phone cameras are great in their own right, reaching up to 23 megapixels. Cool features, like low-light performance and portrait mode, abound as well.

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