The 6 Best Budget Smartphones for Under $300 in 2020

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

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The Rundown

The best budget smartphones for under $300 should offer a good combination of specs, performance, and features for a reasonable price. While that might sound like hoping for too much, there are actually a significant number of mid-range phones on the market that manage to offer nice screens, decent cameras, and solid performance without breaking the bank. There are some compromises in design usually, and some cutting-edge features are occasionally missing, but in most regards you can get a lot of phone for not very much money.

Our top choice is the Nokia 7.2 at Amazon. It's an attractive, capable phone with a 6.3-inch 1080p display, Snapdragon 660 processor, and a triple rear camera array. It can take good photos, handle most apps and games, and look good while doing it.

If your budget is more flexible and you want to see other options, take a look at our list of the best smartphones. Otherwise, read on to see the best budget smartphone for under $300 to buy.

Best Overall: 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

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Motorola Moto G7 Power

What We Like
  • Truly excellent battery life

  • Mostly solid Android 9.0 performance

  • Large screen for media

  • Alluring design, despite plastic build

  • Highly affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Low-resolution screen is fuzzy

  • Camera delivers spotty results

  • Poor gaming performance

  • Lower-than-average LTE speeds

For a budget phone that doesn't make a sacrifice in battery life, the Moto G7 Power is the answer. It's a big phone with a 6.2-inch 720p screen and 5,000mAh battery life. The combination of a large, but low-resolution display and a huge battery means the phone can last for 48 hours on a single charge. That's a pretty incredible runtime and you'll be hard-pressed to find another device that can beat it.

In terms of other hardware, the phone has a lower mid-range Snapdragon 632 processor like the G7 and 3GB of RAM running on Android 9.0 Pie. It's reasonably smooth for browsing, media, tweeting, emails, and other purposes, but it'll struggle with 3D gaming. However, if your needs aren't too demanding, you won't be disappointed.

"The Motorola Moto G7 Power should be one of your top picks, thanks to its 5,000mAh battery that can deliver 48 hours or more of uptime on a single charge." — 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 Mid-Range: Nokia 7.1

4.1
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 New Release: 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 Ultra-Budget: Samsung Galaxy J2 Core

What We Like
  • Snappy and stylish

  • Good starter phone

  • Can last all day

What We Don't Like
  • Older Android software

  • Can't handle gaming

Snappy and stylish, the Samsung Galaxy J2 Core is a reminder that you can, in fact, get a perfectly usable smartphone for an ultra-budget price. This affordable new model from Samsung is a great option when you’re looking for something less expensive or a starter smartphone. Samsung’s first foray into Android Go smartphones, the J2 Core has the brand’s Exynos 7570 chipset and a quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU, and the 8GB of storage can be upgraded to 256GB using a microSD card.

While the phone, which runs on Android 8.1 Oreo, can’t handle intensive gaming session, it’s fine for less-demanding games and apps. And the 2,600mAh battery can last the entire day with lighter use. The five-inch LCD panel offers quad-HD (960 x 540 pixels) resolution and 220ppi for decent visuals. The 8MP back camera and 5MP selfie camera certainly aren’t the best on the market, but they perform well in bright light and offer features like Beauty Mode and LED flash. Overall, it has a full smartphone design for a tiny fraction of the average smartphone price. 

Final Verdict

The best budget smartphone for under $300 is 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. Another option we like the Moto G7 Power (view at Amazon). It's not quite as powerful, but it has smooth software and various Motorola tweaks for improved functionality.

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. He liked the Nokia 7.2 for its great screen, solid camera, and generally stylish design.

Bill Thomas has written for Lifewire since 2018. He's previously been published on TechRadar and has extensive experience reviewing consumer tech products. He praised the Moto G6 for its mix of affordable price, the good-looking design, and clean Android installation.

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.

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.