Not everybody needs to spend upwards of a thousand dollars on their phone just to get by, especially those on prepaid carriers looking to cut down on spending wherever possible. Luckily, phones at all price ranges have gotten great lately, and that holds especially true in the budget category. It was previously a wasteland of near-unusable devices, but now you can get a shockingly good and reliable phone these days for under a Benjamin.
Best unlocked phone
The Nokia 2 is a great unlocked phone for under $100, offering a completely barebones version of Android 8.1 Oreo, great build quality with an aluminum unibody enclosure, and a quad-core processor. Best of all, it’s unlocked to work on any GSM carrier — but CDMA shoppers will want to look elsewhere. The only thing it’s missing — and this is a big one — is a fingerprint sensor, meaning you’ll have to revert back to using a PIN for security.
$89 at Amazon
Moto E5 Play
The Moto E5 Play doesn’t have the 18:9 display or huge battery of the rest of Motorola’s refreshed lineup, but it still features a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of microSD-expandable storage. This is one of the few remaining phones with a user-replaceable battery, and the included Moto app allows for some software conveniences that other phones in its price range lack, like the ever-useful Moto Display.
$80 at Amazon
Best on Verizon
Moto E5 Play
The Moto E5 Play isn’t just available unlocked; in fact, it’s available through most prepaid carriers. Verizon’s variant is identical to the unlocked model, and the best value phone on the nation’s largest carrier. You’ll get the same excellent battery life, convenient Moto apps, and the same clean build of Android 8 Oreo.
$80 at Verizon
Best on Cricket Wireless (AT&T)
LG Stylo 5
AT&T’s Cricket sub-brand has a great selection, including the LG Stylo 5, which you can pick up for absolutely free (at least, for new lines with a port-in). It has a 6.2-inch Full HD+ display, an octa-core processor, Android 9 Pie, and a sizable 3,500mAh battery. It also packs a built-in stylus that lets you write or draw with ease.
$0 at Cricket
Best on Metro by T-Mobile
LG Q7 Plus
The Q7 Plus is one of the best deals on Metro — it’s usually $290, but if you open a new account and port your number over, it drops down to a cool $50. For that money, you get a fantastic 5.5-inch 18:9 display, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, IP68 water resistance, LG’s renowned Quad DAC for top-tier wired audio, and 64GB of expandable storage.
$50 at Metro
Best on Boost Mobile (Sprint)
Samsung Galaxy A10e
Who says budget phones have to look like they’re from five years in the past? The Galaxy A10e features impressively slim bezels with a teardrop notch housing the front camera, and it runs modern Android 9 Pie software. The 3,000mAh battery charges over USB-C, and the 32GB of internal storage can be expanded by up to 512GB with a microSD card.
$100 at Boost
Great phones don’t have to be expensive
Whether you’re shopping for a phone made just for your network or you want an unlocked phone that you can take with you to the next carrier, there’s a surprising amount of good phones under $100. Customer discounts could land you a better deal depending on your carrier; often, you can get a phone that typically costs $200-300 for much less when signing up for a new line and porting over your phone number. The LG Q7 Plus is a shining example for new Metro customers, offering water resistance, modern design, and LG’s Quad DAC for an effective $50.
If you’re coming to Cricket, you can even get a worthwhile new phone without spending anything. The LG Stylo 5 is a fantastic phone that normally runs for a couple hundred dollars, but with a new line you can get it for absolutely free. With it, you’ll get a huge screen and a handy stylus.
For most people on a GSM network, though, there aren’t many deals better than the Nokia 2. The phone’s a bit old now, originally released back in 2017, but it’s still a capable phone with terrifically clean software — you’ll just have to make do without a fingerprint sensor. Not a terrible compromise when you’re spending less than a Benjamin!