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 Moto E6 is a lot of phone, with a 5.5-inch 18:9 display, a 3,000mAh battery, and modern Android 9 Pie software powered by an octa-core processor. It works on virtually any carrier (even CDMA networks), and it’s one of the few remaining phones with a user-replaceable battery. It’s also somewhat water-resistant, protected by a p2i coating. The one 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.
$100 at Amazon
The Nokia 5 is an older unlocked phone that’s still worth buying, with a completely barebones version of Android 9 Pie, great build quality, and a quad-core processor. It’s unlocked to work on any GSM carrier, but CDMA shoppers will want to look elsewhere. Sadly, like the Moto E6, it’s missing a fingerprint sensor.
$89 at Amazon
Best on Verizon
Moto E5 Play
The Moto E5 Play isn’t quite as up to date as Motorola’s newer lineup, but it still features a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of expandable storage. 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 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 half-off its normal price — at least, so long as you open a new line and port your number over. It has a 6.2-inch Full HD+ display, an octa-core processor, and a sizable 3,500mAh battery. It also packs a built-in stylus that lets you write or draw with ease.
$80 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.
$90 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.
Similarly, if you’re coming to Cricket, you can grab the LG Stylo 5 for half off at just $80 with a new line. It’s a fantastic phone with a huge screen and a handy stylus.
If you’re shopping unlocked, though, there aren’t many deals better than the Moto E6. You won’t get a fingerprint sensor, but you get just about everything else you could ask for at this price range; battery life is great, Motorola’s software on top of Android 9 is clean and simple, and the phone is even water resistant!