Printed Aug 24, 2022 1:00 PM

Whereas $1,000 flagship telephones are enjoyable to geek out over, there are at present a number of wonderful telephones beneath $500 price testing. These gadgets are wonderful for first-time consumers or anybody who desires to play video games, make video calls, and obtain apps with out spending tons of money. Importantly, they provide years of software program assist, so that you’ll get the newest options and safety enhancements, which may prolong the lifetime of your machine. You could miss out on a few of the newest cutting-edge developments present in premium fashions, like wi-fi charging and excessive refresh price shows, however the very best telephones beneath $500 can typically compete with alternate options that value a whole bunch of {dollars} extra.

How we picked the very best telephones beneath $500

I’ve written about expertise for over a decade for websites like TechnoBuffalo, XDA Builders, and Widespread Science. Throughout that point, I’ve reviewed dozens of smartphones, from the Nexus 6P to the just lately launched OnePlus 10 Professional. To pick out our picks, I drew on my expertise writing about smartphones, consulted trusted sources {and professional} reviewers, and researched the most well-liked fashions obtainable. As telephones have turn out to be extra inexpensive, I’ve begun to want mid-range choices as a result of they meet my wants and are sometimes a whole bunch of {dollars} cheaper than flagship fashions. 

Issues to search for in the very best telephones beneath $500

The very fact is that you simply don’t must spend over $1,000 to get an excellent smartphone as a result of inexpensive smartphones are higher than ever and sometimes provide an identical expertise to premium fashions. As our record highlights, a number of good mid-range choices provide wonderful efficiency, long-lasting battery life, and spectacular designs. In case you’re trying to find essentially the most highly effective flagships, it’s best to take a look at our picks for the very best Android telephones obtainable. In any other case, right here’s what to look out for when selecting the very best cellphone beneath $500.


Like in a pc, your cellphone’s central processing unit, or CPU, is a crucial part essential to run functions and carry out numerous duties, from shopping the online to creating video calls. Telephones at this worth typically provide a mixture of excessive and mid-range specs. It’s not troublesome to search out an inexpensive machine with a flagship processor that’s just a few months previous, whereas different telephones may function a processor particularly for mid-range gadgets.

For instance, Google has put its {custom} Tensor chip, which allows highly effective AI-driven options, within the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6a. The previous was launched final October and the latter grew to become obtainable in July this 12 months. Usually, Qualcomm and MediaTek make mid-range processors, however some corporations produce custom-made silicon for his or her gadgets, together with Google, Apple, and Samsung.

The quantity of random entry reminiscence, or RAM, can also be key to your machine’s efficiency and gives functions with a spot to briefly retailer knowledge and rapidly entry it once more. Telephones at this worth sometimes have 6GB of RAM, give or take, which is sufficient to comfortably transfer between totally different duties, together with messaging, shopping social media, and watching movies. 


You’ll spend a number of time watching your cellphone’s show, so that is one space during which you don’t need to skimp. Most telephones obtainable as we speak, no matter worth, function screens between 5 inches and 6 inches however the decision and pixel density will fluctuate. Sometimes, extra inexpensive gadgets function decrease decision—Full HD (1080p) or HD (720p)—liquid crystal shows (LCD). Some choices on our record function OLED shows, a expertise the place a light-emitting diode (LED) independently backlights every pixel.

The next pixel density, measured in pixels per inch (PPI), interprets to a sharper picture. The upper the PPI, the sharper the picture and the tougher it’s to tell apart particular person pixels at a mean viewing distance (about arm’s size). In the meantime, a cellphone’s show refresh price, measured in Hertz (Hz), refers to what number of instances your show updates what’s on the display screen every second. The upper the refresh price, the smoother and extra fluid the animations will look. Shows that assist a refresh price of 120Hz are typically reserved for flagship gadgets however there are some uncommon exceptions within the mid-range market. A display screen that helps a refresh price of 60Hz or 90Hz is extra frequent within the $500 vary.

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Software program assist

Software program assist for mid-range gadgets has traditionally been abysmal. However, in recent times, corporations have performed a lot better to assist these gadgets with new (and well timed) software program updates. These updates are important to your machine’s long-term efficiency as a result of they introduce new options, software program optimizations, and plug safety holes. On the very least, it’s best to look out for a tool that provides two years of main software program updates and three years of safety updates. Usually, an organization will proceed to supply safety assist even after ceasing software program assist.

Service assist

In case you’re shopping for a tool unlocked, ensure it has assist for all main U.S. carriers. Usually, it’s best to be capable of pop your provider’s SIM card into your new cellphone and begin receiving texts, cellphone calls, and knowledge. Retailers sometimes state what main U.S. carriers a cellphone helps, so it must be clear earlier than you make your buy. In case you subscribe to Verizon, ensure the machine you purchase works with the provider or says it’s CDMA-capable. Unlocked gadgets typically work with out subject on AT&T and T-Cellular, that are GSM carriers (and the usual for many carriers worldwide).

One of the best telephones beneath $500: Critiques & Suggestions

It may be troublesome to discern a cellphone’s high quality based mostly on specs alone, particularly when many provide the identical elements. Our record of the very best telephones beneath $500 will allow you to parse the main points and discover the mannequin that works finest for you. Not everybody’s wants are the identical, so we’ve damaged it down into totally different standards. Whether or not you’re searching for a tool for gaming or taking high-quality images, we’ve bought you lined.

Greatest general: iPhone SE (third Era)

Purchase it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the minimize: The iPhone SE affords flagship efficiency for a fraction of the worth.


  • Show: 4.7-inch, 1334 x 750, LCD, 60Hz, 326 ppi
  • Processor: A15 Bionic
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 64GB
  • Battery: 2018mAh
  • Digital camera: 12MP f/1.8, OIS
  • Software program: iOS 15; deliberate improve to iOS 16
  • Help: Apple typically gives 4 years or extra of main OS and safety updates
  • 5G: Sure, sub-6GHz


  • Highly effective processor
  • Wi-fi charging
  • Wonderful digicam


Though it includes a legacy design and a smaller 4.7-inch show, Apple’s iPhone SE affords the very best stability of efficiency, options, and software program assist. Notably, it comes outfitted with the identical A15 processor as Apple’s newest iPhone 13 and 13 Professional, which function {custom} silicon with a 6-core CPU and 4-core GPU. The machine additionally contains wi-fi charging, Contact ID, and IP67 waterproofing. 

The iPhone SE affords all-day battery life and a 12MP huge digicam with optical picture stabilization and assist for portrait mode and 4K video recording. Apple typically gives a number of years (5 years or extra) of main iOS updates to its gadgets, so despite the fact that the iPhone SE’s design appears to be like previous, its software program will hold it feeling recent. Plus, in case you’re nonetheless clinging to the Contact ID residence button as an alternative of Face ID, that is your solely hope.

Greatest digicam: Google Pixel 6A

Google Pixel 6A is the best camera phone under $500.

Purchase it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the minimize: With Google’s Tensor chip, the Pixel 6A affords a digicam that operates at a flagship stage.


  • Show: 6.1-inch, 1080 x 2400, OLED, 60Hz, 429 ppi
  • Processor: Google Tensor Titan M2
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Battery: 4410mAh
  • Digital camera: 12MP f/1.7, OIS; 12MP f/2.2
  • Software program: Android 12
  • Help: 5 years of safety updates. Google hasn’t stated what number of OS updates it’ll obtain, however the Pixel 6 has been promised three.
  • 5G: Sure, sub-6GHz


  • Unbelievable show
  • Wonderful software program assist
  • Flagship-level digicam


  • Slower fingerprint sensor

Google has earned a status for providing wonderful cell cameras, and the Pixel 6A isn’t any exception. The machine includes a twin digicam setup: a 12MP important digicam carried over from the Pixel 5A and a 12MP ultra-wide digicam borrowed from the Pixel 6. This setup advantages drastically from the Pixel 6A’s Tensor chip, a {custom} piece of silicon designed by Google. The processor allows superior AI and machine studying options like Face Unblur, offering customers with higher portrait photos in low-light situations. The Tensor chip additionally helps HDR throughout video recording at 4K/60 frames per second. The Pixel 6A’s digicam setup doesn’t fairly match final 12 months’s Pixel 6 or 6 Professional however, for the worth, it nonetheless affords loads of Google magic.

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Greatest show: Samsung Galaxy A53 5G

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G is the best display phone under $500.

Purchase it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the minimize: The Galaxy A53 5G’s 6.5 appears to be like incredible, notably when watching movies and enjoying video games.


  • Show: 6.5-inch, 1080 x 2400, Tremendous AMOLED, 120Hz, 405 ppi
  • Processor: Exynos 1280
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Battery: 5000mAh
  • Digital camera: 64MP f/1.8, OIS; 12MP f/2.2; 5MP f/2.4 (macro); 5MP f/2.4 (depth)
  • Software program: Android 12
  • Help: 4 years of main OS updates and 5 years of safety updates.
  • 5G: Sure, sub-6GHz


  • Wonderful battery life
  • Lovely show
  • Highly effective digicam setup


  • Software program can get slowed down by bloatware

Samsung’s Galaxy A53 5G seems like a tool that ought to value far more than it does. It includes a triple digicam setup headlined by a 64MP important digicam, a strong Exynos processor, and wonderful battery life. However the primary standout is its 6.5-inch 1080p OLED show, which gives wealthy distinction and vibrant colours. It additionally helps a refresh price of 120Hz, so animations look smoother than they do on gadgets with decrease refresh charges. The show appears to be like incredible when performing each day duties however shines when enjoying vivid, colourful content material like movies and video games. 

Different options supplied by the Galaxy A53 5G embody IP67 mud and water resistance and an in-display fingerprint scanner. Samsung has additionally promised 4 years of Android OS model updates and 5 years of safety updates, which suggests you’ll be admiring the machine’s OLED show for a very long time.

Greatest gaming: iPhone 11

iPhone 11 is the best gaming phone under $500.

Purchase it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the minimize: The iPhone 11 includes a highly effective processor, wonderful show, and lengthy battery life, making it an incredible alternative for cell gaming.


  • Show: 6.1-inch, 1792 x 828, LCD, 60Hz, 326 ppi
  • Processor: A13 Bionic
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 64GB
  • Battery: 3110mAh
  • Digital camera: 12MP f/1.8, OIS; 12MP f/2.4
  • Software program: iOS 15; deliberate improve to iOS 16
  • Help: Apple typically gives 4 years or extra of software program and safety updates
  • 5G: No


  • Wonderful battery life
  • Nice digicam setup
  • Highly effective efficiency


  • Machine is a number of years previous
  • 64GB of storage can refill fast

The iPhone 11 might look like an odd alternative given its age—it got here out in 2019—however its A13 Bionic processor, with its hex-core CPU and 4-core GPU, nonetheless holds up. Not solely does it carry out effectively for on a regular basis duties like shopping the online, modifying images, and making video calls, however it handles essentially the most intensive cell video games with aplomb—and the 6.1-inch show is sweet and large for media. 

Whether or not you play Minecraft, PUBG Cellular, or Diablo Immortal, the iPhone 11 continues to maintain up with demanding apps and processes years after its launch. You additionally get wi-fi charging, IP68 mud and water resistance, and a very good digicam system. Apple is thought for offering older gadgets with a number of years of software program assist, so regardless of the iPhone 11’s age, it ought to present customers with a number of extra years of necessary updates. The one main draw back is that the usual iPhone 11 solely has 64GB of storage, which may rapidly refill with video games.

Greatest funds: OnePlus Nord N20 5G

OnePlus Nord N20 5G is the best budget phone under $500.

Purchase it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the minimize: The OnePlus Nord N20 5G options a wonderful display screen and nice efficiency at an inexpensive worth.


  • Show: 6.43, 1080 x 2400, AMOLED, 60Hz, 409 ppi
  • Processor: Snapdragon 695 5G
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB, microSD expandable
  • Battery: 4500mAh
  • Digital camera: 64MP f/1.8; 2MP f/2.4 (macro); 2MP f/2.4 (depth)
  • Software program: Android 11
  • Help: One main OS replace and three years of safety updates
  • 5G: Sure, sub-6GHz
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  • Inexpensive
  • Unbelievable show
  • Wonderful efficiency


The OnePlus Nord N20 5G is a sub-$300 cellphone that punches above its weight. It includes a 6.4-inch 1080p OLED show, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 processor, and 6GB of RAM, making it greater than able to dealing with a heavy workload. It additionally affords a fingerprint scanner beneath the show and a 64MP digicam, which doesn’t produce the very best footage we’ve seen, however it’s nice for a cellphone at this worth. The Nord N20 5G additionally helps 33W quick charging in order that it may be charged from 0 to 30 p.c in simply 20 minutes. Whereas the machine helps 5G, it doesn’t work on Verizon and is proscribed to 4G on AT&T. In case you’re on T-Cellular, nevertheless, you shouldn’t have any points.


Q: Do flagship telephones last more?

A contemporary machine that’s effectively cared for ought to final three to 5 years. As outlined above, some flagship and mid-range telephones share the identical specs, so they are going to doubtless provide an identical lifespan. Nevertheless, as a result of flagship telephones typically provide extra RAM than mid-range choices, the previous might expertise a slower decline in efficiency over time. The efficiency hole might not be obvious initially, however it may turn out to be extra noticeable after a number of years: Apps could also be slower to load, and you might run into points with multitasking. These points may immediate those that personal a mid-range cellphone to improve sooner than somebody who owns a flagship machine.

{Hardware} apart, you’ll must issue software program assist into the lifetime of the cellphone. As soon as a producer stops providing important software program updates for a tool, it’s time to transition off of it, even when the cellphone nonetheless works.

Q: What sort of cellphone is the most well-liked?

Statistically, Android telephones have the most important consumer base globally—and by a large margin. A giant a part of that’s because of the wider number of Android choices. A number of corporations—Samsung, Google, OnePlus, Xiaomi, and lots of others—provide Android gadgets that cowl a variety of costs. By comparability, Apple’s iPhone has a smaller market share.

Q: What’s the distinction between iOS and Android?

The brief reply is Android is extra open and versatile, whereas iOS is restrictive and tightly managed. However the two platforms are related in some ways and customarily provide entry to the identical apps and carry out the identical capabilities. Moreover, each have borrowed liberally from each other and, after greater than 10 years of updates, aren’t almost as totally different as they as soon as have been. The platform you select finally comes right down to your private choice. In case you’re having bother deciding which platform is best for you, this explainer affords a extra thorough breakdown.

Q: Do I must get a 5G cellphone?

Most trendy flagship and mid-range gadgets function assist for 5G, so it’s kind of unavoidable at this level. There are execs and cons to proudly owning a 5G machine. The utmost obtain speeds will be blazing quick—as much as 1GB per second—and 5G networks provide extra bandwidth, so there will be much less congestion in crowded areas. Nevertheless, 5G protection stays sparse across the U.S., and 5G radios can drain your machine’s battery extra quickly. 

In case you get a tool with 5G, you’ll additionally want to search out an space with 5G protection and have a knowledge plan that helps the community. In case you wind up buying a tool that doesn’t assist 5G, you don’t want to fret. For extra details about 5G, you’ll be able to take a look at our protection.

Ultimate ideas on the very best telephones beneath $500

The progress of expertise has allowed mid-range gadgets to shut the hole on costlier flagship fashions, making it simpler to get an excellent smartphone with out spending a fortune. You could miss out on options like greater refresh charges and extra superior cameras. Nonetheless, you will see that among the best telephones beneath $500 has wonderful efficiency, options, and software program assist—and that’s cash effectively spent.