9 Best Cheap Smartphones for 2021 (iPhone, Android)

What makes the iPhone SE so special is the processor that’s powering it—the A13 Bionic chip, which is the same one you’ll find in the iPhone 11 Pro that costs several hundred dollars more. You won’t find performance anywhere near as good for this price on another phone. All your favorite apps and games, even if they’re graphically intensive, will run without a hitch for years to come. And, as usual, Apple will keep this phone updated for four to five years, which is years longer than all of the Android phones in this guide.

The single camera on the back snaps some nice photos, though since Apple did not bring Night mode down from its high-end iPhones, it won’t fare as well in low-light scenes as competitors like the Pixel 4A. The glass back design is also more fragile than Google’s phone, so it’s a good idea to buy a case.

Works on all three major US carriers

iPhone SE costs $399 from Apple and Walmart

Best for $300 or Less

Photograph: OnePlus

If you’re considering this phone, we advise saving up $50 for the Pixel 4A.

The first OnePlus Nord wasn’t sold in the US, but the Nord N10 5G is finally here to change that, adding an affordable option to OnePlus’ lineup. What stands out? You get a 90-Hz screen refresh rate and a high-speed 5G (sub-6) connection (if your area has 5G), features often available only on phones costing $500 or more.

The N10 5G performs better than our previous $300 recommendation, the Moto G Stylus, thanks to the slightly improved Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 chip and 6 gigabytes of RAM inside, but you’ll still notice some stutters here and there. The 690 can’t match the Snapdragon 730G in the Pixel 4A. The 6.5-inch screen, while large, sharp, and bright, is an LCD panel, so it doesn’t get as black as the OLED on the Pixel.

There are four rear cameras—the main, an ultrawide, a macro, and a monochrome—and the system is adept at producing detailed and colorful photos (sometimes too colorful). That includes low-light results too, due to OnePlus’ dedicated Nightscape camera mode, which lets you take brighter photos at night. It still can’t match the Pixel, but you’ll be satisfied with the results.

The 4,300-mAh battery easily lasts more than a day, and you get a headphone jack, a MicroSD card slot to expand the base 128 gigabytes of storage, NFC for contactless payments, and a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. The only major drawback? OnePlus is only promising one Android version upgrade for this phone (up until Android 11, which Google released in September 2020). Thankfully, you’ll still get two years of security updates.

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