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In the market for a new phone, but wary about dropping serious cash on something that you might lose or break? There are tons of affordable options in the $400 to $500 range, and while you may be worried that cheap phones won’t function as well, there are some incredible models that have a lot to offer for the price. For hundreds less than some of the more popular and pricey phones out there, you can get the latest processors from Apple and Google, years of software updates, stunning cameras and much more.
Even the best phones under $500 will still make some compromises when compared to pricier phones, but nothing that prevents you from being able to do everything you’d like from playing games to hosting video chats and multitasking. Instead, you should note what the phone excels at and whether that makes up for an area where it might not. Some of these devices have 120Hz refresh rate screens with silky animations, but might use a slightly slower processor. Others do the opposite and put a brand-new, blazing fast processor into a phone body that has smaller screen and a 60Hz refresh rate.
This list below has the best phones under $500. Check back often, since we update it with cheaper phone options regularly, and check out CNET’s in-depth reviews of each product to help you find exactly what you need (and what to look out for). We’ve attached links to unlocked versions of each phone on our budget phone list so that you can meet individual needs with the best phone under $500. Needs vary, so you’ll want the one with the flexibility and specific stats you desire. Unlocked phones run on most of the big four US wireless carriers, except for rare exceptions that are specified below.
The Pixel 6A is Google’s newest Android 12 phone, replacing the Pixel 5A as the $449 budget-friendly version of its flagship phone. CNET’s Lisa Eadicicco called it the “best Android phone under $500” in her Pixel 6A review, calling out how it keeps the same Tensor chip seen in the $599 Pixel 6 and many of its features.
The phone is slightly smaller than the Pixel 6, featuring an 6.1-inch OLED display and a refresh rate of 60Hz. And it has a similar camera to the Pixel 5A, including a 12.2-megapixel main camera and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera. But by including the Tensor chip, photos can benefit from its Real Tone skin tone feature, Face Unblur, Night Sight for darker photography and the Magic Eraser for removing unwanted elements from a photo.
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The $450 Samsung Galaxy A53 includes many of the best features seen in the Galaxy S22 line, with a few tradeoffs to hit that lower price. The phone includes a 6.5-inch AMOLED screen with a 2,400×1,080-pixel resolution, 5G support and a long-lasting 5,000-mAh battery. The phone also comes with a 64-megapixel main camera, 12-megapixel ultrawide camera, 5-megapixel macro camera and 5-megapixel depth camera.
But a particular high point for this phone is Samsung’s pledge to provide four years of software support, in addition to shipping with Android 12 with Samsung’s One UI 4.1.
Read our Samsung Galaxy A53 5G review.
The iPhone SE is a mix of an older design with the latest smartphone features, including Apple’s A15 Bionic chip and 5G support. It’s also one of the few phones on the market that includes a smaller 4.7-inch screen.
It’s that throwback design, which continues the general shape that Apple has used since 2014, that could be what you love or dislike most about this phone. If you want a larger iPhone in this price range, you can also consider the iPhone 11, and get a bigger screen and Face ID. But that phone does not include 5G connectivity.
Read our Apple iPhone SE review.
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The $500 Moto G Stylus 5G (2022) is one of the best stylus-equipped phones you can get right now, especially for the price. You get Android 12, 5G connectivity, a large 6.8-inch screen and a spacious 256GB of storage. Unfortunately, the phone is only promised one software update and three years of security updates, which is a much shorter timeline than the four years promised by Samsung for the Galaxy A53.
Yet if you want a stylus-equipped phone, the next step-up option is the substantially more expensive Galaxy S22 Ultra at $1,200.
Read our Moto G Stylus 5G review.
With the launch of the iPhone 14 series, Apple discontinued the iPhone 11, but it’s still widely available. It might be a few generations old, but this phone is still more than capable, handling gaming well and equipped with two superb rear cameras. Just note that Best Buy does not carry any unlocked models, so you’ll have to sign up for a service plan through either AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint.
Read our Apple iPhone 11 review.
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