The best phones under $500 include so many features that you want to see in an excellent phone, with sacrifices that you might not even notice. These are phones that include displays with high refresh rates, modern chips, good cameras and 5G. They even get several years of software and security updates.
These phones do make cuts that justify why they’re cheaper than phones that cost more than $500, but those cuts are increasingly in areas that might not raise any particular flag when you just want a reliable device. Apple’s iPhone SE along with Google’s Pixel 6A and 7A phones, for instance, have smaller screens, but all run on newer processors and software. Samsung’s Galaxy A series of phones often look just like the Galaxy S line, but instead run on a less powerful processor. And the Moto G Stylus 5G takes nice photos, provides a roomy 256GB of space and throws in a stylus, but Motorola doesn’t provide software support for as long as its competitors.
Photography and video in particular are areas where the phones in this price bracket take a noticeable hit in comparison to their more expensive counterparts. However, photo-processing software should help pick up some of the slack. For instance, while the iPhone SE has a single 12-megapixel camera that doesn’t support night photography, its A15 Bionic chip does allow for Apple’s Deep Fusion processing. It’s a similar situation for the Pixel 6A, which uses a 12-megapixel main camera and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera, yet can enhance those photos with processing powered by the phone’s Tensor chip. However the new Pixel 7A offers a 64-megapixel main camera, which some might consider an upgrade from the Pixel 7’s 50-megapixel main camera.
You can see the pros and cons of each of these phones below, with more details available in our full reviews.
What is the best phone under $500?
Google’s $499 Pixel 7A compares so closely to the $599 Pixel 7, that it’s now tough to recommend the more expensive option. The Pixel 7A includes the same Tensor G2 processor that powers Google’s Pixel-exclusive features, gets wireless charging, a 90Hz refresh rate and a 64-megapixel main camera paired up with a 13-megapixel ultrawide camera. My colleague Lisa Eadicicco said that the Pixel 7A does miss out on the Pixel 7’s battery share feature, the camera’s Action Pan mode and slightly faster charging, but none of those features feel like a major omission.
And if you want to save even more money, last year’s Pixel 6A has received a permanent price drop to $349 and still has a lot to offer. It runs on the Tensor chip, includes many of the same Pixel features like Real Tone for photography and Hold for Me for phone calls and takes crisp and colorful photos for a phone of its price. This is especially true when it gets discounted to $299, which it often is, making it the best phone for under $300 as long as it’s on sale.
Best phones under $500
How we test phones
Every phone on this list has been thoroughly tested by CNET’s expert reviews team. We actually use the phone, test the features, play games and take photos. We assess any marketing promises that a company makes about its phones. And if we find something we don’t like, be it battery life or build quality, we tell you all about it.
We examine every aspect of a phone during testing:
- Design and feel
- Processor performance
- Battery life
- Camera quality
We test all of a phone’s cameras (both front and back) in a variety of conditions: from outdoors under sunlight to dimmer indoor locales and night time scenes (for any available night modes). We also compare our findings against similarly priced models. We have a series of real world battery tests to see how long a phone lasts under everyday use.
We take into account additional phone features like 5G, fingerprint and face readers, styluses, fast charging, foldable displays and other useful extras. And we, of course, weigh all of our experiences and testing against the price so you know whether a phone represents good value or not.
Read more: How we test phones
Phones under $500 comparison
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G vs. Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G vs. Google Pixel 6A vs. Apple iPhone SE (2022) vs. Nothing Phone 1 vs. Apple iPhone 11
|Samsung Galaxy A53 5G||Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G (2022)||Google Pixel 6A||Apple iPhone SE (2022)||Nothing Phone 1||iPhone 11|
|Display size, resolution||6.5-inch AMOLED (2,400×1,080 pixels); 120 Hz||6.8-inch LTPS LCD FHD+; 2,460 x1,080 pixels; 120 Hz||6.1-inch OLED; (1080 x 2400); 60Hz||4.7-inch LCD; (1,334×750 pixels); 60 Hz||6.55-inch OLED display, 2,400 x1080 pixels;||6.1-inch LCD Liquid Retina; 1,792×828 pixels|
|Pixel density||405ppi||TBD||429 ppi||326ppi||402ppi||326ppi|
|Dimensions (inches)||6.28 x 2.94 x 0.32 in.||6.65 x 2.98 x 0.37 in.||6.0 x 2.8 x 0.35 in.||5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 in.||5.94×2.98×0.33 in.|
|Dimensions (millimeters)||159.6 x 74.8 x 8.1 mm||168.9 x 75.8 x 9.3 mm||152.2 x 7.18 x 8.9 mm||138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm||159.2 x 75.8 x 8.3 mm||150.9×75.7×8.3 mm|
|Weight (ounces, grams)||6.67 oz.; 189g||7.58 oz.; 215 g||6.3 oz.; 178g||5.09 oz.; 144g||193.5g||6.84 oz.; 194g|
|Mobile software||Android 12||Android 12||Android 12||iOS 15||Android 13||iOS 13|
|Camera||64-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), 5-megapixel (macro), 5-megapixel (depth)||50-megapixel (wide), 8-megapixel (ultrawide/macro), 2-megapixel (depth)||12.2-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel ultra wide)||12-megapixel (wide)||50-megapixel (main), 50-megapixel (ultra-wide)||12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide)|
|Front-facing camera||32-megapixel||16-megapixel||8-megapixel||7-megapixel||16-megapixel||12-megapixel with Face ID|
|Video capture||4K||1,080p||4K||4K||4K at 60fps||4K|
|Processor||Exynos 1280||Snapdragon 695 5G||Google Tensor||Apple A15 Bionic||Snapdragon 778G+||Apple A13 Bionic|
|RAM/Storage||6GB/128GB||8GB/256GB||6GB RAM/128GB storage||64GB, 128GB, 256GB||8GB + 128GB, 8GB + 256 GB, 12GB RAM + 256GB||64GB, 128GB, 256GB|
|Expandable storage||Up to 1TB||Up to 1TB||None||NA||None||None|
|Battery/Charger||5,000 mAh (charger not included, does not support wireless charging)||5,000 mAh (10W wired charger included)||4,410 mAh capacity; 18-watt fast charging (adapter sold separately)||Battery NA (20W wired charging — charger not included), 7.5W wireless charging)||4,500 mAh (33W wired charging, 15W wireless charging, 5W reverse charging)||Not disclosed, but Apple claims it will last 1 hour longer than iPhone XR|
|Fingerprint sensor||In-display||Side||Under display||Home button||In-display||None (Face ID)|
|Special features||5G-enabled; IP67 rating; supports 25W wired fast charging, Samsung Pay||5G-enabled; OIS for main camera; NFC for Google Pay;||5G-enabled, 18W fast charging, Wi-Fi 6E, security updates for 5 years, Android OS updates for 3 years, dual SIM, IP67 water resistance||5G-enabled; supports 25W wired fast charging; Water resistant (IP67); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging||5G, IP53, Three years of Android updates, Dual Sim, 120Hz adaptive refresh rate||Water resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$450||$500||$449||$399 (64GB), $449 (128GB), $549 (256GB)||N/A||$499|
|Price (GBP)||£399||NA but converts to £405||£399||£419 (64GB), £469 (128GB), £569 (256GB)||£399||£489|
|Price (AUD)||AU$699||NA but converts to AU$715||A$749||AU$749 (64GB), AU$829 (128GB), AU$999 (256GB)||N/A||AU$849|