Best Phones Under $300: 5G Phones at Starter Prices

The perfect telephones beneath $300 supply a style of premium options, however in a tool that also very a lot seems like a finances telephone. That is not a nasty factor: These telephones could make calls, ship texts and run most apps and video games for a whole lot of {dollars} lower than the iPhone 14 or Galaxy S23. Additionally they present entry to 5G, which is essential if you wish to maintain onto your machine for some time, and a few even include a built-in stylus. 

However I’ll degree with you: We have now but to make use of a telephone within the $200 to $300 value vary that seems like a superb worth. The best possible picks on this class are typically dearer gadgets which can be regularly discounted to $299 when on sale. For example, Google’s $449 Pixel 6A is our present finest telephone for beneath $500, and it is usually discounted to $299.

That is to not say telephones within the $200 to $300 value vary ought to be averted. Some embody respectable cameras, a headphone jack, expandable storage and NFC assist for cell funds. 

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Might I Ditch My Smartphone for the Mild Cellphone 2? Nearly.


What are the tradeoffs with telephones that price $300 or much less?

These cheaper gadgets are likely to reduce considerably in a single space or one other with the intention to obtain these low costs. Mostly, these drawbacks embody restricted software program assist, provider assist or bloatware (preloaded apps that you just by no means requested for). These tradeoffs usually imply that these gadgets shouldn’t be used after two to a few years, particularly after safety replace assist ends.

It is also notable that whereas these telephones retail for $200 to $300, a lot of them are sometimes accessible at a deep low cost — and even totally free — as a part of a provider subsidy deal. In case you are planning to stay with the identical wi-fi provider for 2 years, these telephones might simply develop into a part of the price of your service.  

Finest telephones beneath $300

Eli Blumenthal/CNET

The $299 OnePlus N20 5G is not an thrilling telephone, nevertheless it greater than will get the job achieved for many conditions. Not like a number of telephones on this record, you should buy it unlocked from OnePlus. It additionally gives high-end options we do not at all times see at this value, like an in-screen fingerprint reader, quicker 33W charging, 6GB of RAM and NFC for cell funds. Regardless of being accessible immediately from OnePlus, the N20 works with AT&T and T-Cellular however doesn’t work with Verizon. The telephone’s 5G assist additionally solely works by way of T-Cellular.

In his OnePlus N20 evaluate, CNET Senior Editor Eli Blumenthal discovered the telephone’s 64-megapixel fundamental digital camera, 2-megapixel macro digital camera and 2-megapixel monochrome lens to take respectable photographs through the daytime. However its cameras wrestle within the night, which is a typical difficulty on cheaper telephones. The N20 additionally features a 16-megapixel front-facing digital camera positioned within the prime left of the telephone’s show.

The telephone can be solely getting one main software program replace from Android 11 to Android 12, however will obtain three years of safety updates. Consequently, regardless of the telephone’s respectable specs and barely wider availability, it solely is smart to hold onto this telephone for 2 to a few years.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

Reviewing the $258 TCL Stylus 5G was a journey for me final 12 months. Specs-wise, it has loads that I loved. The telephone’s TCL NxtVision HDR setting supplied enhanced colours once I performed video games, TCL made minimal adjustments to Android 12 and I particularly loved the magnetic stylus that matches securely into its personal slot on the telephone.

Nonetheless, the large purpose why my evaluate took 4 months is due to repetitive software program bugs that make the telephone in any other case robust to suggest. I skilled frequent restarts whereas utilizing the telephone and Bluetooth connectivity points, the latter of which was ultimately fastened by way of a software program replace. This telephone can be locked to T-Cellular utterly, so it might probably’t be used on different carriers and is crammed with T-Cellular apps which can be difficult to take away.

But should you completely will need to have a stylus and your finances is beneath $300, this is among the higher general picks. However be cautious of software program points, and keep in mind the telephone is simply getting one main software program replace together with two years of safety updates.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

The $228 OnePlus Nord N300 5G is my favourite telephone beneath $300. The one purpose why I can’t suggest it above the N20 is as a result of this telephone is locked to T-Cellular. Regardless of being round $80 cheaper than the opposite OnePlus telephone, it nonetheless has 33-watt quick charging, a 90Hz refresh price show and a 48-megapixel fundamental digital camera that does an honest job with photographs and video. Its matte black look that highlights its two digital camera lenses additionally makes it one of many nicer-looking finances telephones I’ve examined. The N300 improves on the N20 with its twin stereo audio system, over the one speaker on the N20, and I personally choose the facet fingerprint sensor over in-screen choices like on the N20.

However aside from the supply difficulty, the N300 additionally suffers from a brief software program assist timeline. The N300 will solely get one main software program replace from Android 12 to Android 13 and two years of safety updates. Although that is considerably regular for the class, I nonetheless take into account it a significant disadvantage. There’s additionally a dose of T-Cellular bloatware, however at this value it is simpler to swallow.

In case you are buying particularly for a telephone that works with T-Cellular or its Metro model, the $228 OnePlus Nord N300 is unquestionably a stable selection. Simply acknowledge you can’t take the telephone to different carriers, and it will not be an amazing choice after two years of use.

Jessica Fierro/CNET

The Mild Cellphone 2 is a really completely different sort of telephone. It is meant for individuals searching for freedom from the fixed stream of notifications, however nonetheless need a telephone that appears good. However regardless of its considerably restricted performance, this telephone nonetheless prices $299.  

The Mild Cellphone 2 helps texts, telephone calls, music playback, podcasts, cell hotspot performance and restricted GPS assist for instructions on its E Ink display. It doesn’t have a digital camera, internet browser, electronic mail entry or different frequent apps like information or messaging apps. 

My colleague Jessica Fierro gave life with the Mild Cellphone 2 a strive, and she or he loved how the telephone helped her keep extra centered on the world round her. Nonetheless she discovered the slower texting velocity on the E Ink show to be difficult to regulate to, and couldn’t absolutely make the change as a result of for work she wants a point of social media entry with the intention to keep up on tendencies. 

The absence of many trendy options is your entire level of the Mild Cellphone 2. It is a machine for individuals who deliberately simply need important communications on a display that is extra like a Kindle’s show than the one you’d discover on a Samsung Galaxy machine.

The Mild Cellphone 2 is actually not for everyone, nevertheless it might be price contemplating for somebody who desires their telephone to do much less. Followers of typical telephones ought to take into account the wealth of characteristic telephones and flip telephones that also exist first — which are sometimes free with a provider deal or accessible for beneath $100.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Admittedly I am dishonest by getting this telephone into the record, however Google’s Pixel 6A has been discounted to $299 loads currently and is a simple advice when it has been discounted right into a finances telephone vary.

Usually $449, the Pixel 6A gained our Editors’ Selection Award final 12 months. In her evaluate, CNET Senior Editor Lisa Eadicicco praised the telephone for its nice digital camera, Pixel-exclusive options like Magic Eraser, its colourful design and being among the many first to get new Android updates. 

Whereas it is seemingly that Google declares a sequel 7A telephone as quickly as the subsequent Google I/O growth convention, scheduled for Could 10, the present Pixel 6A remains to be a superb choose for the worth if you will get it at its $299 value. However should you see the telephone return to its authentic $449 value between now and Could 10, and you are not in dire want of a brand new machine, I’d then say await the rumored Pixel 7A.

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How we check telephones

CNET checks telephones through the use of them day by day and evaluating them with competing telephones to evaluate their worth. We take into account a wide range of components, such because the telephone’s display, cameras, battery life, software program, efficiency, options and ease of use.

For low-priced telephones, we ensure these gadgets constantly work nicely when utilized in plenty of conditions. This contains many day-to-day actions like studying the information, listening to music, watching movies, texting, enjoying video games and multitasking. 

We check telephone cameras in a variety of environments, taking check photographs outside within the daytime and nighttime, and indoors in darker settings. We use cameras in lively environments, like a live performance or a sports activities recreation, and with a wide range of topics together with individuals, objects and pets. We additionally check accessible digital camera settings, particularly these which can be rarer in these value ranges equivalent to Evening mode and Portrait mode.

These anecdotal telephone experiences are additionally mixed with benchmark checks equivalent to Geekbench efficiency testing and battery testing. We monitor battery life in two methods: By seeing how a lot energy is often left after a day of regular utilization and by seeing how a lot battery is depleted throughout a extra intensive hour with the telephone. For the latter check, we’ll verify how the telephone’s battery holds as much as a sequence of video calls, gaming, video streaming and internet looking.

Telephones beneath $300 FAQs

What about Apple’s iPhone?

Apple doesn’t presently promote any iPhone choices between $200 and $300. The most affordable new iPhone you will get is the iPhone SE at $429. That iPhone is a superb worth for its quick processor and nice digital camera, however held again by its dated design that harkens again to the iPhone 6, 7 and eight.

Should you do not thoughts getting a preowned machine and need one thing with a much bigger display, as of this writing Verizon sells a 64GB iPhone 11 for $275.

You can even get the 2020 model of the iPhone SE as a refurbished mannequin between $200 and $300 on web sites like Amazon and Finest Purchase, however beware of every retailer’s insurance policies for refurbished gadgets. Particularly ensure the refurbished machine features a guarantee for repairs, since with out one you will have to pay Apple or one other retailer a excessive value for a display restore or different unintended harm.

Finest telephones beneath $300: OnePlus Nord N20 5G vs. TCL Stylus 5G vs. OnePlus Nord N300 5G vs. Google Pixel 6A

OnePlus Nord N20 5G TCL Stylus 5G OnePlus Nord N300 5G Google Pixel 6A*
Show dimension, decision 6.43-inch FHD+ AMOLED show 6.81-inch FHD+ show (1080 x2400 pixels) 6.56-inch IPS LCD show; 720p decision; 90Hz refresh price 6.1-inch OLED; (1080 x 2400); 60Hz
Pixel density 409ppi 395ppi 269ppi 429 ppi
Dimensions (inches) 6.2 x 2.8 x 0.29 in 6.67 x 3.01 x 0.35 in 6.4 x 2.9 x 0.3 in 6.0 x 2.8 x 0.35 in
Dimensions (millimeters) 159.9 x 73.2 x 7.5 mm 169.6 x 76.5 x 8.9 mm 163.8 x 75.1 x 7.99 mm 152.2 x 7.18 x 8.9 mm
Weight (ounces, grams) 173g or 6.1 oz 213g or 7.51 oz 190g or 6.7 oz 6.3 oz; 178g
Cellular software program Android 11 Android 12 Andorid 12 Android 12
Digicam 64-megapixel (fundamental), 2-megapixel (macro), 2-megapixel (monochrome lens) 50-megapixel (fundamental), 5-megapixel (large), 2-megapixel (macro), 2-megapixel (depth sensor) 48-megapixel (fundamental), 2-megapixel (depth lens) 12.2-megapixel (large), 12-megapixel extremely large)
Entrance-facing digital camera 16-megapixel 13-megapixel 16-megapixel 8-megapixel
Video seize 1080p/720p at 30 fps 1080p at 30fps 1080p/720p at 30 fps 4K
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G MediaTek Dimensity 810 Google Tensor
RAM/Storage 6GB/128GB 4GB/128GB 4GB/64GB 6GB RAM/128GB storage
Expandable storage As much as 512GB As much as 2TB As much as 1TB None
Battery/Charger 4,500mAh; 33W charging 4,000mAh; 18W charging 5,000mAh; 33W charging 4,410 mAh capability; 18-watt quick charging (adapter bought individually)
Fingerprint sensor In-screen Aspect fingerprint sensor Aspect fingerprint sensor Below show
Headphone jack Sure Sure Sure None
Particular options NFC, Face Unlock, HDR, Display screen Flash, Face retouching Stylus with built-in storage, producitivity software program, NxtVision HDR mode Twin audio system, NFC, Face Unlock, HDR, Portrait, Face retouching 5G-enabled, 18W quick charging, WiFi 6E, safety updates for five years, Android OS updates for 3 years, twin SIM, IP67 water resistance
Worth off-contract (USD) $299 $258 $228 $449 (*$299 when on sale)

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