Cheaper phones under $200 have a mix of modern features with some of the best legacy features that you can’t find on more expensive phones. For example, you can get a phone with a 6.5-inch screen and multiple cameras, as well as a headphone jack and expandable storage with a microSD card slot.
However, these phones will likely run slower than a more expensive phone, may lack NFC for contactless payments, and may only receive a software update. Most of them do not support faster 5G connections. But when it comes to using the phone itself, you can still install most apps from the Google Play Store, and these phones get security updates for a number of years, which should keep most malicious threats away.
Read on to learn about three of CNET’s top picks for phones that will cost you less than a few hundred smacks.
Samsung Galaxy A03S
Best for update support
CNET TAKE: The $160 Samsung Galaxy A03S packs a lot of great features and might suit someone looking for the cheapest possible phone that can handle the essentials. The phone’s 6.5-inch screen with a resolution of 720p is great for reading the news, watching videos and playing games. Despite some performance lags noted during our testing, the phone is good at multitasking. However, the phone’s tiny 32GB of storage could fill up quickly. So if you’re considering this phone, it may be worth upgrading the storage with a microSD card.
Samsung also plans to support the phone with security updates for at least four years, which is as good as it gets at this price point. On the software side, it’s less clear how many Android releases are planned, but the phone will ship with Android 11 at launch.
Moto G Power (2022)
Best for more storage
CNET TAKE: The 2022 Moto G Power is at the high end of this sub-$200 roundup at $200, but has plenty of storage onboard to show it off. The phone starts at 64GB of storage, which is double the storage of many of these phones. If that’s not enough, you can either buy the 128GB model for $250 or throw in a microSD card for up to 512GB of additional storage. The phone also comes with 4GB of RAM, which should help it with most multitasking tasks.
The phone ships with Android 11 and Motorola promises a software update to Android 12 as well as two years of security updates for the phone. This is on the shorter side, especially when compared to rivals like Samsung. But the phone is cheap enough that you can estimate the two-year period to be about as long as you wanted to keep the device.
TCL30 XE 5G
5G for under $200
CNET TAKE: TCL has released one of the cheapest 5G-enabled phones in the US to date, the TCL 30 XE 5G. The phone is available now from T-Mobile for $198. The phone has a 6.5-inch screen with a resolution of 720p and a refresh rate of 90 Hz, a triple camera system with a 13-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel selfie camera and a rear fingerprint sensor. The phone has 64GB of onboard storage and comes with Android 11.
While we haven’t used the phone, at the spec level you can get better cameras and higher quality screens with the other picks on this list, but these don’t have 5G connectivity. However, it’s also debatable how necessary it is to have 5G at the moment. 4G LTE connectivity works flawlessly for streaming music, videos and other tasks.