At this point in time, you just don’t need a flagship to get a good everyday Android experience. With initiatives like Android One, Android Go, and Google’s own step into the affordable market, Google has made mid-range and even low-range devices even more usable and enticing than ever. With so many options littering the market nowadays, it’s hard to tell which devices are even worth your time — and money. Let’s dig through and get to know some of the best affordable Android phones you can buy, as of December 2021.
BEST AFFORDABLE ANDROID PHONES – December 2021
New for December:
- Galaxy A52 5G
- Pixel 5a with 5G
- Google Pixel 6
- Realme GT Master Edition
- OnePlus Nord 2
- Fairphone 4
Google Pixel 4a
Arguably one of best Pixels to date thanks to the “right” compromises
Despite being over 12 months old at this stage of 2021, the defacto affordable Android is still hanging around because it offers a small, accessible device for anyone looking to get the best of the Pixel series without breaking the bank.
We all know just how good the Pixel 3a and 3a XL were for their respective asking prices when dropping at I/O 2019. With the Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro getting supersized for late-2021, it’s no wonder that the Pixel 4a has stuck around for so long.
As for the specifications, the Google Pixel 4a measures in at 5.8-inches and has an FHD+ OLED display at 1080 by 2340 pixels in a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. There is a punch hole notch in the upper left, and this has the highest screen-to-body ratio of any Pixel to date.
Inside, you’ll get a Snapdragon 730G processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 3,140mAh battery. It features the same 12.2-megapixel main sensor found all of its siblings since the Pixel 3 and 3 XL. Like last year, audiophiles will be happy at the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top of the plastic unibody.
The design is only partially based upon the Pixel 4 series and Pixel 5 series, with a square-ish camera notch but a soft-touch plastic back rather than frosted glass. There no room for Face Unlocks though, as the Pixel 4a relies on a rear fingerprint reader — which to many is far superior to the in-display option found on the newest Pixel series smartphones.
Why it’s still one of the best affordable Android phones you can buy today:
It’s tough to quantify what makes an “experience” but the Pixel 4a offers an experience that belies its price-tag. You can get Android 12 and it will soon be eligible for any upcoming Android 13 Developer Previews and Beta updates — something that many sub-$400 smartphones will never likely see.
There is simply no denying that the Google Pixel 4a’s solo camera setup is lightyears ahead of the competition at the same price-point. If you value simple point-and-shoot photography, the 4a remains one of the best bang for your buck devices you can buy.
Where to buy the Google Pixel 4a:
Although hard to get by official channels, the Pixel 4a has a suggested retail price of $349, making it an absolute no-brainer. You can get the Pixel 4a with an official case for just $389 otherwise you can pick it up for $349 shipped.
Best Buy is also stocking the Google Pixel 4a unlocked, while Google Fi has the Pixel 4a for $14.54 per month. Other carriers such as Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T have yet to confirm if the device will be made available on plans.
Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G
5G without the associated price tag
Now that 5G is starting to become very widespread, if you want a solid future-proof affordable Android smartphone, then the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G or the newer Galaxy A52s 5G could be an ideal solution.
A superb package, the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G and A52s share all of the same DNA. For those who missed previous announcements, is the top-tier of the Galaxy A-series. It offers a 120Hz 6.5-inch FHD+ AMOLED display with a hole-punch camera cutout, a 32MP selfie camera, 64MP + 12MP ultrawide + 5MP macro + 5MP depth camera array on the rear, 128GB of storage, 6GB of RAM, a 4,500 mAh battery, and Android 11 with an update to Android coming soon.
This is one of the few smartphones to come with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G chip, which is an upgraded version of the processor used in the Pixel 4a 5G, Pixel 5 and Pixel 5a with 5G. For most people, this is going to be more than enough to do just about everything they need on a day-to-day basis. The Galaxy A52 5G comes with the Snapdragon 750G, which is just a marginal step down but still more than capable.
Why it’s probably one of the best affordable Android phones you can buy:
You get all of the best portions of the Galaxy S21 series but at a lower price-point. Plus, as an upgraded version of the Galaxy A52 which we have reviewed (above), it’s a fantastic smartphone that comes in at around $400.
Where to buy Samsung Galaxy A52/A52s 5G:
The Galaxy A52 5G is available priced at $399 direct from Samsung US, Amazon, Best Buy, and more. It’s unclear if the Galaxy A52s 5G will be widely available in the US but you can get an international model direct from Amazon. This may not work with all local carriers and so we advise against this unless you simply must have the more powerful model.
Google Pixel 5a with 5G
Hints of the Pixel 5 but at a slightly lower price
Despite some similarities with the Pixel 4a with 5G, the Pixel 5a with 5G actually shares more in common with the more “premium” Pixel 5. Priced at $449 and limited to just the United States and Japan, it’s a commoditized Pixel but with good reason.
While the standard Pixel 6 encroaches upon the Pixel 5a with 5G in terms of pricing, it still offers a great smartphone camera and that all-important clean Android experience. You get all of the benefits of the “Pixel Experience” without the associated price tag. The Pixel 3a and 4a have proven that Google can lower costs and still pump out a smartphone that provides an exceptional experience.
On top of these benefits, should you want a large Pixel device, this is the largest of the late-2020 lineup at 6.2-inches. It comes with a 60Hz FHD+ OLED, Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G 5G-enabled chipset, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, large 4,680mAh battery, IP57 water and dust resistance rating, plus 3.5mm headphone jack. One downside is that it is only available in one color option: Mostly Black.
Why it’s probably the best overall affordable Google Pixel phone you can buy:
Very few Android phones can provide the same cohesive experience and update promptness of the Google Pixel series. The camera quality on offer will undoubtedly be second-to-none within the sub-$450 price bracket too without needing to stack in unnecessary additions such as macro lenses and zoom options.
The introduction of the Pixel 5a with 5G to just two markets means that you might want to look at the Pixel 6, but this smartphone offers an affordable entry into the Pixel series with some premium features in tow.
Where to buy the Pixel 4a 5G:
The Pixel 5a with 5G isn’t available outside of the United States and Japan but it is available priced at just $449. It is only available from a limited selection of retailers including direct via the Google Store, but you can get it for just $349 when taking out a Google Fi line.
Google Pixel 6
The ‘default’ Android experience without the high price
The Google Pixel 6 is arguably not that affordable, but it manages to strike an excellent balance if your budget it not set in stone. The important flagship specs to make the phone as fast as you could ever need are matched by sensible compromises to keep the Android device affordable.
In raw specifications, the Pixel 6 is a fantastic package thanks to the usage of the Tensor chip, which although not the most powerful still keeps up with many flagship contenders. It packs in the Google Tensor chip, 8GB of RAM, plus 128GB or 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. This is substantially better than almost all 2021 mid-rangers and is probably the best Pixel phone for most people out there.
With a retail price of just $599, yes, this is not what one would usually consider “affordable”. But this is most definitely a premium device at a price lower than you are used to. The entire package even manages to exceed some handsets that cost twice the entry price.
Running through the stats, the Pixel 6 comes with a superb flat 6.55-inch, 2400×1080 resolution display with a super smooth 90Hz refresh rate. When the Pixel 6 Pro comes with a divisive curved panel, this is a great selling point. It does however use a sometimes finicky in-display optical fingerprint scanner.
The dual-camera setup in the camera bar is, frankly, exceptional and one of the best on the market right now. You have access to a 50-megapixel main sensor and 12-megapixel ultrawide plus an 8-megapixel selfie camera all for under $599.
Why it’s probably the best overall Android phone you can buy:
While the Pixel 6 is — in some cases — double the entry price of many other budget devices on this list, it includes some serious hardware that will only increase longevity and ensure everyday performance remains fluid and consistent. That means that in the long run, you’ll potential save money by upgrading your phone less.
You’ll get 5 years of software support, a striking new design, a beautiful screen, a big battery, and it doesn’t break the bank. Google knocked it out of the park with the Pixel 6 and the lower pricing this year versus the $699 Pixel 5 means it is easier to recommend a Made by Google smartphone than ever before.
Where to buy Google Pixel 6:
Due to demand, it’s actually hard to get hold of the Pixel 6 at this stage of 2021 with waitlists and stock dwindling from many online and physical retail stores. However, it is listed with multiple carriers in the United States, Amazon, or even from Google Direct priced at $599
OTHER EXCELLENT AFFORDABLE ANDROID SMARTPHONES
Realme GT Master Edition
Likely not a name that many outside of Asia will have heard too much of, Realme has steadily started to branch out into Europe and the Realme 7 Pro is the latest such device to reach European shores. The firm is part of BBK family, which also includes Oppo, OnePlus, and Vivo. Sharing some of the DNA of such well-known brands is definitely a good thing.
The Realme GT Master Edition is simply a revision of the similarly excellent Realme GT and retains much of the same core design. It comes with a breathtaking 120Hz 6.4-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED display with an upper-left punch-hole notch, Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G, 6/8GB of RAM, 4,300mAh battery with insanely fast 65W charging, and 128GB or 256GB storage. That’s a package that really does jump off the page.
There’s even an in-display fingerprint scanner for biometric unlocks and plenty of photographic options out-of-the-box with a triple-camera setup that consists of a 64-megapixel main sensor, 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle lens, 2-megapixel macro sensor. Selfies are similarly well catered for with a 32-megapixel snapper hidden within the display punch-hole.
You can pick up the Realme GT Master Edition for under £350 in the UK, which is an exceptional deal considering the package on offer. This great affordable Android phone is unlikely to come to the US in an “official” capacity, but would play nicely with GSMA networks if imported — which is still something we don’t suggest doing.
OnePlus Nord 2
It would be foolish not to add the OnePlus Nord 2 to any list of excellent affordable Android phones even with some regional restrictions. At £399 in the UK or €399 in EU markets, you get an impressive device for a low price.
The OnePlus Nord 2 feels more like a direct successor to the OnePlus 9 or OnePlus 9 Lite in many ways but remains directly below 2020’s flagship OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro in terms of features. It does look a lot like the standard OnePlus 9 but with some material changes and tweaks You get a fairly capable triple setup at the rear, dual-selfie camera, big battery, gorgeous design, and an impressive 90Hz display.
Looking purely at the specifications, it’s a solid smartphone with a MediaTek 1200U chipset, 8 or 12GB of RAM, 128 or 256GB of internal storage, a 4,500mAh battery with 65W charge speeds, plus that aforementioned camera. All of that for under £400 or €400 is impressive.
For that entry price, you’ll get two full OS upgrades plus a further year of security patches — although OnePlus has been known to support devices for longer in some cases. The biggest draw with previous generations has always been the perceived “clean” OxygenOS experience. Unfortunately, the merger between Oppo’s ColorOS and OxygenOS will be coming sooner rather than later here.
US fans will have to import if they want to get the OnePlus Nord 2 though, as it isn’t officially available in North America at this point in time.
Think of the Poco M3 as the “Poco X3 NFC Lite”. Much of what makes that device such a good package is retained, but with some obvious omissions to help really cut the price in half. The Poco M3 isn’t in the same league as, say, the Poco F2 Pro, but it fills a nice little slot toward the bottom portion of the Xiaomi sub-brand lineup. An entry-level device that does see a few features disappear, but not so many that you lose out in any major way.
Packing in the Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 and 4GB of RAM, there is no denying that the Poco M3 isn’t going to “fly” in the daily performance stakes. However, it can do just about everything you may ask of it without much of a complaint. Frankly, the battery life is nothing short of extraordinary on the Poco M3. It’s not rocket science to decipher that a massive 6,000mAh battery is going to withstand even the most brutal of daily usage patterns.
It’s hard to fathom phones that cost just $150 can come with a triple-camera setup nowadays. Alas, there are not too many situations you’ll be fully covered with the Poco M3’s triple-camera array though. It sports a 48-megapixel main sensor, which has been very good in our testing. However, the 2-megapixel macro sensor and 2-megapixel depth sensors really don’t add a great deal to the package on offer.
Unfortunately, the Poco M3 is one of those annoying affordable Android devices that simply isn’t widely available across the globe. It is limited to specific regions but can be purchased from Amazon priced at around $190 in three colors: blue, yellow, and black.
EXCELLENT ANDROID ONE SMARTPHONES
If you’re looking for the stock Android experience, look no further than Android One. Android One is Google’s push for consistency, against the well-meaning but sometimes power-hungry OEM themes placed on top of Android. Devices running Android One have an almost Pixel-like stock Android experience.
Also, by being able to skip porting (or updating) their custom theme to the latest version of Android, manufacturers are normally able to bring the latest versions of Android and security updates to Android One devices in a timely manner. As far as affordable Android phones go, it’s hard not to recommend one running Android One.
Android Go specializes in making Android work for the tightest of budgets of all kinds — financial, mobile data, storage, etc. Android Go includes slimmed-down versions of the Google apps you know and love, that also slim down on data usage where possible. Their availability in the United States is extremely limited, however, which makes selection difficult.
Probably one of the most surprisingly impressive “cheap” smartphones that we’ve tested in a long time. The Nokia 2.2 also happens to be one of the most up-to-date affordable Android phones on the market right now. It was recently updated to Android 10, which means you’ll get all the benefits of the latest OS without having to spend a great deal.
It does have very modest specs but does come with a removable battery, dual SIM support, a headphone jack, and plastic design. Overall though, it’s far ahead of the competition at under $100.
EXCELLENT ANDROID GO SMARTPHONES
If you’re not interested in the Nokia 2.2, then maybe the C2 is more your style. The device isn’t available quite yet but will come with a 5.7-inch display, a quad-core UniSoc chipset, just 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage (that can be expanded up to 64GB with a microSD card), and a headphone port.
Like most ultra-budget smartphones, the Nokia C2 relies on the outdated micro USB for charging, but the relatively small 2,800mAh battery is user-removable. Another notable hardware inclusion is that of a dedicated Google Assistant button, which allows you to quickly enter voice search and give the Assistant commands.
It will likely go on sale in the coming months but we’d expect very modest pricing.
THE BEST AFFORDABLE ‘SUSTAINABLE’ ANDROIDS
A higher-end sequel to the Fairphone 3 and 3+, the Fairphone 4 might not be considered the most “affordable” Android phone on this list with a retail price £499/€579. However, this is one of the very best sustainable phones you can buy right now.
Unlike the previous generations, the internals are a substantial leap in terms of performance and prominence. The unibody design definitely looks more premium but none of the modularity is lost here.
Measuring 6.3-inches, the Fairphone 4 uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor, 6 or 8GB of RAM and 128/256GB of internal storage that can even be expanded via microSD card. The removable battery has a 3,905mAh capacity and can be charged at speeds up to 20W. NFC is also included for wireless payments, while security is provided via a side-mounted fingerprint scanner.
Fairphone has shrunk the bezels on the device but the FHD+ screen is still LCD rather than AMOLED and is clocked at 60Hz. One slight sore point is the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack, but this means that an IP54 rating is present for protection against splashes and minor water ingress. It manages this even with its removable backplate!
The rear camera is another area where big strides and upgrades have been made on the Fairphone 4. A 48-megapixel main sensor is paired with a 48-megapixel ultra-wide while a 25-megapixel selfie camera is found in the dewdrop notch on the display. Fairphone says that the main rear camera also includes OIS for smooth video recording at up to 4K in 30fps.
In terms of software, the Fairphone 4 will ship with Android 11 but has been promised Android 12 and Android 13 with an extended software support promise up to and including 2025. This could mean that Fairphone’s flagship smartphone for 2021 will be supported all the way up to Android 15 – something many phones sold today will never see officially. However, this is not guaranteed.
The Fairphone 4 is only available in European markets priced at €579/£499 for the 6/128GB model, and €649/£569 for the 8/256GB model.
Like the Fairphone 3+, the Teracube 2E is marketed as a sustainable, affordable Android phone that leverages modest hardware but should — in theory — offer a lower carbon footprint.
The Redmond-based firm behind the Teracube 2E claims that the upcoming device includes a fully biodegradable protective case, includes 25% recycled materials, and has an impressively low $99 introductory price. We say “introductory,” as this is yet another IndieGogo campaign that includes stretch goals.
It packs in the modest MediaTek A25 chipset, includes 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, and has a 4,000mAh user-replaceable battery. The 6.1-inch HD+ IPS LCD display has a 720-by-1,560-pixel resolution and includes a dewdrop notch, with some sizeable bezels thrown in for good measure.
Other hardware includes a 3.5mm-headphone port, plus a rear-mounted capacitive fingerprint scanner for biometric unlocks. The firm also claims that the Teracube 2E can be fully torn down with a screwdriver. No glue has been used to help reduce the environmental impact of the device.
It does or at least will ship with Android 10, but the Teracube 2E is set to be eligible for 3 — yes, three — years of OS updates and also includes a four-year warranty as part of the “White Glove” VIP service. If you want your own 2E, then you can register for this “early-bird” $99 pricing over on the official IndieGogo launch page. Once this allocation is sold, pricing will jump to $199 with shipping set to begin in early December 2020.
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