Best Budget Phones 2018: Top Cheap Smartphone Reviews & Buying Advice


Your buying guide for the best budget phones in 2018

In our experience the best way to get a cheap phone is to buy it SIM-free then grab a great-value SIM-only deal. You won’t be paying £50-odd per month for a phone for the next two years, and you can swap it for a newer model whenever you fancy it. This is especially the case for cheap Chinese phones, for which you can’t get a contract.

All the phones here cost under £200, which is just a third or less of the price you’d often pay for flagships such as the Galaxy S9, HTC U11 and LG V30 – take a look at our guide to the best phones on the market for more on those flagships.

Ranked in order below are our reviews of what we consider to be the best budget phones on sale right now. We’ve based this chart on the SIM-free price as contracts change so often.

Do note that we’ve included only the phones for which we’ve completed our full benchmarking, which explains why the new Moto G6 Play is not yet included. You can check out our hands-on review here.

You can click on a phone in which you’re interested to read the full review, see example photos from the camera, and check out the benchmark results. And if you’re ready to buy one, check out our best phone deals to make sure you find the best price.

If you’re after a phone for under £50 take a look at our best basic phones roundup, which includes decent phones that trade off features for the best prices and cost from just £10.

Should I buy a locked phone?

You’ll quickly find that some of the best deals on cheap phones are sold via mobile operators. What you need to watch for is whether these phones are sold locked to that operator’s network.

This is the case with the Vodafone Smart N8, but if you don’t want to become a Vodafone customer you should look elsewhere on the list for a non-network-branded handset, such as the Moto G5.

Vodafone Smart N8

What about a Chinese phone?

An alternative is to buy a Chinese phone – you’ll find some of these in our chart too. You might not have heard of the brands, and they won’t be available on the UK High Street (save for the likes of Huawei and ZTE), but Chinese phones are well-known for offering amazing specs for the money and undercutting their European rivals.

In most cases you’ll get a phone with a mid-range specification at a budget price.

Of course there are down sides – for example, what should you do if a phone bought from China is faulty? We’ve rounded up the major pitfalls in our article on buying grey-market tech, but if you’re still interested you should see our round-up of the best Chinese phones for 2018.

What’s the best phone for a child?

If you’re looking for a budget phone for a child, look at our selection of the best kids’ phones which includes some of the best budget phones along with a few others particularly well-suited to kids.

What will you get for your money?

If you’re looking for a cheap phone, you have to accept the fact that the manufacturer is going to cut some corners to achieve that low price and you aren’t going to get the same speed, features, and display quality as you might with a phone costing two, three, or even four times the price.

It used to be the case that budget phones were instantly recognisable by their low-resolution displays, meagre storage, and chunky, plastic bodies, but things are improving in this area all the time. These days, for £200 or less it’s quite possible to buy a phone with a Full HD display and a sub 8mm-thick metal body.

Most will support 4G connectivity, but not all will support NFC (Chinese phones will often feature HotKnot which is a similar technology, but not the same as NFC.) 

Best budget phones 2018

1. Honor 9 Lite

Honor 9 Lite

2. Moto G5

Moto G5

3. Nokia 5

Nokia 5

4. EE Hawk

EE Hawk

5. Elephone P8 Mini

Elephone P8 Mini

6. UMIDIGI Z1

UMIDIGI Z1

7. Elephone S7

Elephone S7

8. Maze Alpha X

Maze Alpha X

9. Vodafone Smart N8

Vodafone Smart N8

10. Nokia 3

Nokia 3



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