Best phones under $500 2021: iPhone SE, OnePlus, Galaxy A52 5G, Pixel 4A and more – CNET

Top-end phones like Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro Max or the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra pack in the best tech that can be found on a mobile phone. They offer amazing performance and a wide set of features but they also come with sky-high prices to match. But most of us likely don’t need the power and performance of elite handsets or a flagship phone and can save hundreds by looking lower in the range.

The great news is that people shopping on a more modest budget have more options than ever to choose from, including brand-new affordable handsets through to discounted previous-generation models. And despite their low prices, budget phones can be extremely advanced, packing features akin to premium phones, like great multi-lens cameras, fast processors, lots of internal storage, a fingerprint reader and even 5G connectivity. Further, if you’re willing to buy an unlocked phone, your choices become even broader.

Check out the list below of the best phones under $500 — which we update regularly — and read CNET’s reviews. Note that we’ve linked to the unlocked version of each budget smartphone and they should run on most of the big four US wireless carriers, unless specified otherwise.

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The iPhone XR may be almost three years old, but it’s still being officially sold by Apple and still receives the latest versions of iOS, making it a legitimate contender for your hard-earned cash. Currently starting at $499 off-contract with 64GB, it features a 6.1-inch LCD display, a 12-megapixel rear camera and the A12 Bionic processor. It’s similar in specs to the 2020 iPhone SE, but the XR’s bigger screen might be worth the extra $100.

Read our Apple iPhone XR review.

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If you’re looking for a cheaper Note 20 alternative, the Moto G Stylus features a stylus that you can store inside the phone along with a built-in Notes app to help with productivity. Currently priced at $280 from Motorola, the phone also features triple-rear cameras, 128GB of storage and a robust 4,000-mAh battery. It doesn’t support 5G data speeds, but its successor, the Moto G Stylus 5G (seen further up this list) does offer 5G, along with more internal storage and, unsurprisingly, a slightly higher price of $400.

Read our Moto G Stylus review.

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