Best phones under $500 2021: iPhone 11, Pixel 5A 5G, Samsung Galaxy and more – CNET

Elite phones such as Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra boast the best tech you can find on a mobile phone. They pack stellar performance and a wide set of features, but they also come with sky-high prices to match. Some of those specs may seem like overkill, however, and many of us simply don’t need the fastest processor or the best camera around. 

Shopping for a phone on a more modest budget is easy now, including brand-new affordable handsets through to discounted previous-generation models. And despite their low prices, budget phones can be advanced, packing features akin to premium phones, like great multilens cameras, fast processors, lots of internal storage, a fingerprint reader and even 5G. 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 Pixel 5A is Google’s latest affordable 5G phone, packing a decent set of specs all round into an affordable package. Its large screen and water-resistance means it’s capable of tackling all of your everyday essentials while its 5G speeds means you won’t be left waiting for your Netflix shows to buffer when you’re waiting for the bus. 

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In addition to its main Galaxy S21 phones, Samsung has a more cost-conscious A series line of phones. This year it launched the Galaxy A52 5G, which has four cameras including a selfie camera, an in-screen fingerprint sensor and expandable memory. Samsung released this phone in quite a few fun colors, but for those shopping in the US you are more likely to only find it in black. 

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With the launch of the iPhone 13 series, Apple gave its iPhone 11 lineup a healthy discount meaning you can now pick up the base 64GB model for only $499. It might be a couple of generations old, but this phone is still more than capable, handling gaming well and equipped with two superb rear cameras. 

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