Budget camera phones used to be cheap in all aspects, including build quality and overall functionality. But fortunately there are now some high-quality, affordable options to choose from. Whether you’re simply looking to save money because you primarily use your phone for communication and taking photos, or whether you’ve learned that you’re simply too drop-prone to invest in the latest technology, you can choose from an array of well-priced new and older model smartphones that fit your needs.
Many older model smartphones as well as their new budget counterparts are equipped with superb cameras and modern technology, such as wireless charging. If you don’t plan to take advantage of the higher-performance aspects of your smartphone and also don’t want to sacrifice all the luxuries associated with a high-performance phone, such as a quality camera, we’ve got you covered.
That said, finding a new cell phone isn’t easy. Regardless of how you intend to use your phone, an unreliable budget model creates more problems than it solves. This means the consumer has to sift through seemingly endless options to determine which models they like whether those options are actually worth investing in. To make your decision-making process easier, we’ve included a range of different brands, sizes, and price points in our list. From big-name brands like Apple to lesser-known yet high quality companies such as Xiaomi, these are the best budget camera phones.
How We Picked the Best Budget Camera Phones
We researched an array of camera phones with different features, functions, and price tags. By casting a wide net, we ensured that our selections were the best available. We investigated Androids and iPhones of all shapes and sizes and considered the unique features that each model had to offer, such as an extended battery life or 5G capability. Finally, before making our final selections, we considered dozens of verified customer reviews. We paid special attention to the following criteria when choosing the best budget camera phones:
Camera Quality: Although this isn’t the primary function of a budget cell phone, it’s the main thing we considered beyond the bare minimum functions of the phone, such as calling, Bluetooth, and smart capabilities. We paid close attention to the quality of both still images and videos on each budget camera phone we researched. Because camera quality is subjective, and largely based on the types of images you intend to capture, we made sure to take a close look at special photo and video modes, such as portrait or slo-mo. We also reviewed all the camera-specific specifications, such as the number of pixels and the extent of the zoom.
Battery Life: The last thing you want to do is to invest in a camera phone only to have it lose power just as you arrive at your photograph-worthy destination. While one solution is to get a portable charger, which is a great gift for almost anyone these days, phones with extended battery life are more reliable in general. They also tend to last longer as the battery has more time to degrade before it becomes unusable, which is an inescapable reality for many of our devices. All of our selections have good or great battery life, although there is some variation among the different price ranges. As you may expect, the more you’re willing to spend, even within the budget category, the more battery life you can get.
Screen Quality: One of the greatest qualities of the modern smartphone is the ability to take great photos, and then allow those photos to be viewed and edited in high definition immediately after. We made sure that each phone we selected had a camera with high resolution. Beyond the basic measurements of resolutions, such as pixel count, we also researched color range, depth, and saturation, as these play a large role in how accurately your photo appears on the screen.
Connectivity: When making our final selections we considered how well connected each budget camera phone would be. First, we selected 5G-capable phones wherever possible since they’re the fastest. Additionally, we researched which models were equipped with handy features such as Bluetooth 5.0 and wireless charging. As recent innovations like these become more mainstream, an increasing number of external products are featuring them as well, such as cars with wireless charging pads and portable speakers with the latest no-loss Bluetooth transmission technology. By searching for phones with these features we made sure that our selections will continue to provide high performance for years to come.
Value: Last, but certainly not least, we considered which phones offered the best value. To determine the relative value of each phone we compared the ranking we assigned it and the quality of the technology with its retail price. Each selection we made strikes a good balance between cost and functionality.
Best Budget Camera Phones: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Google Pixel 5a with 5G
Why It Made The Cut: Between the large, HD display and 5G connectivity, Google’s Pixel 5a has everything you need to take great images and edit them in real time.
— Camera Resolution: 16MP primary, 12.2MP wide, 8MP front
— Battery Size: 4,680mAh adaptive battery; up to two days of use on a single charge
— Onboard Storage: 128GB
— Screen Size: 6.34 Inches
— Screen Resolution: 1080P OLED
— Superb battery life
— High-quality camera
— 60 Hz refresh rate isn’t ideal for gaming
— Only one storage option available
With a price tag of less than $500, it’s nearly impossible to beat the Pixel 5a’s value. Without venturing into the world of Apple or spending more than $500, this is as close as you can get to a fully-fledged premium camera phone without breaking the bank. It includes Google’s computation photography software, which enhances the already high-quality camera. Although the build is mostly plastic, the 5a is durable and easy to care for. Its IP67 rating means this phone is waterproof, dustproof, and generally durable.
Aside from offering the latest cellular and Bluetooth technology, which will help this device stay relevant over the next few years, the Pixel 5a’s OLED screen has great feedback. It’s easy to pair a third-party stylus as well. Includes Google’s computation photography software, which enhances the already high-quality camera
Best Value: Samsung Galaxy A52 5G
Why It Made The Cut: The Galaxy A52 offers a great front and rear camera as well as premium technology for less than $300.
— Camera Resolution: 64MP primary, 12MP wide, 5MP macro, 5MP depth sensor, 32MP front
— Battery Size: 4,500mAh; up to 30 hours of usage
— Onboard Storage: 128 GB
— Screen Size: 6.5 Inches
— Screen Resolution: 1080p AMOLED
— Advanced camera system includes depth sensor that enhances still images and video
— 120 Hz refresh rate is great for gaming
— Low price, great value
— No internal stabilization for 4K video recording
— Macro camera isn’t effective considering it has an isolated lens
Although the Galaxy A52 comes in at the lower end of Samsung’s price range, it certainly doesn’t have low end performance. There are five individual lenses on the rear camera, which makes this phone one of the most versatile in this price range. Although the macro and depth lens aren’t high-end, they’re far better than nothing. You can even record 4K video on this phone, which is interesting since it can’t display 4K video. Plus, the Galaxy A52 has a great screen design that features curved edges and ultra-thin bezels.
Best for Travel: Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G
Why It Made The Cut: Everyone loves taking pictures while they travel, and the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite gets the job done, and a lot more, for a reasonable price.
— Camera Resolution: 64MP primary, 8MP ultra-wide, 5MP macro, 20MP front
— Battery Size: 4,250mAh; up to 24 hours of usage
— Onboard Storage: 128 GB
— Screen Size: 6.55 Inches
— Screen Resolution: 1080p AMOLED
— Strong image processing
— Powerful Snapdragon 780G chip
— Dual SIM capability allows you to travel anywhere in the world
— Not compatible with all U.S. carriers; works best with Mint Mobile and T-Mobile
— Ultra-wide camera doesn’t work as well as it should
Simply put, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite is a very well-balanced budget camera phone. It does most everything well, and since it costs around $300, it’s a great choice for anyone who’s frequently on the move and needs both a reliable camera and a truly reliable phone. The Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite’s unique image processing system aids in creating balanced, bright, daytime photos. And its Powerful Snapdragon 780G chip was top-of-the-line in 2020, making it ideal for editors and gamers on a budget
The ability to leave two SIM cards in the phone at the same time is especially useful if you travel back and forth between the same two destinations quite frequently. Plus, even though the primary camera is more than up to snuff on its own, the Mi 11 Lite 5G has some extra software mixed in to further enhance the quality of its photos.
Best from Apple: 2022 iPhone SE
Why It Made The Cut: Not only does the iPhone SE deserve to be on this list in its own right, thanks to both its front and rear cameras, it’s also the cheapest iPhone, and only way to get the Apple operating system shelling out a lot of cash.
— Camera Resolution: 12MP Primary, 7MP Front
— Battery Size: 2,018mAh; up to 12 hours of usage
— Onboard Storage: 64-256GB
— Screen Size: 4.7 Inches
— Screen Resolution: 1334x750P LCD
— 4K video recording capability
— Option to select higher on-board storage capacity
— Easy to integrate into any design because you can choose the display painting
— Camera is high quality, but severely lacking in comparison to higher-priced Apple phones
— Still comparatively expensive because of the Apple brand
The majority of smartphone users in the US prefer Apple, and the iPhone SE is a great introduction to the iPhone lineup. Although Apple is known for being pricey, the SE offers great value per dollar. In addition to the unique operating system, the iPhone SE also features a high-performance A15 chip that enhances the graphics while increasing overall speed. The A15 chip also powers special camera features, such as portrait mode. Speaking of speed, you can charge your SE to 50 percent in as little as 30 minutes with a standard 20-watt charger; most of the Android competitors require at least 33 watts (W)for rapid charging.
Best Battery Life: Motorola Moto g200
Why It Made The Cut: The Moto g200 has a great camera and display and is capable of handling more than 14 hours of continuous video playback, making it a photographer or videographer's best friend.
— Camera Resolution: 108MP primary, 13MP ultrawide, 2MP depth, 16MP front
— Battery Size: 5,000mAh; up to 36 hours of usage
— Onboard Storage: 128 to 256 GB
— Screen Size: 6.8 Inches
— Screen Resolution: 1080p
— 144 Hz refresh rate is great for gaming and movies
— Incredible battery life paired with rapid charging
— Dual-LED two-tone flash is great for snapping pics in bad lighting
— Doesn’t accept any additional internal memory cards
— Plastic back doesn’t feel as nice as comparably priced models with less performance
The g200 is the replacement for the g100 and enjoys the benefits of an upgraded processor, display, and camera. Aside from the low price, what sets the g200 apart from its competitors is the ultra-fast refresh rate, the extended battery life, and importantly, its camera system. While the depth sensor doesn’t offer much, the primary and macro lens on the g200 are unparalleled at this price. The 108MP primary lens is designed to be highly sensitive to light, and it works in conjunction with Motorola’s UltraPixel technology, which uses a 9x9MP binning frame to yield 12MP photos, to produce bright, clear photos in any light conditions.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Budget Camera Phone
Be on the lookout for camera features such as wide-angle lenses, macro close-up capability, and internal-depth sensors. There are a number of options, such as the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G and the Google Pixel 5A, that have all of these features and more. If you’re looking for something that’s oriented towards video, keep your eyes peeled for features such as internal video stabilization and automatic light balancing. Also, make sure to take a look at the quality of the front-facing camera. Although front-facing cameras, or selfie cameras as they’re often called, have a long way to go in terms of catching up to the quality of their rear-facing counterparts, they’ve become increasingly important to consumers who want to be able to easily take social media-worthy photos of themselves.
Screen Size and Overall Dimensions
The screen size you choose is the largest single determinant of how large your phone is, and bigger is not always better. The right-sized screen is a matter of preference and intended use. If you plan to use your phone for on-the-spot editing, having a larger screen may make the most sense. Also, if you’d like to use a stylus on your new camera phone, a larger screen will likely be more useful. On the other hand, if your hands are small or your pockets are already overflowing and you just don’t want to add another bulky device, consider something with a smaller screen.
Videos and photos take up a lot of space on your phone’s internal drive. This can become especially annoying because loaded hard drives have to reduce performance in order to continue performing their basic functions, which means that a full hard drive can quickly make the rest of your phone slow and frustrating to use. To avoid this, select a phone with the highest on-board storage capacity within your price range. You can also consider investing in a form of external storage, such as an external hard drive or micro-SD card, which may be worth it for editing and file transfer purposes alone.
If you’re in the market for a camera-oriented phone, there’s a good chance that you won’t be able to leave it plugged in all the time. Having a phone with rapid charging capabilities, such as the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G, can be a life saver, especially if you’ve put a lot of effort into getting a specific shot. While battery life is the most important consideration in this regard, the ability to get a healthy dose of charge in just a few minutes may make the difference between capturing the moment or feeling bummed that you brought your camera phone only to have it die on you.
Q: How much should I expect to spend on a budget camera phone?
Expect to spend between $200-$500 for a budget camera phone. Factors such as screen size and quality, battery life, and brand affect the cost. The more technology you have, the more pricey the device will be. For example, phones with large amounts of on-board storage tend to be on the more expensive side.
Q: How should I get rid of my old phone after upgrading?
If you decide that you don’t want to keep your old phone after upgrading, there are a number of options at your disposal. You may want to check with the cell phone provider to see if they are offering a buyback program; in some cases, manufacturers such as Apple also offer buyback programs. If your old device is still in relatively good condition, you may get a good price for it. Alternatively, you can also recycle your phone, which is a good option when you consider the fact that the world produces more than 50 million tons of electronically derived waste each year. Recycling your old phone is simple because large stores like Best Buy and Staples allow you to recycle your electronics for free or a small fee. You can also donate your old devices to charities like Human I.T., which even offers a free pickup service in some cases.
Q: Why are Android phones so much cheaper than iPhones?
Android phones are comparatively cheap compared to iPhones for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons Android phones are cheaper is because Android is an open-course programme that can be worked on and improved by an array of companies. Apple, on the other hand, chose to go it alone and made their own operating system, which requires consistently high levels of research and development investment. One of the benefits of the unique Apple operating system is enhanced built-in security, which the company charges a premium for. Another area where Apple spends significantly more than their competitors on average is in the selection and testing of materials. Also, because Apple has its own operating system, it doesn’t have to worry about direct competition in that regard; Android manufacturers have to constantly fight for each other’s customers by lowering prices and offering better deals.
Although there are a number of high-quality budget camera phones to choose from, the Google Pixel 5a stands out from the crowd because of how close it gets to flagship performance in multiple categories. This may not be a benefit for everyone, but the fact that the Pixel 5a is backed by Google ensures that you’ll get reliable customer service and regular updates outside of the standard Android software updates. In fact, the Pixel 5a is so close to a flagship device that it even beats Google’s actual flagship device, the Pixel 6 Pro, in some categories. For example, the 5a has the largest battery of any Google phone. However, if you’re looking to spend a bit less, you can’t go wrong with the Samsung Galaxy A52.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.