Low-Priced Smartphones With High-End Features

Can you get modern-day tech in a modestly priced phone? Absolutely, Consumer Reports' testers say.

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Apple iPhone SE Apple

Looking for a good smartphone at a reasonable price?

Well, that's not such a towering feat, especially if you're willing to consider smaller brands. A number of low-priced models offer many of the features people have come to expect in a premium phone, including high-definition displays, fingerprint sensors, and enough battery life to get you through the day.

While these phones might lack a top-of-the-line camera, they do offer plenty of compelling photo options, says Richard Fisco, Consumer Reports’ head of smartphone testing.

For instance, all of the phones listed below have cameras that can record video in the ultra HD format, and the camera on the Samsung Galaxy S7 comes with optical image stabilization, which helps you get better shots in low-light conditions.

On the flip side, you’re not going to find a low-priced phone with the latest processors and graphics chips. And don’t expect cutting-edge features such as wireless charging, water resistance, OLED screens, and Face ID, either.

And, Fisco says, some cheaper phones might not support all LTE bands, so you could lose your data connection in certain locations.

But if you’re willing to make a few trade-offs, you can get one of the sub-$400 smartphones that impressed our testers.

Once you buy your new low-priced smartphone, check out our reviews of the best cell-phone carriers and the top low-cost cell-phone plans.

At $350, the iPhone SE is Apple’s lowest-priced option. The relatively tiny phone has been on the market for more than two years but continues to be popular.

Our testers say the rear camera performs very well in terms of color quality, exposure level, and sharpness. At 12 megapixels, it may seem minimalist to some Apple fans, but it offers face detection and records video in ultra HD.

Of course, there are no dual cameras or portrait mode or water resistance. This phone predates all of those bells and whistles.

But its 4-inch display gets admirable marks. The battery life is 19 hours. And the Apple iPhone SE affords you all that iOS has to offer in a pocket-sized package, including Apple’s app store and features such as iMessage and FaceTime.


Bree Fowler

Bree Fowler

I write about all things "cyber" and your right to privacy. Before joining Consumer Reports, I spent 16 years reporting for The Associated Press. What I enjoy: cooking and learning to code with my kids. I've lived in the Bronx for more than a decade, but as a proud Michigan native, I will always be a die-hard Detroit Tigers fan no matter how much my family and I get harassed at Yankee Stadium. Follow me on Twitter (@BreeJFowler).