Best cheap phones in Australia 2022

It’s no secret that smartphones aren’t the cheapest thing to buy. Every year, the big phone manufacturers release their newest devices with more cameras, bigger and brighter screens and all sorts of cool and clever features — but there’s always a big price tag to match. Research from Canstar Blue has even found that the average price Aussies are spending on their smartphone (when buying outright) is $733 — nowhere near the $1,000+ premium price tag, but still not cheap.

However, with technology getting better and more affordable each year, there are now plenty of options if you’re looking for a good budget phone. Even some of the most popular smartphone brands have found their place in the cheap phone space.

Cheap phones can not only save you money on a device cost, but when paired with a cheap phone plan — which are usually offered as SIM-only plans — having a new phone and a plan to match, can be more affordable and attainable if you’re on a budget.

Whether you’re looking to save some money, selecting a good first phone for your child, or you just don’t use your phone enough to justify a $1,000+ price tag, there are plenty of cheap smartphones to suit a range of users.

It’s worth noting that the prices of the devices listed in this guide are the RRP for the phone. Some devices might now be available at even cheaper prices from certain retailers, especially if the phones are older models and the prices are marked down. You might also find some older devices have limited stock, and may not be listed on a manufacturer’s website, but could still be available from retailers, so you might need to shop around.

Let’s take a look at what you can get for your money when it comes to cheap phones currently available in Australia.

 

Best cheap smartphone under $600

Motorola Edge 20 Fusion
Source: Motorola

Motorola Edge 20 Fusion

Motorola is known for producing a solid range of devices at affordable prices, and the Edge 20 Fusion is one such phone. Motorola’s Edge range are the more premium devices, yet the price is still rather affordable if you’re looking at mid-range phones.

The Edge 20 Fusion is the cheapest of the Edge 20 range and its list of specs show it to be the more basic of the three devices. However, there are still a lot of specs in common with the two pricier models, such as the same screen and device size.

There’s a big battery at 5,000mAh, 30W fast charging, fingerprint and facial unlocking, 5G compatibility, triple rear camera setup and includes up to 1TB of expandable storage. If you’re looking for a phone that feels a little more premium but you don’t have the budget for it, the Motorola Edge 20 Fusion offers a lot of the great features we liked about the Motorola Edge 20, but in a more affordable package.

Price: $499 AUD RRP

What we like:

  • Many of the same features as the Edge 20 and Edge 20 Pro, including 5G compatibility, but more affordable price
  • Great, sleek-looking phone and available in two colourways, including a vibrant teal option
  • 5,000mAh battery and fast charging capability

What we don’t like:

  • Slow camera app
  • Rather large phone with large camera bump
  • Lower refresh rate (90Hz) than the Edge 20 (144Hz)

Other great smartphones under $600

Best cheap smartphone under $400

OPPO A54 5G

Front and back of OPPO A54 5G phones in black and purple colourways
Source: OPPO

Another powerhouse Android brand, OPPO releases a fairly wide range of phones each year across different price points. The OPPO A54 5G was, at the time of its release, the cheapest 5G phone on the market (but has since been undercut by the competition), showing OPPO to be at the forefront of smartphone innovation.

Not only does having the latest mobile technology at a cheaper price help the OPPO A54 5G to stand out from the crowd, but it’s a generally nice phone to use. While there isn’t anything particularly flashy about this phone, it has the basics and does a good job at executing them.

There’s a quad rear-camera setup, expandable micro SD storage, both fingerprint and facial unlocking, along with a range of camera modes. It’s also a phone that feels as good to use as it does to look at. Keeping in mind that this is still a rather cheap phone, the device has its hits and misses but delivers a solid overall performance.

Price: $399 AUD RRP

What we like:

  • Does all the basics well, with 5G compatibility, for under $400
  • Quad-rear camera setup with 48MP main lens
  • Great display and nice looking finish on back

What we don’t like:

  • Facial unlocking not as reliable as fingerprint
  • Slow charging
  • Indoor photo quality rather grainy at times

Other great smartphones under $400

Best cheap smartphone under $200

Realme C21

Person holding blue and black Realme C21 phones
Source: Realme

When it comes to phones under $200, there might not be much competition, but a few manufacturers produce some great phones for this price point.

One such device is the Realme C21. For $199 AUD RRP, you’ll be able to pick up a quality smartphone performance but at the fraction of the cost of many other devices. While the Realme name might not be as well known as other smartphone brands, Realme has established its reputation for making quality devices at cheaper price points, and with ties to OPPO, it’s one of the fastest growing smartphone brands in the world.

For just under $200, the Realme C21 offers an experience that doesn’t feel as cheap as the price point. It’s a nice-looking device and offers features such as NFC for Google Pay, a triple rear camera setup and 5,000mAh battery. Overall, it’s a phone that looks great and feels good to use, considering the price tag.

Price: $199 AUD RRP

What we like:

  • The price — there aren’t too many smartphones for under $200, so the quality of the C21 is a rarity
  • Packed with some useful features including NFC for Google Pay, triple rear camera setup, expandable micro SD storage, facial and fingerprint unlocking
  • Looks and feels nice to use — doesn’t feel like a cheap phone and has a unique design

What we don’t like:

  • Camera quality can be hit and miss
  • Colours on screen can appear too saturated and auto brightness can be temperamental
  • Built-in speaker placement isn’t very user-friendly

Other great smartphones under $200

  • Motorola moto e7 Power — $159
  • Nokia 2.3 — $199
  • Motorola moto e7 — $199
  • Realme C11 — $199
  • Nokia G10 — $199
  • Realme C21 — $199
  • Vivo Y12 — $199

Cheap SIM-Only Phone Plans

If you’re buying a phone outright, you’ll need a SIM-only plan to go with it, whether that a plan from one of the MVNOs or one of the big three telcos. Here’s a selection of cheap prepaid plans and postpaid phone plans you might want to pair with your new phone.

Prepaid Plans Under $40

Here is a selection of prepaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database for $40 or less, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by standard data allowance, largest to smallest. If you want to see a wider range of plans from other providers our phone plan comparison tool can help. This table includes products with links to referral partners.

Postpaid Plans Under $40

Here is a selection of postpaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database for $40 or less, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by standard data allowance, largest to smallest. If you want to see a wider range of plans from other providers our phone plan comparison tool can help. This table includes products with links to referral partners.


Best cheap iPhone

iPhone SE

iPhone SE 2022 range
iPhone SE 2022 range, Source: Apple

While it’s not exactly ‘cheap’, if you are looking for the cheapest iPhone available, the 2022 iPhone SE is Apple’s answer to a ‘budget’ device. Apple has used elements of older devices, such as the design of the iPhone 8 but it also comes with the chipset of the iPhone 13 series. This keeps the device on the slightly more affordable spectrum, but powered by one of the most impressive chipsets on the market.

It keeps features to the absolute basics too. You’ll get one camera in the back (as well as one front-facing camera), and with the similar design of the iPhone 8, it’s not an edge-to-edge display like premium iPhones, with only a 4.7 inch display (compared to 6.1 inches for the iPhone 13 and 5.4 inches for the iPhone 13 mini). However, it also comes with 5G connectivity for anyone looking for a future-proofed device.

The price tag might still be rather steep, but the iPhone SE does have its place. For anyone who prefers the iPhone user experience, but doesn’t need all the flashy features of newer devices — and you pretty much just need the basics — the iPhone SE does have a good position in the market.

Price: $719 AUD RRP (64GB version), $799 AUD RRP (128GB version), $969 AUD RRP (256GB version)

What we like: 

  • Basics of an iPhone for under $800 (excluding 256GB version)
  • Includes a home button — a favourite feature for many old-school iPhone users
  • Includes the same high-quality chipset as the iPhone 13 series

What we don’t like:

  • Very basic features when compared to Android devices at similar price
  • Rather small screen compared to other devices on the market and newer iPhones
  • Design can feel outdated and colour choices are basic

Keep in mind that you might be able to pick up newer and more premium iPhones from the past couple years at more affordable prices if you can find stocks of discontinued devices from telcos or retailers, or choose a refurbished iPhone. When buying a refurbished phone, make sure you’re buying from a reputable source where the device has been professionally refurbished. Some telcos such as Boost Mobile and NuMobile sell refurbished phones with quality checking processes in place.

The following table includes the cheapest 64GB iPhone SE 24-month phone plans as published on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see a range of plans for other devices and from other providers.

Best cheap Android phone

There are plenty of options to choose from

Most of the devices outlined in this guide are Android devices, as iPhones generally don’t come very cheap. If you’re happy with an Android phone, the good news is that you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.

Simply because of the sheer number of brands and devices released in the cheap and mid-range levels, it’s impossible to identify one phone as the ‘best’ over all the others. This will also totally depend on how much you’re willing to pay for your new phone, as well as any preferences you have for one phone brand over another.

It depends how much you want to pay

If you’re looking for a phone that provides some excellent features and quality at more affordable prices, you’ll most likely need to put a bit more money into your budget and consider phones around the $500+ price range. Devices from brands such as Motorola and Nokia, along with Realme, Vivo and OPPO, tend to pack a lot of value into devices on the cheaper-end of the mid-range scale.

Realme, for instance, sells mostly ‘cheap’ phones only and doesn’t get anywhere near the $1,000 price range. Both Motorola and Nokia also offer their more premium devices for under $1,000. Looking into brands like these, where premium features will usually hit around $800, can be a good indication for the kind of value for money you can get from an Android phone.

Keep in mind that manufacturers like Samsung and OPPO, which offer premium phones for over $1,000, will save their best features and tech for these premium phones. Although, you can still get some good value-for-money in the cheaper devices produced by both brands.

Ultimately, if you’re realistic about what kind of features and quality of technology you’ll get in a cheap smartphone, there are plenty of quality cheap Android devices to choose from.

Best cheap 5G phone

Back of grey and mint Samsung Galaxy A22 5G phones
Source: Samsung

Samsung A22 5G

If you are looking for a cheap phone but want 5G compatibility to ensure your device is future-proof, the good news is that more brands are releasing affordable 5G smartphones. While 5G was once a premium feature, competition for the cheapest 5G phone has been heating up. Currently, the cheapest 5G phones on the market are around the $350 price mark.

Both Samsung and TCL have phones at this price point, but Samsung does pack a bit more value into its cheapest 5G phone, the Samsung Galaxy A22 5G.

You’ll get a triple rear-camera setup with 48MP main camera, 5MP ultra-wide and 2MP depth, plus a 5,000mAh battery with 15W fast charging, and a 6.6 inch FHD+ display. One thing to note is that you won’t get NFC capability, (however this is an inclusion that the TCL 20 R 5G does have), so if this is top of your list for smartphone needs, you might want to look elsewhere.

Price: $349 AUD RRP

What we like:

  • One of the cheapest 5G phones on the market
  • Big battery and 15W fast charging
  • Decent camera setup

What we don’t like:

  • No NFC compatibility
  • Rather basic for a Samsung Galaxy phone, even though it is an A series phone
  • Side-mounted fingerprint scanner might be annoying to those who prefer fingerprint scanners on the back of the phone

As phones get smarter, the price of technology drops

The good news is that while smartphones are getting, well, smarter, the price of this technology is dropping. While premium devices like devices in the iPhone 13 series and Samsung S22 phone range are still very expensive, the prices for these high-end phones stay fairly consistent year on year, despite the technology getting better. What this also means is that as technology gets better and cheaper, more phone manufacturers are now packing great technology into mobile phones with a smaller price tag.

For example, a smartphone at $300 now has far better technology — cameras, display, processing chips, etc — than what you’d expect in a premium phone five or so years ago. So if you’re looking for a cheap phone, you no longer have to sacrifice quality for price.

More competition in cheaper smartphones means better value for Australians

In more recent years, we’ve also seen several challenger brands pop up to rival the big players such as Apple and Samsung, with some manufacturers focusing on the budget and mid-range phone market rather than the premium devices that Apple and Samsung dominate. Having lots of competition in this space also means that some brands will look for ways to stand out from the crowd, so you don’t need to look far to find some great value-for-money phones.

Buying a phone on a plan doesn’t always make phones more affordable

If you’re on a tight budget, a cheaper phone is definitely the way to go. While choosing to buy a phone on a plan from a telco might make a premium device look affordable, you’re still paying the same price, just split up over 12, 24 or 36 months. Plans for these premium phones can also easily set you back around $100 each month.

The advantage to buying a budget phone, especially when you’re buying a phone outright, is that you’re able to choose a cheap SIM-only phone plan that fits into your budget. These days you can get 10GB of data on a phone plan for under $30, so there are plenty of savings around.

Is it worth buying a cheap mobile phone?

Cheap phones are a great option for people, such as seniors, who don’t use their phone often or only use it for calls, messages and basic internet/app usage. Because of the affordability, they also make great phones for kids, especially younger kids. If you’re worried about your child losing or damaging their device, you might not want to spend upwards of $1,000 on a phone that might need to be repaired or replaced. Pairing your child’s cheap smartphone with a cheap and kid-friendly SIM-only phone plan can also ensure that your child having a phone is much more budget-friendly for parents.

It’s important to remember that when you are comparing cheap phones, don’t be put off by the smaller name manufacturers or those many challenger brands. These days many companies have similar products and technology, so there is very little difference in quality. Comparing smartphones is a great place to start to give you a better understanding in the differences between devices and manufacturers, and to give you an idea of what kind of value you can get for your money.

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