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.
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. 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. Let’s take a look at what you can get for your money when it comes to cheap phones currently available in Australia.
- Are cheap smartphones any good?
- Cheap smartphones under $200
- Cheap smartphones under $400
- Cheap smartphones under $600
- Cheap SIM-only phone plans
- Cheap iPhones
- Cheap smartphones for kids
- Should I buy a cheap smartphone?
Are cheap smartphones any good?
The good news is that while smartphones are getting, well, smarter, the price of this technology is dropping. While premium devices like the iPhone 12 Pro 5G and Samsung S20+ are still very expensive, the prices for these high-end phones haven’t really changed much 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 smartphones 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.
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. In this guide we’ll cover devices from some of the phone manufacturers you know, and some you might not have heard of.
Cheap SIM-Only Phone Plans
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. Use our comparison tool to see a wider range of plans from other providers. 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. Use our comparison tool to see a wider range of plans from other providers. This table includes products with links to referral partners.
What is the best cheap phone under $200?
You might think a phone under $200 would be fairly basic, but some of the big name manufacturers and challenger brands have quality smartphones starting at just under $200. Some of the best cheap phones in Australia under $200 are:
- Nokia 2.3 — $199
- Motorola moto e6 plus — $199
- Realme C11 — $199
- Vivo Y12 — $199
Nokia and Motorola are both some of the biggest names in the phone manufacturing space, and while the smartphone market has been dominated by other brands in recent years, both brands are still making quality smartphones. Realme is a much newer name on the scene — launching in Australia in 2019 and with a focus on the youth market, this brand has its origin tied to OPPO and a reputation for quality at the cheaper end of the smartphone spectrum.
So, what can you expect from these phones when it comes to features? Let’s take a quick look at the specs of these devices.
|Nokia 2.3||Motorola moto e6 plus||realme C11|
|Price||From $199||From $199||From $199|
|Screen size||6.2-inch HD+ in-cell display||6.1-inch Max Vision display||6.5-inch HD+ display|
|Storage||32GB||32GB||32GB (plus up to 256GB expandable Micro SD storage)|
|Cameras||13MP + 12MP dual sensor rear camera, 5MP front-facing camera||13MP dual rear camera, 8MP front-facing camera||13MP + 2MP dual rear camera, 5MP front-facing camera|
|Operating system||Android 9 Pie||Android 9 Pie||Realme UI (based on Android 10)|
What is the best cheap phone under $400?
Going up to the $200-$400 price range sees the introduction of bigger name manufacturers like Samsung and OPPO. Both of these manufacturers offer a wide range of cheap and mid-range phones in addition to premium devices. The good news is that much of the technology that you expect from the premium devices can even be found in some of the cheaper handsets. The result is an affordable smartphone with the look and feel of a more premium phone. Currently some of the best cheap smartphones in Australia under $400 include:
- realme C12 — $249
- Vivo Y30 — $269
- Samsung Galaxy A11 — $299
- Motorola G9 Play — $299
- OPPO A53 — $299
- Vivo Y20 — $299
- Motorola G8 — $329
- Nokia 5.3 — $349
- Samsung Galaxy A21s — $379
- Nokia 6.2 — $399
- OPPO A9 — $349
- Motorola G9 Plus — $399
It’s clear that OPPO really dominates this price range, routinely releasing phones around the $300-$400 mark. Not only does OPPO make good budget smartphones, but the quality is excellent and it’s a much-loved brand in Australia, with the manufacturer winning our Customer Satisfaction ratings for smartphones three years in a row.
Samsung also comes in at this price range with its more budget Galaxy A series. While these phones don’t come with all the bells and whistles you’d expect of premium devices, you can expect the same quality of a Samsung device but in a cheaper package.
Let’s take a quick look at the specs of some of the above mentioned devices.
|realme C12||OPPO A53||Samsung Galaxy A21s|
|Screen size||6.5-inch HD+ display||6.5-inch 90Hz Neo-Display||6.5-inch Infinity-O HD+ display|
|Storage||32GB (plus up to 256GB expandable Micro SD storage)||64GB||32GB|
|Cameras||13MP + 2MP + 2MP triple rear cameras, 5MP front-facing camera||13MP + 2MP + 2MP Triple rear camera, 8MP front-facing camera||48MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP Quad rear camera, 13MP front-facing camera|
|Operating system||realme UI (based on Android 10)||ColorOS 7.2 (based on Android 10)||Android (currently Android 10)|
What is the best cheap phone under $600?
While $600 isn’t exactly a small amount of money to be parting with, in the world of smartphones, this price point is still quite cheap. The $400-$600 price range is where some of the best mid-range phones are to be found and if you’re looking for a premium device with the smaller price tag, this might be a better price range to look at. Many of these phones can also be found on phone plans from various telcos, so you can avoid that outright price upfront if you’d prefer. Here some of the best cheap phones currently available in Australia under $600:
- TCL 10L — $449
- Vivo Y70 — $449
- realme 6 — $469
- OPPO A91 — $499
- Samsung Galaxy A31 — $499
- Realme 7 Pro — $599
- OPPO Reno4 Z 5G — $599
- Samsung Galaxy A51 — $599
So, how do these devices stack up for features? Here are the specs for some of the above mentioned devices.
|OPPO A91||realme 7 Pro||Samsung Galaxy A51|
|Screen size||6.4-inch AMOLED display||6.4-inch Super AMOLED FHD+||6.5-inch Super AMOLED display|
|Cameras||48MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP Quad rear camera, 16MP front-facing camera||64MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP Quad rear camera, 32MP front-facing camera||48MP + 12MP + 5MP + 5MP Quad rear camera, 32MP front-facing camera|
|Operating system||ColorOS 6.1.2 (based on Android 9)||Realme UI (based on Android 10)||Android (currently Android 10)|
What is a good but cheap smartphone?
There is no simple answer to which of these smartphones are the ‘best’ — what makes a phone good for one person might not matter as much for another person. Plus, when it comes to smartphones, everyone has their preferred manufacturer — not to mention preferences for size, design, camera inclusions, etc. While we’ve covered off some of the more popular brands and devices that are more readily available, there are plenty of other manufacturers that make cheap phones, including LG, Alcatel and even exclusive Telstra, Optus and Vodafone branded phones.
Once you’ve set a price range for how much you want to spend on a phone, it helps to compare devices from a range of manufacturers, along with a selection of models, to give you a good indication for what inclusions are available at the different price points. This should give you an idea of what value is available for your money.
Many of the devices covered in this guide are showing the upfront RRP from the manufacturer’s respective websites, however you might find these devices available cheaper from retailers and telcos depending on any specials and deals on offer. Some models might only be available from telcos as prepaid devices you need to pay upfront for, while others, such as the Samsung Galaxy A series and some OPPO devices, might be available postpaid as a phone on a plan.
What is the cheapest iPhone?
Apple is notably absent from the above lists, and the smartphone powerhouse certainly doesn’t do phones on the cheap. You can pick up cheap iPhones from retailers from around $500-$700, but the catch is that many of these phones will either be refurbished or old models that are no longer available from Apple direct. Be wary of the older devices, as these may no longer be compatible with the latest software updates.
There is some good news if you’re an iPhone loyalist — Apple has released a ‘budget’ iPhone, the iPhone SE. It’s technically replacing the iPhone 8 as the ‘cheap’ offering, but it does come with a $749 price tag for the 64GB version. However at this price point, some of the more budget-friendly manufacturers mentioned in this article offer their more premium devices for around $700-$900, so you could pick up a little more value for money.
If you’re keen on the cheapest iPhone currently available, you can pick it up on phone plans from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.
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.
Cheap smartphones for kids
If your child is at the age when they now need a phone to keep in touch, there are plenty of options available not only for cheap phones but also for cheap kids phone plans that you can pair with a phone.
For younger kids around 10 years old, it might not be the best idea to choose a more expensive smartphone. While they may start using more apps and social media around this age, they might also damage or even lose their phone, so you might be best looking at smartphones around that $200 price mark.
Older children, particularly teenagers, might be a bit more demanding about what type of device they want, and while you might be tempted to give them the latest iPhone they’ve been begging you for, keep in mind that many of the mid-range phones have the same great features but with a cheaper price tag. Consider the Samsung Galaxy A series rather than the Galaxy S series, or perhaps OPPO or realme over an iPhone.
There are also some kid-specific smartphones designed specifically with online safety in mind, so it’s worth putting in some research to see what’s available for your budget. Ultimately the choice is yours and you’ll know what type of phone is best for your child.
Need a kid-friendly SIM-Only phone plan to pair with their new smartphone? There are several telcos that offer perks such as free parental control and cyber-security software, and more affordable plans with smaller inclusions. Prepaid provider Yomojo, offers a cheap kids’ plan for under $10 and access to parental control program Family Eye, while Woolworths Mobile offers free 12-month access to cyber security on prepaid, postpaid and phone on a plan options.
The following table shows a selection of Woolworths Mobile postpaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see a wider range of plans from other providers. These are products with links to referral partners.
Should I buy a cheap phone?
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.
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.