Top Pick for
Top pick for features and price
Finder's team of experts has tested and reviewed every phone on this list. For each phone, we consider the design, cameras, performance, battery life and overall value for money.
Our editorial team selected the phones on this list based on their overall quality and value compared to other phones on the market. All phones featured on this list have a launch RRP of under $400.
Motorola has very much staked its claim in the Australian mobile space within the budget category, and the Moto e32 sits towards the bottom end of its low-cost offerings. That rather inevitably leads to an ordinary phone, but at an RRP of $229 – and we've seen it cheaper than that – it's still a solid purchase option. You don't typically see phones with 90Hz screens at that price point, and despite that faster screen, the Moto e32 impressed us with its overall battery endurance.
However, there are notable compromises. Its triple rear camera array delivers very plain results, with poor digital zoom in our tests. With just 4GB of RAM and a Unisoc T606 processor, it's not fast in any way for apps or web browsing. It's also based around Android 11, which means it's already behind the pace for Android updates, which could be a concern if you want the Moto e32 to be your long-term phone.
One of the realities of the Android phone space is that competition is so fierce that new models quickly drop in price over time. The Oppo A74 5G is a good example because its original launch price of $449 would put it outside the scope of this guide, but it's now readily available within the budget price space if you shop around.
Yes, you're getting a slightly older phone, but in return, you're also getting a phone that was slightly better provisioned than is usual for the budget space. That gets you 5G, not common in budget phones yet, as well as a Snapdragon 480 processor with 6GB of RAM, more than the usual 4GB (or less) that you see in many budget handsets. That makes the Oppo A74 5G a more appealing prospect if you're heavily into Android apps, and it's even capable for lower-end mobile gaming as well.
Where it does stumble a little is in comparative battery performance – and 5G doesn't help any there either – and camera quality, which is rather average for an Oppo phone.
Motorola's Moto G22 very nicely covers what you can expect out of a budget phone right now because while it's not stellar in any one respect, it's generally good across most functions and features. Battery life was a notable standout in our tests within the budget space, with its 5,000mAh battery lasting longer than comparable phones. That was especially surprising given the inclusion of a 6.5-inch 90Hz display because faster refresh rate screens are notable battery hogs.
Some of that may be down to Motorola's choice of a Helio G37 processor, a very slow unit best suited for single applications at a time. While the Moto G22 packs in a wide array of camera sensors, including a primary 50MP sensor, the actual output for photos is quite ordinary too.
Oppo has long sold itself as both a camera-specific brand and a value one. The Oppo A54's proposition doesn't lean quite as heavily on its camera capabilities, which are fine but not exceptional in this price space, but instead on the inclusion of 5G for faster network access and NFC for contactless payments.
However, the rest of the package is on the average side, and we'd certainly only recommend it at a significant discount to the slightly nicer Oppo A74 5G, which can also be had now for a budget price.
Strictly speaking, the Motorola G82 5G doesn't count for our budget category because when it launched, it sold for $499 outright. However, time is not kind to Android phone prices, and we've seen more than a few retailers shaving $100 or more off the G82 5G's asking price, bringing it within contention. That means it makes the list, but it doesn't top it as you will need to get one at a discount price for it to qualify.
If you can, you'll get a very good phone that's 5G ready with superb battery life, surprisingly good cameras and a super-fast 120Hz capable 6.6-inch AMOLED display.
Where the G82 falters a little is in design. This isn't a looker of a phone if that's important to you. While Motorola talks up its IP52 rating, that basically just means that it's water-repellent rather than resistant, so getting it wet would be a bad idea. Also, like too many Motorola phones, security updates and full OS upgrade paths are at best unclear and often quite slow to arrive.
TCL used to exclusively sell its budget models under its Alcatel sub-brand, but these days it's got a laser focus on affordability under its own brand, arguably better known locally for affordable TVs.
It's not a surprise then that the best thing about the TCL 20 SE, outside of the asking price is its display. It features a 6.82-inch 720p display that uses TCL's own NXTVision capability to punch up the vibrancy of images and video that you watch on it. If you wanted a phone to binge-watch lower-quality YouTube clips on endlessly, the TCL 20 SE could be a good match.
However, beyond the screen, you will hit compromises. It's only running Android 11, and the core processor is not quick. The rear cameras deliver middling results, and while its 5,000mAh battery does support reverse charging, you probably wouldn't want to opt for that feature all that often because its general battery life isn't particularly good.
5G is a relatively new network technology, and it's not one you commonly see in the budget phone space. Back when it launched, Vivo's claim for the Vivo Y52 5G was that it was Australia's cheapest 5G handset. That's not reason enough to buy a smartphone all up, although the fact that the Y52 5G is now an older handset does mean that it can be had for some serious discounts off that already low-launch price.
5G aside, the Vivo Y52 impressed us with its camera quality, relative to it being a budget phone. It's reasonably powerful in processing terms, too. On the downside, battery life was middling at best, even on 4G. If you spent all day on 5G networks with the Y52, it'd be even worse.
HMD Global, the company that makes phones under the Nokia brand, has released a lot of budget models with much the same selling proposition. Within the low-cost space, they're reasonably attractive, reasonably affordable and they're typically all "Android One" phones, which means that they get a couple of years of Android upgrades guaranteed.
The Nokia 5.4 is an older phone now – which does mean it's not too hard to score it for a significant bargain price – but unlike many competing low-cost phones, that Android One inclusion means that it should be good through to Android 12, making it an up-to-date model in software terms, even if it's running on older hardware. Nokia phones tend to have very clean Android interfaces with few bundled apps, meaning it's easy to make them your own as well. In our tests, the Nokia 5.4 gave good battery performance as well.
The downsides here are mediocre cameras and a slightly less enticing 720p display. While it's an older phone, it actually didn't shift up its processor choice from the model that came out the year before it – which means that now it's an even slower, older model. However, it's still worth considering as it can be had quite cheaply now.
Aspera's R40 isn't a new phone by any stretch, and it's also something of a clone of one of our favourite rugged phones of years past, the Nokia 800 Tough. You'd be hard pressed to find a Nokia 800 Tough to buy these days, but Aspera's clone model is still available through some online retailers.
It's also a feature phone, so it's a niche within a niche, although there are plenty of folks who do prefer that classic big button, small screen style. The underlying KaiOS does offer a few apps, but it's a slow and clunky experience. This is a phone best suited to those who need a truly rugged device that can survive falling down a flight of stairs or into a bucket of water. How do we know the Aspera R40 can survive that? Because we did that when we tested it.
The realme C21 is an older phone, but it's also one that's available at quite bargain prices. That's partly down to its age, and also to the fact that it was already a low-cost phone even when it was new. It's typically available anywhere from $139–$200 at the time of writing, which buys you a basic but rather attractively designed phone, and that's not typical in the budget space.
You also get a few nice features including NFC, which means you can use it with services such as Google Pay. It's not quick, but that slow processor only sips at the 5,000mAh battery, so it's a good prospect if you need a light-use phone that'll last all day long.
For this round-up, we narrowed down all the phones we've tested to those that retail at the time of writing for less than $400. That's typically a reflection of their general RRP, but when you're shopping for a budget phone, bargains are also worth considering.
Next, we considered the design, performance, camera, battery life and overall value for money for each phone. We used a range of benchmarks and real-world tests to evaluate how the phone's performance and battery life compared to other available phones.We value our editorial independence, basing our comparison results, content and reviews on objective analysis without bias. However, Finder may receive compensation when you click some links on our site. Learn more about how we make money from our partners and why you can trust our guides.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra looks an awful lot like the S22 Ultra, but Samsung has made some big changes in camera quality and performance.
Motorola’s lagged behind Samsung in the foldable stakes for years now, but the Motorola RAZR 2022 flips that script, delivering an excellent (but expensive) foldable with great battery life.
ASUS’s ROG Phone 6D Ultimate is an amazingly capable gaming phone at an equally jaw-dropping price.
If bigger phones leave you exasperated but you crave power, there’s a lot to like about the ASUS Zenfone 9 – with a few limitations along the way too.
The Oppo Reno8 Pro is a good phone, but it’s not a great phone, and that’s not enough to justify it at the price Oppo asks for it.
Apple’s iPhone 14 Plus falls into the same slightly-too-pricey category as the iPhone 14, but that’s because it’s just a big iPhone 14.
Google's Pixel 7 Pro continues the search giant's journey through premium phones, offering good performance and a strong, AI-guided camera.
Android fans will be well served by the Pixel 7, especially given its premium performance in the sub-$1,000 space.
The iPhone 14 delivers Apple's usual quality and speed but at a price point that makes it almost impossible to recommend.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max is a big phone with plenty of appeal to pro photographers
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