Nowadays, you can have one of the best smartphones under $500 with a peak appearance, a feel, and even top-notch performance. Many people have begun reckoning these phones simply “$500” flagship killers. And while the price on these phones is fluctuating and growing to include $500 phones, these are devices that still offer incredible value for money and will make you reconsider if you need to spend more on the phone.
The “$500” flagships we chose below excel regarding performance, design, and overall finish. Most of them, however, will not work on CDMA networks like Verizon Wireless and Sprint in the United States and are not sold through carrier subsidies. In some cases, these phones are not only sold offline store but are also sold via online stores. This is part of the reason that phone makers can cut their costs and provide the best value for these phones.
However, service and repair are available for these phones, as well as an adequate guarantee, so you do not have to worry about this. With all this in mind, let’s start: here are the best mid-range phones, the Best Smartphones Under $500.
List of the best smartphones under $500
The OnePlus 8 was launched last year and while it may have been surpassed by the OnePlus 8 Pro and the OnePlus 8T, it was still a great phone in its own right. It has a Snapdragon 865 processor, which is still a very capable mobile processor even though the Snapdragon 888 is already on the rise. And this was one of the phones that showed OnePlus was still able to deliver excellent value for money, with prices for flagship smartphones in a seemingly permanent upward trend.
The device is also wonderfully supported by developers in our forums, making it a great deal for enthusiasts. It was a great device then, and it’s still a great device now, even as the OnePlus 9 series is available and the OnePlus 8T, its direct successor, is old news. Now it’s one of the best smartphones under $500. It is now available on the OnePlus website for $499, making it an excellent deal for a last-gen flagship.
Google Pixel 4a
Google deserves a lot of kudos for the Pixel 4a lineup. Although I previously recommended the Google Pixel 4a 5G, I also mentioned that the device actually had a slightly larger footprint than both its older brother, the Pixel 4a, and its newer, more powerful cousin, the Pixel 5. But the Pixel 5 costs $700, and we’re talking about slightly cheaper phones. So the logical step down is the Pixel 4a. You still get a lot of phone for what you pay.
The Snapdragon 730G, although a step down from the Snapdragon 765G on the other phones, is still a very capable and fast mid-range SoC, and one of the best smartphones under $500. And with 5.8″ instead of 6.2″, you get a more compact phone that performs very similarly. Oh, and the camera. Don’t forget the camera. Although it only has one 12MP sensor instead of the dual-camera setup in the more expensive variants, it’s just as capable.
Motorola One 5G Ace
Last year’s Motorola One 5G turned heads by being one of the cheapest 5G smartphones available in the United States, and the Motorola One 5G Ace also follows in those footsteps. While the One 5G had a unique footprint and design, the One 5G Ace looks more “normal,” but still has a lot of unique power in it. It comes with a Snapdragon 750G SoC, up to 6GB of RAM, and up to 128GB of storage. And another very unique thing is the battery.
It has a 5,000 mAh cell, pretty excellent for a device around this price point, as larger batteries are normally relegated to low-end, budget devices. And with an 8nm processor on the device, we expect a very good mix between battery life and performance from this phone. It also has a 48MP quad-camera, Android 10, and comes for pretty cheap compared to the alternatives. Overall, this is one of the best smartphones under $500.
TCL 10 Pro
TCL may not be the first brand you think of when choosing a smartphone, but as it turns out, they are bigger than you think. For example, they have recently made many BlackBerry devices, as well as Palm’s latest ultra-small Android phone. This time, however, they are making phones under their own brand, and their two latest devices, the TCL 10L and the TCL 10 Pro have also been released out of state, and although they have been on the market for several months and successors are already on the way, I still count TCL as one of the “new players” because their brand name is still relatively unknown.
The TCL 10 Pro comes with a Snapdragon 675, a very capable mid-range processor, up to 6 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage, making it one of the best smartphones under $500. The phone runs on Android 10 with TCL’s own UI on it and has a planned upgrade to Android 11. TCL is an emerging player in smartphones in the U.S., and their latest offering is very excellent for what many people will use a smartphone for.
I will have to drop quite a bit for this device compared to our suggested price, but it is worth it. The Nokia 5.4 costs just over $200, but for that price you get a Snapdragon 662 processor, up to 6 GB of RAM, a 4,000 mAh battery, and Android One software based on Android 10. This is Redmi-like levels of value with significantly lighter and arguably better software because it runs stock Android instead of MIUI. HMD also does a pretty good job with updates.
It has its drawbacks, though: the rear camera’s overall performance can be pretty poor depending on who you ask, but it’s still pretty versatile with ultra-wide and macro sensors. The front camera is a single 16 MP sensor housed in a punch hole camera. All in all, though, it’s still a good smartphone for what you pay and should be able to satisfy most users looking for an ultra-cheap device. Overall, this is one of the best smartphones under $500.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G
The Samsung Galaxy A51 and Galaxy A51 5G (or Galaxy A51 5G UW if you were on Verizon) were one of Samsung’s biggest hits in 2020 for mid-range specs, an improvement on what the company did in 2019 with the Galaxy A50 and Galaxy A50s. And that lead was further extended by the Galaxy A52 5G, which trades in the Exynos 980 in the previous device and moves up to a Snapdragon 750G 5G processor, which is based on an 8nm process. It also comes with 64MP cameras, up to 8GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of storage.
Oh, also, Samsung finally put a 120Hz screen in a non-flagship phone: this bad boy has one. The Galaxy A52 5G is available in an unlocked flavor, as well as from T-Mobile and AT&T. It deserves a spot in our list of the best smartphones under $500 because you can get it on most U.S. carriers and it will be compatible with 5G networks on all of them, making it quite a nice deal for U.S. consumers looking for a cheap phone with 5G capabilities.
Xiaomi Mi 10T
The Mi 11 lineup is already out, with Snapdragon 888 processors and other top-of-the-line specs, and this makes last year’s Mi 10 lineup more attractive than ever since prices have dropped. And the Mi 10T is one of the most brilliant devices in this lineup. It’s one of the few devices for under $500 that’s powered by a fat, flagship-class Snapdragon 865 processor – and, of course, 5G support. And it also has a 144Hz screen for smooth performance.
It’s not a perfect phone. It’s not water- or dust-resistant, it doesn’t have a wireless charger or 3.5mm headphone jack, and the display is LCD rather than AMOLED (although, frankly, it’s a gamble to expect a 144Hz AMOLED at this price). It’s also not available in the US, which means you’ll have to import it if you want to try it.
But if you really want the raw horsepower of the Snapdragon 865 on an extreme budget and don’t mind jumping through some hoops to get your phone working with your carrier… then this might be one of your only choices. It is one of the best smartphones under $500, and very clearly one of the best performing, if not the best.
Apple iPhone SE
The original iPhone SE was very popular with people who don’t want to spend a lot of money, but need something that will last and is very convenient. In line with this, Apple has updated the SE lineup with a new smartphone. While the look is the same as the iPhone 8, it now includes new and improved internals. You get a 4.7-inch Retina IPS LCD with a screen resolution of 750×1334 pixels to start with. The screen supports a wide color gamut and the quality is excellent considering the screen size.
It is protected by Ion-strengthened glass and an oleophobic coating. Apart from this, the whole device is IP67 dust and water resistant. Speaking of performance, the device is equipped with the Apple A13 Bionic SoC and 3 GB of RAM. This is the same chipset found in some of the brand’s flagship devices. You can quickly judge the performance here, and it is top notch. On the software side, it runs on iOS 13, and you can expect at least five years of software updates. Overall, this is one of the best smartphones under $500.
OnePlus has knocked it out of the park with the launch of their first device in their mid-range Nord series, the OnePlus Nord. Not the Nord N10 5G or the Nord N100 that were just announced, but just the regular, OG Nord. While the flagship killer vibes that once made OnePlus so great are no longer there, the Nord returns to this price range while bringing with it much of the DNA of the newer, more powerful OnePlus flagships. You get Android 11, based on OxygenOS 11. It also comes with up to 12GB of RAM, 256GB of storage and a 48MP quad rear camera setup with dual front cameras. Overall, this is one of the best smartphones under $500.
So, these were the best smartphones under $500 that you can buy right now. We regularly update this list as we review the new devices affecting the market. There are some smartphones on the way that we expect to overturn the current ranking as soon as they arrive. Till then, let us know what do you think about it? Which phone would you like to see in our selection? What are the best smartphones under $500, in your opinion? Do let us know.