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Best phones under $500 2021: iPhone SE, Galaxy A52 5G, Pixel and more – CNET

best-phones-under-$500-2021:-iphone-se,-galaxy-a52-5g,-pixel-and-more-–-cnet

Top-end phones like Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro Max or the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra pack in the best tech that can be found on a mobile phone. They offer amazing performance and a wide set of features, but they also come with sky-high prices to match. All of those specs could be seen as overkill, and many people don’t need the newest processor or the newest camera. 

Shopping for a phone on a more modest budget is very easy now, including brand-new affordable handsets through to discounted previous-generation models. And despite their low prices, budget phones can be extremely advanced, packing features akin to premium phones, like great multi-lens cameras, fast processors, lots of internal storage, a fingerprint reader and even 5G connectivity. Further, if you’re willing to buy an unlocked phone, your choices become even broader.

Check out the list below of the best phones under $500 — which we update regularly — and read CNET’s reviews. Note that we’ve linked to the unlocked version of each budget smartphone and they should run on most of the big four US wireless carriers, unless specified otherwise.


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In addition to its main Galaxy S21 phones, Samsung has a more cost-conscious A series line of phones. This year it launched the Galaxy A52 5G, which has four cameras including a selfie camera, an in-screen fingerprint sensor and expandable memory. Samsung released this phone in quite a few fun colors, but for those shopping in the US you are more likely to only find it in black. 

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If you’re looking for a cheaper Note 20 alternative, the Moto G Stylus features a stylus that you can store inside the phone along with a built-in Notes app to help with productivity. Currently priced at $280 from Motorola, the phone also features triple-rear cameras, 128GB of storage and a robust 4,000-mAh battery. It doesn’t support 5G data speeds, but its successor, the Moto G Stylus 5G (seen further up this list) does offer 5G, along with more internal storage and, unsurprisingly, a slightly higher price of $400.

Read our Moto G Stylus review.

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