The best smartphones under £500

You really can get a cutting-edge smartphone on a budget. Here's how.

someone holding one of the best smartphones under £500 phone at a concert

by yours |
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Cutting-edge mobile tech is now within everyone's reach, even when it comes to budget smartphones. Even better, some of the best smartphones under £500 can run the latest games too - brilliant for the budget-conscious gamer. Plus, for those who keep tabs on their socials and like a bit of online shopping while out and about,

Thankfully, much simpler mobile phones also come in under £500, so you'll be able to streamline your smartphone experience too. And let's not forget the excellent camera phones available now - perfect for capturing moments to share with family and friends. Many even come with three or four lenses and higher resolutions than some DLSR cameras.

Best smartphones under £500 at a glance

• Best overall smartphone under £500: Samsung Galaxy S22 5G – view on Amazon UK
• Best budget smartphone under £500: Xiaomi POCO F5 5G – view on Amazon UK
• Best Apple smartphone under £500: Apple 2022 iPhone SE (128 GB) – View on John Lewis
• Best Android smartphone under £500: Samsung Galaxy A54 5G – View on Amazon UK

If it's been a while since you bought a smartphone, think about the software you need before taking the plunge. You might already be hooked on the way Apple do things. Or perhaps you prefer Android devices - especially if you're already an Android tablet user. Most modern smartphones, no matter what brand you buy, will be able to do the basics very well. After that the choice is yours - do you like photography more than mobile games? Or perhaps you want a phone with a much larger screen for easier browsing? We've answered some of your questions at the end of the article to narrow things down.

Thankfully, we've found that some of these phones are so well-equipped you'll quickly forget it didn't cost twice as much. Some may even outstrip an ageing laptop or budget tablet. So, with so much on offer, which mobile gadget is right for you? We've taken a look at the latest and greatest smartphones under £500 to help you choose.

Best smartphones under £500

Best overall smartphone under £500

Samsung Galaxy S22 5G Phone - one of the best smartphones under £500Samsung/Amazon

There are many reasons why this S22 from Samsung tops our list here - it's the definition of a highly capable all-rounder. There's no area in which this king of affordable smartphones doesn't deliver. The 50MP main camera can capture your family outings and celebrations with friends in stunning detail. And then there are the other three cameras for ultrawide, telephoto and selfie shots. Despite middling battery life, the hardware here is impressive too; from the Snapdragon 8 processor to the generous 8GB of RAM for smooth and fast performance. Just brilliant for the price.

Customer Review: "The phone is smooth compared to my Samsung S9, it's fast and has a lot of new features. If you're looking for a new phone but don't want to pay the price of an iPhone, then go with this one. Overall love the phone, quick, light, and fits in my hands. Can't complain."

Pros

  • Powerful 50MP triple camera
  • Excellent Full HD+ display with 120Hz refresh rate
  • Brilliant performance

Cons

  • Battery life is shorter than some others here

Best budget smartphone under £500

Xiaomi POCO F5 5G Smartphone   - one of the best smartphones under £500Xiaomi/Amazon
Price: $389.99

In terms of solid budget smartphone brands, Xiaomi's POCO F5 blows the competition out of the water in its balance of price and specifications. Quite how they achieve this we don't know, but the main camera is a whopping 64MP. The star here is the AMOLED screen - you'll be able to review your photo, videos and enjoy apps on a beautiful and vibrant display. Add to that the latest Android 13 software and a gargantuan 30-hour battery life, the Xiaomi POCO F5 is perfect for mobile gaming, social media and casual browsing.

Customer Review: "Great performance, great quality, delivery exactly what you would expect from a smartphone, it was a great value for money purchase."

Pros

  • Fantastic ultra-responsive screen
  • Solid triple camera
  • Powerful performance

Cons

  • So-so design

Best Apple smartphone under £500

Apple 2022 iPhone SE (128 GB) - one of the best smartphones under £500Apple/John Lewis

We all know that Apple products don't tend to come cheap, but you can still find one on a budget. That's where the Apple iPhone SE comes in. It's a 2022 model, so you won't be behind the times, and that goes for the processor too - the lightning-fast A15 Bionic core that's usually found in the flagship iPhone 14. It's smaller than others here, with a practical 4.7-inch Retina screen for extra clarity. It's light, fast and stable. As it only has a 12MP main camera, we'd recommend that budding photographers look elsewhere on this list, but for Apple fans on a budget, there's nothing better.

Customer review: "The iPhone SE 2022 looks identical to my iPhone 7 but is 5G and has an a15 bionic chip. It’s a lot faster than my old phone and allowed me to keep the Touch ID function which I prefer to facial recognition. I also like the wireless charging function."

Pros

  • An incredibly affordable iPhone
  • Excellent A15 Bionic Chip for unrivalled performance
  • Touch ID
  • Solid battery life

Cons

  • Weaker camera for Apple devices

Best smartphone under £500 for photography

HONOR 90 Smartphone 5G  - one of the best smartphones under £500HONOR/Amazon

When it comes to mobile phone camera quality, it's hard to find something that truly raises an eyebrow - but this is it. The HONOR 90 is astoundingly good for photographers thanks to its staggering 200MP main camera. Quite how they've achieved this in a smartphone under £500 is anyone's guess - but we'd say the build is more lightweight in places than an iPhone. That's not to detract from what's on offer here though, as the quality of the images it can capture both indoors and out makes this a top-tier phone in any class. Add to this the massive 256GB of internal storage, and you'll be snapping high-definition shots for a lot longer before you need to worry about adding more.

Customer Review: "Camera quality is really important to me and this phone impresses me beyond my expectations. Generally, the phone functions are smooth and intuitive. It's really light and fits nicely in the hand. You get a full day's battery off a full charge and the super fast charging is a treat!"

Pros

  • Exceptionally brilliant 200 MP camera
  • Fantastic storage
  • All-round brilliant performance

Cons

  • Weaker build quality than competing smartphones

Best Google smartphone under £500

This is one phone that proves that the world of quality smartphones doesn't have to revolve around Apple or Samsung. Google's Pixel 7a ticks all the right boxes for most users, including a 64MP main camera and a lens with a sweeping 120-degree ultrawide view - imagine the landscape shots you could capture with that. Thankfully the snappy performance you'd expect from a Google product is matched by the sleek modern case design. The screen itself is anything but an afterthought, as it's a cutting-edge OLED (Organic LED) display for darker blacks and amazing clarity and colour. Plus, this currently comes with a free 30w charger.

Customer Review: "This is a superb phone, very powerful with a premium feel to it. the camera is excellent even when compared to things like Samsung and Apple's top models (4k video is also very impressive), battery life is pretty good charge times are pretty good if you use the 25w google charger. couldn't be happier with my purchase."

Pros

  • One of the best cameras for under £500
  • Solidly designed
  • Ultra-responsive and smooth

Cons

  • Slower 90Hz refresh rate

Best Android smartphone under £500

While this isn't the only Samsung phone to make it onto our list, the Galaxy A54 smartphone is certainly a top contender for anyone who wants an Android smartphone. With a generous 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, it's not as highly-specced as some here, but if you're looking to invest in a smartphone that comes with the latest version of Android plus four cameras and don't want to break the bank, this is ideal. Yes, there are plenty of Android phones out there, but this one is a Samsung - so if you're also looking for a solidly built Andoird workhorse for everyday casual use, this is it.

Customer Review: "Bought this for my son who quite honestly loves it, he’s 15 and listens to a lot of music on it and he thinks the sound quality is great it’s got a clear display, lightweight and really good value."

Pros

  • Excellent performance
  • Solid cameras
  • Gorgeous design

Cons

  • Weaker battery life than expected

Verdict: Which is the best smartphone under £500?

As we mentioned earlier, we think the Samsung Galaxy S22 5G is a star performer here. It can take almost anything you can throw at it. You also get that hallmark Samsung build quality too. But, that said, not everyone will need something that powerful. For reliability for emailing, socials, and browsing, we think the Xiaomi POCO F5 5G is the way to go.

FAQs

How do I choose the best smartphones under £500?

Screen size

For those who prefer to slip their phone into their pocket (and if your eyesight is up to the task) phones with smaller screens can work out cheaper. But that doesn't mean they're any less powerful than their larger cousins. On the other hand, if you love having a larger screen for an easier view of your digital world, go as large as you can.

Operating system and software

We've taken a quick look at the two main choices, Apple and Android, below. But, don't forget - it's not just about choosing what you like the look of. Each operating system has its own apps and app stores. Not every app is available on both, so take a moment to list the ones you want or already use; then double-check that they're available on your new choice of mobile.

Photography and video

This is possibly the most important thing to get right with the best smartphones under £500. Why? Well, if you're into taking shots of friends, family holidays and more, you'll soon regret your choice if the resolution isn't up to it; especially when you come to use your photo printer. It's likely you'll prefer a phone with a larger screen too. Look in the specifications for the number of pixels (e.g.: 12 megapixels) and also the number and type of lenses. Many smartphones have more than one rear-facing camera, each lens for a different purpose.

Games

As with photography, when you're looking for the best smartphones under £500 that are still powerful enough to play the latest games, you'll need to pay attention to the specs. The key things to look for here are RAM (the memory a game will need to run - the higher the better), graphics capability (both the maximum resolution of the screen and any special graphics chip inside), and storage. More on that last one, next.

Storage capacity

There's not much point in buying a phone with a massive screen, a beautiful case, and the latest software if you run out of storage space. Photographers and gamers will soon fill up their internal smartphone storage, so we recommend an absolute minimum of 128GB. Some phones, usually Android, support memory cards - so you can always upgrade or swap out your storage. Apple devices are usually unable to do this, so if you're going for Apple choose the largest storage you can afford.

Battery life

Despite the availability of portable power banks, not everyone wants to carry one with them. If you're a heavy smartphone user, especially if gaming, look carefully at the stated battery life of your new phone. Also, manufacturers do tend to rate their batteries higher than many users will ever get in real life - so take them with a small pinch of salt.

Should I choose an Apple or Android smartphone?

There is no right or wrong answer here. If you're relatively new to smartphones, or just fancy a change, both are worth taking a look at. We think the simplest way to do this is to ask family and friends what phone they use and have a play first. Generally though, many Apple fans like the simple and intuitive interface of iOS; whereas Android fans like the extra flexibility and extended customisation options. If you're already a tablet user and are familiar with the interface there, we think it's a good idea to go with the same operating system when choosing the best smartphones under £500.

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