Best cheap phones in Australia 2021: the top budget handsets you can buy right now

UPDATE: The supremely affordable Motorola Moto G 5G Plus has topped our list of the best cheap phones in Australia for 2021 – read on to find out more about it!

While handsets like the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, iPhone 12 and the Google Pixel 5 are stealing attention around the globe, there's a lot of intriguing (and cheap) stuff going on in the world of budget phones. 

Sadly smartphone innovation isn't cheap – and most of it is reserved for high-end contract handsets. There is however such a thing as a good cheap smartphone, and ever so gently all those amazing features from the flagship devices are slowly trickling down to the budget phones. 

That's why we have sorted through hundreds of inexpensive smartphones in order to rank the best options that you can buy unlocked without monthly fees and, importantly, without a two-year contract.

No, these aren't the best smartphones available in Australia, so you won't find the newly-announced Galaxy S20 Ultra among them. However, it is a selection of our favourite budget and mid-range smartphones. If you're looking to pick up a decent handset for not much cash, these are the top cheap phones your money can buy - even on a budget.

Moto g 5G Plus

(Image credit: TechRadar)

1. Motorola Moto G 5G Plus

Motorola's best cheap handset of 2020

Weight: 207g | Dimensions: 168 x 74 x 9mm | CPU: Qualcomm SDM765 Snapdragon 765 | RAM: 6GB RAM | Storage: 128GB + (microSD) | Battery: 5,000mAh | Rear camera: 48MP + 8MP + 5MP + 2MP | Front camera: 16MP + 8MP

Impressive 90Hz display
Boasts 5G capability
Excellent price
Irritating Google Assistant button
Fingerprint sensor is awkward

A brand new smartphone with 5G capability and a Snapdragon 765 processor for under AU$500? You better believe that's what Motorola is offering with the Moto G 5G Plus, making it the best cheap smartphone available in Australia right now.

Officially the cheapest 5G handset on the market, the Moto G 5G Plus offers super-fast download speeds (so long as your phone plan is up to it), along with the exact same chipset that's powering Google's Pixel 5 flagship. Talk about unbelievable value!

Admittedly, you still get an older 6.7-inch LCD display instead of an AMOLED (expected at this price point), however, it's still decently bright and colourful, meaning the only thing you stand to lose is perfect blacks.

The Moto G 5G Plus sports a decent quad camera on its rear, with a quad pixel primary sensor that equates to 48MP, meaning increased dynamic range in photos. That's joined by an 8MP ultra-wide sensor, a 5MP macro sensor and a 2MP depth sensor. On the front, you get dual pinhole cameras, with a 16MP wide lens, and an 8MP ultra-wide sensor for group selfies.

In terms of performance, the Moto G 5G Plus is a snappy device, thanks to the aforementioned Snapdragon 765 chipset. The device's UI is fast and intuitive, making good use of Android 10's baked-in gesture controls. 

We love that the phone still has a 3.5mm headphone jack on its bottom, and that Motorola has included a USB-C port for charging. That said, we aren't crazy about the awkward side-mounted fingerprint scanner, or the dedicated Google Assistant button, which we kept confusing for a power button.

Minor quibbles aside, it's frankly incredible that Motorola has managed to deliver such an impressive device for under AU$499. In short, the Moto G 5G Plus is unbeatable value.

Read our full Moto G 5G Plus review

Realme 6

(Image credit: TechRadar)

2. Realme 6

The latest phone in Realme's numbered series is a winner

Weight: 191g | Dimensions: 162.1 x 74.8 x 8.9mm | CPU: Mediatek MT6785 Helio G90T | RAM: 8GB RAM | Storage: 128GB + (microSD) | Battery: 4,300mAh | Rear camera: 64MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP | Front camera: 16MP

Fast 90Hz display
Ambitious quad camera
Android 10
LCD instead of AMOLED
Photos could be better

Intended as a successor to the Realme XT (previously placed at number one on this very list), the Realme 6 boasts some very premium new features along with an even more affordable price point, though its reduced cost has resulted in a slight downgrade in some areas.

Boasting Android 10 right out the box, the Realme 6 is a nice little performer, backed by an impressive 8GB of RAM – an amount of memory which few would've expected to find in a AU$469 phone just a year or two ago.

As great as its tech specs are, the inclusion of a display with a 90Hz refresh rate is arguably the Realme 6's most standout feature. With the 90Hz mode switched on, scrolling on the Realme 6 becomes incredibly smooth. 

Admittedly, while that faster refresh rate is beautiful, it does result in some impact on battery life. Thankfully, the Realme 6's battery is slightly larger than the one found on its predecessor, sporting a decently sized 4,300mAh battery.

Of course, gaming on the Realme 6 benefits the most from the faster screen, with more responsive gameplay on the whole. That said, the main trade-off is that the Realme 6 loses XT's brilliant AMOLED display, instead opting for a less vibrant IPS LCD screen.

In terms of security, Realme 6 offers a side-mounted fingerprint scanner – a welcome addition, even if it is a clear step-down from the in-display sensor featured on the XT. Users also have the option of using the device's less-secure face unlock functionality.

With many great premium-level features and a budget price, it's easy to recommend the Realme 6, especially if you're an avid mobile gamer who values a smooth gameplay experience.

See the best Realme 6 outright deals here

(Image credit: Future)

3. Motorola Moto G8

Terrific value for money

Weight: 188g | Dimensions: 161.3 x 75.8 x 9mm | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 | RAM: 4GB RAM | Storage: 64GB + (microSD) | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 16MP + 8MP + 2MP | Front camera: 8MP

Great battery life
Appealing design
Android 10
Dated 720p display
Camera not great in low light

For years, Motorola's G series handsets have delivered all the essential functionality you want from a smartphone at a fraction of the cost. While that might mean fewer bells and whistles than you would get from a more premium smartphone, it's hard to argue with a device that'll only set you back AU$329. 

What you do get in spades is battery life, with the Moto G8's 4,000mAh capacity lasting well over a day of heavy usage in our tests – impressive for a smartphone at this price range.

Of course, the Moto G8's fantastic battery life likely comes at the expense of a few other areas of the phone which impress far less. While the G8's adequate 720p IPS LCD display surely chews through less power than your average FHD+ AMOLED screen, it does give away the phone's budget origins due to a lack of vibrancy and a fairly middling max brightness. A lack of support for NFC functionality is also disappointing.

That said, the Moto G8 does so much right that it's hard to stay mad at it. Its design is a huge step up from the G7 series, with Motorola ditching the dated notch cutout in favour of a far less obtrusive pinhole implementation. 

We love the inclusion of a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner for secure unlock, and the phone's triple camera, while simplistic compared to other handsets on this list, takes relatively good snapshots. That said, low-light photography is not the G8's strong suit.

Running on Android 10 out of the box, the Moto G8 offers all the features we've come to expect from the latest version of the OS – that includes our personal favourites: dark theme and gestures.

In terms of performance, the Moto G8 isn't the snappiest handset out there, likely due to the inclusion of an older Snapdragon 665 chipset. However, it isn't sluggish, either, performing consistently across numerous apps and general usage during our review period. 

If you're after a reliable budget handset from a manufacturer with a proven track record, Motorola's Moto G8 absolutely fits the bill.

See the best Motorola G8 outright deals here

Realme C3

(Image credit: TechRadar)

4. Realme C3

An enormous battery and Android 10 make this cheap phone a winner

Weight: 195g | Dimensions: 164.4 x 75 x 9mm | CPU: Mediatek Helio G70 (12nm) | RAM: 3GB RAM | Storage: 64GB (microSD) | Battery: 5,000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 2MP | Front camera: 5MP

Android 10 ready
Attractive design
Massive battery
Micro USB port
Average camera

Sporting Android 10 right out of the box, Realme C3 feels distinctly current and up-to-date for a low-cost smartphone. Along with a system-wide dark mode option and a full suite of gesture controls, the Realme C3 offers all the security and privacy features we've come to embrace in the latest version of Android – and all presented through the lens of Realme's colourful new UI. 

Speaking of lenses, the Realme C3 sports a triple lens snapper on its rear which is capable of some decent, if not spectacular macro and bokeh-style photos. Of course, it would be unreasonable to expect flagship results from a AU$269 (RRP) handset. On the front of the device, you also get a 5MP selfie camera with AI-driven portrait and beauty features.

However, the Realme C3's real showstopper is its enormous 5,000mAh battery, which is comparable to many of the world's flagship phones. You can even share some of that extra juice with another handset via cable connection thanks to the inclusion of reverse charging functionality.

If there's one major downside to the Realme C3, it's that it sports an older Micro USB port for charging and data transfer, rather than the now standard USB Type-C port. That said, if you can overlook this stumble, you'll find the Realme C3 to be a terrific smartphone option for those trying not to break the bank.

See the best Realme C3 outright deals here

Moto G9 Play

(Image credit: TechRadar)

5. Motorola Moto G9 Play

A phone that gives you more than you paid for

Weight: 200g | Dimensions: 165.2 x 75.7 x 9.2mm | OS: Android 10 | Screen size: 6.5-inch | Resolution: 720 x 1600 | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB (microSD) | Battery: 5,000mAh | Rear camera: 48MP + 2MP + 2MP | Front camera: 8MP

Impressive night mode photos
Huge battery
Excellent price
Only 720p screen
Camera could be better

The term "you get what you paid for" crops up fairly often in regards to cheap products, however, Motorola's new Moto G9 Play proves to be an exception, giving you even more value for money than you'd expect from its low AU$299 price point.

The Moto G9 Play is able to boast a number of features that have been taken for granted in recent years, such as a super-fast, rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, a microSD card slot and a much-appreciated 3.5mm headphone jack.

Sporting a triple camera with a 48MP primary sensor on its rear, the Moto G9 Play is able to take decent, if unspectacular day time photos. That said, a new night mode that takes advantage of post-processing techniques is able to capture excellent images in relatively dark environments – an impressive feat for a budget smartphone.

Perhaps the Moto G9 Play's biggest selling point, however, is its massive 5,000mAh battery, which will keep the handset running for at least two full days of usage. Of course, in order to achieve this much battery life, concessions have been made, such as the decision to go with a relatively low-res 720p display.

Still, with its huge battery, decent triple camera, welcome features and low price point, the Moto G9 Play is well worth the asking price.

See the best Moto G9 Play outright deals here

(Image credit: Future)

6. Moto G8 Power Lite

The battery king of Motorola's G8 lineup

Weight: 200g | Dimensions: 164.9 x 75.8 x 9.2mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 6.5-inch | Resolution: 720 x 1600 | CPU: Mediatek MT6765 Helio P35 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB (microSD) | Battery: 5,000mAh | Rear camera: 16MP + 2MP + 2MP | Front camera: 8MP

Exceptional battery life
Insanely cheap
Still has a headphone jack
Micro USB port is dated
Average performance
Only 720p display

One of the best things about Motorola's Moto G series is that it always offers a number of low-cost options to choose from, allowing users to choose the right model for their needs – all without breaking the bank.

Compared to its slightly more expensive siblings, the Moto G8 Power Lite's main point of difference is in its immense battery life. You can thank the Power Lite's massive 5,000mAh battery for that, only with a lower resolution display that reduces power consumption by a significant margin.

That isn't to say that that the Moto G8 Power Lite's screen is bad, either. In fact, the handset's 720p IPS LCD display is still able to produce vibrant images at a decent brightness level – though don't expect excellent OLED-like contrast from this AU$249 phone.

As for its photo-taking capabilities, you get a triple camera array on the phone's rear, led by a 16MP primary sensor that takes nice snapshots. Additionally, you get dual 2MP macro and depth sensors, though don't expect great results from these two.

Although it runs on a fairly old MediaTek Helio P35 processor, the Moto G8 Power Lite offers surprisingly decent performance for day-to-day tasks, thanks in large part to its 4GB of RAM and stock Android 9 software.

If you're the type of user who longs for excellent battery life over the usual smartphone bells and whistles, the Moto G8 Power Lite is a good option at a fantastically affordable price point.

See the best Moto G8 Power Lite outright deals here

(Image credit: Future)

7. iPhone 7

The cheapest iPhone you can buy

Weight: 138g | Dimensions: 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1mm | OS: iOS 11 (update to iOS 13) | Screen size: 4.7-inch | Resolution: 750 x 1334 | CPU: Apple A10 Fusion (16 nm) | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 1,960mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 7MP

Great performance
Good low-light camera
Dated design
Middling specs

The iPhone 7 might be the oldest iPhone (along with the iPhone 7 Plus) still sold by the company, but that also makes it the cheapest iPhone that's currently on offer, making it ideal for those who'd like to play in Apple's ecosystem without paying exorbitant amounts of money.

On paper, the iPhone 7 is outclassed by most of the newer Android handsets on this list in terms of camera and specs. However, Apple's A10 Fusion chip offers the handset great performance, and in the hand it definitely retains an undeniable sense of quality despite its age. 

While it may have been replaced by two separate generations of iPhones, with a lower price tag and the latest iOS 13 software on board the iPhone 7 is still very much a viable option for those looking for a slice of Apple's smartphone pie.

See the best iPhone 7 outright deals here

(Image credit: Future)

8. TCL 10L

Good camera and display at a decent price

Weight: 180g | Dimensions: 162.2 x 75.6 x 8.4mm | OS: Android 10 (planned update to Android 11) | Screen size: 6.53-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 2340 | CPU: Snapdragon 665 (11 nm) | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 64GB | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 48MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP | Front camera: 16MP

Great display
Impressive camera array
Nice design
Occasional performance hiccups
Macro lens fails to impress
No stereo speakers

Priced just low enough to still be considered a budget phone, the TCL 10L offers a great display, decent specs and a better-than-expected quad-camera array for just AU$499.

Relatively new to the smartphone scene, TCL has brought its TV manufacturer know-how to the 10L, with a crisp 6.53-inch FHD+ LCD display that offers impressive colour accuracy and brightness. Simply put, it's one of the best screens we've seen on a budget handset.

As for its photographic capability, the TCL 10L delivers a quad-camera array on its rear – quite a feat for a budget smartphone – with a 48MP main shooter, 8MP ultra-wide lens, a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor for bokeh shots. 

Rounding out the camera package is a 16MP front-facing lens, which takes very nice selfies. Admittedly, photos taken with the 10L's macro lens are pretty underwhelming, making us wish that TCL had opted for a telephoto lens in its stead.

In terms of performance, the TCL 10L handles itself pretty well for the most part, though there are occasional hiccups when scrolling or swiping between screens. While the 10L boasts Android 10 out of the box, TCL has promised that the phone will get an update to Android 11 in the future.

Although the TCL 10L is priced a little higher than most other budget smartphones, its terrific screen, impressive camera and reasonable specs make it well worth the money.

See the best TCL 10L outright deals here

Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro

(Image credit: TechRadar)

9. Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro

A great option for gamers

Weight: 200g | Dimensions: 161.4 x 76.4 x 8.8mm | OS: Android 9.0 | Screen size: 6.53-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 2340 | CPU: Mediatek Helio G90T (12nm) | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 4,500mAh | Rear camera: 64MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP | Front camera: 20MP

Impressive quad camera
Huge 4,500mAh battery
Great for gaming
MIUI software not great
Bloatware is prevalent

Sporting impressive specs and a large, colourful display, Xiaomi's Redmi Note 8 Pro is definitely a good option for those who want great mobile gaming performance at an affordable price. 

It's got a gaming-focused chipset in the Mediatek Helio G90T, offering exceptional performance on titles like Call of Duty: Mobile and PUBG. That's backed by a hefty amount of RAM, a huge battery and the inclusion of liquid cooling.

Looking at its specs on paper, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro almost seems too good to be true. However, it is significantly let down by its MIUI software and an abundance of bloatware. Still, a bit of tinkering (and a lot of uninstalling) can significantly improve the phone's overall experience, making it a great option for the value-minded gamers out there.

See the best Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro outright deals here

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