9 best cheap smartphones for 2021 (iPhone, Android)


Still, the pair enjoys a permanent discount – just be sure to clip the coupon on the page on Amazon to see the lower price at checkout. The company also announced successors for 2021 – the TCL 20 range—Which will hit American store shelves in early summer. It might be worth the wait.

Works on the three major US carriers


Yes and no. All of our picks are great buys, but some brands like TCL, Google, and Nokia are launching new models this summer (some as early as May). If you’re in no rush, just wait.

Check network compatibility

If you buy an unlocked phone from this listing and try to bring it to one of your mobile carrier’s retail stores, they may tell you that it is not network compatible. It probably is. Just use a paperclip or SIM eject tool to take out the SIM card from your current phone, then slide that SIM card into your new phone. If that doesn’t work at first, restart the phone or wait a few hours.

If you need a new SIM card, try ordering one online from your carrier or try asking them to give you a SIM card when you activate a line in the store (if you are starting coverage). Tell them you have a phone. Many times, representatives will want to sell you a phone; this is one of the potential reasons they might make you buy a different device from the store.

That said, make sure the phone you buy will work on your wireless network. Lists of retailers like Amazon should clearly state which networks they will be compatible with. Also, make sure the listing says the phone is sold “unlocked”.

Warning for Verizon users: There is a higher chance that an unlocked phone will not work on your network. Make sure it is labeled to work on Verizon or that it says the phone is CDMA compatible. If something strange happens, like you don’t receive a text message, you may also need to contact customer service and ask them to turn on roaming without CDMA. AT&T and T-Mobile are GSM operators, which are standard for most countries around the world; most unlocked phones are compatible with them.

If you’re nervous, research the specs for the exact model you’re considering. Make sure he has the LTE bands it should work on your carrier. Speaking of networks, none of the phones in this guide support 5G, which is perfectly fine. 5G phones are expensive, and networks are still only available in a handful of places across the country, so you don’t miss out on much.

If a phone isn’t listed here or has been refurbished, be careful. It is easy to waste money or time when shopping for affordable phones. It’s hard to get an idea of ​​how a cheaper phone will perform in the long run when you use it in a store for five minutes, and retail workers may not be of much help. Be sure to read the reviews online.

For some reason, the big manufacturers like to keep selling their old pre-2020 devices. A good rule of thumb is to avoid most devices released before 2020. They likely won’t continue to get software and security updates for a long time, if they’re even supported now.

For example, we no longer recommend buying the iPhone XR. It’s still a good phone (8/10, recommend WIRED), but it’s only $ 100 cheaper than the more powerful iPhone 11, which is vastly superior in many ways, and absolutely the iPhone to buy if your budget can reach $ 600.


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