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The Best Budget Smartphones for Travel in 2020

By Dave Dean PhonesNo Comments

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How things have changed in the world of budget smartphones. Until a few years ago, we didn’t bother recommending any low-cost options, because there was simply nothing worth buying.

All the budget phones were badly-made, with low specifications and worse battery life. You’d almost have been better off having no phone at all than relying on one during your travels.

Today, though, it’s a different story. Asian manufacturers, in particular, have been producing phones offering most of the features a traveler needs for a relatively small amount of money.

No longer are dim screens, slow processors, and awful cameras the only option when you’re on a budget. These phones aren’t up there with high-end options costing three times as much, but for many travelers, they’re good enough.

For our purposes, a budget smartphone is one costing under $300/£300/€300, off-contract and unlocked for use with local SIM cards around the world.

Some of these recommendations get close to that amount, while others cost much less. They all run some version of Android, as even the cheapest iPhone is over that limit.

Sale
Best Overall: Motorola Moto G Stylus
  • Screen: 6.4-inch LED
  • Storage: 128GB + micro-SD slot
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Battery: 4000mAh
  • Dual SIM?: No (USA) / Yes (International)
  • Runs On: Android

Sale
Best for Battery Life: Motorola Moto G Power
  • Screen: 6.4-inch LED
  • Storage: 64GB + micro-SD slot
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Battery: 5000mAh
  • Dual SIM?: No (USA) / Yes (International)
  • Runs On: Android

Best on a Tight Budget: BLU Vivo X6
  • Screen: 6.1-inch LED
  • Storage: 64GB + micro-SD slot
  • RAM: 3GB
  • Battery: 4000mAh
  • Dual SIM?: No (USA) / Yes (International)
  • Runs On: Android

Best From a Big Brand: Samsung Galaxy A50
  • Screen: 6.4-inch LED
  • Storage: 64GB + micro-SD slot
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Battery: 4000mAh
  • Dual SIM?: No (USA) / Yes (International)
  • Runs On: Android

Best for Features: BLU G9 Pro
  • Screen: 6.3-inch LED
  • Storage: 128GB + micro-SD slot
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Battery: 4000mAh
  • Dual SIM?: No (USA) / Yes (International)
  • Runs On: Android

Best Overall: Motorola Moto G Stylus

Moto G Stylus | Unlocked | Made for US by Motorola | 4/128GB | 48MP Camera | 2020 | Indigo

Motorola has been turning out good budget smartphones for years, and the latest Moto G series is no exception. There are a few different versions, but the best for most travelers is the Moto G Stylus, and it’s our top pick as a result.

Unlike many lower-cost handsets, the G Stylus doesn’t look cheap. Available in an attractive indigo color, the clean design and small hole-punch camera notch make this phone appear more expensive than it is.

What’s inside is equally impressive for the price, with a mid-range Snapdragon 665 chipset, 4GB of RAM, and a hefty 128GB of storage that you can also upgrade via the micro-SD slot. The 4000mAh battery should get you through the better part of two days of moderate use.

It has 10W USB-C charging to keep you topped up during a short layover, and a bright 6.4″ display that doesn’t feel enormous due to the 19:9 aspect ratio and small bezels. There are three rear cameras (more on those below), and a fingerprint sensor on the back.

The Moto G Stylus also has features you won’t find on many smartphones three times the price. There’s a headphone jack, for instance, and the bundled Moto Actions like shaking the phone twice to turn on the flashlight are also somewhat useful rather than just pointless gimmicks.

The biggest difference, of course, is right there in the name. A slim stylus lives in a compartment on the right side of the device and activates whenever you take it out. If you’re one for writing or drawing on your phone, it’s pretty much the only budget model you’ll find with this feature.

If the phone has any palm rejection built-in, however, it doesn’t work very well. The cursor jumps around when you rest your hand on the screen, which will put many people off from using the stylus regularly. It’s a strange misstep, given how much of the marketing revolves around the pointing device.

The camera quality is better than many others in this price range, including the sibling Moto G Power model we mention below. That triple rear camera array (48MP main, 2MP macro, 16MP ultra-wide) does a pretty good job in daylight, while night mode gives at least some chance of useable shots.

The ultra-wide camera is unusual, since it’s rotated 90 degrees so you can shoot landscape video while holding the phone in portrait mode. This makes it easier to hold the phone steady, but even so, expect decent rather than amazing footage.

What’s not to love about the Moto G Stylus? Not much, really. It’s only splash-proof rather than having true water resistance, and Motorola’s lack of commitment to more than a year of Android updates remains a disappointment. There’s no NFC or wireless charging either.

Those are the only real shortfalls, though, in what is an excellent phone for the money. If you’re looking for a budget smartphone with the looks and many of the features of a device costing far more, go for the Motorola Moto G Stylus.

Pros
  • Bright 19:9 display
  • Attractive design for a budget phone
  • Micro-SD card
  • Good battery life and fast charging
  • Headphone jack
  • Takes pretty good photos in daylight
Cons
  • Moderate performance
  • Low-light photos are unlikely to impress
  • No official dust or water resistance
  • No palm rejection when using stylus
  • No NFC or wireless charging
Buy on Amazon

Best for Battery Life: Motorola Moto G Power

Moto G Power | 3-Day Battery1 | Unlocked | Made for US by Motorola | 4/64GB | 16MP Camera | 2020 | Black

Known as the G8 Power outside the United States, the 5000mAh battery on the Motorola Moto G Power makes it our top pick for a smartphone with long battery life in 2020. Given the price, it’s an obvious inclusion here in our budget phone recommendations as well.

You should get at least two full days of use out of it, and if you’re not using it heavily, closer to three. That’s better than anything else worth owning in this price range.

The Snapdragon 665 chipset is a solid mid-range performer. Throw in 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and you’ve got an inexpensive smartphone that’s well-suited to the demands of travel.

There’s a headphone jack and a micro-SD slot that lets you add up to 512GB of additional storage, both of which you often don’t find on devices costing far more. A 10W USB-C wall charger provides reasonably-fast charging, and there’s a fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone.

As usual with Motorola devices there’s no official water resistance rating, although a special coating provides some protection against rain and splashes. The phone is also a bit on the heavy and chunky side, but we like the design a lot more than previous models.

The biggest improvement over earlier versions is the camera. You’ll now get shots you’re happy with most of the time when the lighting is good. Low-light photos aren’t good, though, since there’s no dedicated night mode. You’ll get better shots from the Moto G Stylus mentioned above.

Overall, this would be a good phone for the money even if you weren’t going 2+ days between charges. Once you add that to the mix, you’ve got a very compelling budget smartphone indeed.

Pros
  • Very long battery life
  • Reasonably-priced
  • Micro-SD card slot for extra storage
  • Headphone jack
  • Fast charging
Cons
  • Moderate performance
  • No official dust or water resistance
  • A bit heavy and chunky
  • Low-light camera performance is poor
Buy on Amazon

Best on a Tight Budget: BLU Vivo X6

BLU VIVO X6-6.1” HD+ Display, 64GB+3GB RAM - Gradient Blue

While all of the phones on this list are fairly inexpensive, there’s still quite a price gap between top and bottom. When you’re really on a tight budget, but still want a decent phone, the BLU Vivo X6 is the way to go.

Despite its low cost, it has reasonable specifications. You’ll get a 6.1″ HD+ screen, dual rear cameras, and fast charging. There’s 3GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a 4000mAh battery that can last an entire day of moderate use.

The screen looks better in person than it does on paper. The HD+ resolution isn’t super-exciting these days, but it’s fine on a low-cost device. Images are bright, colorful, and fairly crisp as long as you’re not examining them from two inches away.

Dual SIM slots are always useful for international travel, and you’ll find them on the Vivo X6. One of them doubles as a micro-SD slot, so you can opt to lose the second SIM option in favor of adding up to 64GB of extra storage.

There’s also that increasingly rare feature, a headphone jack, to go with a pair of non-terrible earbuds included in the box. So what’s not to like?

Well, as usual with cheap smartphones, it’s the camera. You’ll get passable shots in ideal lighting conditions, and little more than a blurry mess the rest of the time. You’ll want to take a dedicated camera to record your trip, rather than rely on shots from this device.

I also don’t love the use of a micro-USB socket in 2020. While the 10W charger isn’t as bad as it could be, the charging speed and usefulness of USB-C is just so much higher.

Finally, BLU doesn’t have the greatest reputation for updating the software on its phones. Sure, you might get lucky and see an updated Android version at some point, but don’t buy the phone expecting one.

Even with the downsides, though, this is a perfectly good super-budget 2020 smartphone, and better than anything else at this price point. If you’re trying to save money and just need a functioning phone that does the basics well, you’ve found it here.

Pros
  • Great price
  • Decent specs and build quality for the money
  • Headphone jack
  • Dual SIM or micro-SD card slot
Cons
  • Poor cameras
  • Micro-USB port instead of USB-C
  • No official dust or water resistance
Buy on Amazon

Best From a Big Brand: Samsung Galaxy A50

Samsung Galaxy A50 US Version Factory Unlocked Cell Phone with 64GB Memory, 6.4' Screen, Black, [SM-A505UZKNXAA]

When it comes to Android smartphones, there isn’t a bigger brand out there than Samsung. While it’s best known for its premium Galaxy S models, the company makes a wide range of other phones that don’t create such a large hole in your wallet.

Most of Samsung’s lower-cost phones haven’t excited us in the past, but the Galaxy A50 is an exception to the rule. Typically just squeezing into our budget price range, it looks and feels much more like a mid-range device.

To start with, you’ll get an attractive design and a crisp, vibrant 6.4″ AMOLED screen that’s one of the best you’ll find on any budget phone. Deep blacks, strong colors, and great visibility aren’t phrases we usually associate with low-cost smartphones, but you’ll get them here.

The Exynos 9610 processor is a solid mid-range chipset that handles intensive apps, including light to moderate gaming, with ease. The US version of the A50 comes with 4GB of RAM (there’s also a 6GB international model out there), and 64GB of storage.

If that storage seems a bit light, there’s a micro-SD slot that can take anything up to a 512GB card. It’s not a dual-SIM device, but since it’s unlocked, you can at least use a local SIM to bring costs down overseas rather than paying expensive roaming costs.

Charging is done via a USB-C port, and there’s a 15W fast charger included in the box so you can quickly top up the battery during tight layovers. Speaking of battery life, the 4000mAh battery typically powers the A50 for a full day of moderate to heavy usage — better than many other budget devices.

There’s a headphone socket, which we always like to see, and decent speakers that put out plenty of volume. The fingerprint scanner is built into the display, and while it’s not the fastest version out there, it’s reliable and works well.

As usual with Samsung, there are few unnecessary apps installed you can’t remove. The A50 isn’t as bad in this regard as some of the company’s other models, but we’d still prefer they weren’t there.

Probably the biggest difference between the A50 and the latest Galaxy S model that costs 2-3x as much is the cameras. While both front and back cameras do a decent job in good lighting, they get quite noisy in dim conditions. On the upside, the rear camera includes a wide-angle lens that’ll you’ll likely make good use of on the road.

In short, the Galaxy A50 is an attractive, well-designed smartphone from the world’s largest phone maker that performs well and has relatively few downsides. It’s easily Samsung’s best budget device in many years, and if you’re looking for the comfort of a major brand without breaking the bank, this is the smartphone to buy in 2020.

Pros
  • Attractive design
  • Excellent display
  • Good battery life and fast charging
  • Micro-SD card for extra storage
  • Headphone jack
Cons
  • Single SIM
  • No official dust or water resistance rating
  • The cameras aren’t great in low light
Buy on Amazon

Best for Features: BLU G9 Pro

BLU G9 Pro -6.3” Full HD Smartphone with Triple Main Camera, 128GB+4GB RAM -Black

BLU is known for putting out decent phones at very low prices (as above,) but that’s not all it does. While the BLU G9 Pro still slots easily into the budget category, it’s more expensive than most of the rest of the BLU range. Luckily, it’s absolutely worth the extra money.

This attractive phone looks like it costs a lot more than it does, with a striking design and surprisingly premium feel in the hand. The 6.3″ display is crisp and high-resolution, even if it’s not especially vibrant, and there’s a headphone jack for those of us who don’t want to use Bluetooth or adapters all the time.

There’s 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and if you’re happy to lose the second SIM slot, you can add up to a 128GB microSD card. There’s a 4000mAh battery that will last a full day of general use. Surprisingly for a budget phone, there’s 10W wireless charging, as well as the 18W USB-C wall charger that comes bundled in the box.

There’s a16MP front selfie camera, plus three AI-powered rear sensors that combine depth sensing, wide-angle, and general-purpose shots. They produce decent shots in good lighting, but keep expectations in check.

You’ll get shots that are better than most other phones at this price, but don’t expect anything on par with the latest high-end Apple, Google, or Samsung devices. There’s a fingerprint scanner built into the screen, but no NFC support, so you won’t be using Google Pay with this device.

The MediaTek Helio P60 chipset is standard for a budget phone. It performs reasonably well in benchmark tests and runs most current apps and games pretty well in the real world.

There aren’t many downsides with the Bold G9 Pro, but as with other BLU phones, don’t expect much in the way of Android updates. The company might make more of an effort with this higher-end model, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Other than that, this is a very good phone for the money, with a feature set that you don’t always find on phones costing twice as much. It’s well worth a look.

Pros
  • Attractive design and good build quality
  • Dual SIM or micro-SD slot
  • Headphone jack
  • Decent rear camera for the money
  • Wireless charging
Cons
  • No NFC
  • No official dust or water resistance rating
Buy on Amazon

Title image via MMckein, product images via Amazon

About the Author
Dave Dean

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a traveler for 20 years, and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken-down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.

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