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The Best Budget Smartphones for Travel in 2022

By Dave Dean PhonesNo Comments

How things have changed in the world of budget smartphones. Until a few years ago, we didn’t bother recommending the best cheap smartphones for travel, mostly because there weren’t any good cheap smartphones for anyone.

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 on the road.

In 2022, though, it’s a different story. Asian manufacturers, in particular, have been producing phones offering most of the features travelers (and most other people) need 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 people, 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.

Best Overall: OnePlus Nord N10 5G
  • Screen: 6.5-inch LED
  • Storage: 128GB + microSD slot
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Battery: 4300mAh
  • Dual SIM? No (USA) / Yes (International)
  • Runs On: Android

Sale
Best for Features: Motorola Moto G Stylus
  • Screen: 6.8-inch LED
  • Storage: 128GB + microSD slot
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Battery: 5000mAh
  • Dual SIM? No (USA) / Yes (International)
  • Runs On: Android

Sale
Best for Battery Life: Motorola Moto G Power
  • Screen: 6.5-inch LED
  • Storage: 64GB + microSD slot
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Battery: 5000mAh
  • Dual SIM? No (USA) / Yes (International)
  • Runs On: Android

Sale
Best on a Tight Budget: Nokia G10
  • Screen: 6.5-inch LED
  • Storage: 32GB + microSD slot
  • RAM: 3GB
  • Battery: 5050mAh
  • Dual SIM: Yes
  • Runs On: Android

Best From a Big Brand: Samsung Galaxy A32
  • Screen: 6.4-inch LED
  • Storage: 64GB + microSD slot
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Battery: 5000mAh
  • Dual SIM?: No (USA) / Yes (International)
  • Runs On: Android

Best Budget Smartphone: OnePlus Nord N10 5G

OnePlus Nord N10 5G Unlocked Smartphone, Midnight Ice​, 90Hz Refresh Rate, 6GB RAM + 128GB storage, US Version, Model BE2026

We’ve always liked OnePlus phones around here, since they’re renowned for having impressive performance for not a lot of money. The cost of the flagship model crept up year after year, though, leaving space at the low end of the market for competitors.

The company returned to its roots with its Nord series, a lower-cost alternative to the premium versions that attempt to keep most of the good bits while dropping the price. The N10 5G is currently the pick of the Nord range, and our choice as the best budget smartphone right now.

As the name suggests, the most hyped feature of the phone is its 5G support. OnePlus sells different versions of the phone for different markets, so you’ll only get 5G in the US with the North American model, and likewise have European/UK 5G support with that version. LTE is fortunately much more global in nature.

It’s an attractive phone, large but not heavy, and coming in a stylish midnight blue color. The reason it’s light, though, is due to the use of a polycarbonate frame and back: that makes it easy to hold, but less durable than metal versions. Speaking of durability, there’s no official water resistance: drop it in the toilet at your peril.

Inside, there’s a big 4300mAh battery that helps drive the phone for over a day of moderate use despite the big 6.5″ LCD screen. Despite not being an OLED display, it’s bright, colorful, and easy to see even in direct sunlight.

OnePlus phones have always had some of the fastest charging you’ll find in a smartphone, and it’s no different here: the bundled USB C 30W Warp charger promises “a day’s power in half an hour”. In this case, that’s going from flat to a two-thirds charge in 30 minutes. There’s no wireless charging, however.

With 6GB of RAM and a mid-range Snapdragon 690 chipset, performance is pretty good for a budget phone. Unless you’re playing a lot of demanding, high-action games, you’re unlikely to notice slowdowns or delays in daily use. The 90Hz refresh rate helps, and it’s great to see it showing up on low-cost phones.

As with most OnePlus phones, and pretty much all budget phones in general, it’s the cameras that let things down. While you’ll likely get some decent, even good shots in daylight, low light is a whole other story. Blurry images and dull colors are the norm, and while Nightscape mode tries to correct the worst problems, it doesn’t do a great job of it.

On the upside, unusually for a budget phone, NFC support is built in so you can use your phone to make payments in store with Google Pay. The fingerprint scanner on the back is fast and reliable, and there’s even a headphone jack, increasingly a rarity these days.

Other than the mediocre camera, the N10 5G is an impressive phone that delivers on the original promise of OnePlus: an awful lot of phone for not a lot of money.

Pros
  • 5G support
  • Good battery life
  • Bright, colorful screen
  • Fast charging
  • Headphone jack and NFC
Cons
  • Mediocre camera
  • No wireless charging
  • No official water resistance
Buy on Amazon

Best for Features: Motorola Moto G Stylus

Moto G Stylus | 2022 | 2-Day battery | Unlocked | Made for US by Motorola | 6/128GB | 50MP Camera | Twilight Blue

Motorola has been turning out decent 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.

Unlike many lower-cost handsets, the G Stylus doesn’t look terrible. Available in couple of different colors including an attractive twilight blue, the clean design and small hole-punch camera notch make this phone appear more expensive than it is. The plastic casing doesn’t feel amazing in the hand, but I’ve held worse.

What’s inside is pretty good for the price, with a MediaTek G88 chipset, 6GB of RAM, and a hefty 128GB of storage that you can also upgrade via the micro-SD slot. I’d have liked to see a faster processor, but on the upside, it helps the 5000mAh battery get through a full day two days of moderate use.

It ships with a 10W USB C charger in the box, something that’s increasingly rare. I’d have liked to see something more powerful for a battery this size, especially since that’s the max charging rate even if you use a higher-power charger. You’ll be waiting a while to get back to 100%, put it that way.

There’s a big (ok, huge) 6.8″ FHD+ display, three rear cameras (more on those below) plus the selfie camera, and a fingerprint sensor that’s part of the power button on the side.

The Moto G Stylus also has features you won’t find on many smartphones three times the price: a headphone jack, for instance, that micro-SD slot, and of course the stylus that’s right there in the name.

Living in a compartment accessed from the base of the device, the stylus 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 acceptable, and better than many others in this price range, including the sibling Moto G Power model we mention below. That triple rear camera array (50MP main, 8MP ultra-wide, and 2MP depth sensor) does a pretty good job in daylight, while night mode gives at least some chance of useable shots.

What’s not to like about the Moto G Stylus? Not much, really. Other than the slow charging, 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. You’ll get an update to Android 12, but that’s it.

There’s also no NFC or wireless charging either, the former of which is more of an issue than the latter.

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

Pros
  • Attractive for a budget phone
  • Micro-SD card
  • Good battery life
  • Headphone jack
  • Takes pretty good photos in daylight
Cons
  • Moderate performance
  • Slow charging
  • 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 | 2022 | 3-Day Battery | Unlocked | Made for US by Motorola | 4/128GB | 50 MP Camera | Ice Blue

Known as the G9 Power outside the United States, the 5000mAh battery on the Motorola Moto G Power makes it one of our top picks for a smartphone with long battery life in 2022. 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 MediaTek Helios G37 chipset isn’t the greatest chipset in the world, but about what you’d expect for the price. Likewise the 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage: it’s a low-cost device, and the specs reflect that. It’s perfectly usable, but don’t expect blistering performance here.

There’s a headphone jack and a micro-SD slot that lets you add up to 1TB of additional storage, both of which you often don’t find on devices costing far more. A 10W USB C wall charger comes in the box (I’d have liked to see something faster), and the fingerprint scanner on the back works reliably well.

It’s nice to see an official durability in a budget phone, and while IP52 isn’t amazing, it’s also not nothing. Don’t plan to swim with this device, but it should survive a bit of rain and dusty roads without complaint. The phone is also a bit on the heavy and chunky side, but I like the design 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
  • Official durability rating
Cons
  • Moderate performance
  • No official dust or water resistance
  • A bit heavy and chunky
  • Low-light camera performance is poor
  • Slow charging
Buy on Amazon

Best on a Tight Budget: Nokia G10

Nokia G10 | Android 11 | Unlocked Smartphone | 3-Day Battery | Dual SIM | US Version | 3/32GB | 6.52-Inch Screen | 13MP Triple Camera | Polar Night

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 usable phone, the Nokia G10 is the way to go.

It’s a simple device, and the specifications aren’t going to set a tech-head’s heart on fire. If all you need is a cheap phone that can handle basic travel tasks like web browsing, navigation, and social media, and lasts forever on a single charge, though, it’s the way to go.

For your money, you get a low-end Mediatek Helio G25 chipset, with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. That’s very much the bare minimum these days, and it shows when it comes to performance: stuttering and slow scrolling aren’t unusual, and gaming is largely out of the question.

On the upside, there’s a microSD slot that can handle cards up to 512GB, so you’re not going to run out of storage space. The 5050mAh battery is also impressively large: Nokia suggests you’ll get up to three days between charges, and while that’s unlikely for all but the lightest of phone users, a couple of days away from a wall outlet is common.

Once you do run the battery down, plan to set aside a bit of time to charge it back up again: it can take over three hours to get from from zero to fully charged.

Dual-SIM support is always welcome for travel, and unlike the vast majority of budget phones, Nokia actually supports its devices: you get a guaranteed two years of software updates and three years of security patches. There’s also virtually no bloatware, which is again a rarity at this price.

The camera isn’t going to break any records, but if you’ve got decent lighting, it’ll likely still take photos you can use. As usual with budget phones, though, it doesn’t do well at night. Blurry, dull, and noisy photos are the norm here.

Likewise, video recording isn’t great. The highest recording level is only 30fps at 1080p, and there’s no software or hardware stabilization, so you get a fairly jerky end result. Audio recording, however, proved to be much better than we expected.

There’s a headphone jack, which is always nice to see, but no support for NFC, so you can’t use this phone for contactless payments.

The Nokia N10 isn’t an exciting smartphone, and if you’ve got more to spend, the other devices on this list will likely give you a better overall experience. If all you want is a cheap phone with long battery life that won’t need replacing in a year, though, you could do an awful lot worse.

Pros
  • Low price
  • Headphone jack
  • Dual SIM
  • Long battery life
  • Good software support
Cons
  • Poor cameras
  • No official dust or water resistance
  • No NFC
  • Mediocre performance
Buy on Amazon

Best From a Big Brand: Samsung Galaxy A32

Samsung Electronics Galaxy A32 5G, Factory Unlocked Smartphone, Android Cell Phone, Long-Lasting Battery, Expandable Storage, US Version, 64GB, Black

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 A32 is an exception to the rule. Typically just squeezing into our budget price range, it looks and feels more like a mid-range device.

It’s one of the cheapest 5G-enabled phones available, with a clean, minimalist design. Like most budget phones, it’s made from plastic rather than glass: this makes it nice and light, but also acts as a fingerprint magnet. Keep the cleaning cloth handy!

It’s a large device, with a 6.5-inch HD+ TFT screen. Those with smaller hands may find it a bit awkward, but that’s not unusual: phone sizes have been going up for years. The bezels are a bit thick and the U-shaped notch eats into a bit of the available space, though, so don’t expect a true edge-to-edge display.

Contrast and color accuracy is fine, but we’d like to see more brightness: things start to look a bit washed out in direct sunlight. Basically, you can’t get away from the fact that it’s a budget display, selected to keep the cost down.

At least the 90Hz refresh rate helps ensure that when you’re scrolling or swiping, everything stays smooth and responsive. Unlike more expensive phones, the refresh rate is fixed, rather than dropping it back to a lower speed to save energy when possible.

Even so, the Galaxy A32 has impressive battery life compared to many budget models. Thanks to the big 5000mAh battery, you can expect at least a full day of normal use out of it, probably a little more Charging speed is reasonable, too: the 15-watt charger takes the A32 from zero to 50% in about half an hour.

The phone has a modest Mediatek MT6853 processor that gets the job done, but that’s about it. It’s far from the fastest chipset out there, and while it handles everyday tasks fine, don’t plan to do much in the way of intensive gaming.

4GB of memory and 64GB is pretty much what you’d expect from a budget phone in 2022, but we were glad to have the option of adding a microSD card for extra storage. Supporting sizes of up to 1TB, it’s almost impossible to run out of space.

Audio quality is impressive from the single bottom-firing speaker, but it’s a bit quiet: if you’re someone who regularly listens to music on your phone speaker, you’ll likely want to look elsewhere. As usual with many phones sold around the world, it’s dual-SIM in many markets, but only single SIM in the US.

While you shouldn’t expect the same quality of photos from the A32 as you get at the high end of the Galaxy range, they’re fine at this price point, at least with good lighting. The 48MP main camera has a decent dynamic range, with less of the over-saturated colors we’ve seen from other Samsung phones.

Portrait photos are sharp, with good isolation of the subject from the background. Likewise, macro shots are crisp and detailed, with the dedicated 5MP camera giving a noticeable advantage over the 2MP version found in much of the competition.

Selfies are taken with a 13MP front-facing camera that does a pretty good job, with a fair amount of detail and natural-looking colors.

As with so many budget phone cameras, though, things fall down in low light. With a lot of noise and lack of detail, these aren’t shots you’re likely to be happy with. There’s a dedicated night mode, but it doesn’t work particularly well: the app is prone to freezing, with regular, obvious processing errors.

Video shot with the main camera maxes out at 4K resolution and 30 frames per second, and while you’re not going to be creating the next Hollywood movie with it, it’s fine for casual use. While footage isn’t as crisp as we’d like, there’s little noise and accurate colors.

Overall, the A32 is a solid device from a major manufacturer with a few nice features. While it has its flaws, none of them are likely to be showstoppers, and you get the benefit of owning a Samsung phone with the good software support that comes with it.

With 5G capability, reasonable performance, and several years of platform updates security patches, it won’t be obsolete after 18 months like so many other budget models. For that reason, it’s our current pick if you’re after a budget phone from a well-known brand.

Pros
  • 5G support
  • Good battery life and fast charging
  • MicroSD card for extra storage
  • Headphone jack
  • Major brand
Cons
  • Single SIM
  • No official dust or water resistance rating
  • The cameras aren’t great in low light
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 25 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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