We comprehensively review all the major handsets released in Australia here at Finder to help you compare what they have to offer.
Right now, the best budget phone you can get with the optimal mix of battery life, processing power, build quality and camera performance as a combination of power, camera quality, battery life and value for money is the Oppo AX7. For this roundup, we've defined budget to include phones with a launch RRP under $400.
Meet the author
Alex Kidman is a multi-award-winning consumer technology journalist and the Tech & Telco Editor at finder.com.au. He's been writing about consumer technology topics for more than two decades.
Info last updated 04 March 2019.
- Phones added
- This comparison was updated 06 February 2019 with the Oppo AX7 topping the list.
04 March 2019
- Phones added
- Oppo AX7 tops our inaugural best budget phones list.
04 March 2019
Stylish and affordable
The Oppo AX7 provides great battery endurance in a stylish phone body.
The Nokia 2.1 runs on Android Oreo Go, a specially optimised version of Android that makes the most out of the low processing power of budget handsets. That enables the Nokia 2.1 to work better than you'd expect for a phone at its price point. Combine that with Nokia's genuinely nice style, and you've got a phone that has plenty of appeal at a very competitive price point.
A return to form for the Nokia brand
The Nokia 2.1 makes good on the company's promise of premium style at a budget price for its return to the smartphone market, delivering impressive looks and value at a very agreeable pricepoint.
Huawei's Nova 3e sits at the upper end of the budget range, but it's recommended if what you want out of your phone is a decent camera. It's the one specification that budget phones tend to skimp on to keep the price low. The Huawei Nova 3e's camera delivers the kind of performance you'd expect out of a mid-range phone, alongside decent performance for its price bracket.
Huawei Nova 3e
Premium style on a mid-range budget
A slick and sleek design gives the Huawei Nova 3e all the glamour of a high-end smartphone without the steep price tag.
Motorola's primary presence in the local market is as a maker of low-cost handsets, most typically represented by its G-series handsets. Its Motorola Moto E5 is slightly cheaper, and while we're waiting for local pricing for the new Motorola Moto G7 series phones locally, it's your best bet for a well built all-rounder handset.
Motorola Moto E5
Power to go and go and go
If you're tired of having to constantly charge your phone, the Motorola Moto E5's 4,000mAh battery might be the ideal solution.
If you've got a little more cash to splash and you like Motorola's generally clean approach to Android, the Motorola Moto G6 Play is worth considering, especially thanks to its 4,000mAh battery capacity. Despite being a plastic body phone, the overall design is solid. It's the lesser member of Motorola's G6 family of devices, but that's well reflected in the asking price.
Motorola Moto G6 Play
Motorola's playful Moto G6 Play
The Motorola Moto G6 Play keeps the price low, but with an exceptional battery.
The Nokia 5.1 combines that classic Nokia style with the simplicity of the Android One platform. That means it's not cluttered with extra apps or fancy launchers, making it simple to set up and use the way you want to. Android One also means that it's due for two year's worth of updates, including security and operating system updates. It's rare for budget Android phones to see any updates, so if you're security conscious it's a great choice.
Stylish and easy to update
The Nokia 5.1 offers a clean Android interface, guaranteed updates and a great design.
The Nokia 1 is Nokia's cheapest phone, and that does mean it comes with a few compromises in terms of overall power and camera features. That's mitigated, as it is on the Nokia 2.1, by the use of Android Oreo Go, so you get specially optimised versions of key Android apps that run quite well within its simple low-cost frame. Nokia has updated the Nokia 1 with the Nokia 1 Plus recently, and we'd expect that phone to take the Nokia 1's place once it launches in Australia.
Go, Go, Go!
The Nokia 1 proves that a cheap smartphone can still pack quite a few surprises.
Telstra's Essential Plus is actually an Alcatel handset, rebranded and locked to the Telstra network. It's not exceptionally powerful, but it is both 4G capable and Blue Tick certified, meaning that it's a good choice for Australian consumers who spend a lot of time in regional areas. You don't often see phones with good reception in the budget category, let alone at the price point of the Telstra Essential Plus.
Telstra Essential Plus
Just the essentials
The Telstra Essential Plus provides fundamental smartphone functionality at a supremely affordable price.
HMD Global, the folks who make Nokia phones these days have a range of classic throwback feature phones, with the Nokia 8810 4G being the latest. Yes, it's not powerful, and the camera isn't up to much. However, that's kind of the point, because if what you crave is super-simplicity and at the same time a phone that really will stand out, the Nokia 8810 4G is it. You can browse the web on it if you must, or even use it as an ad-hoc Wi-Fi hotspot in a pinch, but this is essentially a phone that's all about getting away from smartphones and their distractions.
Nokia 8110 4G
The banana phone is back
Simple and affordable, the Nokia 8110 4G offers a detox from the complexities of the modern smartphone market.
The Alcatel 1C is one of the cheapest phones we've ever tested, and while it does cover the smartphone basics, you're also taking some serious limitations on board with it. It's a Telstra exclusive with a decent 18:9 screen and even a fingerprint reader for unlocking, but it's also limited to being only a 3G handset. It's entirely serviceable for its price, but it's not an exciting handset in any way at all.
The budget-friendly smartphone
If all you're after is a basic smartphone at a price that won't send you broke, the Alcatel 1C fits that bill to a T.
Why you should compare the best budget phones in Australia
For this guide, we've considered phones only with a recommended launch price of under $400. That still gives quite a range, with some phones in this list costing less than $100. Still, at that price point you're always looking at paying for the phone outright, and then matching it up with a suitable pre-paid or month to month SIM-only contract to keep your costs in check.
Buying a budget phone is an exercise in managing expectations and trading costs against the features that really matter the most to you. If you want flagship performance you're not going to see it in phones that cost less than $400. It's just not going to happen, but the fact that smartphones as a category have been around for more than a decade means that the phone you get at lower prices is much better than you might expect for everyday users.
Here at finder.com.au, we're constantly reviewing the latest smartphones that have launched in Australia, putting them through their paces to see which is best.
We've argued long and hard to create this list of 2019's best budget smartphones, which we update constantly.
Glossary: Key phone terms to consider
|Display||AMOLED displays don't need a backlight, screen pixels are actually turned off to produce blacks, which can save energy. Super AMOLED has improved visibility in direct sunlight. LCD displays use a backlight, which reduces contrast. An IPS LCD display has truer colour reproduction and looks better when you view the screen at an angle.|
|RAM||RAM is your phone's short-term memory. When you use an app, instead of writing data to your phone's internal storage or SD card (long-term memory), the data is stored in the device's RAM so it can be recalled quickly and easily when it's needed. The more RAM the better, and in the premium space that typically means 4GB or more.|
|Megapixels||MP is short for megapixels and is generally accepted as a guide for image quality. More megapixels doesn't mean a better-looking photo. Megapixels are about the maximum size of the image in relation to image quality. The more megapixels, the larger you can blow up your picture without it becoming distorted.|
|Sensor size||Too many megapixels for a small image sensor will ruin the image quality.|
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