What to look for in a cheap Android phone

Need a good Android phone that isn’t going to break the bank? Here’s what to keep in mind when you’re shopping around.

No matter what kind of phone you’re after, odds are there’s an Android handset that’ll meet your needs. So if you’re looking for a low-budget Android phone, how do you decide?

Here are a few things to look out for before you slap down your hard-earned cash.

Top tips

  • Brightness and colour quality are more important than screen resolution
  • Don't settle for less than ten hours of battery life
  • High-end processors and cameras are overkill for most users

Screens matter, but maybe not the way you think

The screen size of a smartphone is a key element you should concentrate on. There’s no right or wrong choice, but remember that a bigger screen adds weight to a phone and makes it hard to use with one hand. In today’s world, under 5.5-inches is a smaller size phone, just in case you were wondering.

Resolution is often touted as the prime feature for phones, with some handsets even boasting 4K screens. The truth is that you’ll notice the brightness and the colour quality more than the resolution, so don’t get caught up worrying if something is only Full HD (or even lower depending on your price range).

Batteries matter more

To paraphrase the old saying, nobody on their deathbed has ever said, "I wish I’d had less battery life on my phone".

Lower-cost phones may (and it's a big may) have better battery life than the flagship phones simply because there are fewer pixels to power and less processing to keep rolling. But that doesn’t mean you should settle for anything less than ten hours on a single charge.

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Watch that Android version

Currently, the latest version of Android is Android Oreo (aka Android 8.0). But as of February 2018, the most common version of Android was still Nougat (Android 7.0). Android suffers from what’s known as fragmentation meaning that not all devices use the same version of the operating system.

This means that Android devices tend to support older OS versions. Lollipop 5.1 is (as of February 2018) the oldest Android version still supported. But you don’t want a phone that goes too far back. You’re not likely to find a budget Android with the absolutely latest OS updates, but make sure you’re buying one that is only a generation or two old.

Processing power

This is another number that flagship phones tend to bandy around, but you’ll find solid performance on offer in many mid- and even low-range phones. Just adjust your expectations: you might not be getting eye-bleedingly good visuals on a mobile game, but will Netflix be watchable on your morning commute?


Size still matters and at least 32GB should be something to aim for here. If that’s not on the cards, then check if MicroSD cards are. Upgradable storage is highly desirable, so you don’t find yourself desperately clearing out old apps and photos just so you can keep using your phone.


Don’t be seduced by massive megapixel numbers since they don’t automatically translate into better photos. If you're worried about the quality of the camera, think about things like low-light capabilities, aperture or features like optical-image stabilisation.

But also keep in mind what you’ll be using that camera for. If the majority of your photo work ends up heavily filtered on an Instagram feed, is it really worth the extra bucks? While budget Android cameras don't really bring the kind of quality you can expect out of the very best smartphones, the reality of the mobile market means that many of them have gone from strength to strength in recent years. If your needs are modest, the camera on a budget Android phone could be just fine for you.

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Updated February 22nd, 2019
Name Product Display size Display resolution Internal storage Battery size More info
800 x 480
1280 × 720
854 x 480
Optus X Start
Optus X Start
854 x 480

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