Best phones under $500: Pixel 3A XL, Galaxy A50, Moto G7 and more

The Moto G7 (left) and the Pixel 3A (right) cost less than $500.

With top-tier phones like the Note 10 Plus and iPhone XS Max starting at around $1,000, it’s easy to feel that great phones are getting more expensive and out of your budget. But as some phones are getting pricier, budget phones are getting more advanced and packing premium features of their own. There are lots of affordable devices that are fast, take great photos and offer modern-day software features that won’t break the bank. While many of these phones came out this year, some handsets in this roundup launched the previous year. That doesn’t mean they’re obsolete — most of them still have high-end processors and cameras that you can get for way less than when they first launched.

Note that these products are independently chosen by our editors, based on hands-on testing. We’ve linked to the unlocked version of each phone, and they should run on most of the big four US wireless carriers (unless specified otherwise). CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

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The $479, £469 and AU$799 Pixel 3A XL has everything you like about the Pixel 3A (which is also on this list), but in a larger package. Sporting a 6-inch OLED display compared to the Pixel 3A’s 5.6-inch screen, the bigger counterpart also features a larger 3,700mAh battery.

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The Galaxy A50 is part of Samsung’s A-series, which is much cheaper than the top-tier S-series of phones. At $350, £309 or AU$500, the A50 is one of your cheapest Galaxy options and features a 6.4-inch display, an in-screen fingerprint reader and a headphone jack. On the back are three cameras that include a wide-angle lens as well as a “depth lens,” which is used to take portrait shots with blurry, dramatic backgrounds.

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Though it debuted in 2016, the iPhone 7 is still a solid phone, and it’s the cheapest iPhone from Apple that you can still buy for new. The phone has water resistance, a more durable solid-state home button, and still really good cameras with rear optical image stabilization.

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The Moto Z4 launched in May without much fanfare, despite the fact that it’s one of the few phones that can connect to 5G. It works with a Moto Mod modular accessory, which attaches to the back of the phone using magnetic pins. The phone is $500 (which converts to £392 and AU$714) and the Mod costs extra, but even with the additional costs, the Z4 is the cheapest 5G phone yet.

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We don’t know how long it’ll last but the premium LG G8 is selling for $500 (about £411 and AU$738)  — a deep discount from its original $850 launch price. As one of the last few high-end phones with a headphone jack, the G8 stands out as a rarity. But it also has a bright, sharp screen, a second wide-angle rear camera, a fast processor and water resistance.

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The often discounted Moto G7 Play is one of our favorite affordable phones. Compared to the slightly pricier Moto G7 (which we’ll get to later), the phones both have the same processor and a water-repellent coating. But the G7 Play features a tad smaller 5.7-inch display and a single 13-megapixel camera. For those who like to take a lot of selfies, on the front of the phone you’ll find a flash to brighten up all those memorable moments.

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The new-for-2019 Pixel 3A shaves a few features off of last year’s Pixel 3: It’s not water resistant, doesn’t have wireless charging, and it maxes out at 64GB of storage. But it adds a headphone jack and keeps the same amazing Night Sight camera that can shoot great photos in the dark. (Daytime photos look amazing, too.) It’s compatible with all the major US phone carriers as well.

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It’s been two years since its launch but the Galaxy S8 is still a phone worthy of consideration. It’s water resistant, has wireless charging, expandable storage and a headphone jack. Plus, its curved screen lends the phone a modern-day look that still endures.

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The Moto G7 may not be as cheap as its G7 Play counterpart, but it’s still a good deal. Though its single speaker doesn’t offer the greatest sound, and it takes mediocre low-light photos and video, the Moto G7 has dual rear cameras, an enduring battery life and a sleek design. It also charges really quickly, which is useful when you need to juice up while on the go.

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Though the LG G7 from 2018 has a Google Assistant quick-launch button that can’t be remapped, there’s still lots of reasons to like this phone. It has an AI camera that gives your photos a boost before you snap them, a secondary wide-angle rear camera and a headphone jack.

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With a bright 120Hz screen, the Razer Phone 2 is a high-powered gaming phone that has IP67 water resistance and wireless charging. It’s also compatible with 2TB microSD cards for extra storage and runs a close-to-stock version of Android. Together with its amazing built-in speaker, you have the makings for a great mobile gaming experience.

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