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5 Best smartphones under $500 in 2023: Top budget picks

Looking for a phone that doesn't cost an arm and a leg but still delivers a killer performance? You're in luck! We've put together a list of the 5 best smartphones under $500 in 2023 that'll blow your mind without blowing your budget. So, without further ado, let's dive into the detailed reviews of these amazing gadgets!



Samsung Galaxy A53 5G




Specs:

  • Display: 6.5-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED, 120Hz

  • Processor: Exynos 1280

  • RAM: 6/8 GB

  • Storage: 128GB

  • Camera: 64MP f/1.8, OIS; 12MP f/2.2; 5MP f/2.4 (macro); 5MP f/2.4 (depth)

  • Battery: 5,000mAh

  • Software: Android 12, One UI 4.1

  • Support: Four years of major OS updates and five years of security updates.

  • Other Features: IP67 water and dust resistance, in-display fingerprint sensor, stereo speakers


Pros:


Stunning Display

The 6.5-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate provides a vibrant and buttery smooth visual experience. The colours are rich, and the high refresh rate ensures that everything from scrolling through social media to playing games feels seamless.


Solid Performance

The Exynos 1080 processor delivers reliable performance for everyday tasks and gaming. Combined with 6 or 8 GB of RAM, the Galaxy A53 can handle multitasking and demanding apps without breaking a sweat.


Versatile Camera Setup

The 108MP main camera captures sharp, detailed images, while the 12MP ultrawide lens allows for stunning landscape shots. The 5MP macro and 5MP depth sensors add versatility to your photography game, and the 32MP front camera ensures high-quality selfies.


Great Battery Life

With a 5,000mAh battery and 25W fast charging, the Galaxy A53 easily lasts a full day of heavy use. Plus, the fast charging ensures you can quickly top up when you need some extra juice.


Feature-Rich Experience

The Galaxy A53 comes with an IP67 water and dust resistance rating, an in-display fingerprint sensor, and stereo speakers. These features are often found in higher-end models, making the A53 an even more attractive option.



Cons


Processor Limitations

While the Exynos 1080 processor offers solid performance, it may not compete with flagship chipsets in terms of raw power. Heavy gamers or power users might find this limitation noticeable.


No Wireless Charging

Despite the impressive feature set, the Galaxy A53 lacks wireless charging. This omission may be a deal-breaker for some users who prefer the convenience of wireless charging.


Plastic Build

The Galaxy A53 features a plastic build, which, although durable, doesn't have the premium feel of glass or metal. Some users might prefer a more premium construction.


The Samsung Galaxy A53 is an excellent mid-range smartphone that delivers a stunning display, versatile camera setup, solid performance, and an array of premium features. While it has some limitations, such as the lack of wireless charging and a plastic build, it remains a fantastic option for those seeking a high-quality device without the flagship price tag.







Google Pixel 6A




Specs:

  • Display: 6.1-inch, 1080 x 2400, OLED, 60Hz, 429 ppi

  • Processor: Google Tensor Titan M2

  • RAM: 6GB

  • Storage: 128GB

  • Battery: 4410mAh

  • Camera: 12MP f/1.7, OIS; 12MP f/2.2

  • Software: Android 12

  • Support: Five years of security updates. Google hasn’t said how many OS updates it will receive, but the Pixel 6 has been promised three.

  • 5G: Yes, sub-6GHz

  • Other Features: IP67 water and dust resistance, stereo speakers, Titan M2 security chip

Pros:


Unrivalled Camera Performance

The 12MP camera on the Pixel 6a delivers stunning photos that rival even some flagship devices. Google's image processing magic ensures impressive low-light performance, sharp details, and accurate colours in every shot.


Smooth Google Tensor Experience

The Google Tensor processor offers a seamless experience for everyday tasks, gaming, and multitasking. Paired with 6 GB of RAM, the Pixel 6a delivers a smooth performance that doesn't disappoint.


Clean Stock Android

The Pixel 6a comes with stock Android 12, providing a clean, bloatware-free experience. Google's commitment to timely updates means your device will stay up-to-date with the latest features and security patches.


All-Day Battery Life

The 4410mAh battery provides enough power to last through a day of regular use, and the 30W fast charging lets you quickly top up when needed.


Premium Features

The Pixel 6a includes IP67 water and dust resistance, stereo speakers, and the Titan M2 security chip, making it an even more attractive budget option.


Cons:


No Expandable Storage

The Pixel 6a comes with 128 GB of non-expandable storage, which could be limiting for users who need more space for apps, media, and files.


No Headphone Jack

The absence of a 3.5mm headphone jack may be a drawback for those who still prefer wired audio accessories.


No Wireless Charging

Although the Pixel 6a has an impressive array of features, it lacks wireless charging capabilities. This may be a downside for users who value the convenience of wire-free charging.


The Google Pixel 6a is an outstanding budget smartphone, offering unrivalled camera performance, smooth performance thanks to the Google Tensor chip, and a clean stock Android experience. While it has a few limitations, such as the lack of expandable storage and wireless charging, the Pixel 6a remains a top choice for those who want a high-quality smartphone experience without breaking the bank.





OnePlus Nord N20 5G




  • Display: 6.43, 1080 x 2400, AMOLED, 60Hz, 409 ppi

  • Processor: Snapdragon 695 5G

  • RAM: 6GB

  • Storage: 128GB, microSD expandable

  • Battery: 4500mAh

  • Camera: 64MP f/1.8; 2MP f/2.4 (macro); 2MP f/2.4 (depth)

  • Software: Android 11

  • Support: One major OS update and three years of security updates

  • 5G: Yes, sub-6GHz


Pros:


Fluid AMOLED Display

The 6.4-inch FHD+ Fluid AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate offers a crisp and smooth viewing experience. The vibrant colours and deep blacks make it perfect for media consumption and gaming.


Solid Performance

The Snapdragon 750G processor ensures reliable performance for daily tasks and gaming alike. Paired with either 6 or 8 GB of RAM, the Nord N20 5G handles multitasking and demanding apps with ease.


OxygenOS Experience

The Nord N20 5G comes with OxygenOS 12, based on Android 12, offering a clean and snappy user interface. OnePlus is known for its timely updates, ensuring your device stays current and secure.


5G Connectivity

With support for 5G, the Nord N20 5G is future-proof and provides faster download and upload speeds for a seamless mobile experience.


Impressive Fast Charging

The 4,500mAh battery lasts a full day of moderate use, and the 30W fast charging ensures you can quickly top up when needed.



Cons


No Official Water or Dust Resistance

The OnePlus Nord N20 5G lacks an official IP rating for water and dust resistance, making it less durable compared to some competitors in the market.


No Wireless Charging

The Nord N20 5G does not support wireless charging, which might be a drawback for users who prefer the convenience of wire-free charging.


The OnePlus Nord N20 5G is an excellent budget option that offers a premium design, a Fluid AMOLED display, and solid performance, all at an attractive price. While it may have some limitations, such as average battery life and the lack of water and dust resistance, it remains a fantastic choice for those seeking a high-quality smartphone without breaking the bank.





Apple iPhone SE




Specs

  • Display: 6.1-inch, 1792 x 828, LCD, 60Hz, 326 ppi

  • Processor: A13 Bionic

  • RAM: 4GB

  • Storage: 64GB

  • Battery: 3110mAh

  • Camera: 12MP f/1.8, OIS; 12MP f/2.4

  • Software: iOS 15; planned upgrade to iOS 16

  • Support: Apple generally provides four years or more of software and security updates

  • 5G: No


Pros


Compact Design

The iPhone SE sports a compact design with a 4.7-inch display, making it easy to use with one hand and convenient for those who prefer smaller devices.


Powerful Performance

The A15 Bionic processor ensures a smooth, lag-free experience for everyday tasks, multitasking, and gaming. The iPhone SE delivers flagship-level performance in a budget-friendly package.


iOS Experience

The iPhone SE comes with iOS 15, offering the latest features, privacy enhancements, and access to the vast Apple ecosystem, including apps, services, and accessories.


Water and Dust Resistance

The iPhone SE boasts an IP67 rating for water and dust resistance, ensuring durability and peace of mind during daily use.


Wireless Charging

The iPhone SE supports wireless charging, allowing for a convenient and clutter-free charging experience.


Cons


Smaller Display

The 4.7-inch Retina HD IPS LCD display may be too small for users who prefer larger screens for media consumption and gaming.


Single Rear Camera

The iPhone SE features a single 12MP main camera, which, while capable of capturing great photos, lacks the versatility of multi-camera setups found in many other smartphones.


No Face ID

The iPhone SE relies on Touch ID for biometric authentication, which, although fast and reliable, might not be the preferred method for users who favour Face ID.



The Apple iPhone SE is a fantastic choice for those seeking a compact, budget-friendly device with powerful performance and the latest iOS experience. While it may have some limitations, such as a smaller display and a single rear camera, the iPhone SE remains a strong option for users who want the reliability and ecosystem of an iPhone without the flagship price tag.





Motorola Moto G Stylus




Specs

  • Display: 6.8-inch 1080p LCD display

  • Processor: MediaTek Helio G88

  • RAM: 6 GB

  • Storage: 128 GB

  • Camera: 48MP main, 8MP ultrawide, 2MP macro, 2MP depth

  • Battery: 5,000mAh

  • OS: Android 11, near-stock

  • Other Features: Built-in Stylus, rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, 3.5mm headphone jack


Pros


Built-in Stylus

The Moto G Stylus comes with an integrated stylus that allows for precise input, note-taking, and sketching. It's a great feature for creative individuals or those who prefer using a stylus over their fingers.


Versatile Camera Setup

The 48MP main camera captures detailed images, while the 8MP ultrawide lens allows for expansive landscape shots. The 2MP macro and 2MP depth sensors add versatility to the Moto G Stylus' photography capabilities.


Expandable Storage

With 128 GB of internal storage and support for up to 512GB of expandable storage, you'll have plenty of space for your apps, media, and files.


Near-Stock Android Experience

The Moto G Stylus runs on a near-stock Android 11 experience, ensuring a clean and bloatware-free UI. Motorola is known for providing a close-to-stock experience that many users appreciate.


Headphone Jack

The inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack is a bonus for those who still enjoy using wired headphones or earbuds.



Cons


Average Performance

The Snapdragon 678 processor and 4 GB of RAM provide adequate performance for everyday tasks, but they might struggle with more demanding apps and games.


IPS LCD Display

The 6.8-inch FHD+ IPS LCD display might not be as vibrant or have the deep blacks found in OLED displays. This could be a drawback for users who prioritize display quality.


Limited Fast Charging

The Moto G Stylus comes with a 10W fast charger, which is slower compared to the fast charging solutions found in many competing devices.


No Water or Dust Resistance

The lack of an official IP rating for water and dust resistance may be a concern for users who require a more durable device.


The Motorola Moto G Stylus is a budget-friendly option for those who value the convenience of a built-in stylus. The device offers a versatile camera setup, expandable storage, and a clean Android experience. However, some limitations, such as average performance and a less vibrant display, may be a concern for more demanding users. Overall, the Moto G Stylus is an excellent choice for those seeking a creative smartphone companion without breaking the bank.





Final Thoughts: Budget, Schmudget!


These 5 best smartphones under $500 prove that you don't need to splurge to get an amazing device. We're all about getting the most for our money, and these phones prove you don't have to spend a fortune for a fantastic smartphone experience. Each offers its own set of advantages and drawbacks, so consider your priorities when choosing the perfect budget phone. Rest assured, you'll be getting a fantastic device without emptying your wallet!

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