2020 is the year of 5G. Or at least it should have been if a bunch of other, way more important things didn’t happen. Nevertheless, mobile carriers around the world are expanding their 5G networks at a rapid pace and 5G devices are now far from the niche products they were last year.
The good news is that the wave of new 5G-capable phones also brought in some devices that are far from the premium prices we expected these phones to sell at initially. That’s largely thanks to Qualcomm’s efforts to pair its 5G modem with some mid-tier system chips, giving manufacturers more flexibility in terms of pricing.
Still, a budget 5G phone will be noticeably pricier than regular budget phones, at least for another year or so. Don’t expect a $300 5G phone just yet. At least not in the States, where most of the cheaper 5G phones either don’t arrive at all or have very limited 5G capabilities.
We’ll keep this list up to date whenever new budget 5G phones reach the US market.
For now, here are the few we can recommend.
Best budget 5G smartphones, a summarized list:
Samsung Galaxy A71 5G
Right now, the Galaxy A71 5G is the only affordable 5G phone that is designed for the US. At $600, it’s $400 below the official retail price of the cheapest Galaxy S20 and $100 below the OnePlus 8 5G. Design-wise, the phone is almost identical to its expensive cousins, apart from the flat display, and that’s not really a big drawback, if any.
The camera array on the back isn’t too shabby either. Four sensors, as is tradition these days: 64MP regular, 12MP ultra-wide, 5MP macro and 5MP depth.
All the major carriers now have the Galaxy A71 5G available, so if you’re eager to pull the trigger on a mid-range 5G phone, you can do it from the links below:
Buy Samsung Galaxy A71 5G from:
Motorola Moto G 5G Plus
The Moto G family just got its first 5G member, the Moto G 5G Plus. That’s great news for those looking for amazing value, which the Moto G series has been known for over the years. Before you reach for your wallet, however, we must inform you that the Moto G 5G Plus isn’t coming to the US.
Despite that, the phone does support some of the local 5G bands and should be usable with Sprint/T-Mobile’s 5G network.
There is some good news, though, Motorola has said that it’s planning to release a sub-$500 5G phone in the States this fall. That’s as much as the company is willing to say right now, but it might be enough to make you hold your horses for a few months.
Back to the Moto G 5G Plus. It has the same Snapdragon chip as the Galaxy A71, but only 4GB of RAM, which is a bit disappointing. It has a quirky two-hole-punch display and a massive 5,000mAh battery, making the two-day battery life pretty much a guarantee.
Samsung Galaxy A51 5G
Unlike the Galaxy A71 5G, the A51 5G hasn’t arrived in the US officially yet and might never do so. If you’ve snagged it anyway, however, it will have limited 5G functionality in the States, again, on the Sprint/T-Mobile mid-band frequency.
The Galaxy A51 5G is powered by Samsung’s own Exynos 980 chip, and is generously equipped with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage despite its lower price tag.
The rear camera assembly consists of a 48MP main sensor, 12MP ultra-wide camera, 5MP macro one and a 5MP depth sensor to push the number up to four.
Overall, the Galaxy A51 is a great choice if you’re in a market that can make full use of its supported 5G bands.
Buy Samsung Galaxy A51 5G from:
Vivo Z6 5G
The Vivo Z6 5G will be hard to get your hands on in the US, but if you do, it does support the 5G mid bands that Sprint/T-Mobile are using and offer both good coverage and fast speeds.
It’s powered by, you guessed it, the Snapdragon 765G, but has both 6GB of RAM and a 5,000mAh battery. The beefed-up specs are paired with a lower price that for some might be enough compensation for the device’s elusiveness in the States.
The design is also what you’d expect from a 2020 phone: hole-punch display and a few cameras on the back. A sleek-looking device just like the rest on this list. These days “budget” doesn’t mean you have to compromise with the way your phone looks.
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