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Best phones under $500: iPhone SE, Pixel 4A, Galaxy A51 and more

If you're looking for a phone on a budget, check out CNET's top 8 picks.

This year, many big-time phone makers launched affordable phones, like the iPhone SE, the Pixel 4A and the Galaxy A51. Now more than before, phone buyers on a tight budget have more options to choose from. In addition to those new phones, there are plenty of reliable handsets from 2019 as well -- and all of them cost about $500 or less. And despite their low prices, budget smartphones are getting more advanced and even pack features akin to a premium phone, like amazing cameras, fast processors and modern-day software features. 

To see our top picks of the best budget smartphone, check out the list below (which we'll be updating regularly), and read CNET's reviews. Note that 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.

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With a four-year gap between the 2020 iPhone SE and the previous one, Apple packed its latest budget phone with a bunch of upgrades. That includes wireless charging, better camera specs and water resistance. (Unfortunately, for wired headphone users, it doesn't have a headphone jack.) If you're looking for a new iPhone but want to save as much money as possible, the $399 (£419, AU$749) iPhone SE is your best bet. Read our Apple iPhone SE (2020) review.

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Google's Pixel 4A costs $349 (£349, AU$599). The 5.81-inch phone only comes in one color (black) and one size (as in there's no Pixel 4A XL unlike past years). It features a headphone jack, a slightly larger screen and a bigger battery than the Pixel 4 and 128GB of storage right off the bat. Read our Google Pixel 4A review.

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In addition to its main Galaxy S20 phones, Samsung has a more cost-conscious A series line of phones. This year it launched the Galaxy A51, another phone that costs $399, though we've seen it go on sale for as low as $230. (There is also a 5G variant that costs $499). The device has four cameras, an in-screen fingerprint reader and expandable memory. Read our Galaxy A51 review.

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If you're looking for a cheaper Note 20 alternative, the $300 Moto G Stylus features a stylus that you can store inside the phone along with a built-in Notes app to help with productivity. The phone also features triple-rear cameras, 128GB of storage and a robust 4,000-mAh battery. Read our Moto G Stylus review.

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Although the Galaxy A50 came out last year (and is the predecessor to the A51 phone mentioned above), it's still a great phone that has been heavily discounted as low as $180. This Samsung phone has a 6.4-inch AMOLED screen, an in-screen fingerprint reader and a headphone jack. Read our Samsung Galaxy A50 review.

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The Moto G Power is a tad cheaper than the G Stylus at $250, but it packs a robust 5,000-mAh battery. During our testing, it lasted an impressive four days without a charge. The phone has three rear cameras (one of which is a macro lens), a 6.4-inch display and expandable memory. Read our Moto G Power review.

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The Moto Z4 launched in May 2019 without much fanfare, despite the fact that it was one of the earliest phones that connected to 5G. It works with modular Moto Mod accessories, which attaches to the back of the phone via magnetic pins. Besides the Mod for 5G connectivity, there is one for a 260-degree camera and a photo printer. Read our Motorola Moto Z4 review.

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It's been two years since its launch, but the Galaxy S9 is still worthy of consideration. Discounted at about $400 to $500 from Samsung and other retailers, the phone is water resistant, has wireless charging, expandable storage and a headphone jack. Plus, its curved OLED display screen lends the phone a modern-day look that still endures. Read our Samsung Galaxy S9 review.

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