Best Phone Under $200: New Top Pick Checks All the Boxes
The newest winner is one of the most functional phones we've used for under $200.
Updated Nov. 8, 2023 10:00 a.m. PT
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
Reviews ethics statement
Mike SorrentinoSenior Editor
Mike Sorrentino is a Senior Editor for Mobile, covering phones, texting apps and smartwatches -- obsessing about how we can make the most of them. Mike also keeps an eye out on the movie and toy industry, and outside of work enjoys biking and pizza making.
ExpertisePhones, texting apps, iOS, Android, smartwatches, fitness trackers, mobile accessories, gaming phones, budget phones, toys, Star Wars, Marvel, Power Rangers, DC, mobile accessibility, iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal, RCS
You can get good phones under $200 because they're now more functional than ever. For instance, the Samsung Galaxy A14 5G supports faster data with its 5G connectivity and contactless payments over NFC -- both of which are fairly new to phones at this price range. Other phones, like Motorola's Moto G Stylus, are becoming better media machines, providing stereo speakers to improve audio quality while including cameras that take decent photos.
Yet these cheaper phones do have a number of noticeable trade-offs: They usually run slower than more expensive phones, and while they'll usually ship with the latest version of Android, there might be only a short window of security update support. That last issue is particularly important to keep in mind when shopping in this price range, as it's risky to use a phone that's no longer being protected against security vulnerabilities by its manufacturer.
While we wouldn't consider any of these picks to be productivity machines, these phones are likely going to be more useful than you would expect for the price. Plus, some of these devices might end up being "free" when signing up with a phone carrier's subsidization program -- usually requiring a two-year commitment in order to get the cost covered.
What's the best phone under $200?
The $200 Samsung Galaxy A14 5G is our current top pick for the best phone under $200. This is largely because of its inclusion of 5G support for faster data, NFC support for contactless payments and a fairly generous software and security support timeline when compared to other phones in this price range. Samsung will be providing two years of software updates and five years of security updates to the Galaxy A14 5G, making it a phone that can be safely used for several years if you choose to.
However we're not crazy about its photography, and if that's more important to you than 5G, you should also take a look at the $200 Moto G Stylus for its better camera quality.
If you need a phone that's even cheaper, we're also keeping around the $160 Galaxy A03S in this list. That device is still being supported by Samsung, but keep in mind that it has only a tiny 32GB of storage space.
The $200 Samsung Galaxy A14 5G is one of the most functional phones under $200 available right now. Even though it's at a budget-friendly price, this Samsung phone includes 5G support for faster data and NFC for contactless payments using Google Wallet. While both of those inclusions are highlights for this price range, Samsung is also planning to support the Galaxy A14 with two years of software updates and five years of security updates, making it a phone that will be safe to use for several years.
However you should still keep in mind that the phone does have tradeoffs to hit its $200 price. It has a drab design, a slower processor and mixed photography performance.
Yet despite its issues, the features it does include make it an easy recommendation if you are buying the phone outright or if it's offered for free with a carrier subsidy deal.
The $200 Moto G Stylus doesn't have 5G but instead includes a built-in stylus along with a decent 50-megapixel main camera. The Stylus did a nice job taking photos while I was in a variety of environments, including indoors and outdoors. I particularly enjoyed the phone's take on Portrait mode, and it captured a clear photo of the plant wall in CNET's New York office that I use for photo testing. The 6.5-inch 720p display is also able to run at a consistent 90Hz refresh rate, providing smooth animations while navigating apps and reading websites.
The phone is otherwise let down by Motorola's software and security update policy for its G series of phones, covering only one software update and three years of security updates. That, combined with the lack of 5G or NFC, mean that while it's a great choice for better pictures, there are a number of ways this phone could become left behind as the years pass. But if you're planning on using this phone for only two to three years, you could get a lot of value out of this device.
Samsung's Galaxy A03S at $160 (roughly £130, AU$240) could still be a great fit for someone looking for the cheapest possible phone that can handle most essential tasks. The phone's 6.5-inch screen, capped at 720p resolution, is capable for reading the news, watching videos and playing games. Despite some performance lag found during our review, the phone is good at multitasking. But the phone's tiny 32GB of storage space could fill up fast, so if you're considering this phone, it may be worthwhile to think about expanding the storage with a microSD card.
The A03S, first released last year, is getting four years of security updates, meaning that there are still three left. It's less clear how many Android version updates are scheduled, and unlike the newer A14, it does not have 5G support or NFC. While those two benefits along with the A14's 64GB of internal storage are worth the extra $30 price increase, you can still get some mileage out of the A03S if you are simply looking for the cheapest Samsung phone possible.
The $170 Moto G Play's best feature is how its 5,000-mAh battery can stretch itself to three days of battery life. However, beyond that, it's important to disclose that this device is one of the more frustrating phones for under $200.
The phone's MediaTek Helio G37 processor and 3GB of RAM had a challenging time loading apps, and its 32GB of space gets filled up quickly. The phone does include a microSD card slot for storage expansion. Photography was also consistently fuzzy, and the $160 A03S easily outdid the Moto G Play in my photography test.
Despite releasing in 2023, the Moto G Play ships with Android 12 and will receive only one software update to Android 13. It will also receive three years of security updates, which is standard for Motorola's G series of phones.
Ultimately, while I am including this phone on the list due to its long-lasting battery -- which is possibly due to how underpowered this phone feels -- I would sooner point you to any other phone on this list before choosing the Moto G Play.
Show expert takeShow less
How we test phones
Every phone on this list has been thoroughly tested by CNET's expert reviews team. We actually use the phone, test the features, play games and take photos. We assess any marketing promises that a company makes about its phones. And if we find something we don't like, be it battery life or build quality, we tell you all about it.
We examine every aspect of a phone during testing:
Design and feel
We test all of a phone's cameras (both front and back) in a variety of conditions: from outdoors under sunlight to dimmer indoor locales and nighttime scenes (for any available night modes). We also compare our findings against similarly priced models. We run a series of real-world battery tests to see how long a phone lasts under everyday use.
We take into account additional phone features, like 5G, fingerprint and face readers, styluses, fast charging, foldable displays, and other useful extras. And we, of course, weigh all of our experiences and testing against the price, so you know whether a phone represents good value.
5,000 mAh (charger not included, does not support wireless charging)
5,000 mAh (10W charging)
5G-enabled, NFC, 15W charging
Stylus, Moto Gestures
3-day battery life, Moto Gestures, Auto Smile Capture, Portrait Mode
Phones under $200 FAQs
Are cheaper phones worth it?
Phones that are under $200 just focus on the essentials, which means you'll have to make some compromises. You'll be able to make phone calls, text, video chat, browse the web and run most Android apps on these devices. But you shouldn't expect NFC for mobile payments, 5G connectivity or -- unfortunately -- much included storage space.
However, these phones otherwise function well and could be what you're looking for if all you need is a good communication device. They also include features that are becoming increasingly harder to find in more expensive phones, such as an included charger in the box, a headphone jack on the phone, and a microSD card slot for adding more storage.
What about phones that are even cheaper, like under $100?
Phones under $100 do exist, but they usually come with significant compromises.
For instance, the TCL 30 Z is one of the cheapest Android 12 phones available, at $90. Though we haven't tested this phone, I have noticed that it uses the antiquated micro-USB port for charging.
Most other Android phones and wireless headphones, even those in the budget price range, now use USB-C for charging, meaning you might find yourself scrambling for a charger if you misplace it. The phone is also getting only one major software update to Android 13 and two years of security updates, which is short but comparable to some phones sold under $300.
We haven't reviewed any flip phones recently, but anyone looking for a device made specifically for phone calls should be well-served by most available options. Flip phones support 4G signals and -- more importantly -- HD Voice for clearer voice calls. Some flip phones even support modern apps like WhatsApp and the Google Assistant, albeit in a more limited way compared with how these services function on a smartphone. The Nokia 2789 Flip, for instance, is a flip phone running on the brand's KaiOS, which supports downloadable apps and services.