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Phones in the $400 to $500 price range are offering a lot in 2022. You can often get the latest processors from Apple and Google, years of software updates and great cameras without having to stretch for a phone that costs $700 or more.
These phones for under $500 do make some compromises when compared to more expensive models, but nothing that prevents you from being able to do everything you'd like from playing games to hosting video chats and multitasking. Instead, you should note what the phone excels at and whether that makes up for an area where it might not. Some of these devices have 120Hz refresh rate screens with silky animations, but might use a slightly slower processor. Others do the opposite and put a brand-new, blazing fast processor into a phone body that has smaller screen and a 60Hz refresh rate.
This list below has the best phones under $500. Check back often, since we update it regularly, and check out CNET's in-depth reviews of each product to help you find exactly what you need (and what to look out for). We've attached links to unlocked versions of each phone on our budget phone list so that you can meet individual needs with the best phone under $500. Needs vary, so you'll want the one with the flexibility and specific stats you desire. Unlocked phones run on most of the big four US wireless carriers, except for rare exceptions that are specified below.
The Pixel 6A is Google's newest Android 12 phone, replacing the Pixel 5A as the $449 device in its lineup. CNET's Lisa Eadicicco called it the "best Android phone under $500" in her Pixel 6A review, calling out how it keeps the same Tensor chip seen in the $599 Pixel 6 and many of its features.
The phone is slightly smaller than the Pixel 6, featuring an 6.1-inch OLED display and a refresh rate of 60Hz. And it has a similar camera to the Pixel 5A, including a 12.2-megapixel main camera and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera. But by including the Tensor chip, photos can benefit from its Real Tone skin tone feature, Face Unblur, Night Sight for darker photography and the Magic Eraser for removing unwanted elements from a photo.
The $450 (£399, AU$699) Samsung Galaxy A53 includes many of the best features seen in the Galaxy S22 line, with a few tradeoffs to hit that lower price. The phone includes a 6.5-inch AMOLED screen with a 2,400x1,080-pixel resolution, 5G support and a long-lasting 5,000mAh battery. The phone also comes with a 64-megapixel main camera, 12-megapixel ultrawide camera, 5-megapixel macro camera and 5-megapixel depth camera.
But a particular high point for this phone is Samsung's pledge to provide four years of software support, in addition to shipping with Android 12 with Samsung's One UI 4.1.
Apple's new iPhone SE for 2022 is a mix of an older design with the latest smartphone features, including Apple's latest A15 Bionic chip and 5G support, for $429. It's also one of the few phones on the market that includes a smaller 4.7-inch screen.
Yet it's that throwback design, which continues the general shape that Apple has used since 2014, that could be what you love or dislike most about this phone. If you want a larger iPhone in this price range, you can also consider the iPhone 11 at $499 to get a bigger screen and Face ID. But that phone does not include 5G connectivity.
The Moto G Stylus 5G (2022) for $500 is one of the best stylus-equipped phones you can get right now, especially for the price. You get Android 12, 5G connectivity, a large 6.8-inch screen and a spacious 256GB of storage. Unfortunately, the phone is only promised one software update and three years of security updates, which is a much shorter timeline than the four years promised by Samsung for the Galaxy A53.
Yet if you want a stylus-equipped phone, the next step-up option is the substantially more expensive Galaxy S22 Ultra at $1,200.
With the launch of the iPhone 13 series, Apple gave its iPhone 11 lineup a healthy discount meaning you can now pick up the base 64GB model for only $499. It might be a couple of generations old, but this phone is still more than capable, handling gaming well and equipped with two superb rear cameras.