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Best prepaid phones of 2021

What are the best prepaid phones right now? This is our hand-picked list of some of the most outstanding options.

Updated on Jan. 3, 2021

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Written by  Lynn La
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
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Lynn La Senior Editor / Reviews - Phones
Lynn La covers mobile reviews and news. She previously wrote for The Sacramento Bee, Macworld and The Global Post.
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$298 at Amazon
29-iphone-11
Apple iPhone 11
Best midtier iPhone
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$470 at Walmart
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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
Most premium Android for your money
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oneplus-7t-1
OnePlus 7T
Best Android value for 2021
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$139 at Walmart
galaxy-s10e-34
Samsung Galaxy S10E
Little, mighty and worth every penny
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$170 at Walmart
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Google Pixel 3A
Cheaper Pixel 3 with same great camera
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See at Amazon
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Motorola Moto G7
Best budget smartphone gets better
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Editors' note, January 2023: The list of products in this story is no longer actively maintained and may include outdated recommendations.


From 5G connectivity to foldable screens, phone manufacturers are innovating faster than ever to capitalize on many carriers' unlimited data, unlimited talk and unlimited text offerings. While Samsung's Galaxy line and Apple's iPhone are many people's top smartphone choice, there are other cell phone-makers gunning for their place. Android phones with facial recognition, mobile phones with extended battery life and an increasing array of camera options make for greater competition, and all of it benefits us, giving us excellent phones to choose from at a wide range of prices and plans. 

This includes unlocked phone options and prepaid cell phone plans, where you pay for your data (prepaid unlimited data or other data service plans) and text messages or phone calls upfront, rather than with a contract plan. There are a ton of factors to consider when thinking about signing up for a prepaid phone on a prepaid plan. Will the cell phone plan cover as much as a monthly plan? Does the service provider have a solid network? Does the network support your Android phone or iPhone? Is there an activation fee? Will you have access to unlimited calling and texting? 

Read on to see what would be the best prepaid phone for you, and check out our tips on how to buy a new phone. And for more information about prepaid carrier options and service, read our comparison of best prepaid wireless plans: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Boost and more. We'll keep this list of the best prepaid phones updated periodically as we review new products.

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Watch this: What to Look for When Buying a Phone
$3 at Amazon

Apple iPhone 11

Best midtier iPhone

29-iphone-11
Pros
  • Even faster speed, improved battery life. The iPhone 11's cameras get an excellent new Night Mode and an ultrawide-angle camera that can add extra detail in photos. Fantastic video camera.
Cons
  • Only Pro models get the 2x telephoto. The ultrawide-angle camera doesn’t add Night Mode. No USB-C port. The Pro phones have a faster 18-watt charger but the iPhone 11 doesn't. Still has a good -- but not OLED -- display.

Starting at $699, the iPhone 11 is the best midtier cell model Apple has ever made. Its cameras get an excellent new Night Mode and an ultrawide-angle camera adds extra detail in photos. Video is fantastic, too. For more info, read: iPhone 11, Pro, Max: These are the cheapest carriers for Apple's pricey new phones.

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$5 at Walmart

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

Most premium Android for your money

samsung-galaxy-note-10-plus-14
Pros
  • The Galaxy Note 10 Plus delivers the premium goods, from a killer 6.8-inch screen and all-day battery life to excellent camera tools.
Cons
  • The Note 10 Plus is expensive. There's no headphone jack, which will disappoint long-time Samsung fans. The depth-sensing camera is extremely limited.

The refined, feature-packed Note 10 Plus closes the gap with rival phones. This top-of-the-line smartphone was made for people who want the best Android. It has a killer 6.8-inch screen, an all-day battery and excellent camera tools.

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See at Amazon

OnePlus 7T

Best Android value for 2021

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Pros
  • The competitively priced OnePlus 7T runs Android 10 out of the box, has three rear cameras that capture excellent photos, a lightning-fast processor and a smooth 90Hz display.
Cons
  • The phone doesn't have wireless charging or a headphone dongle included in the box.

Despite not having wireless charging or a headphone dongle in the box, the competitively priced OnePlus 7T is one of the first cell phones to come with Android 10. It also has three rear cameras that capture excellent photos, a lightning-quick processor and it has a smooth 90Hz display. It's available unlocked and on T-Mobile, but it also works on AT&T and Verizon's network. OnePlus'  7 Pro is also available unlocked from OnePlus.

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$1 at Walmart

Samsung Galaxy S10E

Little, mighty and worth every penny

galaxy-s10e-34
Pros
  • A dream come true for value shoppers who love small phones. The Galaxy S10E shares the S10's core camera and Snapdragon 855 chipset, so photos and speed are excellent. Battery life and wireless power sharing are also spot-on. Its fingerprint reader and flat screen solve minor problems with the pricier S10 and S10 Plus.
Cons
  • Lefties and people with small hands may find the fingerprint reader placement a tad inconvenient. The indented shape makes taking screenshots feel odd.

As the most wallet-friendly Galaxy S10 phone, the Galaxy S10E has a lot to offer. It's a smaller phone, which is great for those looking for a small grip, it has a superfast Snapdragon 855 chipset and a lengthy battery life. It can also wirelessly charge other phones and accessories.

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$2 at Walmart

Google Pixel 3A

Cheaper Pixel 3 with same great camera

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Pros
  • The Pixel 3A is cheaper than the original Pixel 3 but packs the same grade-A camera that shoots great in low light. It can also record time-lapse videos and has a headphone jack.
Cons
  • The phone isn't water resistant and doesn't have wireless charging. Local storage is capped at 64GB, and Pixel 3A owners have unlimited uploads to Google Photos at a compressed high-quality resolution, not original.

The Pixel 3A shaves a few features off of last year's Pixel 3: It's not water-resistant, doesn't have wireless charging, and it maxes out at 64GB of storage. But it adds a headphone jack and keeps the same amazing Night Sight camera that can shoot great photos in the dark. (Daytime photos look amazing, too.) It's because of its great value that the smartphone recently earned a CNET Editors' Choice.

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See at Amazon

Motorola Moto G7

Best budget smartphone gets better

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Pros
  • The Motorola Moto G7 has a slick contemporary design, a dewdrop notch display, decent dual rear cameras, turbo charging, solid battery life and a near-stock version of Android 9 Pie making it worth every penny.
Cons
  • The single speaker is merely serviceable, low-light photos and general video quality isn't fantastic and the phone costs $50 more than last year's Moto G6.

The Moto G7 is one of the most affordable and reliable mobile phone options. Though its single speaker doesn't offer the greatest sound, and it takes mediocre low-light photos and video, the G7 has dual rear cameras, an enduring battery and a sleek design. It also charges really quickly, which is useful when you need to juice up while on the go.

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