The 9 cheapest smartphones (iPhone, Android) in 2021

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Applicable to the three major U.S. operators (5G will soon be applicable to Verizon, but not to AT&T)


Yes and no. All our choices are good choices, but Google is expected to launch Pixel 5A in August. It is likely to replace our first choice. If you are not in a hurry, you should wait.

Think of last year’s flagship phone

If none of these phones have the features you want or are not as powerful as you like, your best bet is to look for last year’s flagship smartphone, which may be significantly discounted. Sometimes they are easy to find, but some manufacturers stop selling them altogether, such as 2020 Samsung Galaxy S20.

Remember, you will lose one year of software support.For example, last year’s OnePlus 8 Now it only costs $449. Considering its powerful features, this is a pretty good price, but it will only get two more operating system upgrades and three years of security updates.

Check network compatibility

If you buy an unlocked phone from this list and try to take it to one of your wireless carrier’s retail stores, they may tell you that it is not compatible with the network. Probably. Just use a paperclip or SIM card eject tool to eject the SIM card from your current phone, and then slide the SIM card into your new phone. If it doesn’t work at first, restart your phone or wait a few hours.

If you need a new SIM card, try to order online from your carrier, or try to have them provide you with a SIM card when you activate a line in the store (if you are starting to cover). Tell them you have a phone. Many times, sales representatives want to sell you a mobile phone; this is a potential reason why they may trouble you to buy different devices in the store.

Having said that, please make sure that any cell phone you buy will work on your wireless network. The list of retailers such as Amazon should clearly state which networks it will be compatible with. Also, make sure that the list says that the phone is sold “unlocked”.

Verizon user warning: The possibility of unlocking the phone being unavailable on your network is higher. Make sure it is marked as available on Verizon, or it says the phone supports CDMA. If something strange happens, such as not receiving a text message, you may also need to contact customer service and ask them to enable CDMA-Less roaming. AT&T and T-Mobile are GSM operators, which are standards in most parts of the world; most unlocked mobile phones are compatible with them.

If you are nervous, check the specifications of the exact model you are considering. Make sure it has the required LTE or 5G frequency bands to run on your carrier. When it comes to networking, you don’t have to rush to buy a 5G phone. Some of our choices support the new network, but 5G is still rare in the United States, and the speed is not much faster than LTE.

If the phone is not listed here, or if the phone has been refurbished, please be careful. When you buy a reasonably priced mobile phone, it is easy to waste money or time. When you use it in a store for five minutes, it is difficult to understand how cheaper phones will work in the long run, and retail employees may not be of much help. Make sure you read the reviews online. A good rule of thumb is to avoid most devices that were originally introduced before 2020. If they are supported now, they may not continue to receive software and security updates for a long time.

For example, we do not recommend buying iPhone XR at the current retail price. The phone is good (8/10, wired recommendation), but it’s only $100 cheaper than the more powerful iPhone 11, Which is very superior in many ways, and definitely Buy an iPhone If your budget can be expanded to $600.


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