We conclude our series looking at the best value smartphones with this: the best smartphones under £500. This is where things really start to get interesting, as we get entries like brand new iPhones (!), some incredibly good value Android handsets from smaller names and some of the most popular phones on the market. As usual, we’re finding all of our phones from the giffgaff mobile phone marketplace. Here, you can find a new or certified reburbished mobile to suit your needs at almost any budget, so do check it out if none of our recommendations quite hit the spot. With that said, let’s get into the recommendations.
5. Oppo Find X2 Lite 5G (£399)
Let’s start with a model that comes in £100 under our budget but still manages to pack in some impressive specs. Oppo isn’t a phone maker that’s well-known in the West, but the company is one of the most successful in the world with millions of sales a year in their native China and elsewhere. Here, they’re best known by smartphone nerds as the company backing OnePlus, the self-proclaimed “flagship killers”. The Find X2 Lite 5G could also lay claim to that title, with a bunch of features you’d normally find on phones that cost twice the price. The headline feature is 5G connectivity, allowing this phone to connect to next-gen mobile networks that offer faster download speeds and lower latency - brilliant for anyone that consumes high-def videos or plays online games.
Of course, this phone is far from a one trick pony. The design is as clean as you like, with an edge-to-edge display, teardrop front-facing camera and slim bezels throughout. The camera capabilities on tap here are impressive too, with a 48-megapixel shooter on the rear with secondary ultra-wide and depth sensors. On the front, your selfies will look crystal clear with a 32-megapixel wide angle camera. 5G is also only available in the latest mobile hardware too, so as a nice bonus you also get a brand new processor, the Snapdragon 675G, which provides extremely snappy performance in a range of games and apps. Other specs are strong too, with 8GB of RAM to keep plenty of apps in memory, a capacious 4025mAh battery, 128GB of storage and Android 10, the most recent version of Android to be released. Altogether, this is an impressive phone for the money and a great place to start our roundup.
4. Apple iPhone SE 2020 (£419)
The iPhone SE is the most fascinating product Apple has produced in years, as it delivers their most recent super-powerful processor in a classic form factor that hearkens back to the days before the notch - and all for a price that you can actually afford SIM-free. Less than £420 is an unprecedented price for a new iPhone in 2020, and actually makes more sense than the flagship iPhone 11 Pro for most people.
After all, all of the best parts of the iPhone experience are right here: that bleeding-edge processor means that you get Android-beating performance in the latest apps and games, plus Apple will likely support this phone for at least the next five years - after all, they’re still supporting the iPhone 6S with the upcoming iOS 14, and that phone was released back in 2015! That long support period should translate into a phone that retains its value unnaturally well, making this a wiser investment than many equivalent Android phones. It’s also a lifeline for fans of Touch ID, the fingerprint-based login method that has since been replaced by the face-scanning of Face ID in Apple’s newer designs.
Photography is also a point of pride for iPhone fans, and that’s true here too. You only get one rear camera, rather than the cornocopia of snappers on the new designs, but when your one camera is this good, it’s hard to be too upset at the omission of those secondary sensors. That should result in photos that stand among the best Android phones in the world and videos that surpass almost all of them.
So: the iPhone SE 2020 is fantastic. Whether you’re a long-time Apple fan or someone who wants to just find out what all the fuss is about, this is a great choice.
3. Samsung Galaxy A51 5G (£429)
We covered the Samsung Galaxy A51 in our best smartphones under £400 recommendations, where we lauded this phone for its great value at £309, its modern pinhole-selfie-cam design, its reasonable hardware loadout and its use of Android 10. All of those points remain valid for the Galaxy A51 5G, which as you may have guessed by the name uses the same basic design but adds in a more modern Exynos 980 processor with 5G support. That allows you to access modern 5G networks, but also translates into faster performance. That makes the higher asking price of the Galaxy A51 5G more reasonable, although you do of course have the option of going with the Oppo Find X2 Lite 5G at £30 less if you prefer. For what it’s worth, I think most people will prefer the Samsung phone, which uses a more popular flavour of Android 10 and should perform slighty better thanks to its Exynos processor. Still, both are great choices that should laster than their 4G-capable comrades.
2. Apple iPhone X (Refurbished, £479)
The iPhone X is a great phone, but when it was released it was decried as being too expensive for most people to afford with a price tag of £999. Now just a few years later, a “Like New” refurbished iPhone X has been reduced to just £479 in a limited time giffgaff sale, down from its regular price of £529. That puts it in direct contention for our “smartphones under £500” recommendations, and we saw no reason not to include it here. The iPhone X actually has a slower processor than the iPhone SE (2020) we covered earlier, but has a more modern design that includes hands-free Face ID unlocks, a much better screen-to-body ratio and a host of other advanced features. If you want to be seen with the latest and greatest Apple has to offer, this is a fantastic way of doing that on the (relative) cheap.
1. Huawei P30 (£449)
Our top choice this time around is the Huawei P30, a straightforwardly good choice at the £450 mark. The P30 ticks all of the boxes you’d expect from a 2019 Android flagship, with an edge-to-edge screen that measures 6.1 inches along the diagonal, “dew drop” front-facing camera, Kirin 980 processor, 6GB of RAM and a comfortable 128GB of storage. There are three Leica-branded cameras on the back, including wide angle, telephoto and ultra-wide sensors, plus a 32-megapixel front-facing shooter. The software experience is one thing that really sets this phone apart, with Huawei’s unique EMUI skin that translates stock Android 10 into an experience closer to what you’d expect from an Apple handset. Flagship phones tend to lose their high sticker prices quickly, so picking up last year’s handset is often a great way to get competitive specs and features at a price you can more easily afford - and that’s exactly why the P30 is our favourite smartphone under £500 in 2020.
Whew, that just about does it! I hope you’ve found these recommendations helpful and be sure to let me know on Twitter (@wsjudd) if you had any questions or comments.
Hungry for more recommendations? Take a look at the rest of our best value smartphone guides linked below:
Thumbnail image credit: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels