Cheaper Upgrades: 3 Cell Phones That Cost Less Than $500 (And Actually Work Well)

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Cell phones are more than just communication devices, they’re also vehicles for streaming, recording, photographing, and so much more — and the famous flagship phones (think the iPhone 14 Pro and the Google Pixel 7) go for a fortune. But, consumers needn’t break their bank accounts to own a high-quality smartphone.

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Here’s a look at three smartphones that, though admittedly not the newest and shiniest on the market, deliver great service and high-tech features.

Apple iPhone SE

This may be Apple’s cheapest phone, but it’s a classic — and it touts Apple’s latest A15 Bionic chip, meaning it’s just as fast and smooth as more expensive models. It’s also 5G network-friendly, meaning it can stream and download content as quickly as any of the flashier flagship models on the market. The only real con is the camera, which is pretty small and basic compared to more recent offerings.

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The iPhone SE retails for new on the Apple Store for as low as $429.

Samsung Galaxy A53

Android loyalists should appreciate the Galaxy A53, which features a stunning 120Hz display, expandable storage (up to 1 terabyte), and high performance along with stellar software support. Again, though, the camera isn’t as impressive as its more expensive competitors in the Samsung family. It’s also compatible with 5G networks.

The Galaxy A53 goes for as low as $344.99 (from Samsung’s store), making it the most affordable option on this list.

Google Pixel 6a

Praised by Tom’s Guide as the best phone under $500, the Pixel 6a rivals newer models with its brilliant camera. It also sports strong battery life, a bright display, and tensor-powered capabilities. The downside is that it’s constructed out of cheaper materials than some premium Google models and the battery may need replacing sooner rather than later. But it does support 5G connectivity, which is increasingly important.

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The Pixel 6a retails new for as low as $449.

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.
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