The 6.67-inch AMOLED screen is colorful, and it gets bright enough to see outdoors. The 4,500-mAh battery cell comfortably lasts for more than a full day of use, and it has the usual niceties, like NFC, a headphone jack, and a MicroSD card slot. The only reason it’s not our top pick is that TCL only promises two OS upgrades and two years of security updates, so the Google and Samsung phones above will be supported for a longer time. It also supports 5G but not on AT&T (4G LTE still works), and there’s no IP rating for water resistance. It has a pretty good camera system, but it’s not as good as the aforementioned competitors.
That said, TCL’s 30 series successors, announced at MWC 2022, are expected to arrive soon. If you are not in a rush to upgrade your phone, it’s worth waiting.
Works on all three major US carriers (5G does not work on AT&T).
This Motorola phone is rare. Unlike its Moto G siblings, it has an NFC chip so it can make contactless payments via Google Pay—handy when you forgot your wallet at home. It has two-day battery life, sub-6 5G connectivity, and pretty solid performance. Don’t expect much from the cameras, but if you don’t care about ’em or about software updates much, this will surely satisfy. Try not to pay more than $300.
We tested Motorola’s Moto G Power 2022 and Moto G Pure but don’t recommend them here because the 2021 Moto G Power trounces them in every way and costs nearly the same (if not less). It’s a similar story with HMD’s Nokia G50. It’s a fine phone, but it misses many features you’ll find on other $300 phones, including the Galaxy A32 5G.
It depends. We’re happy with the picks we have in our guide right now. However, the Google Pixel 6A will likely be announced in May, and if the past is any indication, it might become our new favorite cheap phone. It’s worth waiting for it if your budget can stretch to a little less than $500. Then there are new TCL, OnePlus, and Nokia phones coming in the next few months (as well the new Moto G Stylus 5G 2022 ($500) and Moto G 5G 2022 ($400) Motorola just announced). If you can’t wait, go with one of the options above. If you can, you might have newer options come May or June.
Consider Last Year’s Flagship Phones
If none of these phones have the features you want or they aren’t as powerful as you like, your best option is to look for last year’s flagship smartphones, which might be steeply discounted. Sometimes they’re easy to find, but some manufacturers stop selling them altogether (the 2021 Samsung Galaxy S21 series will soon disappear). Keep in mind that you’ll lose a year of software support.
Check Network Compatibility
If you buy an unlocked phone on this list and try to take it to one of your wireless carrier’s retail stores, they may tell you it isn’t compatible with the network. It likely is. Just use a paper clip or SIM ejection tool to pop the SIM card out of your current phone, then slide that SIM into your new phone. If it doesn’t work at first, reboot the phone or wait a couple of hours.
If you need a new SIM, try ordering one online from your carrier or try to get them to give you a SIM when you activate a line in the store (if you’re starting coverage). Tell them you have a phone. Many times, reps will want to sell you a phone; that’s one potential reason they might hassle you into buying a different device in the store.