The Best Budget Smartphones Available in Australia 2020
What are the best budget phones available in Australia and what makes them so good?
There was once a time when the mid-range smartphone market was about as appealing as a KFC Family Feast; easy on the wallet and a little nasty. Smartphones with all the basics for web browsing, social media and photography without any of the bells and whistles.
That was a time when the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy announcement meant something. Premium smartphones with exclusive access to some of the most advanced technologies available. Over the years, iPhone/Samsung fever has begun to wane and most punters have become fatigued by the incremental innovations introduced with each release. With the premium plateau in full-swing, budget smartphones are more appealing than ever with the best of the lot including most of the features included in top-tier smartphones and only a few downgrades (typically performance).
The sheer range of budget phones with a premium feel begs the question: do you really need to spend over $1,000 on a smartphone every two years?
If you answered no, we’ve got the best budget smartphones available in Australia below.
Best phones under $800
We know what you’re thinking, throwing $800 down for a smartphone isn’t most people’s idea of “sticking to a budget” but if you consider yourself a bit of a tech nerd or a semi-professional photographer, you might want to spend a little extra upfront for a decent camera and processor. Plus, with the latest iPhone 11 Pro costing up to $2,149 upfront, $800 starts to sound a little more affordable.
These phones are once removed from full-blown premium.
1. Google Pixel 3a
Simply the best budget phone under $800
The Google Pixel 3a isn’t just a great affordable smartphone, it’s a great smartphone full stop. It’s a game-changer.
Priced at $649 outright, the Pixel 3a comparatively cheap handset with the kind of amazing camera we’ve previously only see in smartphones that cost over a grand. In fact, it’s easily one of the best smartphone cameras around, regardless of price.
Better yet, this is coupled with great battery life, solid performance, and an excellent display. All up, this makes the Pixel 3a is the kind of smartphone that genuinely poses the question “why spend more?”
The Pixel 3a is easy to recommend to anyone. It makes incredible photography available to a much wider audience without making too many compromises. A few high-end features have been cut to keep costs down, but at the end of the day, you get 90% of a premium smartphone at about half the price, if not less.
In short, the Google Pixel 3a is the most sensible smartphone you can buy right now.
Alex Choros, Managing Editor at WhistleOut. Read the full review here.
The Google Pixel 3a is available on contract via Vodafone or outright purchase through Amazon Australia.
2. Samsung Galaxy A70
Big, beautiful display on a budget
If you’re looking for something at a similar price, you can’t go past the top of Samsung’s mid-range, the Galaxy A70. At $649 outright, or as low as $40 per month on a contract, you get a rich 6.7-inch AMOLED “Infinity-U” display and a top-quality triple-lens camera array.
The Galaxy A70’s teardrop notch and subtle bezel give it a premium sheen rarely found below the $1,000 mark. The huge display is also incredibly crisp. The Super AMOLED panel doesn’t pack in quite as many pixels-per-inch as the S10 or S10+ but it is still an incredibly bright display that feels more expensive than it is.
On the performance side of things, you will only notice a little bit of lag when using some of the camera’s more advanced shooting modes or operating biometric security features (facial recognition and fingerprint scanning are a little slow).
The Google Pixel 3a is the clear winner for smartphone cameras at this price tier but the Galaxy A70 is a solid contender. Besides a little distortion on ultra-wide-angle snaps, its top-tier camera array with super simple functionality (great for amateur photographers).
Brodie Fogg, Editor at Reviews AU. Read the full Samsung Galaxy A70 review here.
The Samsung Galaxy A70 is available outright via Amazon Australia.
Best phones below $500
Now we venture into true mid-range territory. Anything below $500 that does most of what a premium smartphone can do is the very definition of “budget smartphone” to us.
At this price tier, you might begin to notice a difference in quality. Corners have been cut to save on manufacturing costs; cheaper builds, fewer camera options and slower processors are typically what you will find if you’re used to top-of-the-line smartphones.
But again, these phones will be capable enough for most and the budget phones we’ve listed below make the most of what they’ve got.
3. Oppo Reno Z
Premium feel with an affordable price tag
The OPPO Reno Z is a cut-price taste of a flagship quality device. You won’t find every single bell and whistle, but at $499, it’s more phone than the cost would lead you to believe.
OPPO has done a great job of making an affordable handset that still feels premium. The Reno Z is cut from the same cloth as OPPO’s pricier phones, sharing a high-end look and feel. You even get a pretty decent camera, with a massive 48MP sensor. While it can be a little slow to shoot in some situations, you can still take great photos with the Reno Z.
Otherwise, the Reno Z makes few compromises. It’s zippy enough and the battery will last up to two days. For $499, the Reno Z is hard to fault.
Alex Choros, Managing Editor at WhistleOut. Read the full review here.
The Oppo Reno Z is available for outright purchase via Amazon Australia.
4. Moto G7 Plus
A polished device that doesn’t feel too far removed from the premium range
Motorola’s G series handsets have always represented excellent value, and in 2019, this is truer than ever.
Smartphone prices may have risen to new heights over the last 12 months, but Motorola has shown great restraint with the Moto G7 Plus.
A Moto G6 Plus cost you $499 at launch last year. Right now, you’ll pay $449 for a Moto G7 Plus. Better yet, Motorola has refined the Moto G7 Plus to the point where it feels like more than just an affordable phone.
The Moto G7 Plus is an incredibly polished device that doesn’t feel too far removed from the far pricier phones it goes up against. Photo quality is the biggest concession you’ll make, which isn’t too surprising given its budget device status.
All in all, the Moto G7 Plus is a reliable, affordable phone that’s priced perfectly for what it is.
The Moto G7 Plus is sold through Amazon in Australia.
Best phones below $400
These smartphones have absolutely no right costing under $400. It’s a steal, honestly.
The sub-$400 smartphone space is littered with cheap handsets dressed up to look premium without anything notable under the hood.
Now and then, you find a gem. A surprisingly solid smartphone at a fraction of the cost. That’s exactly what we found with the Huawei Y9 Prime.
5. Huawei Y9 Prime
Big phone, burly battery and a low-budget price tag
With its latest mid-range handset, the Y9 Prime, Huawei decided to market its quirky pop-up camera as the main selling point. Fair play to ’em. The pop-up selfie camera is an engineering marvel that allows this cheap-as-chips handset to lose the notch altogether for an edge-to-edge “Ultra Full-View” display. Mid-range phone displays don’t tend to handle the notch as well as premium handsets, like the Apple iPhone 11 or Samsung Galaxy S10, so ditching it for a pop-up camera is a good solution.
But Huawei should be selling the Y9 Prime on its stellar battery life. The Huawei Y9 Prime packs a whopping 4,000mAh battery. It’s also got a huge 6.59-inch display. Typically, these two things level each other out, so you find more often than not that there’s little difference between a bigger phone’s battery and a smaller phone’s. That’s not the case with the Y9 Prime. This battery is robust.
In my review, I managed to squeeze 3 days out of the Y9 Prime with one full day of photography and regular usage and two typical workdays with average use.
For just $399, I honestly couldn’t recommend the Y9 Prime enough.
This one comes with a small buyer beware though as we’re still not entirely sure what the deal is with Huawei’s rocky relationship with Google. With that said, we know you’ll at least get another year’s use out of it before any significant changes and for the price, it’s worth it.
Brodie Fogg, Editor at Reviews AU. Read the full Huawei Y9 Prime review here.
6. Oppo AX7
The best mobile phone under $300 in Australia
Smartphones this cheap typically have the looks to match. The Oppo AX7 breaks that mould with a low to mid-tier mindset and top-tier design. Its plastic build manages to pull off a metallic look more common in classier handsets and on the business side, you’ve got plenty of screen real estate with a teardrop notch.
Looks can be deceiving. Just because someone’s wearing a suit and tie doesn’t mean you should invest in their timeshare. And just because a phone’s got a fancy finish doesn’t mean it’s got the goods under the hood you’d expect from a modern smartphone. Thankfully, this isn’t a wolf in sheep’s clothing situation.
Sure, you have to make some concessions with the Oppo AX7: there’s the occasional performance dip, the budget camera doesn’t love low light and there are the usual software quirks you find at this price point. But at the end of the day, the AX7 still has a solid battery life (around 2 days), a bright and colourful display and a perfectly capable 13MP standard camera with sufficient lighting.
Read the full Oppo AX7 over on WhistleOut
More budget smartphones in Australia
The phones above are our top picks for budget smartphones in Australia but there’s a wide range of cheaper prepaid smartphones from various Australians such as Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Woolworths Mobile.
Here’s a small selection of prepaid handsets from each provider.