I review phones for a living, and budget devices impress me more than flagships these days


I’m on the smartphone reviews team here at Tom’s Guide, which should mean that I get to test my share of all sorts of handsets, be they high profile or under the radar. But this year, thanks to quirks of scheduling, release dates and workloads, I’ve seen an influx of lower-cost midrange devices cross my desk.

I’m not complaining — this has been a rather fortunate turn of events for yours truly, as it’s been a really strong year for cheap phones that might otherwise get overshadowed by more powerful flagships.

Take the Samsung Galaxy A54 that came out earlier this year. Samsung may prefer that you confine your smartphone search to its Galaxy S23 lineup, so much so that phone maker has come out with a lower-cost model, the Galaxy S23 FE, that looks to entice people put off by the flagship’s $799 starting price. But even with that cheaper phone, I’d still steer people toward the Galaxy A54, thanks to its strong battery life, colorful display and impressive-for-the-price cameras. Even people not on a tight budget would be well-advised to consider the $449 Galaxy A54, given that phone’s strengths.

Pixel 7a (left) and Galaxy A54 (right) (Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

Of course, the Galaxy A54’s reign as the best cheap phone lasted right up until the Google Pixel 7a arrived later in the summer. By using a Tensor G2 chip, Google’s budget phone could deliver the same features found on more expensive Pixel 7 models. And its cameras proved to be the best of any phone under $500, capable of holding their own against the best camera phones.


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