Best Prepaid Phone of 2024: Value Picks for Cheaper Plans

    Updated Feb. 7, 2024 5:00 a.m. PT
    Written by 
    Mike Sorrentino

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    Mike Sorrentino Senior Editor Mike Sorrentino is a Senior Editor for Mobile, overlaying telephones, texting apps and smartwatches — obsessing about how we are able to benefit from them. Mike additionally retains an eye fixed out on the film and toy trade, and outdoors of labor enjoys biking and pizza making. Expertise Phones, texting apps, iOS, Android, smartwatches, health trackers, cellular equipment, gaming telephones, price range telephones, toys, Star Wars, Marvel, Power Rangers, DC, cellular accessibility, iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal, RCS
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    Prepaid telephone carriers are continuously touting cellphone plan offers and promotions. In some instances, carriers provide plans that value considerably lower than what’s supplied by Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. But it is useful to know the way pay as you go and conventional carriers work once you’re trying to find the very best worth in inexpensive plans.
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    Most pay as you go telephone operators are owned by or carefully affiliated with the three main carriers. This means telephones that work on postpaid plans typically additionally work on pay as you go plans. For occasion, T-Mobile is the proprietor of Mint Mobile, AT&T owns Cricket and Visible is owned by Verizon Wireless. Other pay as you go telephone carriers like Boost Mobile and Google Fi offer you entry to those self same networks together with aggressive pricing and perks. This permits for lots of flexibility once you join pay as you go plan, as a result of almost any unlocked telephone will be introduced over.Many of those pay as you go telephone carriers promote gadgets too, and whereas their promotions aren’t essentially wherever near a “free iPhone,” you’ll be able to probably get smaller reductions off the acquisition of a tool whereas switching to a pay as you go telephone provider. So in forming this listing for the very best pay as you go telephones, we took into consideration gadgets which can be obtainable straight from pay as you go carriers alongside value-filled telephones that you would be able to purchase unlocked.See extra: Best pay as you go telephone plansWhat is the very best pay as you go telephone of 2024?Like with any telephone alternative, the very best gadget goes to rely upon what you’re valuing essentially the most out of your telephone as a communication gadget and as a digital camera. However, if gadget value is essentially the most delicate subject alongside getting a less expensive pay as you go telephone plan, then the $200 Samsung Galaxy A14 5G is the choice I can most advocate. While pay as you go telephone carriers do provide even cheaper telephone choices than the Galaxy A14, this Samsung telephone is the lowest-cost technique to get a tool that features 5G compatibility and NFC for contactless funds. Samsung can be offering the A14 with two main software program updates (the primary of which will likely be primarily based on Android 14 launched in late 2023) together with 5 years of safety updates, making it a safe telephone to make use of for a number of years. That mentioned, the gadget is a little bit sluggish in efficiency and the digital camera is not nice, but when value is the very best precedence then the A14 is in any other case an ideal entry-level choice for a pay as you go telephone plan.Best pay as you go telephones of 2024 Show much less The $200 Samsung Galaxy A14 5G is likely one of the most practical telephones beneath $200 obtainable proper now. Even although it is at a budget-friendly worth, this Samsung telephone consists of 5G help for quicker knowledge and NFC for contactless funds utilizing Google Wallet. While each of these options are highlights for this worth vary, Samsung can be planning to help the Galaxy A14 with two years of software program updates and 5 years of safety updates, making it a telephone that will likely be secure to make use of for a number of years. However it is best to nonetheless remember that the telephone does have tradeoffs to hit its $200 worth. It has a colorless design, a slower processor and combined pictures efficiency. Yet regardless of its points, the options it does embrace make it a straightforward advice if you’re shopping for the telephone outright or if it is supplied without cost with a provider subsidy deal.Pros:NFC for contactless pay90Hz refresh rateGood software program and safety replace timelineCons:Sluggish efficiencyMixed photographySingle audio speaker Show knowledgeable take Show much less Show much less The $300 OnePlus Nord N30 5G consists of a number of options for the cash, however its 50W charging velocity is a standout for this worth vary. The telephone can cost from 0% to 100% in 45 minutes, and most different telephones that value $300 or much less want 90 minutes to 2 hours to do the identical factor. Its giant 6.72-inch 1080p show that runs at a 120Hz refresh charge additionally makes apps, video games, web sites and streaming video animate easily. However it is price calling out that the 108-megapixel fundamental digital camera — regardless of being an astounding megapixel quantity on a telephone — takes pictures which can be solely marginally higher than what I normally see from telephones on this worth vary. That means it will possibly take good, detail-filled pictures in outside settings with loads of mild. However pictures taken in darker settings are a battle for the N30, with indoor pictures wanting washed out or blurry.The telephone will even solely get one software program replace to Android 14 (launched in late 2023) together with three years of safety updates — which is a mean timeline for this worth vary but nonetheless disappointingly brief.Pros:Truly quick chargingLarge 120Hz refresh charge screenNFC for contactless paymentsCons:Mixed photographyShort software program replace timeline Show knowledgeable take Show much less Show much less Google’s price range telephone took a leap ahead in 2023 with the $499 Pixel 7A, which gives lots of the identical advantages because the Pixel 7 however at a less expensive worth. Like the Pixel 7, the Pixel 7A runs on Google’s Tensor G2 processor, which means it has lots of the identical picture enhancing and language translation options as its pricier sibling. The Pixel 7A’s 64-megapixel digital camera additionally takes wonderful pictures that rival the Pixel 7’s in high quality.  An particularly good perk concerning the Pixel 7A is its software program replace timeline: It will get three years of software program updates (the primary of which is Android 14 launched in late 2023) and 5 years of safety updates. On high of that, the 7A will likely be among the many first Android gadgets to get these software program updates, with Google capable of push them on to its Pixel telephones alongside Feature Drops that add options all year long.Pros:Excellent digital cameraMany of the identical options because the Pixel 7 at a less expensive priceAttractive designGains wi-fi charging, face unlock and excessive refresh rateCons: Screen nonetheless appears dim outdoorsHigher worth in contrast with Pixel 6A at launch Show knowledgeable take Show much less Show much less Samsung revived its FE line of gadgets this 12 months with the $600 Samsung Galaxy S23 FE. The new telephone largely takes the very best specs of the Samsung Galaxy S22, together with a quick (albeit two-year-old) Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor alongside a 50-megapixel fundamental digital camera, and locations it inside a colourful aluminum physique that highlights a 6.4-inch 1080p show. It ends in a telephone that gives an entry-level worth for a tool that options Samsung’s higher-end options, which embrace the desktop-optimized DeX mode and reverse wi-fi charging.While researching my evaluation of the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE, I discovered it offers a pleasant step up from Samsung’s A-series of telephones with its energy and pictures. However, similar to with the Galaxy S22, I did discover that the Galaxy S23 FE’s battery life is shorter than I would like throughout my testing, however its 25W wired charging will help for a fast noon cost when wanted.Pros:Fast performanceLower worth for higher-end featuresLow-light photographyCons: Battery lifeFeels much like the Galaxy S22, for higher and worse Show knowledgeable take Show much less Show much less Apple’s $599 iPhone 13 is at the moment essentially the most up-to-date but inexpensive choice the corporate gives in its telephone lineup, which features a bigger 6.1-inch display with Face ID, 128GB of storage and the entire options included in iOS 17. While you may get a brand new iPhone SE at $429 that features the identical processor because the iPhone 13 with many equal options, it does so inside a dated design that features a smaller 4.7-inch display and a relatively small 64GB of cupboard space. In addition to the iPhone 13’s bigger dimension, the telephone is reportedly going to obtain help for Qi2 wi-fi charging, in keeping with 9to5Mac. Should that turn into official, it can imply the iPhone 13 will likely be appropriate with a wave of quicker wi-fi chargers which can be anticipated to hit the market in 2024, alongside the telephone’s current help for Apple’s MagSafe line of wi-fi chargers.While I’d prefer to see Apple deliver again a $499 iPhone choice — maybe by reviving the iPhone Mini design — for now Apple’s $599 iPhone 13 is likely one of the lower-priced methods to purchase a larger-screen iPhone in new situation and get entry to Apple’s providers like iMessage.Pros:Runs Apple’s latest iOS 17 and consists of iMessage and FaceTime accessNice cameras with Cinematic modeMagnetic wi-fi charging and equipment with MagSafeCons:Display notch is noticeable a part of displayComparably priced Android telephones embrace newer options and specs Patrick Holland/CNET Photo Gallery 1/1 Patrick Holland/CNET Show knowledgeable take Show much less While pay as you go telephone carriers promote all kinds of telephones — together with many flagship telephones from yesteryear — for our greatest pay as you go telephones listing, I’ve centered the picks on telephones which can be at the moment obtainable unlocked from a telephone maker along with telephones you should purchase straight from a provider. This is partly due to software program and safety updates — every of those picks will obtain at the least one main software program replace and at the least three years of safety updates, which prolong the lifespan of those telephones. It’s an necessary distinction, as a result of regardless that you should purchase a tool just like the Google Pixel 3A XL from Mint Mobile for $130, that gadget is not receiving safety updates. This means the telephone is not as secure to make use of as a lower-cost gadget that’s nonetheless receiving energetic vulnerability safety from its telephone maker.As a outcome most picks on this listing are telephones which were launched inside 2023, aside from Apple’s iPhone 13. This is as a result of Apple’s telephones traditionally obtain a few years of software program and safety help — as an illustration whereas Apple not too long ago sundown main iOS software program updates to 2017’s iPhone X and that iPhone 8, each gadgets are nonetheless receiving safety updates. This permits us to be fairly assured that Apple will likely be offering many extra years of software program and safety updates to the iPhone 13, even because the gadget enters its third 12 months in the marketplace.  Finding the suitable worth is essential: A profit to getting a pay as you go telephone plan over postpaid is that by shopping for your service upfront, you will not in any other case be caught on a contract nor do it’s essential get a credit score test so as to join a cellphone plan. However, it does imply that you’re unlikely to obtain a deep low cost off of your subsequent gadget once you aren’t bringing over an current one, since many telephone carriers provide hefty gadget subsidy incentives when signing up with a brand new postpaid plan or renewing an current one. This implies that gadget value goes to be a vital subject when shopping for a telephone to make use of on a pay as you go plan, since you could possibly be footing your entire invoice. Target your most necessary wants: You’ll wish to determine whether or not you want a less expensive gadget that covers all your important features or if you’re OK with springing for a dearer gadget with extra capabilities. Remember to buy round: While many US telephone purchases are made by way of a telephone provider, most pay as you go telephone plans embrace a bring-your-own-device choice. This means you do not have to purchase your handset from a pay as you go telephone provider to enroll with them, which is useful when you have one already or particularly in the event you discover a deal at one other retailer for a similar gadget. After buy, you’ll as a substitute join a plan along with your pay as you go provider and comply with their instructions for organising your gadget with their service. Make certain you purchase a appropriate gadget: Even although you do not have to purchase your telephone from a pay as you go provider, you do want to ensure the telephone you buy is appropriate with it. For occasion, if you’re shopping for a telephone to make use of on Mint Mobile, you may wish to be sure that it is a gadget that is appropriate with T-Mobile’s community. Same with Cricket, working on AT&T. Same with Visible, working on Verizon. Most pay as you go carriers will inform you what networks their service runs on, and that can assist you to match up what gadget you want from there. Every telephone on this listing has been completely examined by CNET’s knowledgeable critiques group. We use the telephone, take a look at the options, play video games and take pictures. We assess any advertising guarantees that an organization makes about its telephones. And if we discover one thing we do not like, be it battery life or construct high quality, we inform you about it. We look at each facet of a telephone throughout testing:DisplayDesign and feelProcessor efficiencyBattery lifeCamera high qualityFeaturesWe take a look at all of the telephone’s cameras (each back and front) in a wide range of circumstances: from open air beneath daylight to dimmer indoor locales and nighttime scenes (for any obtainable night time modes). We additionally examine our findings in opposition to equally priced fashions. We have a collection of actual world battery assessments to see how lengthy a telephone lasts beneath on a regular basis use.We bear in mind further telephone options like 5G, fingerprint and face readers, styluses, quick charging, foldable shows and different helpful extras. We weigh all our experiences and testing in opposition to the worth so you understand whether or not a telephone represents good worth.Read extra: How we take a look at telephonesSamsung Galaxy A14 5G vs. OnePlus Nord N30 5G vs. Google Pixel 7A vs. Samsung Galaxy S23 FE vs. Apple iPhone 13 undefined Samsung Galaxy A14 5GOnePlus Nord N30 5GGoogle Pixel 7ASamsung Galaxy S23 FEApple iPhone 13 Display dimension, decision 6.6-inch FHD+ LCD show, (1,400 x 1,080 pixels), 90Hz6.72-inch FHD (1080p decision); 120Hz refresh rate6.1-inch OLED; 2,400×1,080 pixels; 60/90Hz 6.4-inch AMOLED show; 2,340 x 1,080 pixels; adaptive 120Hz refresh charge (60-120Hz)6.1-inch OLED; 2,532×1,170 pixelsPixel density 268 ppi391 ppi361 ppi466 ppi460 ppiDimensions (inches) 6.6 x 3.07 x 0.36 in.6.51 x 2.99 x 0.32 in.6.00 x 2.87 x 0.35 in.6.22 x 3.01 x 0.32 in.5.78 x 2.82 x 0.3 in.Dimensions (millimeters) 167.6 x 77.9 x 9.1mm165.5 x 76 x 8.3mm73 x 152 x 9.0mm157.9 x 76.4 x 8.1mm147 x 72 x 7.65mmWeight (ounces, grams) 203g (7.19 oz.)195g (6.97 oz.)193g (6.81 oz.)209g (7.4 oz.)6.14 oz.; 174gMobile software program Android 13Android 13Android 13Android 13iOS 15Digital camera 50-megapixel (fundamental), 2-megapixel (macro), 2-megapixel (depth)108-megapixel fundamental, 2-megapixel macro, 2-megapixel depth sensing64-megapixel (fundamental), 13-megapixel (ultrawide)50-megapixel (large), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 8-megapixel (telephoto)12-megapixel (large), 12-megapixel (ultrawide)Front-facing digital camera 13-megapixel16-megapixel13-megapixel, 4K @ 30fps10-megapixel12-megapixelVideo seize 1080p at 30fps1080p at 30fps4K at 30/60fps8K at 24fps, 4K at 60fpsHDR video recording with Dolby Vision as much as 4K at 60 fpsProcessor MediaTek MT6833VQualcomm Snapdragon 695Tensor G2Snapdragon 8 Gen 1Apple A15 BionicRAM/Storage 4GB + 64GB8GB + 128GB8GB + 128GB8GB + 128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB, 512GBExpandable storage YesYesNoneNoNoBattery/Charger 5,000 mAh5,000 mAh (50W wired charging)4,385 mAh (18W quick charging 7.5W wi-fi charging) 4,500 mAh (25W wired charging)Battery capability not disclosed (20W wired charging, 15W MagSafe wi-fi charging)Fingerprint sensor SideSideIn-displayIn-displayNo (Face ID)Connector USB-CUSB-CUSB-CUSB-CLightningHeadphone jack YesYesNoneNoNoSpecial options 5G-enabled, NFC, 15W charging50W SuperVooc quick charging, 108-megapixel fundamental digital camera, recreation mode, twin stereo speakers5G (5G sub6 / mmWave), IP67 score, 18W quick charging, 7.5W wi-fi charging Wireless PowerShare, Fast Wireless Charging 2.0, Samsung Knox with Samsung Knox Vault, IP68 water resistance5G enabled; MagSafe; waterproof (IP68); wi-fi charging; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM) Price off-contract (USD) $200$250$374, $549 (mmW)$550$599 (128GB), $699 (256GB), $899 (512GB)Price (GBP) £179Converts to £199£298£438£599 (128GB), £699 (256GB), £899 (512GB)Price (AUD) AU$379Converts to AU$385AU$576AU$847AU$1,099 (128GB), AU$1,299 (256GB), AU$1,649 (512GB) Watch this: Best Budget Phone Plans in 2022 (and the Fine Print)

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