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Not long ago, I wrote a piece on 4 things that 5G smartphones do better… But for some time, the technologie has remained out of reach. Today, that’s changing with more and more brands making the choice of offering budget-friendly alternatives. In this post, we’ll be reviewing the 6 best budget-friendly 5G smartphones in 2023.

If you are on the market for a new smartphone this year, you might be considering getting a device compatible with 5G. This makes sense, considering that it’s definitely the way things are going, even though the roll-out is still slow coming. I’ll explain my point on that a little bit down below… Coming back to the smartphones, prospective buyer may be a bit on the edge with regards to purchasing a device that may or may not use its full potential in terms of connectivity, simply because the area is not covered yet by 5G. For that, we have great news here! Indeed, the latest developments in the market have allowed for the budget players to come in and offer a 5G or a 5G-Ready experience for a discount…

Before we dive in, though, let’s answer some basic questions you might have about 5G:

Why use 5G?

Why use 5G?

5G connectivity is the next generation of wireless communication technology which offers increased bandwidth (up to 20 gigabytes per second! That’s… 20 times more than 4G, for a comparison). But speed isn’t so much the essence of the change. The real change comes from the range of applications that the technology offers, specifically via 2 main specificities: low latency and M2M (Machine-To-Machine) communication.

Low latency in 5G (as low as one millisecond) offer technically-instantaneous response time for any device connected on the network. This aspect alone is what brings applications like remote surgery and safer autonomous vehicles in range of reach. Indeed, such a low latency means… constant live access and enhanced precision. It means that a surgeon siting on a room in New-York or London could provide care to a patient in Melbourne or Beijing as if they were on site. Autonomous vehicle could share live data with other vehicle, traffic light systems and satellite for safer traffic. In fact, the city as a whole could become much more efficient in more of resources and traffic management… It means better connectivity for everyone, thanks to signals being brought in by air instead of a extensive and costly optic fibre grid.

In short, for everyday users, it just means faster, better and more reliable connectivity to the people and the content or applications we love and rely in our everyday lives!

Should I buy a 5G smartphone now?

hat’s definitely a question worth asking as although the potential is great for the technology itself, the rollout is quite slow considering the fact that we’ve talking about it for a few years already. In reality, as of today the best equipped locations on the planet when it comes to 5G coverage are China (with 356 cities covered) and the USA with (296 cities) covered.

On the other hand , the United-Kingdom nearly closes the chart right before Saudi Arabia and behind Germany. So clearly, the gap is here.

That being said, the technology isn’t going anywhere. In fact, if you look at it closely, sooner or later it will have to be, not an alternative, but the sole way we’ll have to sustain our needs in terms of communication. So, to answer that question, no you don’t have to buy a 5G smartphone right now (unless you live in one of these Chinese or US cities), however considering the fact that rollout was probably only slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemic and things are resuming to a more normal pace, things are likely going to catch pretty quick. So, if you want to keep that new phone for a while, it wouldn’t hurt to make sure it’s compatible with 5G.

Doesn’t have to break the bank, though… That’s what our selection of budget-friendly 5G smartphones is here for! 

Can I use a 5G cell phone on other networks?

Absolutely, it is expected that 5G devices will be able to read 4G networks the same way 4G devices currently read 3G frequencies. So, as long as these older frequencies are live, your 5G smartphone will handle them just fine in the instance where no 5G frequencies are available.

Right. After those clarifications. It’s time now to dive in on our selection of 6 best budget-friendly 5G smartphones for 2023!

Google Pixel 6A

Google Pixel 6A among the best budget-friendly 5G smartphones in 2023

The phone inherits some of the feature of the more expensive Pixel 6 and 7 series and embarks Android 13 with warrants for current levels of security and security updates… In other words, cheaper doesn’t mean outdated with Google Pixel 6A. Other valuable characteristics are it being dust/water resistant,  its relatively compact size (6.1 inches) compared to its competitors and a very decent camera system (12 megaPixels wide + 12 MegaPixel Ultra-Wide back cameras) which you will not always find on much of budget phones.

Some more specs:

  • CPU: Google Tensor
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Weight: 128g

Samsung Galaxy A53

Samsung Galaxy A53 among the best budget-friendly 5G smartphones in 2023

While being in the same budget price range than the others in this list, it would be hard to say that Samsung Galaxy A53 doesn’t stand out. For $449, the device embarks a 6.7 AMOLED display (and its 120Hz refresh rate) with dual speakers, which mean high level multimedia experiences. Plus, note the 64MP main camera with OIS. The phone has already been praised for its durability, original design, the micro-SD input and the rarifying 3.5 headphone jack input.

Some more specs:

  • CPU: Samsung Exynos 1280
  • Rear cameras: 12MP ultra-wide f/2.2, 64MP f/1.8 wide angle (123-degree-field-of-view), 5MP f/2.4 depth sensor, and 5MP f/2.4 macro camera
  • Front camera: 32MP f/2.2 camera
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Weight: 189g

Motorola One 5G Ace

Motorola One 5G Ace among the best budget-friendly 5G smartphones in 2023

I don’t think it’s a secret: Motorola has never been in for flashy nor does the manufacturer pursue any hype. Instead, they builds things to last and be reliable. I owned a Moto for 5 years and the hardware was still going strong even though the OS wouldn’t take any more upgrades. So, wether you’re looking for a technically-sound device, or something that can last and endure: Motorola is usually your friend, but you may have to pass on some of the bells and whistles.

The One 5G Ace doesn’t stray much from this unwritten rule and present itself as a decent and reliable device for under $300… No more, no less. The camera system (yes, system) gets it done, the battery will last for ages and the 6.7 inches screen boast a vivid 90Hz display.

Furthermore, Motorola stands out here precisely with some impressive storage capacity in that price range (128GB with possibility of extending to 1TO via micro-SD), where other brands would cut off costs on those same areas. Now, as mentioned earlier, you’ll have to trade-off of some fancy-bits like any metal or glass backing (it’ll be plastic here), screen will be a bit pale in sunlight (LCD screen – I now: that hurts a bit, nowadays) and you’ll have to live with a non-dusty/water resistant device. That being said, Motorola One 5G is still a very serious contender is that price range.

Some more specs:

  • CPU: Snapdragon 750G
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Weight: 212g

Apple Iphone SE 5G

Apple Iphone SE 5G among the best budget-friendly 5G smartphones in 2023

Here, Apple steps in the field of budget-friendly 5G smartphones and opens up its budget platform (the Iphone SE). For as low as $420(US) you get the A15 Bionic chip as CPU (like in Iphone 13 to Iphone 14) and all current Apple ecosystem features. On the other hand, RAM looks a bit pale compare to other contenders (3GB), and for the entry price you will only get 64GB of storage… Plus, like Google’s Pixel 6A, IPhone SE 5G won’t support mmWave 5G services… Cleraly a matter of choice between band and ecosytem and versatility, here.

Some more specs:

  • Display: 4.7 inches
  • Internal Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB
  • Rear camera: 12MP rear f/1.8 wide
  • Front camera: 7MP f/2.2 camera
  • Weight: 144g
  • Dust/water resistance: IP67

OnePlus Nord N20 5G

This device is another of the few standing out in this budget-friendly category with premium features such as an AMOLED display and in-display fingerprint sensor… Add to that the generous 4500mAh battery with 33W fast-charging  and you have a very serious contender to the big-brand devices in this list! The phone is also very distinctive with regard to its look and it’s hard to compete on that field. It you can live with a non dust/water resistant phone and a video refresh of only 60Hz, it’s very satisfactory for the price!

Some more specs:

  • Price: 282USD
  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G
  • Display: 6.43 inches
  • Internal Storage: 128GB
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Rear camera: 64MP rear f/1.8 wide, 2MP f/2.4 macro, and 2MP f/2.4 depth
  • Front camera: 16MP f/2.4
  • Weight: 173g
  • Dust/water resistance: none

Samsung Galaxy A13 5G

This phone is another one that marks the overspread of 5G technology beyond flagship devices. Impressive battery capacity, sturdy gorilla glass 90Hz display are the main adavantage of this smartphone. That being said, the LCD screen, the 64GB storage and the 4GB RALM are fairly outdated in this market and the 5MP front camera looks a bit pale. Another regret is the the device is non-dust/water resistant, but for the price… Difficult to argue.

Some more specs:

  • Price: 249USD
  • CPU: MediaTek Dimensity 700 
  • Display: 6.5 inches
  • Internal Storage: 64GB
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Rear camera: 50MP rear f/1.8 wide, 2MP f/2.4 macro, and 2MP f/2.4 depth
  • Front camera: 5MP f f/2.0 camera 
  • Weight: 195g
  • Dust/water resistance: none

Wrapping up: how cheap can a budget 5G smartphone be?

Even though we say budget, expect to pay between 250 and 500 dollars for any decent 5G smartphone… Anything below that would not be worth considering. Yet, going crazy on 5G capabilities of a phone right now is not worth it and it’s better to just ensure the new device can deal with 5G without overdo it. That’s why these 6 budget-friendly 5G smartphones are excellent options to consider for anyone on the market for a new phone in 2023!