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What are the best 2020 phones under $500? Well, forget what we have recommended in the past – that is so yesterday. While the global COVID crisis has slowed down the release of so many new models, the real action has been in the sub-$500 segment anyway.

This segment now has some fantastic phones with 90Hz or AMOLED screens, 48/64MP quad cameras, Android 10, Wi-Fi AC and NFC – there are almost no compromises. What we are seeing is ‘Moore’s Law’ in action – faster, cheaper and better specifications fighting against the weak Aussie dollar.

So it is not surprising to see 48 and 64MP cameras backed by new processors with enhanced AI functions producing terrific photos and videos for the same price of last years ‘dumb’ smartphone.

In the over-$600 segment (closer to $1000), we expect a plethora of 5G models using the new Qualcomm SD765 5G and the MediaTek Dimensity 1000 5G systems on a chip. Call these second-generation 5G chipsets where the emphasis is on 3/4/5G compatibility, not speed.

Here are our picks but remember this is a competitive segment so you can look forward to even more new models soon. So stay tuned for TCL, Motorola, Samsung A-series, LG, Alcatel, and more.

Best 2020 phones under $500

$400-500

OPPO A91 – $499 score 4.9/5 and is way more than a working-class phone

  • 6.4” 2400×1800 AMOLED screen – not often see at this price but even better it has Widevine L1 for HD videos from Amazon or YouTube etc.
  • Helio P70/8/128GB/MicroSD to 256GB
  • 4000mAH battery with Super VOOC 3.0 fast charge 0-100% in under an hour
  • Quad 48+8+2+2 and selfie 16MP
  • Add Wi-Fi AC, NFC and great OPPO build quality, and it’s the mid-market class leader
  • Android 9
Best 2020 phones under $500
OPPO A91

Realme 6  – $469 not yet reviewed. It is gaming-focused with a 90Hz screen

  • 6.5” 2400×1800, 90Hz IPS screen for fast response
  • Helio G90T – the fastest Helio gaming processor, 8/128GB/MicroSD to 256GB
  • 4300mAh battery Super VOOC 3.0 fast charge 0-100% in under an hour
  • Quad 64+8+2+2 and 16MP selfie
  • Add Wi-Fi AC, NFC and great ‘made by OPPO’ build quality and it is a great gaming device
  • Android 10
Best 2020 phones under $500
realme 6

Telstra Tough Max 3 $499 score 4.4/5 – not the highest specs but Blue-Tick reception and tough as nails

  • 5.65” 2160×1080
  • Qualcomm SD665, 4/64GB/MicroSD to 256GB
  • 3920mAh battery with USB-C PD 18W charger
  • Dual 16+5 camera, selfie 8MP
  • Wi-Fi AC, BT 4.2 and NFC
  • Android 9
Best 2020 phones under $500 Telstra Tough Max 3

<$400

OPPO A9 – $399 scored 4.8/5 and has a massive 5000mAh battery for 2-3 day life

  • 6.52-inch, 1600×720 screen – tall and slim
  • Qualcomm SD655 for great mass-market performance, 4/128GB/microSD to 256GB
  • 5000mAh battery (no fast charge)
  • Quad camera 48+8+2+2 and 16mp selfie
  • Add Wi-Fi AC, NFC and great ‘made by OPPO’ build quality and it’s the mass-market class leader
  • Android 9
Best 2020 phones under $500
OPPO A9

Realme C3 – $269 scored 4.5/5 and a value king with features you would pay much more for

  • 6.52” 1600×720, IPS with extra tough Gorilla Glass 3 PLUS
  • Helio G70, 3/64GB/microSD to 256GB
  • 5000mAh (no fast charge)
  • Tri camera 12+2+2 Selfie 5MP
  • Wi-Fi N, BT 5.0, NFC and it’s a winner for the price
  • Android 10
Best 2020 phones under $500
realme C3

Mintt Ultramintt Y3 – $399 4.9/5 and exceptional value with Qi Charging (note its end-of-life soon)

  • 6.3” 2340×1080 Gorilla Glass 5
  • Helio P60 4/64/microSD to 256GB
  • 4050mAh battery with USB-C 10W charger (can use 18W) and Qi Charge 10W
  • Tri camera 20+16+5 Selfie24MP
  • Wi-Fi N, BT 4.2 and NFC
  • Pure Android 9.1
Best 2020 phones under $500
Mintt UltraMintt Y3

 <$200

Nokia 2.3 4.2/5 score. $199 and great value from an iconic brand

  • 6.2” 1520 x 720 IPS
  • Helio A22, 2/32GB and microSD to 512GB
  • 4000mAh battery (no fast charge)
  • Dual camera 13+2MP selfie 5MP
  • Wi-Fi N, BT 5.0, (no NFC)
  • Pure Android One 10
Best 2020 phones under $500 Nokia 2.3

Nokia 1.3 not yet reviewed. $169 about as low a cost as you can go and still get a decent phone

  • 5.71” 720p
  • Qualcomm SD215 1/16GB/microSD to 400GB
  • 3000mAh removable battery and 5W charging
  • 8MP rear and 5MP front
  • Wi-Fi N, BT 4.2 (no NFC)
  • Android 10 Go edition (for small memory size)
Best 2020 phones under $500
Nokia 1.3

GadgetGuy’s take – Best 2020 phones under $500 offer few if any compromises

Sure we would all love to drive Rollers, but all we can afford are Hyundais.

These phones offer everything you need including great build quality and local support. Most of these are at JB Hi-Fi, Good Guys, Bing Lee, Office Works or at their official online stores. Buy locally and keep an Aussie in a job.

A warning though – Do not buy online from any store that promises so-called ‘Australian stock’ unless it specifically has the much-needed LTE band 28, comes with an Australian charger and has the Australian C-tick symbol on its regulatory page.