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
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
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
Telstra Tough Max 3 $499 score 4.4/5 – not the highest specs but Blue-Tick reception and tough as nails
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
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
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
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
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
Nokia 1.3 not yet reviewed. $169 about as low a cost as you can go and still get a decent phone
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)
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.