June 17, 2021

PC TECH THERAPY

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Best Prepaid Cell Phones 2021

8 min read


Pixel 4a Alex Back Outside WallSource: Alex Dobie / Android Central

Best
Prepaid Cell Phones
Android Central
2021

With so many phones becoming affordable unlocked, the best prepaid phones look a lot like the best phones in general. Technically, almost any phone can be a prepaid phone these days — that is, just about any phone can be financed or bought outright and used on a prepaid network. This includes nearly all of the best Android phones you can get. Still, most prepaid shoppers are looking for a value offering, so we’ve compiled some of the best phones that will work with the major prepaid carriers under $350. The Google Pixel 4a is the best prepaid phone overall thanks to its fast hardware, great camera, and consistent software updates.

Best on T-Mobile: Google Pixel 4a

Google Pixel 4a

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central

The Google Pixel series of phones is the purest Android experience you can get. The Pixel 4a follows up the 3a in offering great performance and a flagship-level camera for a great price. This includes Google’s great camera app with features like Night Sight. This phone supports just about every network out there and with eSIM support, it’s easy to get set up on the carriers that support it like Google Fi. If you think you might want to switch carriers in the future, there’s a good chance this phone can come with you.

Since this phone comes directly from Google, there’s no waiting for Android updates and as a Pixel owner, you’re first in line for the newest software. You get a pure Android build without a bunch of extra software you don’t need. You also get a 5.8-inch OLED display as well as 6GB of RAM to keep things running smoothly.

While the Pixel 4a is far from the cheapest phone you can get, it will last a lot longer than others in its category thanks to great software support from google keeping it secure and running smoothly. It also feels like Google trimmed this phone down in all the right ways so you can have a great Android experience without paying for an array of cameras you don’t need or for 5G that many of us won’t be able to use yet.

Pros:

  • Great Pixel camera
  • OLED display
  • Clean software
  • Guaranteed Android updates

Best on T-Mobile



Google Pixel 4a

Pure Android with updates

Pure Android with a great camera system makes the Pixel 4a one of the best phones to use with plenty of updates for security.

Best on Verizon — Moto G Power

Moto G Power Review

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central

The Moto G Power is one of our favorite cheap Android phones thanks to its laser focus on the things that most of us expect from our phones. Of course, you expect the massive 5,000 mAh battery but the rest of the phone keeps up with expectations and at the price, it’s hard to beat in any category.

Motorola keeps up the clean Android design with nice Moto specific software additions such as gestures. It’s worth keeping in mind that despite this clean Android appearance, Motorola won’t support this phone with software updates as long as a company like Google so don’t expect this phone’s software to change much after you buy it. Still, for many people, this isn’t a huge deal and for a cheap phone with a large battery, this is a great option.

Pros:

  • Massive 5,000 mAh battery
  • Clean Android software
  • Large display with tight bezels
  • Expandable storage

Cons:

  • Unlikely to receive platform updates

Best on Verizon



Moto G Power

A massive battery and modern Android software

The Moto G Power has modest specs, but its namesake 5,000mAh battery makes it one of the longest-lasting phones you can buy.

Best on AT&T: Samsung Galaxy A51

Samsung Galaxy A51

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central

The Samsung Galaxy A51 is a slight upgrade to the Galaxy A50 including camera improvements. Keep in mind, there is a more expensive 5G variant of this phone but you’ll need to make sure your plan supports it. You should also double-check that AT&T will support your specific 5G model before signing up since AT&T is a little bit pickier about which phones it allows on its next-gen network. Still, with either choice, LTE should work fine.

The camera array on the back has three distinct cameras plus a depth camera. You’ll be able to take ultra-wide and macro shots in addition to the 488MP main camera. While the resolution of the ultra-wide and macro cameras is quite a bit lower, it should be fine for social media. This phone also has a large 4,000 mAh battery that should be able to keep its Exynos 9611 CPU and 6GB of RAM going all day.

Pros:

  • Great display
  • Large battery should last all day
  • Great daylight camera quality

Cons:

  • Low-light camera performance could be better

Best on AT&T



Samsung Galaxy A51

Samsung quality at an affordable price

The Samsung Galaxy A51 has nice hardware with a solid camera, including a hole-punch selfie camera, and a large 4,000 mAh battery.

Best on Metro: Nokia 7.2

Nokia 7.2

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central

The Nokia 7.2 gets a lot of things very right but isn’t a perfect phone. At its launch price, it was a lot harder to recommend but now that the price has come down consistently under $300, it’s a great fit for a lot of budgets. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 and 4GB of RAM keep it running smoothly and Android One support keeps it reasonably up to date with an update from Android 9 to Android 10 already available.

The 3,500 mAh battery definitely could be bigger but it’s big enough for many people. The Nokia 7.2 also has a three-camera system on the back with a 48 MP main camera and an 8 MP ultra-wide camera. The third camera acts as a depth sensor. The quality of the main camera is much better than the ultra-wide but the option is nice when you need to get as much in the frame as possible.

Pros:

  • Android One software updates
  • Robust camera system
  • Large display
  • Expandable storage

Cons:

  • No support for CDMA carriers
  • Battery could be bigger

Best on Metro



Nokia 7.2

Near stock Android in a sleek phone

A modern design with a great set of cameras and a smooth interface helps the Nokia 7.2 stand out.

Best on Boost: Moto G Fast

Moto G Fast

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central

The Moto G Fast is a solid and cheap Android phone with modest power but a large 4,000 mAh battery. While performance won’t be great for heavy users, if you stick to light usage, this phone could be a great choice. It also has a three-camera setup on the back with standard, ultra-wide, and macro cameras. It won’t produce the best pictures but at this price, you can get some nice shots that should be a good fit for social media.

One thing Motorola gets right is its changes to Android, that is, its lack of changes to Android. This near-stock user interface is easy to use no matter what phone you’re coming from. It’s worth keeping in mind that Moto won’t be updating its phones as frequently as some of the bigger names in Android like Google or Samsung but for many people, that won’t be a huge deal. If you just need something simple that works, the Moto G Fast is a great choice.

Pros:

  • Sharp display
  • Works with most carriers
  • Good camera quality

Cons:

  • Software updates not guaranteed
  • Performance is lacking

Best on Boost



Moto G Fast

A great budget balance

The Moto G Fast delivers solid quality and performance for a low price and it should work on most carriers.

Best on Cricket: LG Stylo 6

Lg Stylo 6 Lifestyle 2

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central

The LG Stylo 6 is a great update to the Stylo line with a modern design including a large 6.8-inch display featuring a camera notch to give you a bit more real estate at the top of the screen. Speaking of cameras, the Stylo 6 has gained a wide and depth camera on the back of the phone to help improve photo quality. This in addition to the main 13MP shooter and a 13MP front camera.

The Mediatek Helio P35 octa-core CPU isn’t the fastest around but should be enough to handle normal smartphone tasks including video playback and social media with ease. 4GB of RAM will keep it running well with multiple applications. The battery comes in at 4,000 mAh which should easily get you through the day.

The biggest feature of the Stylo series is the included stylus. While this isn’t a terribly sophisticated design, it should help people that want extra precision but don’t need the advanced pressure sensitivity of more expensive phones. It can also be great for navigating documents like spreadsheets that aren’t optimized for mobile platforms.

Pros

  • A large FHD+ display
  • Stylus included
  • Google Assistant hardware button
  • Nice modern design

Best on Cricket



LG Stylo 6

Stylus precision

The LG Stylo 6 brings the precision of a stylus to the budget category with a large HD display and the processing power to keep things quick.

Bottom line

More and more people are looking to leave contracts behind, especially if they know how to switch carriers, and prepaid carriers offer a lot of value. Most of these phones will work on any carrier but a few like Nokia will only work on T-Mobile or AT&T networks. You may need to get a SIM card from Verizon or Sprint based carriers to get activated. Carriers based on T-Mobile or AT&T’s network should be able to drop a SIM card in to get going right away which is great if you want to try more than one network.

If you are looking for a great android phone that will work on nearly every carrier without issue, check out the Pixel 4a from Google. It’s not the cheapest phone around, but it has an excellent camera and Pixel phones are first in line for new Android updates straight from Google. These frequent updates should keep it running better for longer than many other phones of its class.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Samuel Contreras When Samuel is not writing about networking and carriers, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It’s the Pentium 3.

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