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This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2019, your source for the season’s best gifts and deals, hand-picked by the experts at CNET.

With top-tier phones like the Galaxy Note 10 Plus and iPhone 11 Pro Max starting at more than $1,000, it’s easy to feel that great phones are getting more expensive and out of your budget. But as some phones are getting pricier, budget phones are getting more advanced and packing premium features of their own. There are lots of affordable devices that are fast, take great photos and offer modern-day software features that won’t break the bank. While many of our picks for the best phone under $500 came out this year, some handsets in this roundup launched the previous year. That doesn’t mean they’re obsolete — most of them still have high-end processors and a good camera that you can get for way less than when they first launched.

Note that we’ve linked to the unlocked version of each phone, and they should run on most of the big four US wireless carriers (unless specified otherwise).

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Though it debuted in 2017, the iPhone 8 is still a solid phone, and it’s the cheapest iPhone from Apple that you can still buy for new. The phone packs in plenty of great features like water resistance, wireless charging, a more durable solid-state home button, and still really good cameras.

Read our Apple iPhone 8 review.

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If you want an exceptional camera, the heavily discounted Pixel 3 is a great bet. Its camera captures great pictures in daylight or dark, and with its secondary wide-angle selfie camera, you can comfortable take group selfies that fit everyone. It also has a nifty software features. Call Screen, for example, filters and blocks robocalls and telemarketers so you remain distraction-free and Digital Wellbeing limits your screen time so you can stay focused. 

Read our Google Pixel 3 review.

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The Galaxy A50 is part of Samsung’s A-series, which is much cheaper than the top-tier S-series of phones. At $350, £309 or AU$500, this budget smartphone is one of your cheapest Galaxy smartphone options and features 6.4-inches of display, an in-screen fingerprint reader and a headphone jack. On the back are three cameras that include a wide-angle lens as well as a “depth lens,” which is used to take portrait shots with blurry, dramatic backgrounds.

Read our Samsung Galaxy A50 review.

Read more: Which Samsung Galaxy phone should you buy? We compare all 9 of them  

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The Moto Z4 launched in May without much fanfare, despite the fact that it’s one of the few phones that can connect to 5G. It works with a Moto Mod modular accessory, which attaches to the back of the smartphone using magnetic pins. The phone is $500 (which converts to about £390 or AU$715) and the Mod costs extra, but even with the additional costs, the Z4 is the cheapest 5G phone yet.

Read our Motorola Moto Z4 review.

Read more: Moto Z4 is a midrange phone and a Verizon 5G early-adopter machine

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LG is selling its premium LG G8 with Alexa for $500 (about £411 and AU$738)  — a big discount from its original $850 launch price. As one of the last few high-end phones with a headphone jack, the G8 stands out as a rarity. But the device also has a bright, sharp screen, a second wide-angle rear camera, a fast processor and water resistance.

Read our LG G8 ThinQ review.

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The $479, £469 and AU$799 Pixel 3A XL has everything you like about the Pixel 3A (which is also on this list), but in a larger package. Sporting a 6-inch OLED display compared to the Pixel 3A’s 5.6-inch screen, the bigger counterpart also features a larger 3,700-mAh battery.

Read our Google Pixel 3A XL review.

Read more: LG G8 ThinkQ is LG’s dual screen bid to win over the high-end phone market

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The often discounted Moto G7 Play is one of our favorite affordable Android phones. Like the pricier Moto G7 (which we’ll get to later), it has a Snapdragon 632 processor and a water-repellent coating. But the G7 Play features a smaller 5.7-inch display and a single 13-megapixel camera. For those who like to take a lot of selfies, on the front of the phone you’ll find a selfie camera flash to brighten up all those memorable moments.

Read more about the Moto G7 Play.

Read more: Moto G7 for $300, and all the rest: How to tell all four new Moto G7 phones apart

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The new-for-2019 Pixel 3A shaves a few features off of last year’s Pixel 3: It’s not water resistant, doesn’t have wireless charging, and it maxes out at 64GB of storage. But it adds a headphone jack and keeps the same amazing Night Sight camera that can shoot great photos in the dark. (Daytime photos and video recording look amazing, too.) The device is compatible with all the major US phone carriers as well.

Read our Google Pixel 3A review.

Read more: Sorry Samsung, the Google Pixel 3A is 2019’s most important phone

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It’s been two years since its launch but the Galaxy S8 is still a phone worthy of consideration. It’s water resistant, has wireless charging, expandable storage and a headphone jack. Plus, its curved OLED display screen lends the phone a modern-day look that still endures.

Read our Samsung Galaxy S8 review.

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The Moto G7 may not be as cheap as its G7 Play counterpart, but it’s still a good deal. Though its single speaker doesn’t offer the greatest sound, and it takes mediocre low-light photos and video, the Moto G7 has dual rear cameras, an enduring battery life and a sleek design. It also charges quickly, which is useful when you need to juice up while on the go.

Read the Motorola Moto G7 review.

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Though the LG G7 from 2018 has a Google Assistant quick-launch button that can’t be remapped, there’s still lots of reasons to like this phone. It has an AI camera that gives your photos a boost before you snap them, a secondary wide-angle rear camera and a headphone jack.

Read our LG G7 ThinQ review.

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With a bright 120Hz display screen, the Razer Phone 2 is a high-powered gaming phone that has IP67 water resistance and wireless charging. The device is also compatible with 2TB microSD cards for extra storage and runs a close-to-stock version of Android. Together with its amazing built-in speaker, you have the makings of a great mobile gaming experience.

Read our Razer Phone 2 review.

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