Best Prepaid Phones 2021: Our #1 Picks (ALL Budgets)

If you’re looking for great prepaid phones, we have collected a list of all the best phones we’ve tested during the last 12 months. Read on for our #1 picks for the best prepaid phones right now…

A prepaid phone is a great option if you don’t want to be tied down to one carrier – or a contract plan.

With a prepaid phone, you buy the phone outright, either from a carrier or a retailer, and then shop around for a great SIM-only (PAYG) data and call plan.

If you can stomach the cost upfront, buying a prepaid phone is a great way to have more freedom with not only the carrier or network you use, but also how much you pay per month for data, calls and texts.

When you go prepaid, a carrier – say Verizon – will simply send you a SIM in the post. All you have to do then is insert it in your phone and activate the plan.

Because this is a list of the best pre-paid phones, we’re going to aim to keep the price of the recommended phones under $600/£600 because that will almost certainly be the absolute upper limit for most users, although there will be plenty of cheaper options under $300/£300 as well.

Best Prepaid Phones 2021: Our #1 Picks…

iPhone 11Less Than $600READ REVIEWBEST DEAL
Pixel 4aLess Than $350READ REVIEWBEST DEAL
Xiaomi Mi 11Less Than $700READ REVIEWBEST DEAL
RealMe Pro 8Less Than $400READ REVIEWBEST DEAL
Samsung Galaxy S10eBetween $300 to $400READ REVIEWBEST DEAL
Motorola Moto G7Around $100READ REVIEWBEST DEAL
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 PlusJust Over $500READ REVIEWBEST DEAL
The #1 Best Prepaid Phones For 2021

1 – iPhone 11


The iPhone 11 might not be the newest iPhone. But it is still a very good option in 2021, especially if you’re after a prepaid phone.

The iPhone 12 range is Apple’s latest series of iPhones, so the iPhone 11 is now available at a discounted price. This makes it a great value option for anyone that wants an iPhone but doesn’t want to spend a ton of money.

The iPhone 11 has a great camera, brilliant all-round performance, awesome software, and very impressive battery life (it will last four hours longer than the iPhone 12).

The only real caveat is that it doesn’t have 5G; this is why its battery life is so much better than the iPhone 12’s.

2 – Pixel 4a

Google Pixel 4a Size and DimensionsPin

The Pixel 4a is not only inexpensive but it is also one of the best Android phones you can buy now.

It isn’t as expensive or as potent as the Pixel 5, but for a prepaid phone it is a brilliant option. You have amazing software, a market-leading camera, and outstanding battery life.

You’ll also get three years’ worth of Android updates, with zero waiting. As soon as a new Android update is available, you’ll be first in line to get it.

Add in things like an OLED display, solid performance, and a subtle yet classy design and you’re looking at a very solid, reliable phone.

3 – Xiaomi Mi 11

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra vs Xiaomi RedMi Note 10 ProPin

If you want a phone like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, just for A LOT less money, then the Xiaomi Mi 11 could be the phone for you.

It ships with a 108MP camera that is backed-up by a trio of additional lenses.

You also have Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 888 CPU and options for either 8GB or 12GB of RAM.

This phone is supremely powerful, runs on Android 11, and is designed to compete with Samsung and Apple’s flagship phones.

The caveats for the Xiaomi Mi 11 are largely based around the fact that Xiaomi doesn’t sell its phones in the USA, so you have to use specialist retailers, and the fact that you can only use certain carriers with Xiaomi phones.

4 – RealMe 8 Pro

Best Prepaid Phones 2021: Our #1 Picks (ALL Budgets)Pin
RealMe 8 Pro

If you want big specs and massive hardware for less than $300, the RealMe 8 Pro is one of the latest phones from RealMe. Launched earlier in 2021, the RealMe 8 Pro is positioned as an affordable flagship.

Like Xiaomi, RealMe phones are not “officially” sold in the US, so you won’t find them in Best Buy.

But you can import them via specialist retailers.

I really like RealMe phones; they have great software, great hardware, and they perform as good as Google’s Pixel 5 in my experience.

If you’re after an ultra-budget Android phone that packs in plenty of flagship specs, the RealMe 8 Pro is one of the best prepaid phones you can buy right now.

5 – Samsung Galaxy S10e


The Samsung Galaxy S10e is not a new phone. In fact, it is now a couple of years old. But this is not a problem – not when the phone gets three years of Android updates.

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is one of the smallest Samsung phones you can buy; it is small, yes, but it is also massively powerful.

It also has one of the best OLED displays in the business.

Add in a great camera, killer software, and the fact that Samsung will supply you with Android updates for three years and you’re looking at one of the best Android phones on the market right now.

6 – Motorola Moto G7

moto g7Pin

The Motorola Moto G7 is one of the cheapest phones on this list. It is NOT a flagship and it doesn’t perform like one.

But what it does do is deliver a metric ton of value for money.

The design of the phone is great, it performs well in most settings, and while its camera does lack the finesse of some of the other phones on this list, the reason it is so cheap is because it uses cheaper components.

If all you need from your phone is the ability to run apps, browse the web, send emails, and make calls and texts, the Motorola Moto G7 could be just what the doctor ordered.

And for just $102, it is insanely cheap.

7 – Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10 PlusPin

If you want some oomph and a large, expansive OLED display one of my favorite options on the market right now has to be the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus.

This is a flagship phone and it is priced like one.

But it is considerably cheaper than Samsung’s Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy S21 range of phones. You still get killer specs and hardware and monumental performance, as well as Samsung’s awesome S-Pen stylus.

But because it is now a couple of years old, it retails for quite a bit less and this is the reason it is included in our list of the best prepaid phones.

Get this phone if you want a flagship phone with deluxe features that’ll last you the next four to five years.

PROS & CONS of Prepaid Phones

As with most things in life, there are PROS and CONS associated with buying a prepaid phone.

Let’s start with the CONS first.

Prepaid Phones CONS

  • Can Be Expensive – With a prepaid phone, you have to buy the phone outright. This means that you have to pay the full price for the phone before you can start using it. And this will require cash, a credit card, or your savings.
  • Less Choice – Because you have to buy the phone outright, most people will not be able to buy a flagship phone. Paying over $1000/£1000 for a phone is always going to be a big ask for most people, so you’re limited to cheaper phones.
  • You’ll Have To Buy Older/Cheaper Phones – Because you’ll be more budget-conscious when buying a prepaid phone, you’ll need to look at either older, cheaper, or refurbished phones in order to keep the price down. This isn’t a bad thing, cheap phones are great. And refurbished phones are a very good option.

Prepaid Phones PROS

  • No More Contracts – With prepaid phones, you’re not locked into a carrier or a specific plan. You can use whatever PAYG or SIM-only deal you like. And you can swap it as often as you want. This means that if you see a better data deal from a carrier, you can simply swap your current SIM out for it.
  • Pick & Choose Your Data Plan – SIM-only plans are cheaper than contract plans. You can pick up Unlimited Data SIM-only plans for as little as £20 a month. You just have to know where to look. Three is great, as is AT&T in the USA.
  • Upgrade Your Phone Whenever You Want – Because you own the phone outright, you can swap it out whenever you like. This means you can run the phone for a few months and then swap it for a new model if something happens to take your fancy. You simply cannot do this when you’re on a contract plan.

Best SIM-Only PAYG Carriers & Networks

Prepaid Phones FAQ

How Do Prepaid Phones Work?

With a prepaid phone, you purchase the phone outright which means you pay the full cost of the phone upfront. You can buy prepaid phones via carriers, networks, and retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart. Once you take delivery of the phone, you can then shop around for a SIM-only (PAYG) deal for your data and calls and texts. You’re not tied to any one network/carrier and you can switch plans as often as you like. 

Who Has The Best Deals on Prepaid Cellphones?

Finding the best deals on prepaid phones is relatively simple; most phones – even the ones on this list – have “set” prices, so they’ll cost the same wherever you shop. The iPhone 11, for instance, will cost $599 at Walmart, AT&T and Verizon. Your only option for cheaper deals on prepaid phones is buying a refurbished version of that phone.

Can You Use A Prepaid Phone As A Regular Phone?

Prepaid phones function EXACTLY the same as phones bought on contract or via carrier plans. The only difference with a prepaid phone is that you have to go out and source your own SIM-only (PAYG) plan for your data, calls and texts. In this sense, you have more freedom when it comes to data allowances and how much you pay per month.

What is The Best Cheap Pay As You Go Phone?

The best cheap prepaid phone right now – in our humble opinion – would be the Pixel 4a. It is a great phone that is well priced and it will get three years of Android updates. You also get one of the best cameras in the business and a gorgeous OLED display, as well as battery life. If you want to go ultra-cheap, get the Moto G7 – it costs just $107!

What Are The Disadvantages of Prepaid Phones?

The only disadvantage of prepaid phones is that you’ll have to pay the full price of the phone upfront. If you buy an iPhone 11, you’ll have to pay $599 for the phone, whereas on a contract plan, the cost of the phone would be spread out over 12 or 24 months. This means you’ll need to tap your savings or your credit card to make the purchase.

Richard Goodwin

Richard Goodwin is a leading UK technology journalist with a focus on consumer tech trends and data security. Renowned for his insightful analysis, Richard has contributed to Sky News, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 2, and CNBC, making complex tech issues accessible to a broad audience.

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