I’ve reviewed dozens and dozens of phones over the past decade, and while that often means flagship phones that cost some of The best laptops. However, some outstanding budget phones cross my office as well. And today, I’m focusing on the best phone under $500.
There have been many years when a phone around this price range was somewhat of a wasteland, but the company that has opened this territory-wide open in the last couple of years is Google. Google’s Pixel A series laid the foundation for this strategy, offering an unmatched software and hardware experience by devices twice its price, and the Pixel 6a phone It’s still one of the best smartphones on the market, but I’m looking beyond the A-series to Pixel 7.
Google’s latest Pixel is an absolute gem and you’ll currently find it at the top of the list of best smartphones list, so how could it not be the best smartphone under $500?
How much does the Pixel 7 cost?
Now if you’re thinking, “Isn’t the Pixel 7 $599?” You have an excellent memory of phone pricing, but you don’t keep track Best phone deals like Pixel 7 for just $449 at Amazon (Opens in a new tab) It is available cheaper elsewhere with activation. This isn’t a temporary dip either, a quick look at my Amazon price tracker shows that since the beginning of the year, the Pixel 7 has been at $499 or less for all three weeks, and it’s been at $449 for about a month now.
So while I usually stick to retail pricing, the reality is that you can find a Pixel 7 for under $500 more often than not, so I think it’s fair game. OK, enough The price is right, let’s dive into why the Pixel 7 is the best phone under $500.
There is one feature that has always defined Google’s Pixel line: the cameras. No, it doesn’t have a 100x zoom or a 200MP sensor, but the Pixel manages time and time again to deliver the best photos of any phone on the market. Whether you’re trying to take a low-light shot of some friends on a night out, a super-fast shot of a beautiful landscape, or just a quick shot of a pet, there’s no better phone on hand to make sure I don’t miss that shot.
Google’s main camera is 50 megapixels with an extension F/1.9 aperture combined with the company’s unparalleled computational imaging puts it out of the reach of hundreds of dollar phones like iPhone 14 or Galaxy S23. It’s that second piece that’s Google and the Pixel’s secret sauce. Google was aware early on of the critical role that artificial intelligence could play in improving smartphone photos and no one was able to pick it up. Google’s Tensor G2 chip is built with AI tasks in mind, so it’s faster than ever to deliver those great shots in any situation.
Even our iPhone reviewer was convinced of the Pixel 7’s superiority Soon after with her. There are specific things like selfies on an iPhone or close-ups on a file Galaxy S23 Ultra Where others have an advantage, but day in and day out, the Pixel 7 takes the best photos of any phone available right now.
Pixel feature decreases
While the Pixel doesn’t run true vanilla Android, it’s one of the least intrusive skins of the underlying OS, and you also get access to exclusive Pixel features that often take months to get to other phones, if they do at all.
This includes features such as a magic eraser, which allows you to easily remove people or objects from your photos. It finally got to the iPhone almost 18 months after it came out on the Pixel 6. One feature I sometimes overlook until I switch away from the PIxel is the automatic call screening feature. This leverages Google’s AI to handle all of the annoying spam calls we get flooded with daily so I don’t even have to hear it. Google recently hinted that this feature is getting another boost from artificial intelligence I can’t wait to see her next development.
Features like these are the reason why updates on Android and Pixel specifically are not a 1:1 comparison with the iPhone. While the Pixel may only get three major OS updates, compared to about five on the iPhone, features like Call Screening and Magic Eraser come through app updates outside of major OS updates. Google separates many features into apps versus the underlying OS, so while you might miss out on some features exclusive to Android 17 when it launches in 2026, the Pixel 7 will still get plenty of new features via app updates.
The display on the Pixel 7 is another standout feature at its price point. You may not get the full 120Hz dynamic refresh rate of the Galaxy S23 or iPhone 14 Pro, but 90Hz is much better than 60Hz. iPhone 14.
Brightness is similarly great, reaching a peak of 926 nits in our testing. That’s well above the iPhone 14’s 757 nits and just below the Galaxy S23’s 1,002 nits. While in the normal display setting the Pixel 7 isn’t quite as vibrant as the iPhone 14, switch to Adaptive and the Pixel will have the advantage again.
Putting it back to value, the phones I’m comparing here cost $250 more than you’ll pay for the Pixel 7 and struggle to keep up in many respects. Nothing comes close to the Pixel 7 for less than $500.
Is it perfect? No, of course not. Battery life could be better, there are busy days when I’m using the camera or commuting regularly where I have to make sure I plug in for 15-20 minutes to charge (I’d say the same for the iPhone 14 series though). It’s also not a great gaming phone, and I had no issues playing PUBG Mobile, but intense games like Genshin Impact will stress the Tensor G2, which is optimized for everyday tasks over gaming.
To me, these are acceptable trade-offs for everything else you get. If you need a new smartphone and you have to stay under $500, pick up the Pixel 7 and never think about it again.
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