As much as we like testing and recommending flagship phones here at XDA, we understand that it doesn’t make sense for many readers to spend thousands of dollars every year to buy the best devices out there. That’s why we make it a point to curate and maintain an updated list of budget phones and affordable cellular plans. Contrary to what you may think, you can still enjoy many of the latest and greatest features without spending a fortune. Additionally, there are carriers like Cricket Wireless that offer phones and cellular plans at a more affordable price. If you are already on Cricket Wireless or want to transfer over, there are a lot of options available. Many of our favorite picks are considered entry-level or mid-tier phones, but we’ve also highlighted some premium options, including the iPhone 14 Pro.
Best iPhone overall: Apple iPhone 14 Pro
Apple’s new iPhone 14 Pro brings a lot of new features to the iPhone lineup for the first time, including a new cutout for the front camera and FaceID, a new 48MP sensor main camera sensor, an Always-On display, a new chipset, and more. All these upgrades make the new iPhone 14 Pro a true “Pro” iPhone that justifies the premium over the regular iPhone 14 models. It’s also readily available to purchase from Cricket Wireless in the U.S., making it a solid addition to this list.
One of the highlights of the iPhone 14 Pro is the new cutout on top of the display. Apple is calling it Dynamic Island, which is essentially a funky name for a cutout that becomes active based on the apps you use. The company is using software to turn two separate cutouts into one single unit that responds to touch interactions with slick animations.
Also new to the iPhone 14 Pro models is the A16 Bionic chip. Not only is it the most powerful mobile chip on the market right now, but it also enables some cool new features, including the new Always-On display. Apple’s version is a bit different from what Android phones have, and many people have been vocal about the display being a little too, well, “on.” Notably, the A16 Bionic’s display engine also enables the iPhone 14 Pro to achieve a new peak brightness of up to 2,000 nits outdoors.
The new 48MP main camera sensor is also a nice addition, allowing you to capture more detailed shots. We highly recommend you to check out our iPhone 14 Pro Max review, where we go into detail about the new camera sensor and show off some samples. The regular iPhone 14 Pro and the Pro Max models are largely the same, except you get a bigger display and battery with the Max variant.
Cricket Wireless carries all four colors of the iPhone 14 Pro: Space Black, Silver, Deep Purple, and Gold. You can also choose between 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB storage options, though some models are already running out of stock. You can either choose to pay the full price of the phone upfront or get it financed with $63 monthly payments. Cricket Wireless will also waive the activation fee when you purchase and get it activated online.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro
The iPhone 14 Pro brings a lot of noteworthy upgrades over the predecessor, including a new front design, upgraded cameras, and the powerful A16 Bionic chip. It comes in multiple finishes, and they’re all available to purchase from Cricket Wireless right now.
Best budget iPhone: Apple iPhone SE 3 (2022)
Apple’s new iPhone SE 3 is one of the best options for most users on the Cricket Wireless network, mainly from a price-to-performance point of view. This new model carries the same iPhone 8 body, but it comes with updated internals to match some of the newer iPhones on the market. There’s a lot to like about the iPhone SE 3, and it’s an excellent phone for those who don’t want to spend upwards of $1,000 on a new smartphone.
One of the best things about the iPhone SE 3 is that it comes with Apple’s A15 Bionic chip. This means the iPhone SE 3 is just as performant as the iPhone 13 series and even the new iPhone 14 and the iPhone 14 Plus models. Apple’s A-series chips are known to be powerful and more reliable than even some top-tier chips in the Android space. So it’s safe to say that the iPhone SE 3 will serve you well for many years.
The fact that the iPhone SE 3 carries the same design as the iPhone 8 also means it’s relatively compact in the sea of massive phones that are coming out these days. It’s also the only iPhone to use TouchID, which makes it unique by itself. The trade-off is obviously the massive bezels on the front that makes this phone look very old compared to the newer iPhones with a notch and Dynamic Island.
The iPhone SE 3 also runs the latest iOS 16 software, which means it gets some neat iOS features that you enjoy on some of the latest iPhones. Apple is also known to keep its devices on the latest software for a long time, so we expect the iPhone SE 3 to stay relevant even, say, 3-4 years down the line. We highly recommend checking out our iPhone SE 3 review to learn more about this phone in detail, including its camera performance.
If you don’t mind using a phone with a relatively old design then the iPhone SE 3 is a great option to consider. Cricket Wireless carries all three colors of the phone, and you also get to pick between 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB storage. You can choose to pay the full price or get it financed to pay as low as $20 a month with a new or existing line.
Apple iPhone SE 3 (2022)
The iPhone SE (2022) is the most affordable iPhones you can buy right now. While it’s not the most powerful iPhone on the market, it still contains the great A15 Bionic chip, offering a lot of value for the money.
Best Android phone overall: Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
The Galaxy S21 FE may not be the most premium Samsung smartphone right now, but it’s one of the best Android options on the Cricket Wireless network. The Galaxy S21 FE is a cheaper alternative if you don’t want to pay the full price for the Galaxy S22 and the Galaxy S22 Plus, so it trades some of the premium features for a relatively cheaper price tag.
There’s a lot to like about the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, including its FHD+ display that supports a 120Hz refresh rate. The AMOLED display gets bright enough and has vibrant colors with crisp visuals. The rear casing of the phone, as you can see, is made out of plastic, but we like how the camera island at the back melts into the rest of the shell instead of sticking out separately.
The Galaxy S21 FE is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC in the U.S. and a Samsung Exynos 2100 SoC nearly everywhere else. The variant sold on Cricket Wireless will come with the Snapdragon 888 chip. It’s not the fastest chip around, but it should be enough to help you get through your day-to-day workloads without any issues. The phone also comes with Samsung’s promise of three Android OS updates and four years of security patches.
As for the optics, we’re looking at a triple camera setup that includes a 12MP ultra-wide, a 12MP primary camera, and an 8MP telephoto camera. The photos captured using the Galaxy S21 FE are mostly on par with what you’d get from other modern Samsung phones, so no complaints. You can check out our Galaxy S21 FE review to check out some camera samples to get a better idea of what to expect. Overall though, the Galaxy S21 FE is a good phone to consider if you’re looking for a phone to buy from Cricket Wireless.
The carrier is also offering the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE for just $500 right now, down from its original price of $700. It’s only available to purchase in Graphite colorway, and you can pair it with a monthly plan to get unlimited 5G data and 15GB hotspot data.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
The Galaxy S21 FE is worth a look if you don’t want to spend upwards of $1,000 on modern Android phones. It’s an excellent budget phone that offers great value for money, especially for $500 at Cricket Wireless.
Best mid-range: Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G is easily one of the best mid-range phones available, and we’re glad it’s available to purchase at Cricket Wireless. The Galaxy A53 5G stands out in the sea of mid-range phones with its specifications and a good set of features. It goes head-to-head against the iPhone SE 3 (2022) with its 120Hz display, huge battery, decent cameras, and more.
The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G has a very simple design with a plastic back. What we like the most about the design, however, is how the camera island eases and melts into the back of the phone. We’ve seen this on some other premium phones like the OPPO Find X5 Pro, and it looks just as good on the Galaxy A53 5G too. The fit and finish of the phone is also quite nice, and it feels good in the hand despite the relatively bigger footprint.
The performance is handled by Samsung’s Exynos 1280 chip with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It runs Android 12 with OneUI 4.1 out of the box, and it’s guaranteed to get Android 13-based OneUI 5.0. In fact, one of the best things about the Galaxy A53 5G is that it is guaranteed four years of Android updates in the future. This makes it significantly better than a lot of other mid-range phones on the market. Notably, the Galaxy A53 5G also packs a 5,000mAh battery inside, which should be enough to comfortably last for a day on a single charge.
We have image samples in our Galaxy A53 5G review, but if you don’t want to click through, the phone’s triple camera setup captures some decent-looking photos. Its camera setup includes a 64MP main camera, 12MP ultra-wide, and a pair of 5MP sensors for macro and depth. A 32MP front camera handles selfies. The photos captured using the main camera sensor look great, especially during the day when there’s enough light. Overall, there’s a lot to like about the Galaxy A53 5G. It also supports 5G and works well on the Cricket Wireless network.
Cricket Wireless is carrying the Galaxy A53 5G in the Awesome Black colorway, and you can get it for as low as just $249 right now. You can also pay for this phone with both a new or an existing Cricket number, so be sure to check it out.
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
The Galaxy A53 5G is a capable mid-range phone that offers a modern design, a large screen, and a long-lasting battery at an affordable price. It’s only available in one color but you can get it for just $250 from Cricket Wireless right now.
Best budget phone: Moto G 5G (2022)
The Moto G (2022) is one of the few budget phones available to purchase at Cricket Wireless. A lot of the older Moto G phones are solid budget phones, and the new Moto G 5G (2022) is no different. It may not move the needle in a meaningful way, but it offers enough value to earn a spot on our list over similarly-priced phones.
The new Moto G 5G, as you can see, has a very simple design that looks a lot like many other Moto phones that are available to purchase on the market. It’s got a simple plastic back panel with just the camera island and the Moto logo. The phone’s frame is also made out of plastic, so no premium materials here. It sports a 6.5-inch HD+ display with support for up to 90Hz refresh rate. The HD+ display is a little bit of a bummer, but it makes up for it with 90Hz refresh rate support.
The device is powered by a Mediatek Dimensity 700 chip which comes with up to 6GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. The phone also supports expandable storage via a microSD card, which is great. One of the highlights of this particular phone is that it comes with a massive 5,000mAh battery inside. You can expect this phone to last for a long time between charges, but it only supports 10W charging, meaning it might take a while to get to 100%.
The Moto G (2022) comes with a triple camera setup at the back that includes a 50MP main sensor and two 2MP macro and depth sensors. Selfies, on the other hand, are handled by a 13MP front-facing camera.
Best of all, you can get the Moto G 5G (2022) for free if you’re a new customer bringing your number to activate a new line with Cricket Wireless. The carrier will also let you make monthly payments for the phone instead of asking you to pay the full price upfront. Only the Moonlight Gray colorway of the phone is available via the carrier, so keep that in mind.
Motorola Moto G 5G (2022)
The Moto G 5G (2022) offers a good set of internals for the price, delivering a decent budget phone experience overall. There is a lot to like about this particular phone and it’s a steal, especially when you can get it for free with a new line.
Best with stylus: Moto G Stylus 5G
If you don’t mind spending a little bit more money over the asking price of the regular Moto G 5G (2022), then we recommend checking out the Moto G Stylus 5G. You can also get a great deal on this phone at Cricket Wireless, making it a good addition to this list.
The Moto G Stylus isn’t the best-looking phone on the market, but it sticks to the basics and offers a tried-and-tested design with a plastic back. It comes in a couple of finishes, but Cricket Wireless is only offering the phone in ‘Steel Blue’ color, which is what we featured in our review. The back of the phone looks very simple, with just the camera island and a Moto logo in the center.
The highlight of the phone is obviously the included stylus. This is a passive stylus, meaning it doesn’t need charging, but it also doesn’t have Bluetooth, so it’ll have limited functionality. You can still use it for drawing on screenshots, doodling, writing notes, etc.
The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 695 chip, which performed quite well during our testing. This particular chip is no slouch, and it should be sufficient to run games like Diablo Immortal. It comes with up to 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage. You also get an option to expand the storage via a microSD card up to 2TB, so it’s great for those who install a lot of apps and games. The device also packs a 5,000mAh battery that should last a long time on a single charge. But just like the regular Moto G 5G (2022), this one also ships with a 10W charger, which will take you a while to charge.
All things considered, the Moto G Stylus is a good phone overall. Cricket Wireless will also let you have it for as low as $29.99 when you bring your number and activate it with a monthly payment.
Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G
The Moto G Stylus 5G is a midrange phone with a garaged stylus that delivers just enough power and performance to tempt a stylus fan at a price point that’ll keep their wallet happy.
Cricket Wireless’s catalog is fairly limited, and there aren’t too many high-end devices besides iPhones (Apple’s entire current lineup is available on Cricket Wireless). Still, we have highlighted the iPhone SE 3 and the iPhone 14 Pro because they’re both the cheapest and most premium options, respectively, in their lineup. The iPhone SE 3 gets our recommendation out of the two for those looking to pick up a reliable and affordable phone from Cricket Wireless.
Moving over to the Android side, we recommend buying the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE. It may not be the newest Android phone on the market, but it actually offers good value for the money right now. We’ll continue to keep an eye on the Cricket Wireless catalog and add more options to this collection once they’re made available to purchase.