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The smartphones that aren't worth your money

We reveal the not-so-smart smartphones with poor-performing batteries, sound quality, cameras and more.

illustration of dud smartphone with dunce cap
Last updated: 27 September 2023

Whether you must have the latest and greatest or you're just looking for something basic, buying a new smartphone can be overwhelming. 

Between operating system, display size, internal memory and brand itself, it's hard to figure out what you actually need and what's not worth the money. 

Our experts have tested more than 60 smartphones, ranging from $300 basics to $2500+ blowouts, and they've seen some phenomenal phones as well as some that probably shouldn't be called 'smart' phones at all. 

Here are the ones they recommend you avoid.

The worst performers overall

Regardless of your priorities for a phone, these ones are at the bottom of the pile. Our experts suggest giving them a miss, no matter how good a price you find them for.

nokia g22 128gb

The Nokia G22 may be fixable, but its score isn't.

Nokia G22

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 54%
  • Performance score: 38%
  • Price: $335

Samsung Galaxy A13

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 58%
  • Performance score: 30%
  • Price: $329

Nokia XR20

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 60%
  • Performance score: 37%
  • Price: $699

But don't scratch Samsung off your list just yet – a number of their other phones performed very well in our tests, with 15 recommended by our experts.

Unfortunately we can't say the same for Nokia. Despite Nokia getting points for creating a mobile that allows you to do some repairs on the screen and battery, it's just not a great mobile to use.

The highest scoring Nokia we've tested only came in at 70%, which is pretty average considering our top-scoring products come in at 80% and higher. 

"While Nokia still exists as a mobile phone name, the company has had a torrid time throughout the 2000s to now," says CHOICE mobile phone expert Denis Gallagher.

"Microsoft bought the Nokia mobile business in 2014 and then sold it at a loss to HMD in 2016, and it's been trying to find its feet since," says Denis.

Worst in test for sound quality

If you're one of the seemingly few people who use their mobile to talk to people, and want to actually hear what people are saying at the other end of the phone, these are the ones to avoid. 

apple iphone 13 mini

The Apple iPhone 13 Mini has a diminutive score for sound quality to match its petite size.

Apple iPhone 13 Mini

  • Calling sound quality score: 59%
  • Price: $1049–$1569

Apple iPhone 12

  • Calling sound quality score: 60%
  • Price: $1299

Nokia G22

  •  Calling sound quality score: 61%
  • Price: $335

Apple iPhone SE 2022

  • Calling sound quality score: 61%
  • Price: $799

Apple iPhone 14

  • Calling sound quality score: 63%
  • Price: $1579

Apple iPhone 14 Plus

  • Calling sound quality score: 63%
  • Price: $1579

Apple iPhone 13

  • Calling sound quality score: 63%
  • Price: $1299–$1749

Poor-performing batteries

This list will likely surprise you: alongside cheap and basic smartphones, you'll also find those in the $1000+ price range. It seems that even spending more can't always save you from the frustration of your phone dying at the worst possible moment. 

If battery life is important to you, you can cross these models off your shortlist:

samsung galaxy a33

Good price, poor battery: The Samsung Galaxy A33.

Samsung Galaxy A33

  • Battery score: 42%
  • Price: $399

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4

  • Battery score: 45%
  • Price: $1499–$1849

Samsung Galaxy S22

  • Battery score: 46%
  • Price: $1349

Poor durability

If you're a tradie, a farmer, or just a butterfingers, you'll want a phone that can withstand whatever you throw at it – or whatever you throw it at. 

These phones all scored poorly in our durability tests, in which our experts drop each phone up to 25 times; store them in hot, damp conditions; and see how they fare in a simulated rain shower. 

oppo a98

The Oppo A98 is not for the accident-prone: it performed poorly in our durability tests.

Oppo A98

  • Durability score: 36%
  • Price: $649

Motorola Edge 30 Pro

  • Durability score: 37%
  • Price: $799

Apple iPhone 12

  • Durability score: 43%
  • Price: $1049–$1299
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Poor-performing cameras

Whether you're selfie-obsessed or just want to take some happy snaps, a good camera is key to capturing special moments. A poor camera will leave you with blurry memories and fuzzy face shots. 

Most of the phones we've tested have pretty good cameras, but there's a difference between good and great: most scored 70% and above, but the best performers scored in the high 90s. So while a score of 70% might not seem too bad, when you compare it with what's on the market, it shows just how much better you can get for your money.

These are the ones you don't want in the picture:

nokia g22 128gb

Another wooden spoon for the Nokia G22, this time for camera quality.

Nokia G22

  • Camera quality score: 64%
  • Price: $335

Oppo A54

  • Camera quality score: 70%
  • Price: $299

Oppo A98

  • Camera quality score: 73%
  • Price: $649

Oppo Reno 8 Lite

  • Camera quality score: 73%
  • Price: $499

Nokia XR20

  • Camera quality score: 75%
  • Price: $699

Bad selfie cameras

Some phones had truly terrible selfie cameras, so if you fancy yourself as an influencer, they're not the ones for you. All the filters in the world can't fix these. 

  • Nokia G22: Selfie camera score 50%, $335
  • Oppo A54: Selfie camera score 53%, $299
  • Samsung Galaxy A13: Selfie camera score 53%, $329
  • Oppo A98: Selfie camera score 59%, $649
  • Oppo Reno 8 Lite: Selfie camera score 59%, $499

Worst displays in our test

Our experts assess each smartphone's display for size, image quality, sharpness and clarity. 

They scored these models the lowest:

  • Nokia G22: Display score 54%, $335
  • Nokia XR20: Display score 60%, $699
  • Samsung Galaxy A13: Display score 61%, $329
  • Samsung Galaxy A23: Display score 64%, $399
  • Apple iPhone SE 2022: Display score 64%, $799
We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.