10 old flagships that you can buy as great mid-range smartphones right now (April 2016)


Buy an old flagship or a brand new mid-range smartphone? Opinions on this subject may vary quite a bit, and arguments on both sides have their merits. The thing is, however, if you are buying a new smartphone and are on a budget – you should definitely look at the smartphones that were best in their class yesteryear, instead of jumping on a shiny new model that may just end up beind sub-par.

Sure, the alluring new devices have been designed to look fresh, sleek, and modern and represent the newest trends in smartphone industry, but a price-drop always comes with corner-cutting. Expect a processor that is not top-of-the-line, an underperforming camera, and possibly worse battery life. On the other hand, 12 or even 24 month-old flagships may be a bit aged in their appearance, but these devices were designed to be the best their respective brand has to offer, and with the current slowdown in smartphone evolution, may just do well enough to top the shiny new midrangers.

The general consensus is that new midrange processors are usually about the same in performance when compared to the high-enders of yesteryear. However, as we've seen time and time again when a new Android version is released, flagships tend to get more love from the updates department of their respective manufacturers, as companies aim to keep the highest-paying customers happy, instead of investing obscene amounts of resources into updating a wide range of midrangers – something, which may or may not go unnoticed by the users.

So, now that we've thrown this viewpoint out there, let us back it up with a selection of some old flagships that could make for great midrangers nowadays! We scanned Amazon to check for some general price points on various models. Please, when shopping, make sure to take into account if it's a CDMA (Verizon, Sprint) or GSM (AT&T, T-Mobile) model you need, and remember to check if the offered phone's LTE bands are supported by your carrier.

HTC One M8 / One M9


Yes, HTC's 2014 flagship still runs pretty snappy. It has been updated to Android 6 Marshmallow, its BoomSound speakers are as loud as ever, its metal design still holds that special charm that drew devoted fans to HTC. The 4 MP UltraPixel camera is pretty bad, so only consider this device if you are not much of a shutterbug. Yes, it still has a 32-bit processor, but trust us – it will be at least a few more years before those are considered to be anywhere near obsolete. It can be had for about $250 or less unlocked. For that price – it's a lot of phone!

Alternatively, 2015's One M9 can be found unlocked for about $370 at various online retailers. Its camera is still not the best, but its design has had a slight facelift, and the bezels around its display are slightly thinner. The One M9 rocks a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, so it proudly marches on in the 64-bit era. The stereo BoomSound speakers sound a notch better, too — check out our comparison here.


Apple iPhone 5s


Yes, the iPhone SE just came out, but that doesn't really make the 5s obsolete. In fact, the phone still runs pretty well, is receiving regular iOS updates by Apple and is a mixture of cute and stylish. You will not have access to Apple Pay and you will be stuck with Apple's old 8 MP camera, but if that doesn't bother you – you can grab one of these for about $250 at various retailers. With the 64-bit A7 processor, it will still be a good couple of years before this smartphone is obsolete.

LG G3 / G4


Yes, LG's 2014 flagship is also holding up pretty well for its age. Its design is still pretty ergonomic – despite the fact that it packs a 5.5-inch display, its thin bezels and arched back make it extremely easy to handle. Its camera, assisted by laser auto-focus, is still pretty good — sure, it can be outclassed by the newest and best out there, but not by a large margin. And yes, the phone was updated to Android 6 Marshmallow, so it still runs on the newest software. A browse through Amazon.com shows that it can be found for as low as $220 – definitely not a bad price for what you are getting!

The G3's successor is not a bad catch as well. A slightly better camera, a 64-bit processor (although, not top-of-the-line, as LG chose the Snapdragon 808), and leather backs galore. The G4 is a charming device in its own right, it's still relevant, and can be had for about $350 at various retailers.

Google Nexus 6


Google's gargantuan, Motorola-made phablet still gets timely Android updates and still runs buttery smooth – that's a given with the Nexus line. If a 6-inch screen is what you are on the lookout for, you may want to check this phone out. Its camera is not the best, and its colors are a bit greenish. But hey, on the bright side, it seems that its price has been permanently slashed to $250 / $300, depending on whether you want the 32 GB of 64 GB model.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 / Note Edge


The 2014 Notes definitely look outdated when compared to Samsung's new shiny design language. But does that make them bad smartphones? They certainly show some lag and still tote that bloated TouchWiz of old. An Android 6 Marshmallow should hit them some time this April, though, we don't know what exactly it will bring. Still, they pack potent hardware, cameras that are still pretty great, and offer the complete S Pen experience, if that's what you are after. Besides, not even the new Edges have the multitasking functionality of the original Note Edge. Their prices can still hit $400, but refurbished units can be found for about $350.

Huawei Ascend Mate7


Released in September of 2014, the Mate 7 is a premium-looking and feeling phablet. It bears a large, 6-inch display, is powered by a 32-bit Huawei home-brew Kirin 925 SoC, and has pretty nice cameras. Despite the screen size, the phone's metal chassis still doesn't take up too much space thanks to a 78% screen-to-body ratio. It's definitely a sleek-looking phablet, a good alternative for those that find the Nexus 6 a bit too... rough. Be warned, though, that the Mate 7 rocks a custom Emotion UI skin on top of Android 5.1 Lollipop and we have no idea if it will receive an update to Marshmallow. We'd wager on “no”. It floats around the $375 price point.

Sony Xperia Z3 / Z3 Compact


Excluding the upgrade to 64-bit architecture processors, nothing has really changed in the Xperia Z series since the Z3 and Z3 Compact. Therefore, they are still pretty capable devices by today's standards. You will get a sleek, rounded design, water resistance, stereo front-firing speakers, 5.2-inch screen, and 20.7 MP camera, which are all pretty much on par with what the Xperia Z5 has to offer, minus the Hybrid auto-focus system.

With the Z3 Compact you get a lot of the same, but in a smaller, plastic body, wrapped around a 4.6-inch display. Browsing through retailers on Amazon, we can see the Z3 floating around the $320 price point, with the Z3 compact being $20 - $30 cheaper.


Moto X Pure Edition


Motorola's 2015 flagship was already aggressively priced at release and now, after some 7 months after its launch it can be bought for about $380 for the 16 GB model. A great offer, considering the fact that this is still the actual Moto flagship out there. Naturally, in lieu with the company's philosophy to deliver a clean Android experience, you can also expect timely updates when major Android releases are launched and for longer than Moto's competitors, too.


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33 Comments

1. kkmkk

Posts: 699; Member since: May 06, 2013

if you have a note 4 sm-910c flash on it SIXPERIENCE N5 rom & enjoy the true speed of it http://forum.xda-developers.com/note-4/development/rom-sixperience-n5-port-v1-0-beta-t3204460

17. Cyberthing

Posts: 127; Member since: Nov 18, 2014

Is it better than the Kyuubi ROM?

2. yoosufmuneer

Posts: 1518; Member since: Feb 14, 2015

Wish I could buy all of them!

14. Jinto

Posts: 436; Member since: Jan 15, 2014

The best deal is the $228 LG G Flex 2 - better than the G4

31. TheCrotchyDoll

Posts: 5; Member since: Apr 05, 2016

No, you get the best bang for the buck for the LG G4. Camera much better than Flex, more Standby, more RAM and UI is faster on G4. Used them both.

3. tokuzumi

Posts: 1929; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

I'm going to vote that everyone should pass on the Nexus 6. Screen wasn't that great. Didn't get very bright. Very slippery in the hand without a case. It would also not maintain a reliable connection to the internet. My Nexus 5 would actually open apps faster than the 6. The camera was better, and the 3GB of ram meant less app refreshes, but overall, the Nexus 6 wasn't a good purchase. The Nexus 6 was really an experimental device from Google.

32. JW0914

Posts: 2; Member since: Apr 05, 2016

"It would also not maintain a reliable connection to the internet." That has nothing to do with the phone and everything to do with either your carrier or WiFi. There's always the slim chance it was defective, however even if that was the case, defective products do occur (which could have been warrantied if that was the case). It's okay to not recommend a phone for this or that, especially because negative feedback allows for others to weigh the pros and cons, however the aforementioned quote is factually inaccurate and extremely misleading.

4. maple_mak

Posts: 953; Member since: Dec 18, 2013

5.7 inch on Xperia Z3?

15. paul.k

Posts: 296; Member since: Jul 17, 2014

Oops. Thanks

5. bassembm

Posts: 143; Member since: Dec 27, 2015

Z3 Compact is 4.7 inch phone not 5.7

19. Planterz

Posts: 2120; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

4.6". But hey, we all exaggerate a little bit.

6. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

I always tell my friends to buy old flagships instead of mid rangers. Flagships always have better cameras than mid ranges for about 2 years, support is much better, you won't probably feel like some shortcuts were made to cut the price of your phone and etc. for me biggest advantage is much bigger support from XDA devs. Anyway, I still think that for the monet GS5 is one of best phones you can buy today, great camera, screen, waterproof, sd

7. EcoCare

Posts: 444; Member since: Jul 30, 2014

Planning to get the 5s, it's the oldest of all yet it's still fast enough and still guaranteed with updates.

11. IOSANDROID

Posts: 120; Member since: Sep 30, 2015

It's rediculous how that 5s will get as many updates (if no more) as an android flaship from the year in the next 2 years.

13. EcoCare

Posts: 444; Member since: Jul 30, 2014

That's my reason why. I have been using Android phone and so far they only gave me around 2 major system updates. Granted, they are budget phones, but even then the flagships aren't supported as well as an iPhone.

8. bassembm

Posts: 143; Member since: Dec 27, 2015

G4 best value for money flagship

9. IOSANDROID

Posts: 120; Member since: Sep 30, 2015

Dear phonearena im happy to inform you that i received an android 6 update on my Note 4 (sprint) perhaps you should check that out, since you mentioned that you don't know what will the upgrade bring? Just to inform everybody it brings the same s pen interface when you detach the pen as well as many new s pen features such as to write when the display is off and you detach the s pen (in a black display) and also the handy screen shot of a hole web page as a single one, besides that the user interface including the camera i T s about the same as before and the icon are note 5 like, but not the in apps enhance or changes, no theme engine, no changes at all in the camera, but at least we got the s pen update and new andfoid m features.

16. paul.k

Posts: 296; Member since: Jul 17, 2014

Thanks. We will be waiting with bated breath for it to hit our office units.

10. gersont1000

Posts: 473; Member since: Mar 13, 2012

Z3 would be my vote for best value here (considering the $250 deal yesterday).

12. karas

Posts: 85; Member since: Jul 08, 2011

Or buy Nexus 5X. Best cam, latest pure Android.

18. SprintGuy26

Posts: 229; Member since: Mar 21, 2011

I have the LG G3 D850 ATT and im still stuck on crappy 5.0.1 and i have yet to get any updates since last year!...all the LG G3's still run 5.0.1 NOT 6.0 soooo where are u getting ur info at PA?

22. epdm2be

Posts: 824; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

So? It still tuns 99% of all apps. I've kept my own S5 on kitkat and am still very happy it. Sure I've rooted it and tweaked it a bit but it still runs fast and defininitly looks better than Samsung's later Android-versions. The best Samsung that I ever had especially with its to make the camera flush.

26. epdm2be

Posts: 824; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

the last sentence should read: "The best Samsung that I ever had especially with its QI-charging-cover to make the camera flush." Damn Android spellcheck! Stop removing words dammit!

27. SprintGuy26

Posts: 229; Member since: Mar 21, 2011

where on my post does it say anything about Samsung or anything that u said?

20. Planterz

Posts: 2120; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

Where do you get the 64gb Nexus 6 for $300? There's been a couple sales on Amazon, but not since January. They got a shipment a week or 2 ago, but they sold out at $400. They still have the 32gb, but it's $350, not $250. If anyone has a link for a NEW (and with warranty) Nexus 6 64gb for $300, let me know, so I can buy one, and sell the one I have that might not be under warranty.

21. thegeneral7010

Posts: 437; Member since: Dec 10, 2014

Note 4 is still more worthy than note 5

23. obedchuni

Posts: 337; Member since: Jun 16, 2014

TechieXp the iPhone 5s with 1GB ram is the perfect phone for u man, now u can rest ur iPhone 4s with 1GB ram.....rest assured

24. legiloca

Posts: 1676; Member since: Nov 11, 2014

I'm still holding real tight on my HTC Desire Eye, underrated phone at best! Great Selfies, 13MP Cameras on both sides, BoomSound, SD801 w/ 2GB RAM/16GB ROM (up to 128GB SD card), Android Marshmallow made it more fluid and feature packed, Bright Display, and Dust and Waterproof! what else can u ask for?

25. davidsmith

Posts: 62; Member since: Mar 09, 2016

If it comes to choose best smartphone then I would like to prefer Samsung smartphones. The exclusive designed smartphones are offered under genius price. Samsung smartphones are stunners which includes extra smart features with affordable cost.

28. yajia1

Posts: 151; Member since: Aug 22, 2012

I had my Xperia Z3's charging port fcked up after 1 year and would only take charge on certain angles and its battery noticeably drain a lot faster than, say, the first 6 months. Was thinking on getting the latest flagships but knowing the degradation on battery (costs a fortune to have the battery replaced too) I bought a Note 4 instead. I am happy. Although this phone lags sometimes unlike my Z3, battery drops faster than my Z3 even when not in use but overall I am at peace knowing I can just pop out its battery anytime. It charges incredibly quick too. Now waiting for Marshmallow hoping it would solve the lags and give better battery life.

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