9 ex-flagships that you can now buy as great mid-range smartphones

9 ex-flagships that you can now buy as great mid-range smartphones
Have you noticed that it’s easier to find a perfect mid-range smartphone than a high-end one? That’s because, alongside all the new mid-range devices, you also have the option of buying a former flagship that’s old enough to be downgraded to the mid-range category. There are plenty of ex-flagships that can still provide a great user experience - assuming that you don’t necessarily need the very latest CPUs, or crazy screen resolutions that were unimaginable some years ago.

Of course, in addition to having more options to choose from, getting a mid-range smartphone also saves you money (though, as you’ll see, that’s not always the case). This being said, check out our selection of ex-flagships that can now be purchased as mid-range handsets, and let us know if there's any other device that we should've included on the list - which, by the way, is in alphabetical order. 

Apple iPhone 4S

The iPhone 4S 8GB is Apple’s only smartphone that’s available for less than $500 off-contract. That, however, doesn’t mean it’s cheap: at $450, it’s still pretty expensive for what it’s offering - including a 3.5-inch display with 640 x 960 pixels. But, hey, that’s how Apple rolls.

Apple iPhone 4S review

BlackBerry Q10

If you’re a fan of old-school BlackBerries - with their great hardware QWERTY keyboards - the Q10 should be the first on your list of mid-range phones to consider buying. Released in the first half of 2013 for a hefty price, the Q10 can now be purchased for less than $300, either directly from BlackBerry, or from Amazon. Alongside a large QWERTY keyboard, the BlackBerry Q10 offers a 3.1-inch Super AMOLED display with 720 x 720 pixels, an 8 MP rear camera, dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of expandable internal memory. The Q10 runs BlackBerry 10 OS.

BlackBerry Q10 review

Google Nexus 4

Manufactured by LG, Google’s flagship smartphone form late 2012 may have its shortcomings (like the mediocre 8 MP camera and the somewhat fragile glass-based construction), but it’s undeniably a very good smartphone for its price - you can buy the 16 GB version, unlocked, for around $280 via Amazon.

Google Nexus 4 review

LG Optimus G Pro

Introduced in February last year, the Optimus G Pro was seen by many as being too big - and that’s because the handset sports a 5.5-inch 1080p display. Since then, however, extra-large displays have become more popular. If you don’t mind the fact that the Optimus G Pro is powered by the not-so-high-end Snapdragon 600 processor, you can buy the handset right now for around $300.

LG Optimus G Pro review

Motorola Droid Maxx

The Motorola Droid line has been very successful at Verizon Wireless, and the Droid Maxx is one of the best smartphones in the series. The Droid Maxx is similar to the Droid Ultra, but adds a very large 3500 mAh battery, this being a bit thicker. You can get the Droid Maxx fro Verizon for $49.99 on contract, or $499.99 without any agreement.

Motorola Droid Maxx review

Nokia Lumia 1020

It’s hard, if not impossible, to find a smartphone that can take better photos than the Nokia Lumia 1020. That’s because this Windows Phone handset (released about a year ago, and recently updated to Windows Phone 8.1) features a 41 MP camera with PureView technology, thus being able to capture incredibly detailed photos, and even videos. The problem - if we may put it this way - with the Lumia 1020 is that it still carries a premium price tag: Microsoft is selling the handset for $549.99.

Nokia Lumia 1020 review

Samsung Galaxy S III

Yes, the Galaxy S III is still around, and it’s currently available for less than $300 unlocked. The S III was Samsung’s best selling smartphone in 2012, and won’t disappoint you if you think a 4.8-inch 720p display is enough for your mobile needs.

Samsung Galaxy S III US version review; Samsung Galaxy S III international version review

Samsung Galaxy Note II

The Galaxy Note II was Samsung’s other flagship of 2012, being released in the second half of that year. The Note II built on the success of the very first Galaxy Note, offering more advanced features, an improved 5.5-inch display, and an enhanced S Pen experience. The Note II currently costs a tad under $400.

Samsung Galaxy Note II US version reviewSamsung Galaxy Note II international version review

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

Some say that the water-resistant Xperia Z Ultra is a phablet, though Sony announced it as an extra-large smartphone. The handset sports a 6.4-inch display with 1080 x 1920 pixels, and is only 6.4mm-thin. Unlocked, the Sony Xperia Z Ultra currently costs around $400.



1. xPnoyStar

Posts: 7; Member since: Jan 25, 2014

What's with the Xperia Z Ultra?

6. Florin.T

Posts: 318; Member since: Dec 16, 2013

Just added it, thanks for reminding us!

23. Professor

Posts: 223; Member since: Aug 02, 2013

What about the Nexus 5. At $349 new at the PlayStore still cheaper and a better deal than most of those...

25. GalaxyS5

Posts: 430; Member since: Aug 05, 2014

it's not an ex-flagship, it's a flagship

32. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

It's an ex-flagship killer :)

27. Busyboy unregistered

Exactly. Remove that iPhone 4s and replace it with the Nexus 5.

62. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012


2. tiara6918

Posts: 2263; Member since: Apr 26, 2012

Out of all these the iphone 4s is still the best selling midrange phone out of the 8 pa listed even up till now. Just shows that people care about that logo and the high resale value compared to its competitors. I can still remember the note 1 was sold around the time the 4s was, and now note 1 has no more value while the 4s still has that price tag

5. tiara6918

Posts: 2263; Member since: Apr 26, 2012

edit*it's 9 phones*

7. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

4S barely handles the iOS8 very well. If there is a brand new 4S with iOS7 installed it will still sell pancakes

11. NokiaFTW

Posts: 2072; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

Still better than an S3, who doesn't even have KitKat, never mind Android L.

17. Carlitos

Posts: 679; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

The s3 has already recieved kitkat

20. NokiaFTW

Posts: 2072; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

Only the US versions have received KitKat. The most popular version of the S3, i.e. the Exynos one, is stuck on 4.3.

50. boosook

Posts: 1442; Member since: Nov 19, 2012

There's not much difference between jb 4.3 and kitkat (I use both), and Android 4.3 is more powerful than both ios and wp anyway.

21. Iodine

Posts: 1497; Member since: Jun 19, 2014

iOS 8 runs excellently on the 4S. If we take the iOS 7 and iPhone 4 the RAM wasn't a bottle neck (runs fine on 512 MB) the CPU also wasn't (very light on CPU) , but the GPU wasn't enough to handle all of those animations, transitions and translucency. Also the iPhone 4 was the only device excluded from the iOS 8 update list compared to iOS 7. So the 4S with about 7x faster GPU will animate the entire system flawlessly and I don't see anything preventing it form getting iOS 9 or even iOS 10 (5-6 years of software support=>unprecedented) until something other becomes a bottleneck. I think Apple will have to support the Apple A5 devices for quite some time as it is a rather large portion of their users. And btw all iPhone 4S'es are pre installed with iOS 7, iOS 8 wasn't released yet at it will take some time for Apple to sell all 4S with iOS 7 (if they will ever make iPhone 4S after iOS 8 release).

46. shamashu9

Posts: 142; Member since: Jun 10, 2013

I bought a brand new ip4s last August 7, 2014 ... iOS7 was already installed.

9. amiaq

Posts: 509; Member since: Jun 30, 2012

Dear tiara6918, Yeah, that's because there's more people with average IQ than the higher brackets. Go figure.

13. tiara6918

Posts: 2263; Member since: Apr 26, 2012

True, at my school tons of people have a 4s. I don't really think they care about what they get after having that kind of phone. They just want the logo for their status symbol

19. Vexify

Posts: 570; Member since: Jun 16, 2014

Android warrior over here.

26. GalaxyS5

Posts: 430; Member since: Aug 05, 2014

I would rather have a Note 1 than an empty 8gb craappy iTurrible 4s

31. twens

Posts: 1182; Member since: Feb 25, 2012

Very stupid comment. Numbers doesn't mean anything. It's true the iPhone 4s may run ios7 or 8 and yet will still luck in features than an old s3 running 4.1. You're fooled by the OS number. Please be wise, IOS 8 is just android 4.1 in features. So to me I still think the s3 is much more capable if you decide to stick with the stock OS it shipped with.

33. HugoBarraCyanogenmod

Posts: 1412; Member since: Jul 06, 2014

This is the 1st time I have to agree this American -favor statement, like it or not, iPhone 4s is still the best choice due to veriety of apps, and better camera, while it's equivalent android phone has no value to sell and so forgotten.

74. domfonusr

Posts: 1092; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

I just about gagged when I caught myself looking at the iPhone 4S for too long. It has a small screen, which is my preference, and is free with a new contract at AT&T right now... though, new contract would mean not qualifying for discounted rate. I am pretty sure that I cannot sucker my parents into signing new contracts for new devices at this point - so, I won't be getting a free phone of any kind, and since I have almost no money, that means no new device any time soon. I am frustrated with the LG Viper that I have. It showed me that Android is just too different from one device to the next to be predictable in any way, and that some of Android's powers are simply not available on some models, even if they are from a major OEM. Aside from playing with QPython on the phone, my developer days are done, and my prior scientific career is behind me (until I can finish a whole new set of schooling to go into a new path... and that is years away from completion), and so I don't need the features of Android, anyway. For a little while there, I thought that Windows Phone was going to be my next eventual destination, but I don't think so at this point. It just isn't better enough in certain areas to make it seem worth it. I won't jump out of the 'Android' frying pan just to end up in the 'Windows Phone' fire. Enter this article, and the iPhone 4S right at the top. I found myself thinking about how simple and smooth the operation of such a device could be, how small and easy to handle the 3.5" screen would be, and how inexpensive to acquire it would be (under specific conditions, of course), and then remembered that it is an Apple product (made in China) that I am considering here, and that the thing has an 800 MHz dual-core processor and 512 MB of RAM. Not only that, but here I was considering a device that, a couple of years back, was the latest and greatest elitist status symbol to come out of Apple. What a horrible realization that was. I just about gagged. I think I need some more time away from mobile technology. I have got to stop thinking about smartphones and such.

77. jojon

Posts: 435; Member since: Feb 11, 2014

An excellent self analysis Mr domfonusr, never say never, you may even yet end up owning a WP device of some sort. Wish you well anyway

81. lawsofeffect

Posts: 42; Member since: Jun 04, 2014

4s was a great camera, it sucked as a phone (can I say that here?). 4s commonly dropped calls right in front of your face; you could see it happen and there was nothing you could do about - if I remember correctly, pretty sure it even happened to Jobs at the 4s's reveal

78. mschmal

Posts: 23; Member since: Sep 01, 2011

The 4S is still popular because most people are buying it subsidized. $0.00 on Verizonwireless.com with new contract.

3. techperson211

Posts: 1280; Member since: Feb 27, 2014

Lg G Pro is the best buy here.

4. KoensSocialLife unregistered

At many webshops here in Belgium, the Lumia 1020 is about 500 euro (657 dollar). I just pay 300 euro (394 dollar) for the same phone at Proximus (a provider in Belgium). It is a SIM Free phone :)

12. tiara6918

Posts: 2263; Member since: Apr 26, 2012

Add in the lumia 920, htc butterfly/droid dna, xperia z,huawei ascend p6

34. Dumbledora

Posts: 15; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

These are not flagship phones... L

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.