x PhoneArena is hiring! Reviewer in the USA

Best mid-range "$400/$500 flagship" phones in 2018

Posted: , by Victor Hristov Victor Hristov

Tags :

Best mid-range
These days, you can get a phone with a flagship-grade look, feel and often even performance for just $400. Many people have started calling these phones simply the "$400 flagships".

And while the price on these phones has fluctuated and grown to include $500 phones, these are devices that still offer amazing value for the money and will make you reconsider whether you need to spend more on a phone.

The "$400 flagships" that we've picked below all excel in terms of performance and their design and overall finish. Most of them, though, will not work on CDMA networks like Verizon Wireless and Sprint in the United States, and they are not sold via carrier subsidies.

In some cases, these phones are not sold in brick-and-mortar stores, but are instead only sold online. This is part of the reason that allows phone makers to cut their costs and provide the best value for these phones. Still, support and repair service is available for those phones, as well as a proper warranty, so you don't need to worry about that.

With all this in mind, let's get started: here are the best mid-range phones, the top "$400 flagships" in 2018.

Phones available in the U.S.:

OnePlus 5T

*Only works on AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States
Price: $500 for 64 GB, $560 for 128 GB

Best mid-range "$400/$500 flagship" phones in 2018


  • Camera quality is a bit short of flagship grade
  • Automatic brightness too aggressive, screen often appears too dim
  • Lacks water protection

OnePlus was one of the companies that made the "$400 flagship" concept popular with the OnePlus 3 last year, but it has quickly moved to higher prices. The OnePlus 5T now starts at $500 in the United States, a higher price than on earlier phones. Still, the OnePlus 5T is great value for the money even at this slightly higher price. It offers some of the best performance of any phone, comparable to the iPhone and Google Pixel, it has the super-fast Dash Charge tech on board, it features a sleek design and a beautiful display, and while the camera is not quite up there with the best it's not too far off. We also appreciate the clean interface that has no bloatware installed.

Apple iPhone 6s

Price: $450 for 32GB model, $550 for 128GB

Best mid-range "$400/$500 flagship" phones in 2018


  • Big bezels
  • No dual cameras, no portrait mode
  • Battery life is just average

The Apple iPhone 6s has dropped down to just $450 in September 2017 and since then it easily ranks as one of the best mid-range "flagships" out there. The iPhone 6s with 32GB of storage provides great, smooth 60fps performance that many top-notch Android phones still cannot match, has got the App Store with its top-quality apps and games, has Apple's cool ARKit and will be supported for years to come with updates.

From a historical perspective, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus were the first iPhones able to record 4K video. Android phones had come with 4K video for years, but all of them had annoying limitations such as 5-minute limit to video clips and no ability to edit 4K footage on the phones. The iPhone 6s might have been late, but it got all those things right: video came very crisp, recorded at high bit-rates, and Apple updated its excellent iMovie with support for up to two 4K video channels. Other cool iPhone 6s features included Live Photos that recorded a short video before and after a still image, a set of new 3D Touch-enabled Motion Wallpapers, a new rose gold color, as well as support for 'Hey, Siri', a hands-free voice command that activated the smart iPhone assistant.

Motorola Moto X4

Price: $400

Best mid-range "$400/$500 flagship" phones in 2018

The $400 Moto X4 is the first Android One phone to come to the United States with Project Fi, and this guarantees proper updates (a rarity on affordable Android phones), but the X4 is also a great phone on its own.

It's got a fancy dual camera system a la LG with a secondary wide-angle lens, it's got that clean and fast Android interface and it features an eye-catchy design with a glass back.

Essential Phone

Price: $500 for 128GB

Best mid-range "$400/$500 flagship" phones in 2018


  • Sub-par camera
  • Still some stability issues
  • No headphone jack

The Essential Phone is the newest competitor on the $500 flagship block after a hefty $200 price cut. And it's an amazing value for the money: it features an exquisit ceramic body with a meticulous fit and finish, a clean Android experience with the promise for timely updates and the latest Snapdragon 835 processor. It's also got a dual camera setup with a color + monochrome cameras that don't seem to deliver as great results as one would expect, but updates are promised to fix that. The Essential Phone has also got a curious magnetic attachment port that supports a 360-degree camera at the moment, but has the potential of being a hub for a growing ecosystem of accessories in the future.

Moto Z2 Play

*Works on AT&T and T-Mobile in the USA, Z Play Droid version for Verizon
Price: $400 for 32 GB

Best mid-range "$400/$500 flagship" phones in 2018


  • Display could look better
  • Sound quality via loudspeaker is disappointing
  • Slow to recharge

If you want to have a phone with a long-lasting battery, the Moto Z2 Play is probably one of the best choices. It's not quite the battery champ as the original, but it's not too far off. It's also now slimmer and more elegant, The Z2 Play runs on Android 7.1 Nougat and features the clutter-free Moto skin that works fast and well. It has a very good 12MP main camera that is also able to capture video at up to 4K resolution. The Moto Z2 Play also supports Moto Mods, the magnetic super-attachments that can add even more battery, improved sound, or even a pico projector, but you don't really need any of them to fully enjoy this phone.

Apple iPhone SE

Price: $350 for 32 GB, $450 for 128 GB

Best mid-range "$400/$500 flagship" phones in 2018


  • Tiny display may be hard to get used to
  • No advanced iPhone features
  • No 3D touch

The cute little iPhone SE has once again dropped in price in September 2017, and with a starting price of just $350 for the 32GB version, it definitely deserves a place in this list. It works like a charm on all major U.S. carrier with proper 4G LTE support, and it has the Apple A9 chip, which runs as fast as the popular Snapdragon 835. It's also the only 4" phone on this list, a truly compact little phone that is great for single-handed use.

The iPhone SE has been updated to iOS 11, the latest version of the platform and it now supports ARKit for cool augmented reality apps. This phone also supports 4K video recording with great quality. The little iPhone SE also goes big in terms of battery life and is overall one well-made device.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Price: Around $500

Best mid-range "$400/$500 flagship" phones in 2018


  • Stuttery performance
  • Updates will be slow to arrive
  • microUSB port

Last year's Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge has dropped in price and it now comfortable ranks in the $400-$500 flagship territory.

In the United States, you can buy the GSM version that will work with AT&T and T-Mobile for just $430. So yes, the S7 Edge is a great deal: it has got a trendy glass and metal design, a very good camera, a vivid display that impresses and it is also water-protected and features expandable storage.

BlackBerry KeyOne

Price: $500

Best mid-range "$400/$500 flagship" phones in 2018


  • Pricing steep compared to similarly-specced phones
  • No extras like wireless charging/waterproofing
  • BlackBerry apps can be hit-and-miss
  • Unusual screen size/shape and device layout isn't for everyone

The KEYone is just so different from every other smartphone out there on the market that it takes a little while to appreciate all that it has to offer. We absolutely love things like its stellar battery life, but that's something any phone could do (if the manufacturer set its mind to it). What's really special about the KEYone is how the keyboard enhances the user experience.

We'll freely admit that going back to hardware keys takes a bit of adjusting, but it's just so satisfying to type on all these clicky, responsive keys that you'll be looking for extra opportunities to do so.

Phones Sold Globally (not available in US):

Honor 9

*Not sold officially in the USA, if imported will work only on AT&T and T-Mobile
Price: €430

Best mid-range "$400/$500 flagship" phones in 2018


  • Interface takes getting used to
  • Very slippery

The Honor 9 is a new entry to the so called $400 flagship category, and it features a thin, elegant design and top-grade specs. Here is what we thought about it in our full review:

"In almost every aspect, the Honor 9 is a substantial upgrade over the Honor 8. And maybe even more impressive is how favorably it compares to the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus – both much more expensive phones. ... In the end, the Honor 9 is an attractive option for international smartphone users who want a phone that's compact, a reasonably strong performer, enjoys solid battery life, and offers a decently nice camera – and all for quite a bit less than your typical flagship."

Nokia 8

Price: €500

Best mid-range "$400/$500 flagship" phones in 2018


  • Big bezels, colors not as lively as on other screens
  • Camera is below average
  • No water proofing
  • Fingerprint is not as accurate as on other phones
  • Always-on Display is hard to see, too dim

The Nokia 8 does not have any flashy features, and its bothie camera mode is a gimmick. Here are a few other things to consider: the screen looks dull and with needlessly big bezels, the camera is slow and quality is not on par with the best, the fingerprint is less accurate than on most other expensive phones, there is no water-proofing and the experience is bland.

But - and that's an important one - it’s also really great value offer when you compare it with other flagships, and you can buy two Nokia 8 phones for the price of one Galaxy Note 8. And the Nokia 8 excels in daily use with smooth performance throughout. If you don't mistake it for the "next great thing", it's a solid choice.

Samsung Galaxy A8 2018

Price: €400

Best mid-range "$400/$500 flagship" phones in 2018


  • Pricey for what it is
  • No Android Oreo on board
  • Rather poor video recording quality, no 4K
  • Not great for low-light photos
  • Only 32GB of on-board storage

The Samsung Galaxy A8 is a slightly bulkier and clumsier device than the 2017 flagship Galaxy S8, but it shares a similar, visually stunning Super AMOLED screen and the feature-rich Samsung Experience. And here is a fun fact: it actually runs smoother than the S8 in the daily grind.

But the A8 makes a few compromises, most notably with camera quality, which is not that great in low light and there is no support for 4K video.

Huawei Nova 2

*Not officially sold in the United States
Price: €400 for 64GB

Best mid-range "$400/$500 flagship" phones in 2018

The Huawei Nova 2 is the second generation of the quite popular Huawei series, and while it's not sold in the United States, the Nova 2 phone is a good value in Europe and other parts of the world. It features a sleek metal design that has become a signature Huawei feature, it has got an outstanding dual camera system, a good selfie camera (with a few beauty modes for the more vane), it features a smooth performance and solid battery life.

  • Options

Want to comment? Please login or register.

Latest stories