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

Posted: , by Victor Hristov Victor Hristov

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Best mid-range
These days, you can get a phone with a flagship-grade look, feel and even performance for just about $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 6

*Only works on AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States
Price: $520 for 64 GB, $570 for 128 GB, $620 for 256GB

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

Cons

  • Gesture interaction a bit fiddly
  • Automatic brightness too aggressive, screen often appears too dim
  • Lacks full water protection


OnePlus was one of the companies that made the "$400 flagship" concept popular and while the company has been slowly and steadily growing prices, the new OnePlus 6 is still an incredibly value-for-money offering. At a price starting at just $520, you get the OnePlus 6 with its exquisite glass and metal design, the powerful Snapdragon 845 system chip, a dual camera that in most conditions can match the best camera phones out there, and a fast charging system that is reliable and quicker than on other phones. All of this makes the OnePlus 6 a phone that is still the first device that comes to mind when we speak about "affordable flagships". The list of downsides is short, but the OnePlus 6 is still not a perfect phone: it lacks full water protection, wireless charging and the gesture navigation system on it is fiddly.



Apple iPhone 6s/7

Price: from $450 for 6s, from $550 for 7

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

Cons

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


The Apple iPhone 7 and iPhone 6s have dropped down in price and they easily rank 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. The iPhone 7 was the first iPhone that had no headphone jack, but it ups the game with faster performance, more stable video and a few other neat tricks up its sleeve.


Motorola Moto X4

Price: $280

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

The 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. Now that its price has fallen down from the original $400 mark, it's an even more alluring buy.



Essential Phone

Price: $500 for 128GB

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

Cons

  • 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 a great 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

Cons

  • 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

Cons

  • 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 S8

Price: from $450

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

Cons

  • Stuttery performance
  • Updates will be slow to arrive


Last year's Samsung Galaxy S8 has dropped in price and it now comfortable ranks in the $400-$500 flagship territory.

In the United States, you can buy the unlocked version with official US warranty and all the bells and whistles, so we definitely recommend taking a look at this phone. It has a gorgeous-looking Super AMOLED screen, one of the best cameras out there, and a lot of neat features like wireless charging, proper water protection and all the features that come with the Samsung Experience interface.


BlackBerry Key2

Price: $650

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

Cons

  • 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 Key2 is the new BlackBerry phone for those who want a full physical QWERTY keyboard on their phone and don't mind a wacky form factor. The new 'Berry also has a dual camera system and up-to-date modern specs, all at a price lower than that of an iPhone or a Galaxy.


Phones Sold Globally (not available in US):

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s

Price: €500

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

The new Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s features a rad all-screen, edge-to-edge design with a ceramic back that really looks incredible. Under the hood, you get Android's finest and most powerful Snapdragon 845 system chip with up to 8GB of RAM, while on the back you get a dual camera system with a secondary telephoto lens and portrait mode. And on the software front, this phone runs on the MIUI custom Android interface that really adds a ton of useful additions to the experience.

So if you look at all the rivals, you would expect that the price of this phone would be close to one grand, but the pleasant surprise is that the price tag is actually much, much lower. The phone price starts at just 500 euro, making the device an incredible value for the money.

Honor 10

*Not sold officially in the USA, if imported will work only on AT&T and T-Mobile
Price: from €400

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

Cons

  • Interface takes getting used to
  • Big bottom bezel

Well, just like the P20, the Honor 10 ships with a glass-coated back that shifts its colors at an angle, introducing the so-called "color radiance" Aurora Glass coating technology to the Honor line, but only in the Phantom Blue and Phantom Green hues. The notch-y front with 5.8" FHD+ display is also here, as is the Kirin 970 processor, the same that powers the Huawei P20, and as are the 4GB RAM plus 64/128GB storage configurations.

The high-quality dual-camera setup (16MP RGB+24MP monochrome) is different than the P20, though, and features f/1.8 aperture, PDAF (phase detection autofocus), as well as AI-powered scene recognition, plus intelligent image stabilization. There's a 24-megapixel selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture housed in the notch, and a fingerprint sensor placed in the home key.


Nokia 8

Price: €500

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

Cons

  • 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

Cons

  • 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.

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