These days, you can get a phone with a flagship-grade look, feel and even performance for just about $400 to $600. And since this trend has been taking over in the last couple of years, many people would just call these phones "affordable flagships".
The price on these phones has fluctuated a bit, but generally has hovered around these prices, and considering the quick astronomical growth of phones from Apple, Samsung and even Huawei, these phones look like an even better value for the money today.
Unlike proper flagship phones, affordable ones usually have to make a compromise or two to achieve the lower price. It's up to you to decide which things you're comfortable missing out on and which are must-haves for you.
How to buy the best mid range smartphone for you
Generally, smartphones have four main aspects:
- Build quality
- Battery life
Even the best mid range phones can't deliver top results in all four, so you have to prioritize. If you take a ton of photos, then go for the mid range phone with the best camera. If you game on your phone a lot or use heavy apps, performance and battery life is what you should focus on. And if you don't use your phone much but want something that looks and feels nice then go for the fanciest one.
No matter what your preference is, here is what you can expect to find in a mid range phone:
What should I look for in a mid range smartphone?
Here are some common specs for mid-range phones:
- Full HD+ 1080p LCD display
- Snapdragon 600 or 700 series system chip
- 4-6GB of RAM
- 64-128GB of storage
- 3000-4000mAh battery
- At least two rear cameras (not counting depth sensors)
If your mid range phone of choice delivers more than these specs than you're getting excellent value.
While not all of these phones are available on US carriers, most will be compatible with at least T-Mobile and AT&T, and are readily available via retailers like Amazon or B&H.
Best mid range cell phones, a summarized list:
While it's technically outside of our established price range, OnePlus remains our top choice for the best mid range Android phone.
The OnePlus 7T
has a 90Hz display just like the Pro version and a triple camera setup as well, which means the only difference is the curved-edge display and the pop-up camera. For many user those are actually advantages,
The 7T remains true to the OnePlus fundamentals: extremely zippy performance thanks to the Snapdragon 855+ chip under the hood, the clean, clutter-free experience and the improved camera quality. Add to that an impressive battery life, flagship-grade design and super fast charging, and the OnePlus remains the best option for most buyers that don't want to spend $800+ on a flagship.
Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL
The Google Pixel 3a bring a small revolution in affordable phones: at just $400 for the small 3a and $470 for the larger 3a XL model, these two gadgets bring the flagship Pixel camera phone experience, something that simply no other phone in this price range can match. So if you want a cheap phone and a great camera, that's pretty much your only option.
Google makes a few compromises to get the 3a to be so affordable: first and foremost in terms of styling and looks as the 3a series are made of plastic and don't quite have the solid build quality of a modern flagship, and secondly, the bezels that are definitely way bigger than on contemporaries and give the phones a decidedly dated look.
But if you don't care about that, you would be pleased with the performance and the 3 years of timely software updates are another great thing that you will not get on other devices.
Samsung Galaxy A71
Samsung's refresh of the Galaxy A70
takes the model even closer to its flagship cousins but keeps the price about half of theirs. The design and feel of the Galaxy A71
is very close to that of the S20 series and its capabilities are not far behind. You still get a gorgeous AMOLED display, four cameras on the back, including macro lens and ultra-wide lenses and the distinct hole for the front-facing camera.
The battery of the A71 exceeds expectations with a 4,500mAh capacity and the phone even supports 25W super-fast charging. For its price, the Galaxy A71 is undoubtedly the best Samsung mid range phone.
When the iPhone 11
generation was released, the iPhone XR
wasn't discontinued but instead got a price reduction. That made it a great mid range option for those looking to join Apple's ecosystem or people that have held onto their old iPhones for a while. It has Apple's secure and convenient Face ID, performance smoother than most other phones on this list and decent battery life.
The only thing you'll be missing is the camera's Night mode but that's not such a major loss. If your budget is capped at $600 and you have to be on iOS, the iPhone XR is the clear choice.
Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro
The Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro
(Or Redmi K20 Pro in some regions) is a flagship phone no matter how you look at it. It has an AMOLED display, Snapdragon 855, three cameras and even a headphone jack! All that for under $500 is a steal. It also has an inportant advantage over the rest of the phones on this list: the pop-up selfie camera. Because of it there's no notch to ruin your aesthetics. On the down side, it also could be a vulnerability and having your selfie camera hidden also means that face unlock is quite slow, especially since the mechanism on the Mi 9T Pro is not the fastest.
We also love the large, 4,000mAh battery under the hood and we get between a day or even two out of it, so battery life is really great too. What we didn't love so much were the photos the 9T Pro takes. It has all the necessary hardware but Xiaomi is still struggling with getting the most of it in some scenarios. Still, they're not terrible and you're already getting plenty for your money anyway.