Best "affordable flagship" phones in 2019

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What are the best "affordable flagship phones" this year? 

To answer that, we have to first define the curious phenomenon of a "budget flagship". First, we know that people want the best phone they can get, but of course without paying the high bill that usually comes with a flagship. Many companies have recognized this desire and have come up with clever ways to deliver phones with top-rate specs yet a much more affordable price.

The first such phone might have been Google's own Nexus, which was offered with flagship processors and back in the day, you could buy one for just $300 brand new. Then, OnePlus came with its fair share of "flagship killer" slogans, and then others like Xiaomi and Honor followed. With time, these phones have gotten better and better to the point that many people these days would actually prefer such a phone over a mainstream flagship for a number of reasons.

So... what are the best affordable flagships this year and what makes them stand out? Join us as we take a look.

1. OnePlus 7

*Not available in the US

Best "affordable flagship" phones in 2019

Pros

  • Great value for the money
  • Impressively fast performance
  • Good battery life
  • Recharges very quickly

Cons

  • Low-light camera performance not quite flagship grade
  • No wireless charging

OnePlus remains our top choice for a budget flagship this year.

The OnePlus 7 might not be quite as impressive as the 7 Pro edition which has that 90-hertz display, the new vibration motor and the triple camera magic, but the regular 7 is a super solid performer at a very reasonable price that delivers when it comes to the fundamentals.

And those fundamentals are the extremely zippy performance thanks to the Snapdragon 855 chip under the hood, the clean, clutter-free experience and the improved quality from the single rear camera sensor. Add to that an impressive battery life, flagship-grade design and super fast charging, and the OnePlus remains the best option for most buyers in this price range.


2. Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL


Best "affordable flagship" phones in 2019

Pros

  • Incredible, best-in-class camera
  • Smooth performance
  • Clean software, years of guaranteed software updates

Cons

  • Dated looks, plastic body
  • Chip is not the fastest around


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.


3. Xiaomi Mi 9

*Not available in the US

Best "affordable flagship" phones in 2019

Pros

  • Premium build quality
  • A good combination of rear cameras
  • Fast performance
  • Super competitive price

Cons

  • The fingerprint sensor is a bit unreliable

The Xiaomi Mi 9 is the most affordable phone with the newest Snapdragon 855 on board and it is probably the most affordable phone with that flagship chip on board. It features a very sleek, thin design, excellent camera performance and a battery that lasts a long time.

The only big downside is the MIUI custom interface that serves ads in certain countries like India (you don't get ads in the MIUI version on Xiaomi phones in Europe, however).



4. Honor View 20

*Not available in the US

Best "affordable flagship" phones in 2019

Pros

  • Unique V shape design
  • 7nm Kirin 980 processor is fast
  • Big battery
  • 48-megapixel camera performs well

Cons

  • No AMOLED screen

Honor is an offshoot of Chinese giant Huawei, but it operates with no physical stores and relies on word-of-mouth and has no big marketing budget, which saves it a ton of money. This is what makes phones like the Honor View 20 possible.

The View 20 sports a 6.4-inch LCD screen and Huawei's own Kirin 980 chip inside, the first 7nm chip ever released for Android phones. Huawei's years of effort in making chips have definitely paid handsomely as the Kirin 980 beats the Snapdragon 845 in terms of performance. The View 20 also sports a big, 4,000mAh battery and is a looker, with that distinct V-shape on the back. The phone also features a 48-megapixel Sony sensor for the main camera that we expect to see in many phones in 2019. This sensor combines four pixels into one to deliver 12-megapixel images with superior night time performance.



5. Pocophone F1


Best "affordable flagship" phones in 2019

Pros

  • Incredible value for the money
  • Great battery life
  • Fast performance
  • MIUI is rich in features

Cons

  • Plastic back might not please everyone
  • A bit on the thick side
  • LCD screen, not AMOLED
  • No wireless charging

The Pocophone F1 was one of the biggest surprises of 2018 and it's a great value still this year.

The Pocophone really exceeds expectations: it is incredibly fast, equipped with the flagship Snapdragon 845 system chip on board, and it has a very good looking LCD display and a very decent camera (but it falls short of premium phones in this regard). All of that at an unprecedented starting price of just $350! No wonder people are excited, you can buy three Pocophones for the price of one iPhone XS and still have a benjamin left in your pocket.

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.

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28 Comments

1. snepstsk

Posts: 1; Member since: Jan 17, 2019

So Mi Mix 3 cons are "no wireless charging"? Including wireless charger pad for what? To cut some onions on it? Who is testing these phones?

3. TheOracle1

Posts: 2020; Member since: May 04, 2015

The cons in non-Apple products are completely ignored for Apple reviews. Making up cons is a whole new low for Phonearena.

4. cmdacos

Posts: 3869; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Its Victor. Your expectations of accuracy are far too high.

5. Whitedot

Posts: 718; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

Spot on! You can't blame Victor he is not programmed recognize it. As you say it probably looks like a chopping board to him. Let it be. He tried :P

6. _KIRA_

Posts: 108; Member since: Dec 25, 2013

Among other petty cons listed, "no special waterproofing".....in a device with moveable parts. Bravo

7. ProudFather

Posts: 26; Member since: Jan 04, 2019

I've found that cheap is usually not good. Sometime we tend to look for cheaper products which in return turn out to just give you headaches. There's a reason why something costs more.

11. yalokiy

Posts: 900; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

My honor 8 was one of the best devices I ever had. Was so satisfied with it's looks, price, performance and features. Also, it was the first device I didn't root. It all comes down to expectations. If one had a 10 years old device, any new budget device will seem like heaven.

18. Gymnastic

Posts: 8; Member since: Oct 20, 2016

Still using the Honor 8, did unlock the bootloader didn't rooted it. Gave it a new battery but it is starting to slow down and starts to look old with it's 16:9 screen. I'll probably will not sell it because I'm so happy with it.

15. worldpeace

Posts: 3099; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

"There's a reason why something costs more" Reason? obviously because of "profit margin". Mi Mix 3 production cost is obviously higher than iPhoneXR, but which one is cheaper for customer? and which one have higher profit margin?

8. SyCo87

Posts: 282; Member since: Sep 19, 2013

*Beginning of 2019

10. Vogue1985

Posts: 383; Member since: Jan 24, 2017

Pocophone F1 takes the Crown for value for money.

13. jellmoo

Posts: 2531; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Sure, if you happen to live in an area where the bands work and you don't care about NFC.

12. w159148

Posts: 19; Member since: Jan 02, 2018

Out of all, my personal favourite would be the Mi Mix 3, the design's elegant and beautiful.

16. worldpeace

Posts: 3099; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

No iPhone XR?? *shocked*

17. NaximAli

Posts: 1; Member since: Jan 18, 2019

But Mi Mix3 is still not available in India....

19. perry1234

Posts: 630; Member since: Aug 14, 2012

Expecting wireless charging and an AMOLED screen in a $350 phone is a bit high and mighty, especially when then are other companies that don't provide an AMOLED screen or a fast charger or even a 3.5 mm dongle in the box for $800. Not saying that this is intentional in any way, but I fail to understand why cons for one device (especially a lower priced device) are not cons for another device (especially a higher priced device). Some light on this matter, at the very best, would successfully prevent further trolling of the author. Plus, this would shed some much needed light on the process that goes into evaluating pros and cons for devices in different price tiers.

20. LEEDAQ

Posts: 159; Member since: Aug 07, 2018

No Redmi note 7??? wth?

21. Vasras

Posts: 16; Member since: Nov 08, 2018

Oneplus 6T: - No 3.5mm jack - no Card slot - USB 2.0 - small battery - SD845 gets destroyed by Kirin 980 Poco is at least cheaper and fixes most of 1+ 6t problems. Oneplus really dropped the ball this time around. Too little, too expensive.

22. yalokiy

Posts: 900; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

Battery is quite good on 6t though. Kirin 980 GPU is still behind the one in sd845. What really is annoying about 6t — slow and unreliable fingerprint scanner, which also needs the screen to be on.

25. luis.aag90

Posts: 272; Member since: Aug 12, 2014

I would pick the Honor V20 over the OP6T. It addresses most of the shortcomings on the kater, while costing about the same. The design is also better looking

23. rasta4ri

Posts: 6; Member since: Nov 12, 2016

In my opinion the most underrated cellular handsets are those from 2016 still holding their own and every bit equal to those in 2018. In 2017 right up to the present handset are more expensive and are offering less capable, & productive functions. manufacturers are stripping headphone jacks along with Ir blasters in the yesteryear of cell phones at least you could listen to the FM radio that was the first thing carriers deliberately disabled them on most phone now all but a few are active FM modulators. Just cause it's new doesn't make it better.

24. luis.aag90

Posts: 272; Member since: Aug 12, 2014

I agree, the V20 is a great cheap choice with removable battery, IR blaster, Micro SD, quad DAC and 3.5mm jack. I'm looking for one as a backup phone, they're around $120 in refurbished condition

26. maxalkhatib

Posts: 1; Member since: Jun 11, 2019

what about Redmi K20 Pro ?

27. aquinoe

Posts: 1; Member since: Jun 11, 2019

I am awaiting for a Lenovo Z6 Pro coming from China through Aliexpress with Global ROM. Please consider to review it, or at least mention it in your news (and size tool) so that people can consider it. It is quite similar to a Xiaomi Mi 9, but with better battery (4000mAh) , better low light photography (Samsung GM1 vs Sony IMX586 58MPx sensor), but worst video stabilization and presumably software updates. Main features: Snapdragon 855, 6GB+128GB + SD card, 6.4" AMOLED notched bezel-less screen, 4 cameras, Android Pie, audio jack connector, not too heavy nor bulky at 180g with dimensions 157.5 mm x 74.6 mm x 8.7mm I will lose NFC and will hate polarized screen when using my sunglasses... but best part, the price: I bought it for 340€ with included bluetooth TWS earphones in a promotion. The Lenovo Z6 (non-pro, also called youth edition) is also very commendable, probably the cheaper SD 710 smartphone out there (half the price of a Samsung A8s, third the price of an Oppo Reno). About the cost and the value: I have come from Sonys, to HTCs, then Samsung, LG, then Xiaomis, back to LG and now I'm buying Lenovo and Meizus for my relatives and me. And each phone I have had is better and more reliable than the previous ones. Sony Xperia ARC and HTC One s were great phones on their time, but failed miserably in less than a year. Lg G2 and Samsung Note 3 were great performers and very reliables, never failed. Passed them to relatives. Now I'm on a LG V30 a truly great phone... but OLED screen is horrible for night reading and media consumption. Xiaomi Mi 5s plus, Mi 6, Mix 2, Mi A2, ... from my friends and family are much better value propositions than Samsung and the likes in medium range. And given the increasingly shorter time I have a phone with me... my option is clear: never again a Note 3 or a V30 when I can have 95% the experience by half or less the cost.

28. buccob

Posts: 2951; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

I am leaning towards the Galaxy S10e Coming from Xperia devices with side-fingerprint readers, flat glass display, stereo speakers, waterproofing... I truly wanted something in the same line (but also keeping the headphone jack and a somewhat compact form)

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

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