Not everyone can afford a flagship phone like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra or iPhone 13 Pro, but the good news is that plenty of cheaper devices offer an excellent experience all the same.
Mid-range phones tend to offer the best balance of price and performance, packing high-end features you won’t find in the cheapest phones on the market while still sometimes costing half the price of top flagships, or even less.
We define a mid-range phone as one that costs between $350/£250 (the higher limit of our even cheaper budget phones chart) and $850/£600 on a SIM-free basis – perfect to pair with a SIM-only plan.
Phones from the likes of Realme, Xiaomi, and Poco are prime choices, but note that many of these don’t release in the US and Canada, where OnePlus, Motorola, and Google are better buys. Every phone in this list is available in either the US or UK though (or both). Read past our rundown for more mid-range phone buying advice.
The Pixel 6a is a superb mid-range phone with a flagship-level processor, truly outstanding main camera, 5G connectivity, the latest version of Android, five years of security support, and a pocket-friendly design.
The big downsides are the slow charging speeds on a phone that charges hot, the easily scratched rear plastic material, and the 60Hz display lagging behind similarly priced phones.
Yet, this is a Pixel, which means it has a superlative Android experience and camera with a software polish and premium hardware feel you won’t find on other brands in this price range.
An outstanding follow-up to 2021’s best mid-range phone, with 80W fast charging, 5G, OnePlus’s signature Oxygen OS user experience, and a near-flagship main camera. What’s not to love?
What the OnePlus Nord 2T really demonstrates is the company’s ability to prioritise the features that users are looking for right now and wrapping them up in an attractive package with a compelling price point.
The Nord 2T misses out on flagship niceties like wireless charging and waterproofing, but those are really the only compromises made here.
There’s also the
OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G available, which delivers a stripped-back version for a slightly lower price.
The Poco X4 Pro 5G is only just expensive enough to count as a mid-ranger in our books, but that just means it offers pretty exceptional value.
The 6.67in, 120Hz AMOLED display is essentially flagship-level, and it’s matched by a slick, elegant design elsewhere. Even the camera impresses, with a surprisingly solid 108Mp sensor for the main shooter – though the accompanying ultrawide and macro cameras aren’t as impressive.
It’s all made of plastic, so doesn’t feel too premium, and we don’t love the MIUI software running on here (shared by all Xiaomi, Poco, and Redmi phones). But overall this is an excellent package for the price.
Arguably the toughest competition for the Pixel 6a is the fact that you don’t have to spend that much more to get the Pixel 6, which is just cheap to enough to sneak into our mid-range chart, despite really being a flagship phone.
That extra expenditure gets you one of the best cameras around at this price, with an exceptional main lens backed up by an equally strong ultrawide. Both benefit from a few clever AI tricks delivered by Google’s in-house Tensor chip and can take a few shots that no other phone can.
You also get a display jump to 90Hz, though this is still behind the 120Hz common in other phones this price, as is the relatively slow 30W charging – with no charger included in the box either.
The Pixel 6 is pretty big and heavy too, so won’t suit anyone hoping for a small phone.
The Realme GT 2 is a gentle follow-up to last year’s GT, and doesn’t tweak the specs too much – but to be honest, that’s no bad thing.
Last year’s Snapdragon 888 makes a return as the chipset, but it’s still plenty powerful. A 120Hz AMOLED display, big battery, and excellent 65W fast charging round out the strong spec sheet.
It’s built out of plastic, which some don’t mind but others might find holds it back from feeling like a flagship, but the biggest downside is that the strong main camera isn’t well supported by the secondary lenses.
The Phone (1) is the debut phone from London-based start-up Nothing – though the company has serious pedigree, as its founder Carl Pei previously headed up OnePlus.
Ahead of launch much was made to hype up the Phone (1) as a smartphone revolution, but really the boldest thing about it is the design: a semi-transparent rear intersected by LED light strips that can flash for notifications, illuminate while charging, and even serve as a fill light for the camera.
Set aside the lights, and the Nothing Phone (1) is really just a regular mid-range device, albeit one of the better ones around. Battery life is a bit disappointing, but the trade-off is you get a decent display, a pair of good rear cameras, and both wireless charging and an IP53 rating.
Nubia’s Red Magic 7 manages the trick of delivering the top-tier specs demanded by a gaming phone without breaking out of the mid-range pricing bracket.
The 165Hz refresh rate is the fastest around right now – besting even the priciest gaming phones around – and you also get a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset combined with up to 18GB of RAM and 256GB storage. You’ll also get 65W fast charging for the 4500mAh battery, though thanks to all the power here this runs out a little faster than we’d like.
Like most gaming phones the camera is a little lacklustre, and the design is…specific. But if that’s what you’re looking for, the Red Magic 7 is hard to beat on value right now.
The Realme GT Neo 3 is all about speed – what, the racing stripes didn’t give it away?
That’s none more true than in the headline spec: 150W wired charging. That’s fast enough to deliver a full charge in less than 15 minutes, and restore half the battery in just five. And if somehow that doesn’t appeal, there’s always the slower 80W model to consider – with a bigger battery to boot.
The Dimensity 8100 chipset delivers blistering performance for the price too, helped by a smooth 120Hz AMOLED display. And the 50Mp OIS main camera holds its own as well, though the basic ultrawide and macro lenses are probably the phone’s big weak spot.
The Motorola Edge 30 boasts a premium design with a frosted rear that looks great, and it’s the lightest 5G phone around – something immediately noticeable in the hand.
The 6.5in AMOLED display is crisp and detailed, and the 144Hz refresh rate makes things feel smoother and more responsive, though without an adaptive resolution there is a hit to overall battery life. It can still last all day with average use – though heavy users and gamers may need a top-up to get through to the end of the day. 33W charging helps, but it’s a far cry from the exceptionally fast charging of some rivals.
The camera setup is also decent for the money, with the main 50Mp snapper able to capture detailed, well-lit shots in both light and dark environments, but the dynamic range leaves something to be desired. The 50Mp ultrawide is also a nice touch for scenic shots.
Essentially, it comes down to what’s best for your needs: if you prioritise design and display, the Motorola X30 Pro is a great choice. But if things like performance, battery life and fast charging capabilities are what’s most important, there are better mid-range phones available.
It’s difficult to define a mid-range phone by its specification, hence why we’ve opted for a price bracket instead.
Some mid-range phones will take the all-round good-value approach, with capable specs in each area; others will focus on a key trait, such as the camera or display, and promise flagship-rivalling capabilities in that one aspect; others still used to be those flagships, so will offer fantastic specs at a brilliant price, but may be running on slightly older hardware.
One common element is that you’ll likely have to give up on nice-to-haves like wireless charging or a waterproof rating – these still tend to be reserved for the most expensive phones on the market, though a few mid-range devices do offer one or the other.
Try to remember that it’s not always about specs either. We’ve hit something of a ceiling when it comes to smartphone tech anyway, so although these phones may not be as fast as your average flagship, they are almost certainly fast enough for most users. Go for a phone that balances value, performance, features and design in a way that appeals to you and your needs.
Chinese phones are a great choice in the mid-range market because they often balance very good specifications with a lower price than you’d expect – but sadly few go on sale in the US. You may have heard of Xiaomi, Realme, and OnePlus offering staggering value, but there are plenty of other less well-known Chinese manufacturers that can also offer a very good deal.
Note that there is one mid-range iPhone on the market – the 2022 iPhone SE – but we don’t think it offers great value compared to Android rivals. Consider it if you know you need an iPhone, but otherwise steer clear.
We also don’t really recommend Samsung’s main mid-ranger, the Galaxy A53. It’s a great-looking phone, with a few solid specs on paper, but in our review we found performancefrustratingly slow, especially with the competition as fierce as it is.
Tech Advisor's Deputy Editor, Dom covers everything that runs on electricity, from phones and laptops to wearables, audio, gaming, smart home, and streaming - plus he's a regular fixture on the Tech Advisor YouTube channel.