Ryan Haines / Android Authority
It used to be the case that mid-range Android smartphones were a shady proposition, given the poor processors, meager amount of storage, and relatively high price tags. It also didn’t help that the Android platform itself needed to be improved at the time.
Fortunately, things have steadily improved over the years, to the point where there has never been a better time to buy a mid-range smartphone. Do not believe me? Let me explain.
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority
You only need to look at the builds and spec sheets today to realize that the modern mid-rangers offer some great hardware. Sure, most of these are still made of plastic, but we’re seeing some with a premium glass back instead (like the Poco F4). And even if the phone offers a plastic design, today’s devices also bring innovations such as glass finishes and even matte plastic.
Modern mid-rangers tend to offer more durable hardware, too, with the Samsung Galaxy A53 and Google Pixel 6a offering IP67 ratings for full water resistance. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find IP53/IP54 splash-proof designs for $400 or less. That’s more than could be said for mid-range phones just two or three years ago.
Modern mid-range smartphones have made great strides in terms of specifications and design.
Open the hood and you’ll find some great improvements here too. Modern budget-class hardware offers more than silicon capable of playing some challenging games if needed, while everyday tasks are generally smooth too. It’s also not uncommon to find 6GB of RAM or even more on mid-range phones today compared to 3GB or 4GB on phones a few years ago. This increased memory allocation allows users to more effectively match multiple applications simultaneously while also opening the door to more advanced features such as high-resolution shooting modes and advanced gaming.
We’re also past the point where 32GB of storage was an expected allocation, as budget phones with 128GB are now popular. The only real downside in this regard is that we’re also seeing quite a few mid-range devices ditching the microSD card slot.
We’ve also seen LCD panels fall into the sub-$250 category for the most part, with the high refresh rate of OLED screens being a staple in the mid-range. Insert big batteries, reliable main cameras, and a decent amount of RAM and you’ll obviously get a capable phone for $300 to $500.
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
High-end hardware isn’t the only reason to pick up a mid-range phone today instead of a flagship phone. Many OEMs also make lengthy commitments to update software in line with high-end smartphones.
For example, the Samsung Galaxy A53 offers four operating system updates and five years of security patches. Meanwhile, Google Pixel 6a offers three operating system updates and five years of security updates. Nothing Phone 1 is also joining the party with three OS updates.
This does not mean that modernization commitments are significant across the board today. For example, Motorola phones have sad support for software updates, while OnePlus and Realme aren’t much better either. But the situation is definitely better than it was two or three years ago, when the Pixel 3a and Pixel 4a line were the only budget devices to receive respectable update pledges.
Many modern mid-rangers offer high-performance Android themes, while some also offer lengthy update pledges.
Committing to an update is one thing, but actually receiving an update is quite another. Mid-range phones still take a while to receive the latest OS updates, but there are encouraging signs anyway.
The Pixel 6a has already received Android 13, while the Samsung Galaxy A53 is scheduled to receive the update before the end of the year. We have also seen more brands offering shareware for those who can’t wait to get a stable version. For example, Samsung also tested One UI 5 beta on the Galaxy A52 last year, Realme is bringing Android 13 beta software to some mid-range phones before the end of the year, and Oppo is bringing the Color OS 13 beta to a variety beta. One of the cheapest phones before 2022.
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
Another important factor that makes mid-rangers worth buying today is that prices are still very competitive for what you get. In fact, the US Consumer Price Index recorded a 22% annual decline in the average value of smartphones. This was due to improved hardware rather than already lower prices. It’s still hard to argue against that logic, because these phones actually get more powerful processors, more cameras, better camera sensors, more RAM/storage, and higher-quality screens.
Do you think now is the best time to buy an average guard?
Either way, the point is that while premium smartphones have crossed the $1,000 mark and haven’t looked back, mid-rangers are making increasingly more bang for your buck. Longer update commitments also mean that these phones will get better and better over time, gaining new features and improvements for the next three years or more.
Of course, there will still be plenty of people who wouldn’t mind paying a premium for a full-fledged flagship phone, whether it’s for cameras or high-end internals. But we’re closer than ever to getting 90% of the groundbreaking experience for a fraction of the price.
Few of the mid-range phones are worth buying
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Now that we’ve looked at why it’s so important to buy modern mid-range smartphones, what about the recommended ones? We’ve got you covered with some choices.
- Samsung Galaxy A53 ($450): Do you like the idea of Galaxy but don’t want to spend a lot of money? That’s where the Galaxy A53 comes in, launching at $450 but available a lot less than this price tag. Expect a capable if impressive Exynos 1280 SoC, 5,000mAh battery, 120Hz OLED display, and IP67 water/dust resistance. The phone also packs an impressive update pledge, in line with Samsung’s flagship.
- Moto G Stylus 5G 2022 ($399): Motorola has plenty of decent mid-range phones in stable condition, and the Moto G Stylus 5G is one of the best options if you’re in the States. Notable features include a large battery (5000 mAh), a quad rear camera system, an included stylus, and 128 GB of expandable storage. However, it has some downsides, such as the processor, slow charging, and the lack of an OLED panel.
- Nothing Phone 1 ($499): The phone that debuted from Nothing just makes the cut in terms of price, but it’s actually a good first effort. No 1 phone comes with the powerful Snapdragon 778G Plus SoC, 50MP + 50MP dual camera system, and a 120Hz OLED display. But the phone stands out from almost any other device thanks to its unique ‘Glyph’ back.
- Google Pixel 6a ($450): There are plenty of reasons to pick up the Pixel 6a, especially since it often retails for less than $450. Expect a Tensor processor, offline voice typing, great camera quality, water resistance, and a lengthy update pledge. That being said, you’re missing out on the flagship’s high refresh rate screen, fast charging, wireless charging, and the 50MP main camera.
It’s worth noting that there are plenty of decent mid-tier devices out there, depending on your region. You can check out our list of best cheap phones for a more comprehensive look.