The best affordable mid-range phones reviewed and rated
What constitutes as the best ‘mid-range’ phone has changed rather dramatically in recent years. With flagship phones like the iPhone XS Max and Samsung Galaxy Note 9 comfortably pushing passed the £/$1000 mark, from a price perspective the goalposts have undoubtedly shifted in the same direction.
At the same time, there are new handsets taking a fresh approach – offering the best possible hardware at the lowest possible price – that also fit within what we would consider mid-range in 2018; handsets like the Pocophone F1, which offer flagship specs without the price-tag.
With these factors in mind, here you’ll find a rundown of phones that we think offer the best bang for your buck while costing around half as much as you would expect to pay for a 2018 flagship, at least until 2019’s mid-rangers start appearing.
How we select the best budget smartphones
Just as with any of our other ‘best smartphone’ roundups, this list is designed to reflect the best that the current smartphone market has to offer based on constraints like price and feature-set. We review every phone we consider before it can be placed in a line-up such as this, slipping our SIM cards in and using each phone as our main device solidly for a week at the very minimum.
We test claims on performance and battery life with both real-world and artificial benchmarks, we trial new features and cast a scrutinous eye over every facet and flaw that these phones might possess, all in the pursuit of providing a clear, concise review of the latest smartphone to make your buying decision as easy as possible.
- A huge leap in OnePlus design
- Seriously fast
- Fast Charge is still great
- A well-thought-out version of Android with great extras
- Camera still needs improvement
- Missing a few ‘flagship’ features
The OnePlus 6T is arguably the phone that demonstrates just how much OnePlus as a company has grown up in its short lifespan. While at the upper end in this mid-range roundup, starting at £499, the OnePlus 6T feels practically as much of a flagship as any iPhone or top-tier Samsung does.
Not only does it adopt a beautiful metal and glass design, and a notch-laden extended display, just like the rest of 2018’s flagships, it also offers some of the best smartphone performance on the market. There’s a cleanly-skinned Android 9.0 Pie experience with some meaningful tweaks and the company’s excellent Fast Charge (or Warp Charge if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on the McLaren Edition) technology.
Related: What is fast charging?
The primary cameras are also a massive improvement on their predecessors, even if they still lag slightly behind the best in the business. There’s no headphone jack, however OnePlus has added a slick in-display fingerprint scanner that’s the final futuristic feature.
- Excellent value for money
- Superb performance
- Fantastic battery life
- Decent cameras
- MIUI for Poco will take some getting used to
- Thick bezels
- Plastic build
- No NFC
Being supported by Chinese tech giant Xiaomi’s manufacturing infrastructure has allowed new player Pocophone to make a serious splash with its first handset, the Pocophone F1. For around $/£300 you get a liquid-cooled Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with at least 6GB of RAM, a huge 4000mAh battery, a decent notched Full HD+ display and a surprisingly good pair of AI-enhanced main cameras.
The MIUI for Poco skinned Android experience will take a little getting used for anyone who hasn’t used a Xiaomi phone before, but the price/performance balance this handset strikes borders on astonishing.
It comes in three polycarbonate finishes (red, blue or black) or, if you’re willing to fork out a little more cash, the Kevlar-backed ‘Armored Edition’ seen above.
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018)
- Great OLED screen
- Solid value
- Ultra-wide camera is fun
- Weak GPU
- Slow charging and no USB-C
The Samsung Galaxy A7 is a lower-cost alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9. It’s a compelling choice with some neat extras including an extra ultra-wide camera and a strong OLED screen; two things you’d rarely normally find at this price.
This is far from a gaming phone, though. The Galaxy A7 has a solid CPU, but its graphics chipset is among the weakest in this class and we’d recommend something else if you love mobile gaming.
The ultra-wide secondary camera is a great feature too, giving some variety to the shots you take. The main camera is perfectly adequate, especially at the £309 price.
- Sleek design
- Powerful hardware
- Good value
- EMUI Android skin is bloated
- Some performance bugs
Honor released a lot of great value-for-money smartphones last year, but its latest flagship, the Honor 10, is the best. It’s a stylish and capable smartphone that gives you most of what the pricier Huawei P20 does for under £400.
You get dual AI-enhanced cameras set within the phone’s eye-catching ‘Aurora’ reflective glass back, fast charging and the same Kirin 970 processor that powers some of Huawei’s top smartphones, complete with NPU (neural processing unit) for AI-based tasks.
The company’s EMUI software experience is highly customisable but might be the biggest issue as it also brings with it a few bugs and a little slow-down from time to time. Nothing some focussed software updates can’t fix, though.
Nokia 7 Plus
- Big, bright screen
- Impressive battery life
- Android One has potential
- Lots of app crashes and software bugs
- Could do with some design tweaks
A big display, a big battery, lossless optical zoom on its primary dual camera and a clean and up-to-date Android One experience make the Nokia 7 Plus an easy recommendation.
One of HMD Global’s best phones since licensing the Nokia brand, the Nokia 7 Plus left us pleasantly surprised by what it brought to the table, considering it can be had for under £350. The polycarbonate body of the Plus comes with the Nokia line’s signature copper accents, helping it stand out from the crowd. There’s a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor too.
The Snapdragon 660 processor is more conservative than what the majority of phones in this lineup come packing but paired with clean Android One software onboard, this phone feels just as fast and fluid as any more premium handset.
Moto Z3 Play
- Moto Mods are still brilliant
- A simple Android experience with genuinely good tweaks
- Very fast charging
- Weak battery life
- Expensive compared to rivals
While the highly affordable Moto G6 family made headlines throughout 2018, we’ve seen little in the way of more premium offerings from Motorola, particularly in the UK. Your best option right now is the latest Moto Z3 Play, which offers a refined design over the Moto Z2 family, some new imaging technology, and the product line’s signature Moto Mod functionality.
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Cleaner than even OnePlus’s Android user experience, Motorola takes a harder line on ensuring its phones feel uncluttered and snappy while still offering a few extra features and functions that you might not expect. The Z3 Play retains gesture-based shortcuts for activating things like the flashlight and camera, but overall the UI still looks and feels like stock Android 8.1 Oreo.
The phone’s 3000mAh is nothing revolutionary in its own right but thanks to Motorola’s Turbo Power tech, it juices back up in record time and there’s even a Moto Mod battery pack in-box to keep you going even longer. Speaking of mods, if you’ve used the company’s modular accessories before, you’ll appreciate that ability to slap a louder speaker, physical gamepad controls or even a projector onto the back of the Z3 Play, to add new functionality in an instant.
Got a suitable mid-ranger you think we’ve missed? Let us know over on Facebook or Twitter @TrustedReviews