There a ton of reasons that you might want the latest and greatest device from the likes of Samsung, OnePlus, LG, or even Apple. However, there are a ton of reasons to go with a mid-range smartphone over a flagship.
For starters, not everyone wants or even needs a smartphone with the latest tech. At this point in 2020, you don’t actually need to give up a great deal to get a superb experience at a slightly lower price tag. Sometimes going for the latest and greatest is completely overkill when you just want a phone that does the essentials — and does them well.
Although with that in mind, it really wasn’t too long ago that picking up anything other than a top-tier device would mean extended corner-cutting and poor overall longevity. Now, just making a few relatively minor compromises can net you an excellent smartphone that doesn’t break the bank and gives you everything you will ever likely “need” on a daily basis.
The thing is, smartphones have come a long way in a reasonably short space of time to the point that the lines between flagships and mid-range phones are starting to become a little blurred. As we said, it means that you really don’t have to go for the latest $1,000 smartphone to get a great experience that covers all of your main requirements — the Pixel 3a is one of the best examples of this in recent years. So with that in mind here are five reasons to opt for a mid-ranger over a flagship:
This is the most obvious argument and probably the most common reason many people will choose a mid-range smartphone over a flagship. Price will almost always be the biggest determining factor in just about any tech purchase — and with good reason.
We’ve seen a massive shift in recent years at both ends of the price spectrum. Not only are we seeing more $1,000+ devices, there are a ton of affordable smartphones that give you what you would consider “decent” or “good” specifications but at a much lower entry-level.
Diminishing returns apply quite heavily to smartphones. Often a $1,000 smartphone isn’t twice as good as a $500 smartphone. The two best examples in recent years are the OnePlus 7T and the Pixel 3a. On paper, both are very different phones but still manage to give very similar overall experiences to their more expensive stablemates.
No longer do you have to sacrifice features when opting for a mid-range smartphone. The Pixel 3a offers the exceptional Pixel camera at almost half the entry-price and has an almost identical OS experience to the Pixel 4.
One the hardware front, there is a steady trickle-down of features that were once limited only to the most expensive devices. In-display fingerprint scanners and multi-camera setups are prime examples.
You don’t have to sacrifice “premium” materials by picking up a mid-range smartphone either. A while back, spending less meant cheaper — but arguably more durable — materials such as plastic and polycarbonate. Now you can get handsets with all-metal and glass sandwich designs that many will associate with more premium price-tags.
Firms like HMD Global have helped “up the game” throughout the industry by using higher quality materials and it has slowly trickled down from the likes of the Galaxy line. Even design trends like high refresh rates, punch-hole notches, and bezel-less displays are starting to come to smartphones under that $500 level.
The difference between the best cameras in smartphone land and the rest has slowly been eroded over time too. Yes, there is often quite a disparity between the very best smartphone cameras but the middle is becoming far harder to decipher.
Looking at the Pixel 3a, it can take better still photos than even most flagship smartphones. You literally get the renowned Pixel camera performance in all scenarios at half the price. It helps that we are now at a point in time where it’s almost hard to get a phone at almost any cost that has a bad camera. Yes, some are subjectively better than others but most are solid for posting photos to social media.
In general, most people will simply use their Android smartphone to send text messages, scroll through social media, browse the web, and maybe play some modest mobile games. In almost 99% of these cases, a mid-range smartphone will provide the same core experience as a flagship.
The hardware will help add to the overall experience but is it worth the extra costs and potential pitfalls? Higher-end chipsets may help you run the most demanding of games and applications but that does mean stability and battery may be affected. It’s no good having all the grunt if the battery can’t keep up — just ask Pixel 4 owners.
What mid-range smartphone should I pick?
Unlike flagship devices, it might be surprising to hear that there is far more competition in the mid-range space. It is obvious, but our outright best mid-range smartphone pick would be the Pixel 3a at just $329 on Amazon.
We also highly recommend devices that are part of the Android One program. Another good option would be the Nokia 6.2 — which offers great hardware, solid, reliable specs and an excellent OS and camera experience for under $250.
If you increase your budget a little, there is no doubt that the OnePlus 7T is a flagship smartphone everywhere except for the pricing. At $650, it has a borderline flagship price-tag but is the best value smartphone out there.
Alternatively, another good option is to go and pick up an older flagship smartphone. Newer releases help drive down the price of older flagship devices. A good example of this would be the Samsung Galaxy S10, which is available now at substantial discounts as we approach the launch of the S20 series. You can pick up the top-tier Galaxy S10+ for as low as $700 now.
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