Looking to save money on your next smartphone? Forget the flagships and check out these excellent mid-range options
Today’s top-tier smartphones are undeniably desirable; just look at Samsung’s Galaxy S23 lineup or Apple’s latest iPhone series. But we don’t all have massive wads of cash burning holes in our pockets – and the good news is, there’s no need to spend four figures to get a smartphone that combines top performance with a gorgeous design.
Indeed, not only do the latest mid-range smartphones look and feel as slick as their “flagship” counterparts, they can actually outperform them in key areas. So even if you’re considering splashing out on a top-of-the-range handset, you would be well advised to check out the mid-range before spending the cash.
Here’s our guide to what to look for – along with our regularly updated selection of the best mid-range smartphones in 2023.
Best mid-range phone: At a glance
|Best of the best||OnePlus Nord 2T 5G (~£336)||Check price at Amazon|
|Best mid-range iPhone||iPhone SE 3 (2022) (~£479)||Check price at Amazon|
|Best mid-range camera||Google Pixel 7a (~£449)||Check price at Amazon|
|Best mid-range Samsung||Samsung Galaxy A54 5G (~£429)||Check price at Amazon|
|Best mid-range battery life||Honor Magic 5 Lite (~£310)||Check price at Amazon|
How to buy the best mid-range smartphone for you
What is a “mid-range” smartphone?
When we talk about mid-range smartphones, we generally mean handsets that cost between £300 and £500 to buy outright. It’s true that the latest and greatest smartphones keep on getting more and more expensive – Some foldable smartphones aren’t far off £2,000 – so strictly speaking the middle of the market is a moving target. But our price bracket is the one to focus on, as it’s where you will find the best balance of price and features.
Should I buy SIM-free, or does it make sense to commit to a contract?
A 24-month contract keeps your up-front costs to a minimum, but if you sit down and calculate the total amount that you will end up paying over the course of those two years, you will almost always find that the SIM-free option works out a lot cheaper. That said, it’s always worth checking for special offers, as occasional deals can be highly competitive. The other advantage of going SIM-free is that you can sell your phone on and upgrade whenever you want, rather than having to wait for the end of your contract – by which time your handset may well be distinctly out of date.
What should I look for in a mid-range smartphone?
Everyone’s priorities are different – so it’s a good idea to work out what yours are. Is a lengthy battery life at the top of your wish-list? Or are you more interested in taking better-quality pictures?
In all cases we would suggest you take a look at the phone’s internal specifications: you will want a processor that’s powerful enough to keep up with all the applications you’re going to use, now and in a year or two’s time. While you’re at it, check that there’s plenty of internal storage too. If this can be expanded with a microSD card, that could be a big bonus.
The phone’s display is also crucial – after all, this is the bit you will be staring at. You can find plenty of mid-range handsets with great-looking screens, but you can’t take this for granted, so make sure to read our reviews before buying.
How we test mid-range smartphones
When we receive a handset for review, we put it under a variety of tests. The first is performance, where we use two apps on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store: Geekbench 5 and GFXBench. These benchmarking apps provide CPU and GPU processing scores, and these allow us to see where the phone fits in against the competition. A phone’s display is tested using our colorimeter and DisplayCAL software, which measures how colour accurate a screen is, as well as providing maximum brightness and contrast ratio.
Our in-house battery life testing is performed using a looped video via the VLC app, with the screen set to 170cd/m2 brightness and flight mode engaged. We simply record where the video left off before the phone’s battery ran dry. Cameras are tested in a wide variety of lighting conditions, including landscape shots and indoor still life photography, and these images are compared against similarly priced rivals.
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The best mid-range smartphones you can buy in 2023
1. OnePlus Nord 2T 5G: The best mid-range smartphone
Price when reviewed: £336 | Check price at Amazon
OnePlus has produced yet another exceptionally priced smartphone in the OnePlus Nord 2T 5G. As the name implies, this is a 5G-enabled handset with a host of top-end features for relatively little money. It’s the fastest smartphone in its price bracket, courtesy of the rapid MediaTek Dimensity 1300 chipset, and it’s no slouch when it comes to battery life either – lasting for almost a full 24 hours on a single charge in our tests.
In fact, the OnePlus Nord 2T is sitting comfortably as one of the best all-rounders in the mid-range category. Its upgrades might be slight compared to the previous model, but it costs less and packs a whole lot in for a fraction of the cost of this year’s flagships. Get the OnePlus Nord 2T if you’re hoping to squeeze the most out of your purchase.
Read our full OnePlus Nord 2T 5G review for more details
Key specs – Processor: 3GHz MediaTek Dimensity 1300; Screen: 6.43in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 50MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (depth); Storage: 128/256GB; Operating system: Android 12
2. iPhone SE 3 (2022): Apple’s best-value iPhone
Price when reviewed: £479 l Check price at Amazon
It might look like a bit of a relic, but the iPhone SE 3 (2022) is Apple’s best-value smartphone yet. Apple might prefer customers to spend more on the iPhone 13, but the lower asking price for the iPhone SE 3 makes it a far more exciting value proposition, and your wallet will likely breathe a sigh of relief in return.
Despite costing more than half the price, the iPhone SE 3 (2022) uses the same speedy processor as the iPhone 13 – the A15 Bionic – and its camera is up to the job, too. The only fly in the ointment is that its battery life is rather short by modern standards, but that’s nothing the speedy 20W charging can’t fix. The iPhone SE is also a solid choice if you aren’t a fan of those big-screened handsets of late – the small 4.7in screen is perfect for one-handed use.
If you would rather not spend the silly amounts of dosh for an iPhone 13, and don’t mind sacrificing a few camera features and a smaller design, then the iPhone SE is absolutely the best-value Apple phone you can buy right now.
Read our full iPhone SE 3 (2022) review for more details
Key specs – Processor: 3.23GHz Apple A15 Bionic; Screen: 4.7in 1,334 x 750; Camera: 12MP; Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 512GB; Operating system: iOS 15
3. Xiaomi Poco X5 Pro: An accomplished affordable handset
Price when reviewed: £369 l Check price at Xiaomi
The Xiaomi Poco X5 Pro is a great choice for the budget-conscious buyer. The brand might still be a bit of an unknown in the UK, but the Poco X5 Pro is stupendously good value for money, and it even outperforms handsets that cost double, and in some cases triple, the asking price.
An easy recommendation if you aren’t comfortable handing over £700+ on the latest and greatest handsets, the Poco X5 Pro is fitted with all the best bells and whistles: it has a 6.67in Full HD AMOLED screen, a 5G-supported Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G chipset, a large 108MP camera sensor and a solid battery life with speedy 67W charging.
Its bargain price is its main appeal, of course, but since there are so few compromises the Xiaomi Poco X5 Pro is a no-brainer if you’re itching for great value for money.
Read our full Xiaomi Poco X5 Pro review for more details
Key specs – Processor: 2.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G; Screen: 6.67in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 108MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (macro); Storage: 256GB; Operating system: Android 12
4. Google Pixel 7a: The best mid-range camera
Price when reviewed: £449 l Check price at Amazon
Google’s affordable mid-range handset has returned anew. It represents everything we’ve come to expect from the company in recent times, providing top-notch hardware at a near-unbeatable price. Powered by the flagship Tensor G2 chipset – the same CPU inside the full-fat Pixel 7 – performance is exemplary, and the 6.1in OLED display is remarkably colour accurate as well.
The star of the show, however, is the Pixel 7a’s photographic capabilities. Don’t let its unassuming dual-camera array fool you: the Pixel 7a is capable of capturing some truly remarkable images, with astonishing clarity and detail even in less than ideal lighting conditions. The new 64MP main camera even manages to give four-figured flagships a proper run for their money – if you’re an avid Instagram poster, there’s simply nothing better at this price.
Read our full Google Pixel 7a review for more details
Key specs – Processor: 2.85GHz Google Tensor G2; Screen: 6.1in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 64MP, 13MP (wide); Storage: 128GB; Operating system: Android 13
5. Nothing Phone (1): The most unique mid-range handset
Price when reviewed: £314 l Check price at Amazon
The much-hyped Nothing Phone (1) is the sort of handset that comes along every few years to reinvigorate the industry. The mid-priced handset takes a unique approach to smartphone design, with its clear-backed construction and LED-heavy “Glyph” interface. This is used for ringtones and notifications, as well as a charging indicator and a fill light for the rear camera, and it’s a bit of a delight.
It’s not just a phone filled with gimmicks, either, since there’s a lot to like elsewhere, too. It comes equipped with a 6.55in FHD+ 120Hz OLED display, a speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G Plus processor and a bevvy of storage and RAM configurations to choose from. Coupled with a clean installation of Android 12 and a solid pair of 50MP rear cameras, the Nothing Phone (1) is a bit of a tech lover’s dream, and is a phone that certainly lives up to the hype.
Read our full Nothing Phone (1) review for more details
Key specs – Processor: 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G Plus; Screen: 6.55in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 50MP, 50MP (wide); Storage: 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: Android 12
6. Honor Magic 5 Lite: The best mid-range phone for battery life
Price when reviewed: £310 | Check price at Amazon
If battery life is most important to you when choosing a new phone, the only entry in this list you need to pay attention to is the Honor Magic 5 Lite. In our standard looping video test, the Magic 5 Lite managed an astounding 28 hours, outlasting plenty of phones that cost two or three times as much. And for when its epic stamina is finally exhausted, it supports 40W fast charging – though there’s no charger included in the box.
The 6.67in display is a vibrant OLED panel, with punchy colours and essentially perfect contrast keeping everything looking great, and the 120Hz refresh rate makes activity smooth and lag-free.
Performance is decent enough, though not quite the best you can get at this price, and the camera suite falls down when it comes to low-light photography. However, these are small concessions when you’re getting battery life this good.
Read our full Honor Magic 5 Lite review for more details
Key specs – Processor: 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 695; Screen: 6.67in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 64MP, 5MP (ultrawide), 2MP (macro); Storage: 128GB; Operating system: Android 12
7. Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro 5G: Astonishing value
Price when reviewed: £279 l Check price at Amazon
With flagship-class specifications at a vastly reduced cost, Xiaomi’s well-priced Redmi Note 12 Pro 5G is a cut above the rest, with astonishing performance courtesy of the MediaTek Dimensity 1080 chipset, along with an exemplary triple-camera array (which includes a great 50MP sensor).
The Redmi Note 12 Pro’s 120Hz Full HD display is also a highlight, allowing for silky smooth scrolling and high frame rate mobile gaming. If your buying budget is a bit limited, then there’s no doubt that the Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro should be at the very top of your smartphone buying agenda.
Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro 5G review for more details
Key specs – Processor: 2.6GHz MediaTek Dimensity 1080; Screen: 6.67in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 50MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (macro); Storage: 128GB; Operating system: Android 12
8. Samsung Galaxy A54 5G: Samsung’s best-value handset
Price when reviewed: £429 | Check price at Amazon
The Samsung Galaxy series of phones doesn’t begin and end with the S and Note lines. Samsung’s A-series lineup is a very different proposition, offering flagship-like goodies without the high price tag – and the Galaxy A54 5G is no different. An impressive, affordable smartphone that not only looks good, the A54 5G also has a great screen and more than enough power for most people – even if its processor isn’t quite as fancy as its siblings.
It also takes great pictures for the price, and if battery life is at the top of your smartphone-buying agenda, then you’re in luck: the Galaxy A54 5G lasted almost 27 hours in our battery life test. If you’re a Samsung fan, or simply want a reliable yet impressive smartphone that doesn’t cost the earth, then the Galaxy A54 5G might be the phone for you.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A54 5G review for more details
Key specs – Processor: 2.4GHz Samsung Exynos 1380; Screen: 6.5in, 2,340 x 1,080; Camera: 50MP, 12MP (wide), 5MP (macro); Storage: 128GB; Operating system: Android 13
9. Xiaomi 12T: A superb flagship killer
Price when reviewed: £491 l Check price at Amazon
It might be the priciest handset on this list, but the Xiaomi 12T is still astonishing value. If you’re happy parting with a bit more cash, you will be rewarded with one of the most feature-complete handsets outside of the flagship territory, with the Xiaomi 12T putting pricier high-end handsets to shame.
It impressed in testing with its wonderfully sharp, colour accurate 6.67in FHD+ AMOLED display, respectably powerful MediaTek Dimensity 8100-U chipset and stupendously fast 120W charging (which went from empty to 68% in just 15 minutes, and full in 20 minutes in our tests). The 108MP is also rather good for the price, capturing top-quality pictures no matter the lighting conditions. Get the Xiaomi 12T if you want a flagship but don’t want to pay flagship prices.
Read our full Xiaomi 12T review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.85GHz MediaTek Dimensity 8100-U; Screen: 6.67in, 2,712 x 1,220; Camera: 108MP, 8MP (ultrawide), 2MP (macro), 20MP (selfie); Storage: 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: Android 12