Mid-range smartphones

Smartphones have become necessities of modern life, certainly you don’t have to pay huge to get a good one., maybe you don’t care about phones all that much. (It’s OK, I care enough for the both of us.) No matter your reason, there’s never been a better time to choose a midrange smartphone.

Companies go to great lengths to sell you on the flashiest, most expensive phones, but the features they pioneer quickly trickle down to more reasonably priced devices. Big, beautiful screens, Huge batteries? These all used to be high-end hallmarks that are now readily available in devices under $500. You simply don’t need to spend top dollar to get a reliable smartphone, and this guide will help you find exactly what you’re looking for at the right price.

What should I consider when buying a midrange smartphone?

There are a lot of factors to bear in mind when you start shopping for a phone, and it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Our advice: The first thing to sort out is your carrier: AT&T and T-Mobile offer the most flexibility in that you can use phones they sell directly or most unlocked phones with near-full compatibility. Verizon, meanwhile, only supports some unlocked smartphones, so you’re generally safer buying a phone straight from it. Next, we recommend taking some time to sort out where you stand on the Three Ps.

  • Platform

Do you prefer Android or iOS? Because Android is freely available to any phone maker willing to play by Google’s rules, there’s no shortage of great choices. If you’re an iOS fan, meanwhile, there’s only one device that falls into the midrange category. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, well, that’s alright. Both platforms have their strengths and quirks, but they’re both easy to get acquainted with.

  • Priorities

What do you need your smartphone to have? A long-lasting battery?  A big screen for binging videos in bed? Cameras that can snap photos worthy of a gallery wall? Ideally, the midrange smartphone for you will be solid in all of these departments, but make note of which of those factors are especially important.

  • Price

Though we’ve narrowed the options down to devices that cost between $250 and $500, there’s still a lot of wiggle room in that range. What’s the most you’d feel comfortable spending on your smartphone? Midrange phones tend to use slightly older or more-modest components compared to the flashy, expensive devices people often slobber over, so it’s worth buying a device toward the top end of what you can afford. That way, you’re left with a phone that should last you awhile.

once you find something you like, there’s a decent chance you’ll be able to pay for it over time.

Though! There might be other factors to consider like release timing, since that often means big price cuts on previously expensive devices. Feel free to let us worry about that though: We track price changes and new discounts on our Deals page, and we’ll continue to update this guide as new smartphones are released. 

What niche has a midrange smartphone?

The line between midrange phones and their upmarket cousins is blurring in interesting ways. However, there are a few things you generally won’t get in a sub-$500 device. Water and dust resistance are good examples: Many premium phones tout an IP68 rating, which means they’re sealed against dust, dirt and sand, and they can sit under a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. When it comes to midrange phones, though, the best you’re likely to see is the occasional water-repellent coating: Those can help phones survive the occasional splash or spill, but that’s it.

More notes

You can certainly find great deals on pre-owned devices on resale platforms like Swappa and BackMarket, and I have personally had good experiences with both services. Still, buying pre-owned or refurbished isn’t for everyone, so this guide will focus on devices you can buy brand new in box right now. This guide is also mainly meant for our US readers, so some popular foreign brands you might have heard of — Oppo, Realme, Xiaomi and more — don’t get much of a spotlight here. Don’t get us wrong: We’re fans of these companies and the devices they make, but differences in supported network bands, warranties and more mean those phones don’t always make sense for US-based shoppers.

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