Not everyone can afford a flagship phone like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or iPhone 12 Pro but the good news is that plenty of cheaper devices offer an excellent experience all the same.
Some are half the price or even less, so don't panic if you're bank account is looking a little bare and you're in need of a new smartphone. Here, we have reviewed and ranked the best mid-range phones you can buy today.
We're defining a mid-range phone as one that costs between £250 (the higher limit of our even cheaper budget phones chart) and around £500 in the UK, on a SIM-free basis.
Mid-range smartphones aim to combine flagship-level features with great value. You may have to compromise slightly on one aspect or another, like the camera or build quality but it's often totally worth it to save hundreds - and some of the phones at the top of the price range are flagships in their own right.
Phones from the likes of Realme, Xiaomi and Motorola are prime choices, and we've listed our current favourites below. Read past our rundown for more mid-range phone buying advice.
1. OnePlus Nord - Best overall
An outstanding affordable buy from 2020, with great performance, 5G, OnePlus' signature Oxygen OS user experience and a more diverse camera setup than the company has ever used on a phone. What's not to love?
What the OnePlus Nord really demonstrates is the company's ability to prioritise the features that users are looking for right now and wrapping them up in an attractive package with a compelling price point.
Read our full OnePlus Nord review
2. Realme X50 5G - Best value
The standard Realme X50 does the same thing for the mid-range market as the Pro model does in the flagship space.
A 120Hz display, the excellent Snapdragon 765G chip, 5G, superb battery life and a surprisingly-capable main camera collectively render the X50 a far better phone than anything you'd expect at this price.
Read our full Realme X50 5G review
3. Xiaomi Mi Note 10 - Great value
With Mi Note 10 Xiaomi has made a giant step forward in design and complements the phone's elegant body with enhanced MIUI 11 software.
Its USP is its penta-lens 108Mp camera, which wows on paper but can't stand up to the best cameraphones. More successfully, though, battery life is incredible.
This is not a flagship phone but it’s a strong all-round mid-ranger, and thanks to an attractive price point it has serious appeal.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review
4. Realme 7 Pro - Fastest charging
The Realme 7 Pro is fractionally dearer than the regular model, but there are plenty of upgrades to talk about.
The OLED display is a significant upgrade in screen tech, while the power efficiency improvements it brings deliver stellar battery life. Charging is the star of the show though, with the 65W 'SuperDart' adapter providing a full charge in just over 30 minutes.
The Snapdragon 720G processor can handle gaming with ease, while the software is refreshingly close to stock Android.
The cameras aren’t perfect and all too often the fingerprint sensor didn't work as intended, but there's still a lot to like here. The big thing you're missing out on is a high refresh rate - if that's a priority, then go for the standard Realme 7.
Read our full Realme 7 Pro review
5. Realme X3 SuperZoom - Most versatile camera
Provided you can handle the sizeable Realme X3 SuperZoom, this phone strikes a favourable price/performance balance that focuses on camera capabilities above all else.
Factor in the high-refresh-rate display, speedy 30W fast charging and decent high-end performance, and its price tag looks rather enticing.
Read our full Realme X3 SuperZoom review
6. Google Pixel 4a - Best for ease of use
If you're in the US and looking for a great mid-range Android phone the Pixel 4a is one of the best choices you can make. It really is a knockout handset from Google with so much on offer for an incredibly affordable price.
In the UK, as far as features are concerned, competition is much tougher from rivals with things like 5G support and higher refresh rate displays, if those are important features.
Otherwise, it's a charming phone with a rare compact design, smooth performance, excellent cameras and easy-to-use software with at least three years of updates.
Read our full Google Pixel 4a review
7. Realme 7 5G - Best for affordable 5G
Don't mistake the Realme 7 5G as a repeat of the standard model with a 5G modem tacked on. While it shares a near-identical camera setup, practically everything else - from the processor to the display - has been overhauled.
A 120Hz LCD, a huge 5,000mAh battery with 30W 'Dash Charge' fast charging and the first phone to boast MediaTek's Dimensity 800U chipset, make this an impressively-powerful and yet affordable mid-ranger.
At launch, it boasted the title of "Europe's most affordable 5G phone" too (a title which has since gone to the budget Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T).
Read our full Realme 7 5G review
8. Moto G8 Plus - Best for battery life
The Moto G8 Plus delivers in principal areas like photography, performance and battery life. It also brings a premium-looking design, a clean user experience and some smart modifications on top the base Android experience to the table.
The biggest challenge it faces is pricing. Despite being a touch cheaper than its predecessor, the competition has grown more fierce over the past year or so and newcomers - primarily from Chinese manufacturers that weren't previously established in Europe - now throw their weight around with more impressive specs or lower price tags for equivalent performance.
Read our full Moto G8 Plus review
9. iPhone SE (2020) - Best OS/app support
The iPhone SE is a phone devoted to function over form, prioritising raw performance and camera capabilities over design or aesthetics (though battery life gets caught in the crossfire), all in the name of hitting its relatively affordable price.
That makes it a very un-Apple iPhone, but that’s unlikely to help it win over Android users, who can still get a lot more for less by resisting the Apple allure - with the exception of the impressive inclusion of the top-tier A13 processor at a mid-range price, along with luxuries like wireless charging and water resistance.
It’s hard to entirely forgive the choice to save money on a budget 720p LCD display and dated design, and you’ll be committed to carrying a battery pack with you every day. Still, if you want a reliable camera, fast performance and guaranteed iOS updates for years to come, without breaking the bank, then this is the iPhone for you.
Read our full Apple iPhone SE (2020) review
10. Oppo Find X2 Lite - Best for 5G
The Oppo Find X2 Lite is a well balanced mid-range phone. It offers good features across nearly all the key areas, with its solid processor enabling excellent performance and great battery life.
The points in its favour don’t stop there, as the phone is well-suited for mobile gaming and the camera offers some superb image stabilisation.
The exterior of the phone makes it obvious we’re not dealing with a flagship, although that doesn’t mean the design is poor in any way. The camera is prone to oversaturation, but it generally takes very good photos.
Read our full Oppo Find X2 Lite review
Specifications to look for in a mid-range phone
It's difficult to define a mid-range phone by its specification, hence why we've opted for a price bracket instead.
Some mid-range phones will take the all-round good-value approach, with capable specs in each area; others will focus on a key trait, such as the camera or display, and promise flagship-rivalling capabilities in that one aspect; others still used to be those flagships, so will offer fantastic specs at a brilliant price, but may be running on slightly older hardware.
Chinese phones are a great choice in the mid-range market because they balance very good specifications with a lower price than what you would expect to find in the UK. You may have heard of Xiaomi, Realme and OnePlus offering staggering value when compared to some of the better-known brands, but there are plenty of other less well-known Chinese manufacturers that can also offer a very good deal.
Try to remember that it's not always about specs either. We've hit something of a ceiling when it comes to smartphone tech anyway, so although these phones may not be as fast as your average flagship, they are almost certainly fast enough for most users. Go for a phone that balances value, performance, features and design in a way that appeals to you and your needs.