samsung galaxy a53 standing - Best budget camera phones

Pass the flagship products; it’s a good time to buy a mid-range phone

samsung galaxy a53 upright - Best budget camera phones

Ryan Haines/Android Authority

It used to be that mid-range Android smartphones were a risky proposition, due to underpowered processors, a low amount of storage, and relatively high prices. It also didn’t help that the Android platform itself needed optimizing at the time.

Fortunately, things have steadily improved over the years, to the point that there’s never really been a better time to buy a mid-range smartphone. You do not believe me ? Let me explain.

Fantastic material

nothing phone 1 back on wood

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

You only need to take a look at the designs and spec sheets today to realize that modern mid-ranges offer great hardware. Of course, most of these devices are still plastic, but instead we see a few devices with premium glass backs (eg Poco F4). And even though a phone offers a plastic design, today’s devices also bring innovations like glasstic and even matte plastic finishes.

Modern mid-ranges also tend to offer more durable hardware, with the Samsung Galaxy A53 and Google Pixel 6a offering IP67 ratings for full water resistance. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find IP53/IP54 splashproof models for $400 and under. That’s more than can be said for mid-range handsets from just two or three years ago.

Modern mid-range smartphones have come a long way in terms of specs and design.

Open the hood and you’ll find impressive upgrades here too. Modern budget devices bring more than capable silicon to play some demanding games if needed, while day-to-day tasks are usually smooth as well. It’s also not uncommon to find 6GB of RAM or even more on today’s mid-range handsets, compared to 3GB or 4GB on phones a few years ago. This increased memory allocation allows users to more efficiently juggle multiple applications at once while opening the door to more advanced features such as high resolution shooting modes and advanced gaming.

We’re also well past the point where 32GB of storage was the intended allocation, as 128GB budget phones are now commonplace. The only real downside to this is that we’re also seeing a few mid-range devices ditch the microSD card slot.

We’ve also seen LCD panels relegated mostly to the sub-$250 tier, with high refresh rate OLED screens in the mid-range. Add big batteries, reliable main cameras and a respectable amount of RAM and it’s clear you’re getting a capable handset for $300-$500.

Even better software

google pixel 6a screen in hand

Ryan Haines/Android Authority

Hardware evolution isn’t the only reason to choose a mid-range phone today over a flagship handset. Several OEMs also offer long online software update commitments with high-end smartphones.

For example, the Samsung Galaxy A53 comes with four operating system updates and five years of security patches. Meanwhile, the Google Pixel 6a brings three operating system updates and five years of security updates. The Nothing Phone 1 also joins the party with three OS updates.

That’s not to say update pledges are great across the board today. For example, Motorola’s phones have lousy support for software updates, while OnePlus and Realme aren’t much better either. But the situation is much better than two or three years ago, when the Pixel 3a and Pixel 4a line were the only budget devices receiving respectable update promises.

Many modern mid-rangers offer good Android skins, while some also offer long update promises.

An update commitment is one thing, but receiving the update is another. Mid-range phones still take a while to receive the latest OS updates, but there are still encouraging signs.

The Pixel 6a has already received Android 13, while the Samsung Galaxy A53 is expected to receive the update before the end of the year. We’ve also seen more brands offering beta software for those who can’t wait for a stable release. For example, Samsung also beta-tested One UI 5 on last year’s Galaxy A52, Realme is bringing Android 13 beta software to select midrange phones before the end of the year, and Oppo is bringing its beta version of Color OS 13 to a variety of cheaper handsets before 2022 is released.

Pricing

Redmi Note 11 screen against gray floor

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Another big factor that makes mid rangers worth buying today is that the prices are still very competitive for what you get. In fact, the US Consumer Price Index has seen a 22% annual decline in the average smartphone value. This was due to improved devices rather than lower prices. It’s still hard to argue against this logic, as these phones do indeed receive more powerful processors, more cameras, better camera sensors, more RAM/storage, and higher quality screens.

Do you think now is the best time to buy a mid-ranger?

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Either way, the fact is that while high-end smartphone prices have passed the $1,000 mark and haven’t looked back, the middlemen are offering ever-increasing value for money. And longer update commitments also mean that these phones will improve over time, gaining new features and optimizations for the next three years or more.

Of course, there will always be plenty of people who won’t mind paying a premium for a full-fledged flagship phone, whether it’s for the cameras or the state-of-the-art internals. But we’re closer than ever to getting 90% of the flagship experience for a fraction of the price.

A few mid-range phones worth buying

google pixel 6a back - Best budget camera phones

Ryan Haines/Android Authority

Now that we’ve looked at why modern mid-range smartphones are worth buying, what about the recommended devices? We’ve got you covered with a few choices.

  • Samsung Galaxy A53 ($450): Love the idea of ​​a Galaxy flagship but don’t want to spend a ton of money? That’s where the Galaxy A53 comes in, launching at $450 but often available below that price. Expect a capable but unspectacular Exynos 1280 SoC, 5,000mAh battery, 120Hz OLED display, and IP67 water and dust resistance. The phone also packs an impressive update promise, in line with Samsung’s flagships.
  • Moto G Stylus 5G 2022 ($399): Motorola has plenty of decent mid-range phones in the stable, and the Moto G Stylus 5G is one of the top picks if you’re in the US. Notable features include a large battery (5,000mAh), quad rear camera system, included stylus, and 128GB of expandable storage. It has a few downsides though, such as the ho-hum processor, slow charging, and no OLED panel.
  • Nothing Phone 1 ($499): Nothing just about’s first phone makes a difference in price, but it’s actually a good first effort. Nothing’s Phone 1 brings a powerful Snapdragon 778G Plus SoC, a solid 50MP + 50MP dual camera system and a 120Hz OLED display. But the handset stands out from almost every other device thanks to the unique “Glyph” back.
  • Google Pixel 6a ($450): There are plenty of reasons to buy the Pixel 6a, especially since it often sells for less than $450 launch price. Expect Tensor processor, offline voice input, excellent camera quality, water resistance, and a long update promise. Saying that, you miss out on the flagship line’s high refresh rate screen, faster charging, wireless charging and a 50MP main camera.

It’s worth noting that there are plenty of other decent mid-tier devices out there, depending on your region. You can check out our overview of the best cheap phones for a more complete overview.

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