The best midrange smartphones for 2024


Great smartphones don’t need to cost a fortune. Years of commoditization have brought features once exclusive to high-end devices – including big batteries, multi-camera arrays and high refresh rate displays – down to their more affordable siblings. While there are still some things you’ll only find on flagship smartphones, you don’t have to compromise as much anymore if you’re looking to find the best buy at a lower price point. If you have less than $600 to spend, we can help you figure out what features to prioritize when trying to find the best midrange smartphone.

While the term shows up frequently in articles and videos, there isn’t an agreed-upon definition for “midrange” beyond a phone that isn’t a flagship or an entry-level option. Our recommendations for the best midrange smartphones cost between $400 and $600 — any less and you should expect significant compromises. If your budget is higher, though, you should consider flagships like the Apple iPhone 15 and the Samsung Galaxy S24.

Buying a new device can be intimidating, but a few questions can help guide you through the process. First: what platform do you want to use? If the answer is iOS, that narrows your options down to exactly one phone. (Thankfully, it’s great.) And if you’re an Android fan, there’s no shortage of compelling options. Both platforms have their strengths, so you shouldn’t rule either out.

Obviously, also consider how much you’re comfortable spending. Even increasing your budget by $100 more can get you a dramatically better product. And manufacturers tend to support their more expensive devices for longer. It’s definitely worth buying something toward the top limit of what you can afford.

Having an idea of your priorities will help inform your budget. Do you want a long battery life or fast charging speed? Do you value speedy performance above all else? Or would you like the best possible cameras? While they continue to improve every year, even the best midrange smartphones still demand some compromises, and knowing what’s important to you will make choosing one easier.

Lastly, pay attention to wireless bands and network compatibility. If you don’t want to worry about that, your best bet is to buy directly from your carrier. To make things easier, all the phones we recommend are compatible with every major US wireless provider and can be purchased unlocked.

Every year, the line between midrange and flagship phones gets blurrier as more upmarket features and specs trickle down to more affordable models. When we first published this guide in 2020, it was difficult to find $500 devices with waterproofing or 5G. Now, the biggest thing you might miss out on is wireless charging. Just remember to budget for a power adapter too – many companies have stopped including chargers with their smartphones. Performance has improved in recent years, but can still be hit or miss as most midrange phones use slower processors that can struggle with multitasking. Thankfully, their cameras have improved dramatically, and you can typically expect at least a dual-lens system on most midrange smartphones below $600.

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Photo by Sam Rutherford / Engadget

Screen size: 6.1 inches | Storage capacity: Up to 256GB | SIM card type: Nano-SIM, eSIM | Front camera resolution: 13MP | Rear camera resolution: 64MP main, 13MP ultrawide | Weight: 6.6 ounces

Read our full review of the Google Pixel 8a

Google’s A-series Pixels have long been some of the best midrange phones on the market. But now with the addition of a Tensor G3 chip, the Pixel 8a supports the same powerful and versatile AI functions you get on Google’s flagship phones along with excellent cameras, a gorgeous 120Hz OLED display and great battery life. The device also comes with creature comforts like IP67 dust and water resistance and convenient (but slow) 7.5-watt Qi wireless charging. But most importantly, starting at $499, it might be one of the best deals on the market.

Pros

  • Colorful 120Hz OLED display
  • Strong battery life
  • Excellent cameras
  • Great value
Cons

  • Slow wireless charging
  • Thick bezels

$499 at Amazon

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David Imel for Engadget

Screen size: 6.1 inches | Storage capacity: Up to 512GB | SIM card type: Nano-SIM, eSIM | Front camera resolution: 12MP | Rear camera resolution: 12MP dual camera system | Weight: 6.14 ounces

Our previous pick here was the $429 iPhone SE, but spend the extra $170 on the iPhone 13 and you get some significant upgrades. Most notable is a far less dated design, with flat sides, Face ID and an edge-to-edge display. The 6.1-inch OLED panel is much larger than the SE’s 4.7-inch LCD screen, yet the device as a whole is just 0.33 inches taller and only marginally thicker. That display is better in every way — brighter, sharper, more vivid and more durable to boot.

The iPhone 13 also supports MagSafe, unlike the SE, plus it starts with twice as much storage at 128GB. Instead of the SE’s single-camera setup, the 13 has a superior dual-camera system with a dedicated ultra-wide lens. Around the front, there’s a sharper selfie camera that supports 4K video. Battery life is longer, too. — Jeff Dunn, Senior Reporter, Buying Advice

Pros

  • Modern design
  • Camera performance is still perfectly solid for most
  • Ditto for processor, display and battery life
Cons

  • Two generations old
  • Lightning port
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • No telephoto lens

$599 at Apple

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OnePlus

Screen size: 6.72 inches | Storage capacity: 128GB + microSD | SIM card type: Nano-SIM | Front camera resolution: 16MP | Rear camera resolution: 108MP main, 2MP macro | Weight: 6.8 oz

When it first came out, the Nord N30 had basically everything you could want in a phone that cost $300. Its Snapdragon 695 5G chipset delivers strong performance along with speedy wireless connectivity that’s compatible with all the big US carriers, not to mention good specs including 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It also has a big 6.7-inch display with a 120Hz refresh rate, which is rare on a budget phone as most rivals feature slower 60Hz or 90Hz panels. And thanks to its 50-watt wired charging, you can top it up quickly, too. But most importantly, the Nord 30 recently got a price drop from $300 to $250, making it an unquestionably good deal and our top pick in this space.

Pros

  • Good performance for the price
  • 120Hz display
  • 50W wired charging

$250 at Amazon



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