The term “flagship killer” is often used to describe a phone with high-end features and a more affordable price point. That may well be a cliché in 2021 – but it’s undeniable that many mid-range handsets are more than up to the fight.
Yes, the days of having to pay £1,000 outright for a premium smartphone are gone. Tech has moved at a blistering pace, and you can easily get high-resolution screens, lengthy battery life and next-generation connectivity for half that price.
In terms of what top-line specs are now on offer, the mid-range smartphones that are the best today are essentially just the flagship phones of the (very recent) past.
What was once the domain of top-tier devices – OLED displays, high refresh rates and 5G chips – are now available not only on the devices that make up our best smartphone list but even the ones that fall into the best budget smartphone territory.
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Sitting in between those two extremes are the mid-rangers, all-rounders that give off a premium-like experience for much less upfront cost. This is a vast category that’s surprisingly complex. It’s broad and can arguably contain phones priced anywhere between the £250 and £600 mark, typically when bought outright and unlocked.
Considering investing in an Apple device? Read our iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12 guide to see how the flagships compare.
- How to choose the best mid-range phone
- Best mid-range phones a glance
- The best mid-range phones to buy in 2021
Luckily, due to the broad mid-range category, there’s a lot of options for both brand and budget. Here are some tips on how to choose the right model for you.
- Shop around: Leading tech giants including Apple, Google, and Samsung each offer their own affordable phones, including the Pixel 4a and iPhone SE (2020), so it’s not the case you will have to settle for a “lesser” brand. But there are plenty more phone makers in this space that shouldn’t be overlooked – namely Xiaomi, Oppo, Realme and OnePlus. They all have great phones.
- Compromise: When it comes to choosing the right mid-range phone, the key will be to compromise. Understand that you can’t have every premium feature in the one package – that’s a luxury for the top-end handsets – but instead, focus on exactly what you need the phone for. Is it a two-day battery life? Top camera lenses? High-refresh rate display? That will narrow down your options significantly and help tailor which smartphones are actually relevant.
- Read reviews: While the spec sheet for a phone will tell you everything you need to know about screen size, camera specs, storage options, battery life and processor – expert reviewers will give you an honest view of how the handset performs in the real world. Here at RadioTimes.com, we get hands-on time with a lot of the new phones – most recently in our Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review – but we also compile in-depth lists that will help you to make a buying decision, including our best 5G phone, best Android phone and best camera phone.
Still unsure which model to go for? Don’t worry – we have got you covered. Our expert reviewers have tested a variety of handsets in this popular category – at a range of prices. So here are the best mid-range smartphones that you can buy in 2021.
- Best for iOS: Apple iPhone SE 2nd gen (£399)
- Best overall Android: Google Pixel 4a 5G (£499)
- Best all-rounder: OnePlus Nord CE 5G (£299)
- Best budget option: Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro (£259)
- Best affordable 5G: POCO F3 5G (£299)
- Best Oppo mid-range: Oppo Find X3 Lite 5G (£379)
- Best for mid-range power: Moto g100 (£435)
Apple iPhone SE (2nd gen)
Best mid-range iOS experience
- Seamless iOS experience
- Excellent camera results
- Battery life isn’t amazing
- No 5G connectivity
- A13 Bionic chip, same as iPhone 11
- Wireless charging capability
At just under £400, the second-generation iPhone SE is the best option if you want an iOS experience without paying a premium for a newer model such as the iPhone 12. Released in 2020, the 4.7-inch SE has an older design, weaker battery life and a slightly more dated screen – but it retains many of the key iOS features, such as Siri, iMessage and FaceTime. We found the camera setup to be pretty good, too.
As our expert tester, Natalya Paul, wrote in our in-depth Apple iPhone SE (2nd gen) review: “The SE (2nd gen) is a smaller and more basic version of the 2020 iPhone line-up. It comes with many of the same features, but for a fraction of the price.”
Certain that you want an iPhone? Head over to our best iPhone guide to see how other models compare to the iPhone SE.
Buy the Apple iPhone SE (2nd gen) SIM-free:
Google Pixel 4a 5G
Best mid-range Android experience
- Excellent main camera
- Uncluttered software
- Battery life is not very long
- Plastic casing frame
- Android updates before other manufacturers
- Same Snapdragon processor as the Pixel 5
There are multiple handsets in the current Google Pixel range – the Pixel 4a (From £349), the Pixel 4a 5G (from £499) and the flagship Pixel 5 (from £599). In terms of the best mid-range, you will be more than safe with either the 4a or 4a 5G – and we are only choosing the 5G variant as it’s slightly more futureproof. The camera is stunning, and the phone has great update support, solid battery life and a large screen. With the Google Pixel 6 incoming this year, the 4a 5G may be about to get cheaper.
As we wrote in our full Google Pixel 4a 5G review: “[It] is a good alternative to… the Samsung Galaxy S21. It takes excellent photos, is powerful enough for most people, isn’t too large or heavy and has a bigger screen than the Pixel 5 or Pixel 4a.”
Buy the Google Pixel 4a 5G SIM-free:
OnePlus Nord CE 5G
Best mid-range all-rounder
- Good OLED screen
- Relatively petite and light
- Plastic back and sides
- Not as powerful as the first Nord
- 5G connectivity
- Headphone jack
OnePlus made its name with so-called flagship killers, and the OnePlus Nord CE is a 5G-enabled phone that offers a premium feel for well under £500. The 6.43-inch OLED screen has a 90HZ refresh rate for smooth scrolling, while the 4500mAh battery capacity will easily keep you going through the day. It’s not perfect, however, and we deducted some points in our OnePlus Nord CE 5G review for its plastic construction and it being more expensive than some key rivals. For a more premium mid-range experience, we advise looking in the direction of the fantastic OnePlus 8T 5G.
Buy the OnePlus Nord CE 5G SIM-free:
Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro
Great budget option
- Long battery life
- Large OLED screen
- No 5G connectivity
- May be too large for some hands
- 120Hz refresh rate
- Great for streaming video and games
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro will certainly be one of the smartphones that skim along the edge between budget and mid-range, coming in at around £250. There’s a lot we loved about the handset during our hands-on testing, including the large OLED screen, a premium glass back, solid cameras and two-day battery life. It doesn’t have 5G, but this is a great option if budget is your main priority. If you want to spend slightly more cash for 5G, consider the £345 Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G.
But as we noted in our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro review: “The [handset] is almost certainly one of the best value phones of 2021. If you are a demanding phone buyer who wants as much for your cash as possible, you can’t do much better.”
Buy the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro SIM-free:
POCO F3 5G
Best affordable 5G mid-range
- Strong gaming performance
- Solid 4520mAh battery
- Branding may be off-putting
- Cameras are just OK
- 120Hz refresh rate
- Snapdragon 870 5G processor
The Poco F3 5G, which is from a sub-brand of top Chinese phone maker Xiaomi, has a fantastic variety of top-end features that would be just as suited to a much more expensive handset: a Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 5G processor, a 120Hz refresh rate, a 4520mAh battery, an AI-powered triple camera setup and Dolby Atmos dual speakers. It comes in three colours, but we recommend either the black or white versions to avoid the larger Poco branding that is found on the “deep ocean blue” model. Regardless of colour, it’s still a great mid-range smartphone for the price.
In our guide to the best Android phone, we praised the POCO F3 5G as being the best option for sheer value, specifically loving its strong gaming performance and top quality screen. As we wrote: “This phone is something of a money-saving maverick.”
Buy the POCO F3 5G SIM-free:
Oppo Find X3 Lite 5G
Best mid-range phone by Oppo
- 5G connectivity
- Fast charging
- No wireless charging
- No water or dust resistance
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- 90 Hz refresh rate
The Find X3 Lite 5G from Oppo, a brand that is owned by Chinese tech giant BBK Electronics, which also oversees OnePlus and Realme, is a great Android phone for under £400. It not only has 5G but also boasts a 90 Hz refresh rate, fast charging, a quad-camera set-up, a glass back frame and a nice 6.4 inch AMOLED screen. The only big aspects missing are water or dust resistance and wireless charging.
As we noted in our Oppo Find X3 Lite 5G review: “As part of Oppo’s flagship series, we were expecting a lot… And while it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the Pro model, it is a solid smartphone that delivers well on everything it offers.”
Buy the Oppo Find X3 Lite 5G SIM-free:
Motorola Moto g100
Best for mid-range power specs
- Lots of power for gaming
- 64 MP triple camera setup
- Expensive compared to other Motos
- Camera is not as good as its rivals
- Can attach monitor and keyboard
- Snapdragon 870 5G chip
While Motorola offers a wide range of smartphones that are typically on the more affordable side of the spectrum, the G100 actually stands out as a bit of a beast. At a little over £400, it runs on Android 11, has a strong Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 5G chipset, a large 5000mAh battery and boasts a 64 MP triple camera setup. The 6.7″ display has a 90Hz refresh rate – great for web browsing and gaming. In the UK, the Moto g100 comes with a “Ready for” stand – intended for added productivity as it can help the smartphone to be hooked up to an external monitor and keyboard.
Due to its powerful specs, we awarded the Moto g100 the title of “best for gaming” in our buyer’s guide to the best Motorola phones.
Buy the Motorola Moto g100 SIM-free:
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