What are we looking for?

The smartphone market below the premium line has become a bit complicated. Former lines have been blurred and what were once high-end features have more or less become available on lower tiers. Some premium phones, like the Essential PH-1, have prices that dip into the mid-range sphere. Of course, it’s still more expensive than what some might be able to afford. For this round, we’re looking at this combination of features that offer the best bang for your buck, no matter how small that latter may be.


In the old days, lines were drawn based on price. It’s less well-defined now, but you can still get a feel for what’s too expensive and what’s too cheap. Phones like the Essential PH-1 and the OnePlus 5T make things even more confusing. That’s why for mid-range phones, we’re looking for something that nicely sits between $200 and $400. Anything higher and you might as well get a more affordable flagship.


Just because you’re paying less doesn’t mean you need to get less. Hardware parts have become more affordable these days, and you’d find some 18:9 bezel-less screens gracing even cheaper phones. That said, it’s a bit easier to spot a mid-range phone by its processor, usually a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 series or equivalent, with 3 or better yet 4 GB of RAM. Almost everything else is fair game.


Screens are one of the things that is in constant flux these days, especially with the advent of 18:9 panels. Mid-range phones now tend to sit on the 1080p Full HD side of the fence. Bonus points if they get FHD+.


A great and affordable phone is rendered unreachable if you can’t easily buy it. While it’s always possible to buy a phone online these days, especially from reputable retailers, there’s still a lot to be said for something you can buy locally, especially with financing options.

Without further ado, here are our contenders.

Motorola Moto X4

Once Motorola’s crowning glory, the X series has become its middle child. Motorola stirs things up a bit with the fourth gen Moto X by making it the first Android One phone for the US. It is also the first of its line to sport dual cameras and comes with Alexa inside (non-Android One version).

• Operating System: Android 7.0 Nougat, upgradeable to 8.0 Oreo
• CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 630
• RAM: 3 or 4 GB
• Storage: 32 or 64 GB
• Display: 5.2 inches, 1920×1080
• Main Camera: 12 MP, f/2.0, dual pixel PDAF + 8 MP, f/2.2
• Secondary Camera: 16 MP, f/2.0
• Battery: 3,000 mAh
• Price: $400

HTC U11 Life

Very shiny and squeezable, the HTC U11 Life takes everything fans loved about the U11 and took it down a notch in specs and price. What it doesn’t have in terms of dual rear cameras it makes up for with a selfie camera that is as capable as the one on the back.

• Operating System: Android 8.0 Oreo
• CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 630
• RAM: 3 or 4 GB
• Storage: 32 or 64 GB
• Display: 5.2 inches, 1920×1080
• Main Camera: 16 MP, f/2.0, PDAF
• Secondary Camera: 16 MP, f/2.0
• Battery: 2,600 mAh
• Price: $350

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