It looks like the mid-range phone market (finally) has some good options for your average phone buyer.
If you’re an iPhone user, your only option for a mid-range phone is the iPhone SE. However, that’s not really a bad thing, since it’s got several things that help it punch way about its $400 starting price.
For one thing, its processor (the current A13) outperforms every Android phone in most respects, it still has the Neural Engine coprocessor (for portrait mode/Smart HDR), and it has the “classic” iPhone 8 form-factor with Touch ID.
You can find more about it in my April 2020 roundup.
The OnePlus Nord was unveiled late last month as OnePlus’ newest entry into the mid-range Android market, and it was a strong entry.
The OnePlus Nord starts at $450, and gives a you modern, slim-bezel design, a pretty good processor, a 90Hz AMOLED screen, and 6(!) cameras.
While the processor isn’t the top-of-the-line Snapdragon (which has potential problems), it definitely gets the job done. The Nord also starts at 128 GB of storage, features quick charging (but not wireless charging), and its version of Android 10 is fairly lightweight.
Unfortunately, the challenge may be in actually getting the phone. It’s unclear at the moment if OnePlus is planning on selling the phone in the US. If you can get your hands on one, though, this is a great midrange phone.
I guess it took me mentioning the current lack of a mid-range Pixel last month for them to do it, but Google has finally announced (and undermined) the mid-range successor to the Pixel 3a, the Pixel 4a.
The Pixel 4a looks to be a solid mid-range contender. It has big screen with slim bezels, a larger battery than the Pixel 4, and a headphone jack (!). It also has the great camera that all Pixel phones have been known for, and while the processor is not the top-of-the-line (like the Nord), that’s probably a good thing.
One unfortunate thing about the 4a, though, is the timing. Since it’s announcement and release were pushed back due to COVID-19, it’s now launching after the OnePlus Nord and iPhone SE – two direct competitors that have a meaningful head start. There’s also the fact that the Pixel 4a is launching in only a single physical size and color – unlike the Pixel 3a.
Weirdly, in Google’s email and blog post about the Pixel 4a, they take the last couple of paragraphs and totally undermine it and advertise two additional phones that are coming “this fall”. The Pixel 4a (5G) will likely be similar to the Pixel 4a, but with 5G radios, while the Pixel 5 will be Google’s new flagship (also with 5G).
Update: In another twist, Google has discontinued the Pixel 4. The Pixel 4 had a few strange choices that I covered in my initial post about it, most notably the below-average battery life and Motion Sense that never really took off. I’m sure COVID-related supply issues are also to blame, but removing the flagship after less than a year – and before another one is for sale – is not a great look.
Good Time For Mid-Range Phones
If you’ve been watching the ever-climbing prices for flagship phones, then this new crop of mid-range phones is good news.
These new mid-range phones have more than enough power for the average user, and they cost about half as much as the flagships. Additionally, all three of these phone makers have a good track record of keeping their devices up-to-date, which is more important from a security perspective than ever.