As one of Engadget’s resident mobile geeks, I’ve reviewed dozens of midrange phones and have found that a great smartphone doesn’t have 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, I can help you figure out what features to prioritize when trying to find the best midrange smartphone.
Google Pixel 7a
The best midrange Android phone
Apple iPhone SE
The best iPhone under $600
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
The midrange phone with the best display for streaming
OnePlus Nord N200 5G
The best cheap smartphone when on a budget
What is a midrange phone, anyway?
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 13 and Samsung Galaxy S22.
What factors should you consider when buying a midrange smartphone?
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.
What won’t you get from a midrange smartphone?
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.
The best midrange phones for 2023
Google Pixel 7a: The best midrange Android phone
iPhone SE (3rd generation): The best iPhone under $600
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G: The midrange phone with the best display for streaming
OnePlus Nord N200 5G: The best cheap smartphone when on a budget
Chris Velazco contributed to this report.