Best mid-range smartphone 2022: Great, affordable phones you can buy today

Nathan Spendelow Ben Johnston
12 Dec 2022

Looking to save money on your next smartphone? Forget the flagships and check out these excellent mid-range options

Today’s top-tier smartphones are undeniably desirable; just look at Samsung’s Galaxy S22 lineup or Apple’s latest iPhone series. But we don’t all have massive wads of cash burning holes in our pockets – and the good news is, there’s no need to spend four figures to get a smartphone that combines top performance with a gorgeous design.

READ NEXT: The best budget smartphones

Indeed, not only do the latest mid-range smartphones look and feel as slick as their “flagship” counterparts, they can actually outperform them in key areas. So even if you’re considering splashing out on a top-of-the-range handset, you’d be well advised to check out the mid-range before spending the cash.

Here’s our guide to what to look for – along with our regularly updated selection of the best mid-range smartphones in 2022.

Best mid-range phone: At a glance

How to buy the best mid-range smartphone for you

What is a “mid-range” smartphone?

When we talk about mid-range smartphones, we generally mean handsets that cost between £300 and £500 to buy outright. It’s true that the latest and greatest smartphones keep on getting more and more expensive – Some foldable smartphones aren't far off £2,000 – so strictly speaking the middle of the market is a moving target. But our price bracket is the one to focus on, as it’s where you’ll find the best balance of price and features.

Should I buy SIM-free, or does it make sense to commit to a contract?

A 24-month contract keeps your up-front costs to a minimum, but if you sit down and calculate the total amount that you’ll end up paying over the course of those two years, you’ll almost always find that the SIM-free option works out a lot cheaper. That said, it’s always worth checking for special offers, as occasional deals can be highly competitive. The other advantage of going SIM-free is that you can sell your phone on and upgrade whenever you want, rather than having to wait for the end of your contract – by which time your handset may well be distinctly out of date.

What should I look for in a mid-range smartphone?

Everyone’s priorities are different – so it’s a good idea to work out what yours are. Is a lengthy battery life at the top of your wish-list? Or are you more interested in taking better-quality pictures?

In all cases we’d suggest you take a look at the phone’s internal specifications: you’ll want a processor that’s powerful enough to keep up with all the applications you’re going to use, now and in a year or two’s time. While you’re at it, check that there’s plenty of internal storage too. If this can be expanded with a microSD card, that could be a big bonus.

The phone’s display is also crucial – after all, this is the bit you’ll be staring at. You can find plenty of mid-range handsets with great-looking screens, but you can’t take this for granted, so make sure to read our reviews before buying.

How does Expert Reviews test mid-range smartphones?

When we receive a handset for review, we put it under a variety of tests. The first is performance, where we use two apps on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store: Geekbench 5 and GFXBench. These benchmarking apps provide CPU and GPU processing scores, and these allow us to see where the phone fits in against the competition. A phone's display is tested using our colorimeter and DisplayCAL software, which measures how colour accurate a screen is, as well as providing maximum brightness and contrast ratio.

Our in-house battery life testing is performed using a looped video via the VLC app, with the screen set to 170cd/m2 brightness and flight mode engaged. We simply record where the video left off before the phone's battery ran dry. Cameras are tested in a wide variety of lighting conditions, including landscape shots and indoor still life photography, and these images are compared against similarly priced rivals.

The best mid-range smartphones you can buy

1. OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G: The best mid-range smartphone

Price: £299 l Buy now from OnePlus

If there’s one thing we’ve been able to rely on in the fast-moving world of smartphones in recent times, it’s that every time OnePlus releases a smartphone, it goes straight to the top of the charts for value. With OnePlus straying away from its budget roots in recent times, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G is much closer in value to what we've come to expect from the Taiwanese company previously. It's essentially flawless at this price, too.

Sacrifices have to be made in order to bring the price down (it's well over half the price of the OnePlus 9) but for the most part, these cuts have been made in the right places. The screen is flat, rather than curved, and it lacks any official IP rating but that's pretty much your lot. Otherwise, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G is as good as phones costing hundreds more.

It's a smart-looking smartphone with plenty of cameras and one of the latest 5G-enabled chipsets: the MediaTek Dimensity 900. What's perhaps most impressive, however, is that not only does it offer speedy 65W charging (going from zero to 50% in just 12 minutes), but battery life is also phenomenal, lasting over 24 hours in our tests. With nothing but positives, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G is the best choice for anyone put off by flagship prices.

Read our full OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G review for more details

Key specs – Processor: 2.4GHz MediaTek Dimensity 900; Screen: 6.43in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 64MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (macro); Storage: 128GB; Operating system: Android 11

Buy now from OnePlus

2. iPhone SE 3 (2022): Apple's best-value iPhone

Price: £419 l Buy now from Amazon

Latest iPhone SE 3 contract deals

It might look like a bit of a relic, but the iPhone SE 3 (2022) is Apple's best-value smartphone yet. Apple might prefer customers to spend more on the iPhone 13, but the lower asking price for the iPhone SE 3 makes it a far more exciting value proposition, and your wallet will likely breathe a sigh of relief in return.

Despite costing more than half the price, the iPhone SE 3 (2022) uses the same speedy processor as the iPhone 13 – the A15 Bionic – and its camera is up to the job, too. The only fly in the ointment is that its battery life is rather short by modern standards, but that's nothing the speedy 20W charging can't fix. The iPhone SE is also a solid choice if you aren't a fan of those big-screened handsets of late – the small 4.7in screen is perfect for one-handed use.

If you'd rather not spend the silly amounts of dosh for an iPhone 13, and don't mind sacrificing a few camera features and a smaller design, then the iPhone SE is absolutely the best-value Apple phone you can buy right now.

Read our full iPhone SE 3 (2022) review for more details

Key specs – Processor: 3.23GHz Apple A15 Bionic; Screen: 4.7in 1,334 x 750; Camera: 12MP; Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 512GB; Operating system: iOS 15

3. Xiaomi Poco X4 Pro 5G: A flawless affordable handset

Price: £270 l Buy now from Amazon

The Xiaomi Poco X4 Pro 5G is the perfect handset for the budget-conscious buyer. The brand might still be a bit of an unknown in the UK, but the Poco X4 Pro 5G is stupendously good value for money, and it even outperforms handsets that cost double, and in some cases triple, the asking price.

An easy recommendation if you aren't comfortable handing over £700+ on the latest and greatest handsets, the Poco X4 Pro 5G is fitted with all the best bells and whistles: it has a Full HD AMOLED screen, a 5G-supported Qualcomm speedy Snapdragon 695 chipset, a large 108MP camera sensor and a solid battery life as well.

Its bargain price is its main appeal, of course, but since there are so few compromises the Xiaomi Poco X4 Pro 5G is a no-brainer if you're itching for great value for money.

Read our full Xiaomi Poco X4 Pro 5G review for more details

Key specs – Processor: 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 695; Screen: 6.67in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 108MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (macro); Storage: 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: Android 11

Buy now from Amazon

4. Google Pixel 6a: The best mid-range camera 

Price: £399 l Buy now from Amazon

After a year-long hiatus, Google's affordable mid-range handset has finally returned anew. It represents everything we've come to expect from the company in recent times, providing top-notch hardware at a near unbeatable price. Powered by the flagship Tensor chipset – the same CPU inside the full-fat Pixel 6 – performance is exemplary, and the 6.1in display is remarkably colour accurate as well. 

The star of the show, however, is the Pixel 6a's photographic capabilities. Don't let its unassuming dual-camera array fool you: the Pixel 6a is capable of capturing some truly remarkable images, with astonishing clarity and detail even in less than ideal lighting conditions. It even manages to give four-figured flagships a proper run for their money – if you're an avid Instagram poster, there's simply nothing better at this price.  

Read our full Google Pixel 6a review for more details

Key specs – Processor: 2.8GHz Google Tensor; Screen: 6.1in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 12.2MP, 12MP (wide); Storage: 128GB; Operating system: Android 12

Buy now from Amazon

5. Nothing Phone (1): The most unique mid-range handset

Price: £399 l Buy now from Amazon

The much-hyped Nothing Phone (1) is the sort of handset that comes along every few years to reinvigorate the industry. The mid-priced handset takes a unique approach to smartphone design, with its clear-backed construction and LED-heavy "Glyph" interface. This is used for ringtones and notifications, as well as a charging indicator and a fill light for the rear camera, and it's a bit of a delight. 

It's not just a phone filled with gimmicks, either, since there's a lot to like elsewhere, too. It comes equipped with a 6.55in FHD+ 120Hz OLED display, a speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G Plus processor and a bevvy of storage and RAM configurations to choose from. Coupled with a clean installation of Android 12 and a solid pair of 50MP rear cameras, the Nothing Phone (1) is a bit of a tech lover's dream, and is a phone that certainly lives up to the hype.

Read our full Nothing Phone (1) review for more details

Key specs – Processor: 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G Plus; Screen: 6.55in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 50MP, 50MP (wide); Storage: 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: Android 12

Buy now from Amazon

6. Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G: Astonishing value

Price: £319 l Buy now from Amazon

With flagship-class specifications at a vastly reduced cost, Xiaomi's well-priced Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G is a cut above the rest, with astonishing performance courtesy of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 chipset, along with an exemplary triple-camera array (which includes a huge 108MP sensor).

The Redmi Note 11 Pro's 120Hz Full HD display is also a highlight, allowing for silky smooth scrolling and high frame rate mobile gaming. If your buying budget can't quite stretch to some of the other options on this list, then there's no doubt that the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G should be at the very top of your smartphone buying agenda.

Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G review for more details

Key specs – Processor: 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 695; Screen: 6.67in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 108MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (macro); Storage: 64GB, 128GB; Operating system: Android 11

7. Samsung Galaxy A53 5G: Samsung's best-value handset

Price: £399 | Buy now from Amazon

The Samsung Galaxy series of phones doesn't begin and end with the S and Note lines. Samsung's A-series lineup is a very different proposition, offering flagship-like goodies without the high price tag – and the Galaxy A53 5G is no different. An impressive, affordable smartphone that not only looks good, the A53 5G also has a great screen and more than enough power for most people – even if its processor isn't as fancy as its siblings.

It also takes great pictures for the price, and if battery life is at the top of your smartphone-buying agenda, then you're in luck: the Galaxy A53 5G lasted almost 22 hours in our battery life test. If you're a Samsung fan, or simply want a reliable yet impressive smartphone that doesn't cost the earth, then the Galaxy A53 5G might be the phone for you.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy A53 5G review for more details

Key specs – Processor: 2.4GHz Samsung Exynos 1280; Screen: 6.5in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 64MP, 12MP (wide), 5MP (macro), 5MP (depth); Storage: 128GB; Operating system: Android 12

Buy now from Amazon

8. Xiaomi 12T: A superb flagship killer

Price: £499 l Buy now from Amazon

It might be the priciest handset on this list, but the Xiaomi 12T is still astonishing value. If you're happy parting with a bit more cash, you'll be rewarded with one of the most feature-complete handsets outside of the flagship territory, with the Xiaomi 12T putting pricier high-end handsets to shame. 

It impressed in testing with its wonderfully sharp, colour accurate 6.67in FHD+ AMOLED display, respectably powerful MediaTek Dimensity 8100-U chipset and stupendously fast 120W charging (which went from empty to 68% in just 15 minutes, and full in 20 minutes in our tests).  The 108MP is also rather good for the price, capturing top-quality pictures no matter the lighting conditions. Get the Xiaomi 12T if you want a flagship but don't want to pay flagship prices.

Read our full Xiaomi 12T review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.85GHz MediaTek Dimensity 8100-U; Screen: 6.67in, 2,712 x 1,220; Camera: 108MP, 8MP (ultrawide), 2MP (macro), 20MP (selfie); Storage: 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: Android 12

Buy now from Amazon

9. Realme 9 Pro Plus: The best-value mid-range smartphone

Price: £349 | Buy now from Realme

Delivering flagship specifications at not-so-flagship prices, the Realme 9 Pro Plus has set a very high bar for pure value. The Super AMOLED screen is sharp and buttery smooth, thanks to a maximum 90Hz refresh rate. Battery life extends beyond 25 hours and once depleted, can be returned to 100% in just over 40 minutes via the included 60W fast charger.

One of MediaTek’s latest processors, the Dimensity 920 5G, is running the show here and proved to be leagues ahead of the competition in all of our performance benchmark tests. The lack of an IP rating and the disappointing performance of the ultrawide camera keep the Realme 9 Pro Plus from being a flawless wonder, but as far as value for money goes, this impressive all-rounder is the mid-range handset to beat.

Read our full Realme 9 Pro Plus review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.5GHz MediaTek Dimensity 920 5G; Screen: 6.4in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 50MP, 8MP (ultrawide), 2MP (macro), 16MP (selfie); Storage: 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: Android 12

Buy now from Realme

10. OnePlus Nord 2T 5G: Another astonishing OnePlus

Price: £369 l Buy now from Amazon

OnePlus has produced yet another exceptionally priced smartphone in the OnePlus Nord 2T 5G. As the name implies, this is a 5G-enabled handset with a host of top-end features for relatively little money. It's the fastest smartphone in its price bracket, courtesy of the rapid MediaTek Dimensity 1300 chipset, and it's no slouch when it comes to battery life either – lasting for almost a full 24 hours on a single charge in our tests.

In fact, the OnePlus Nord 2T is sitting comfortably as one of the best all-rounders in the mid-range category. Its upgrades might be slight compared to the previous model, but it costs less and packs a whole lot in for a fraction of the cost of this year's flagships. Get the OnePlus Nord 2T if you're hoping to squeeze the most out of your purchase.

Read our full OnePlus Nord 2T 5G review for more details

Key specs – Processor: 3GHz MediaTek Dimensity 1300; Screen: 6.43in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 50MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (depth); Storage: 128/256GB; Operating system: Android 12

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