Not every smartphone has to break the bank, and there are affordable mid-range handsets capable of offering plenty of features and performance. Before you settle on the smartphone you think is best, there’s plenty to consider, given that it’s an important purchase. Beyond the obvious Android or iOS comparisons, or looking at screen size and battery life, there are some key takeaways to think about.
The phones listed here are of the mid-range and affordable variety. Choosing between them may not be easy, but there’s not really a bad choice in the mix.
Here are some of the best affordable smartphones available this holiday season:
Apple iPhone 13 mini
The last time Apple went the smaller route with a high-end phone, it was the iPhone 13 mini. Apple went bigger with the iPhone 14 models, but this one is still around, and it’s a compelling choice because you get a lot in a smaller package. The vibrant 5.4-inch Super Retina display covers so much of that package.
Most of the upgrades for the 13 mini centered on the camera, but it is a noticeable upgrade in performance unto itself if you’re coming from an older iPhone that came out in 2018 or earlier. smaller size. Apple’s A15 Bionic chip is still super fast for a device like this, and you’re guaranteed to get years’ worth of iOS updates.
Storage is also less of an issue when you start at 128GB rather than 64GB like older iPhones do. That’s a great start so you don’t feel constrained in case you take a lot of photos and video, or use a lot of apps. You very well might anyway, considering you can shoot with both the wide and ultra-wide lenses.
As much as this is about the iPhone 13 mini, the same principles apply to the iPhone 13, which offers a larger 6.1-inch display and better battery life. Your choice likely comes down to what size you want, and whether you prefer the colour differences between them.
Apple iPhone SE (3rd Gen)
The iPhone SE is now in its third iteration, and its purpose remains unchanged, which is to give you better value out of the box. The simplest way to describe this device is that it’s mostly an iPhone 13 packed into an iPhone 8 body. If you’re looking for a bigger phone that is equally affordable, you can try the iPhone 11.
Staying true to the iPhone’s more iconic elements—particularly the physical home button with Touch ID—the SE sticks to that familiar build and design. Unlike the other contemporary iPhones, the bezels around the 4.7-inch Retina HD display are still very obvious, but it will still feel like a small phone by today’s standards. Plus, it also retains the same IP68 water resistance the iPhone 8 has, including wireless charging support.
The guts inside are along the lines of the iPhone 13, starting with the A15 Bionic chipset that powers so much of what the phone can do. Faster performance, camera software capable of better images, and a much easier gaming experience are a few of the benefits.
As for storage options, you can choose between 64GB and 128GB. Then there’s the camera, which is basically an offshoot of the iPhone 8 camera. You get a single lens in the rear, and another at the front. Some of the software features, like Portrait and HDR, are there, whereas Night mode isn’t. Face ID also isn’t available.
Google Pixel 6a
Google treats its more affordable phones with the same focus it applies to its flagships. That’s why the Pixel 6a has so much of what the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro came with. As you might expect, this phone has a really effective camera capable of shooting above its pay grade. Many of the same modes and software computation help deliver great results, and that includes cool ones in Google Photos. Use Magic Eraser to remove people or objects from images, or Camouflage to blend an object into the broader image.
The Pixel 6a runs on the same Google Tensor chipset the other two Pixel 6 phones do, so performance shouldn’t be an issue here. Doesn’t hurt that you get a large 6.1-inch display to look at, including the Material You visual layout you can customize to make the interface cater more to your liking.
Tensor also enables neat and useful features, like Call Screen to look out for spam calls, and Hold for Me for Google Assistant to stay on hold for you during a call. Voice Typing is cool for messaging, while the Recorder app does a stellar job when you need to record an interview or lecture by also giving you a text transcript.
Samsung Galaxy A53
Samsung usually makes noise about its flagship devices, but it’s the affordable and mid-range models that sometimes stand out on their own. The Galaxy A53 is one of those, delivering a solid mid-range set of features and performance.
It’s pretty solid value, no least of which because you get four lenses in the rear to shoot with. The main lens has a 64-megapixel sensor, while the 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens offers a 123-degree field of view. The two other lenses include a 5-megapixel macro for close-up shots, and a 5-megapixel depth camera that works with Live Focus.
For an affordable model, this has a big Super AMOLED screen at 6.5-inches, so real estate shouldn’t be an issue. The front-facing camera is like a pinhole at the top that Samsung tries to blend in to the wider display. It is a 32-megapixel camera, making it pretty hefty in its own right for selfie lovers.
It also has a larger 5000mAh battery that should keep it running for a day without any trouble. The 128GB of storage is nice, and a microSD card slot offers some expansion beyond that.
Other phones to consider
There are other handsets you can keep in mind as you look for the right affordable phone to go with. Many vary in price to a large degree, and may come from different sellers, but it gives you an idea of what’s out there. If you’re thinking something prepaid might be the best fit, look no further than this group. For a more premium phone, you’ve got great options to think about as well.
For a broader sense of what you can get your hands on, check out the best smartphones available.