Best mid-range mobile phones in 2021

Last updated: 15 October 2021   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Many mobile customers will look to mid-range smartphones when they're shopping for a new device to combine quality with a good price point.

The Samsung Galaxy A52s is one of the best mid-range devices on the market in 2021, with an enhanced chipset and great battery life.

There are also notable mentions for the OnePlus Nord 2 and the Oppo Find X3 Lite that both offer quality features to users, even if there are some premium elements missing.

Customers shopping for a mid-range mobile may also be interested in the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite or the Google Pixel 4a which has reduced in price to become a top choice.

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Best mid-range smartphones in 2021

Most customers searching for a quality smartphone will look at mid-range devices rather the expensive flagships that hog the "best of" lists and take up all the advertising space mobile networks have to offer.

But a good mid-range smartphone can have great specs, powerful processors and excellent cameras suitable for everyday users and those looking for a handset with a little more oomph.

Here are our top five mid-range handsets in 2021.

1. Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G

Our top choice for a mid-range smartphone in 2021 is the Samsung Galaxy A52s.

This handset was released in August 2021 as an update to the standard A52 (only released in March 2021) and it improves on the original with a faster chipset that pushes it straight to the top of our mid-range smartphone list.

The main reason we think the Samsung Galaxy A52s is an excellent choice is because it offers most things a smartphone user would need from a Samsung device without the price tags of the Samsung Galaxy S21 range.

For example, the A52s has a quad camera with a main 64MP lens supported by a 12MP ultrawide and 5MP macro and depth lenses, although there isn't a telephoto lens for optical zoom so digital will have to do. There's also a 32MP selfie camera that takes excellent portrait photos.

The A52s is undeniably a quality Samsung device in the way it looks and feels, but it does swap out some premium features to make it more budget friendly.

We've already mentioned the lack of a telephoto lens and the water resistance on the handset is one step down from market-leading - it's rated IP67 so it's resistant in up to 1 metre of water for 30 minutes (read more about waterproof phones). Economies have also been made on the design, with a polycarbonate frame instead of a premium metal one.

Even so, at this price point the Samsung Galaxy A52s is a great all-rounder with a superb display, optional refresh rate of 120Hz and a good battery to last users throughout the day.

Outright, the device costs £409 and is available in four colours: Awesome White, Awesome Black, Awesome Mint or Awesome Violet.

Here are some contract options from UK mobile networks:

Provider Minutes Data Initial price Monthly price
Samsung Galaxy A52s (128GB) iD Mobile Unlimited 20GB on 4G Free £20.99
24 month term
Samsung Galaxy A52s (128GB) Virgin Mobile Unlimited 24GB on 5G Free £25 per month
36 month term
Samsung Galaxy A52s (128GB) Sky Mobile Unlimited 20GB on 5G Free £27 per month
36 month term
Samsung Galaxy A52s (128GB) Vodafone Unlimited 25GB on 5G £19 £29 per month
36 month term

These are just examples. More options (including some with unlimited data) are available over on our dedicated mobile comparison pages.

2. OnePlus Nord 2

The OnePlus Nord 2 is an excellent all-rounded that would have stolen the top spot if it wasn't for a couple of small issues: water resistance and refresh rates.

Looking at the positives first, there is plenty to like about this mid-range smartphone. The overall design looks and feels like a premium smartphone, despite the same economies on materials we've noted in the A52s.

The processor on the OnePlus Nord 2 isn't a Snapdragon chip as we see in other devices on this list, but that doesn't mean the Dimensity 1200 is a poor performer. In fact, independent benchmarking puts it in the lead against the Snapdragon 778G used in the A52s.

So, why is the OnePlus Nord 2 in second place rather than first?

Although the refresh rate on the Nord 2 is 90Hz, it's beaten by the A52s and its 120Hz optional refresh rate. Plus, while the A52s has a resistance rating of IP67 meaning it's dust and water resistant, the OnePlus Nord 2 has no IP rating, so users need to be cautious about using it near water.

However, for £399, the OnePlus Nord 2 is an excellent mid-range smartphone option. Here are some contract examples:

Provider Minutes Data Initial price Monthly price
OnePlus Nord 2 5g (128GB) O2 Unlimited 30GB on 5G £10 £34.98
36 month term
OnePlus Nord 2 5g (128GB) Three Unlimited 30GB on 5G £19 £35
24 month term

3. Oppo Find X3 Lite

The cheapest device in the Oppo Find X3 range is the Oppo Find X3 Lite retailing at around £379.

Like the OnePlus Nord 2, the Oppo Find X3 Lite has a 90Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling and a bright display, plus it has a powerful quad camera setup with a 64MP main lens and there's a 32MP selfie camera on the front as well.

One of the best features of the Find X3 Lite is the fast charging capacity which Oppo say can charge the device to 100% in as little as 35 minutes. While such claims from manufacturers should be treated with caution, the rapid charging has been identified by reviewers as a major plus point.

The Oppo Find X3 Lite is an all-round solid device, if a little unremarkable. However, for customers looking at mid-range smartphones, unremarkable isn't necessarily a bad thing - it's more important to have a device with a good battery that can take some nice photos, even if it lacks the refinements of other camera setups.

Here are some contract options from UK mobile networks for the Oppo Find X3 Lite:

Provider Minutes Data Initial price Monthly price
Oppo Find X3 Lite (128GB) Virgin Mobile Unlimited 24GB on 5G Free £23
36 month term
Oppo Find X3 Lite (128GB) iD Mobile Unlimited 20GB on 4G £9.99 £26.99
24 month term
Oppo Find X3 Lite (128GB) Sky Mobile Unlimited 20GB on 5G Free £28
36 month term

4. Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G

Perhaps the best thing about the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G is how lightweight it is. At only 0.27-inches thick and weighing just 159g, the Mi 11 Lite is an antidote to all those heavy handsets that weigh down our pockets.

Like several other devices in this list, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite uses a Snapdragon processor (in this case it's the 780G) and comes with a 90Hz refresh rate. It also comes with some basic dust and water protection with an IP rating of IP53 for splash protection. You wouldn't want to intentionally get it wet, but there's some protection there if it does.

There is glass on both the front and rear of this device, making it a slightly more premium option than some other mid-range handsets, especially as the front is made from Gorilla Glass 6 for extra protection.

Yet there are some areas where other handsets are simply better. If customers are intending to try and push a device to its limit, the processor on the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite just won't be able to handle that. Equally, there is no optical image stabilisation (OIS) on the camera which could be frustrating for users coming from devices where blur in photos had been reduced.

For £399, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite remains a solid option, though, and it's available from several UK mobile networks on contract:

Provider Minutes Data Initial price Monthly price
Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G (128GB) Three Unlimited 30GB on 5G £19 £27
24 month term
Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G (128GB) Vodafone Unlimited 25GB on 5G £9 £36
24 month term

5. Google Pixel 4a

Thanks to being released at the end of 2020, the Google Pixel 4a has dropped in price and is now an excellent mid-range bet for customers who want a solid Android device but aren't bothered by having the latest specs.

The Google Pixel 4a follows the Pixel trend of having an excellent main camera, although the 8MP selfie camera is unremarkable. It's also another device with a Snapdragon chipset (the 765G).

There are noticeable drawbacks to the device that may frustrate some users such as the 60Hz refresh rate (all other devices on this list are 90Hz at minimum) and the removal of the Active Edge feature previous users of Pixel devices may be familiar with.

If we'd considered the Google Pixel 4a when it first launched, it wouldn't have made our list but the drop in price means it's a solid mid-range option for anyone who wants a native Android experience backed up by a good camera.

It now retails at around £300 and is available from various UK mobile networks.

Provider Minutes Data Initial price Monthly price
Google Pixel 4a (128GB) iD Mobile Unlimited 20GB on 4G Free £21.99
24 month term
Google Pixel 4a (128GB) Vodafone Unlimited 25GB on 5G £9 £26
36 month term
Google Pixel 4a (128GB) EE Unlimited 40GB on 5G Free £33
24 month term

What to look for in a mid-range smartphone

Mid-range smartphones usually don't have all the bells and whistles we associate with flagship devices, but it's still possible to get an excellent handset without breaking the bank.

Here are some things to bear in mind when shopping for a mid-range smartphone:

  1. They might economise on materials. It's common to see "lite" versions of phones with polycarbonate rear panels instead of glass. Customers used to these materials won't usually be able to tell the difference and plastic panels can feel as good in the hand and withstand fingerprints and scratches too.
  2. Mid-range smartphones often use high-grade processors. While they might not be the very latest chipsets we see in flagship devices, the processors in quality mid-range devices are still exceptionally faster than they were just a few years ago and they're improving all the time.
  3. Camera features can be limited. We see some excellent cameras on mid-range smartphones, but it's worth remembering that these often don't have the additional lenses we see in flagships or the onboard editing features that make some camera setups feel so professional. For most users, this won't be a major problem, but it's important to note.
  4. Waterproofing is variable on mid-range devices. We see high IP ratings on almost all flagships these days, yet it's still common to see mid-range smartphones without an IP rating for dust or water resistance. Again, customers coming from devices that were also not IP rated won't notice the difference.
  5. Some premium features will be absent. Things like wireless charging or rapid charging that flagship advertisements make so much noise about will likely be missing from mid-range devices. At these price points, that's to be expected, but most won't feel as though they're missing out.

Ultimately, mobile customers will opt for the best smartphone they can afford and one that suits their lifestyle and needs. In many cases, that's going to be one of the mid-range smartphones from this list or one of the other quality mid-range devices offered by the likes of OnePlus, Oppo, Samsung and Xiaomi.

Verdict: which mid-range phone is best?

There are some big names competing in the mid-range smartphone sphere. Manufacturers are able to utilise some of the features of their premium handsets and repurpose them for a mid-range audience - good for customers and good for manufacturers too.

Eagle-eyed readers will notice there are no Apple devices on this list, meaning customers are limited to Android if they want a mid-range handset. Apple seem to have stepped away from mid-range market since the release of the iPhone SE 2020 and while it's possible to get the iPhone 13 Mini for a decent price, it doesn't quite fall under the £600 threshold to be classed as a mid-range smartphone in our eyes.

For mid-range shoppers, then, the Samsung Galaxy A52s is an all-round quality mid-range smartphone that has had a power boost thanks to the inclusion of a faster processor than its predecessor. With that alone, it might merit the top spot, but it's also got a good camera, a long-lasting battery and a water resistance rating of IP67.

It was a tight race between the Samsung Galaxy A52s and the OnePlus Nord 2. Just as when we put the two devices head-to-head, the A52s edges it, yet the Nord 2 is an excellent option for customers who prefer to look away from Samsung or just want to try a different manufacturer for a change.


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