Welcome to GadgetMatch’s list of the best smartphones priced below US$ 200! Each month, we update our selection with the budget-friendly phones we believe are most deserving of your hard-earned savings.
Even though the spotlight has been on high-end smartphones this entire year, there have been a few surprisingly good entry-level handsets coming out lately, as well. So good, in fact, that we had to reassess our entire list.
Here they are in no particular order
POCO M3 (EUR 139)
Judging this solely on paper alone, the POCO M3 is in collision course with the realme Narzo 20 in terms of pricing and overall target market. POCO was relentless in releasing good value for money smartphones in 2020 and the POCO M3 is no different. It has fun camera features that you can play with. Granted, the image quality won’t leave jaws dropping, the output is still… fine. It’s also slated to perform relatively well. A fine option at this price range.
realme Narzo 20 (PhP 7,990)
Easily the best gaming-skewed smartphone in the this price range. Budget phones these day tend to be focused on a few things and then have comprises in some areas. That seems to be the case here as you shouldn’t expect much from this phone’s cameras. But what it lacks in shooting, it makes up for in letting you play the most popular mobile gaming titles with relative ease.
Infinix Note 7 (around US$ 165)
Here’s another phone in the same price range as the realme Narzo 20 and the POCO m3. Like the latter, this appears to be aiming at a more balanced approach — a smartphone for a smartphone’s sake. It has all the essentials, performs just about as advertised, and takes fairly decent photos.
Redmi 9C (EUR 139)
Many people are struggling to get by and shelling out cash for a phone is potentially not within the priorities of survival. If anything, it could be what someone needs, but cannot afford. So, as much as phones like the Redmi 9C have a catch to their low cost, it’s well worth it.
realme C15 (US$ 144 / PhP 6,990)
The realme C15 is essentially just the realme C11 but on steroids. Specs-wise, they have many similarities with a few improvements here and there. This is still a reliable purchase for people (or even oldies) who just want a basic phone without spending too much.
Redmi 9 (PhP 6,990 / US$ 141)
Quality build with baseline specs that can handle, well, the basics. This is what the Redmi line has been offering and that remains true with the Redmi 9. You’ll have to be bit creative with some of the apps you install (always go for the Lite versions), but the pre-installed Google apps run smoothly and should be more than enough to power you through.
Best 5G smartphones you can buy today (US edition)
From budget to flagship devices
5G is the future of cellular networks, and more manufacturers are jumping ship to the 5G bandwagon. In recent years, there had been an influx of affordable smartphones that tout 5G connectivity. Just a few years ago, this feature was relegated exclusively to flagships.
While the pace of adoption continues at a breakneck pace, a lot of places around the globe are still lacking support for the next-gen network. Still, it doesn’t hurt to have the latest 5G-enabled smartphone. After all, significant increase in network speeds and reduced latencies are benefits that one can enjoy in areas with 5G.
Right now, 5G-enabled smartphones are varied across different price points. Here are some of the best among the bunch:
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Starts at US$ 1,199)
Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra stands out in more ways than one. First, it has a refined design that makes its camera bump less of an eyesore. Those bumps carry a whopping camera setup headlined by the 108MP wide-angle lens. Second, the Exynos 2100 processor improved leaps and bounds though it is still lacking in some aspects.
Unfortunately, buyers still have to do some researching as Samsung continues its tradition of bundling a Qualcomm Snapdragon (in this case, the 888) in some regions. The performance gap between these processors, though, is not that bad anymore. Finally, Samsung’s latest focus on software updates also means three years of OS and four years of security updates which is a far cry from Galaxy flagships of the yesteryear.
iPhone 12 Pro Max (Starts at US$ 1,099)
The iPhone 12 Pro Max has one big new feature: 5G connectivity. Seriously, it is a groundbreaking feature for those who want to future-proof their Apple flagship. However, there are other thoughtful additions. The flat edges, for example, enable a more comfortable holding experience and brings back memories of the iPhone 5s.
Wireless charging also receives an “upgrade” thanks to the introduction of MagSafe, which also brings potential accessories for the future. The iPhone 12 Pro Max also features a telephoto lens and a LiDAR scanner to differentiate it from the non-Pro models.
OnePlus 9 Pro (Starts at US$ 1,069)
This time around, OnePlus partnered with Hasselblad to improve its smartphone cameras. OnePlus 9 Pro is the first flagship to see the results of this collaboration, bringing with it other flagship-worthy features. Going back to the camera, the brand touts improved shots and revamped camera interface as a result of the collaboration.
Another feature worth discussing here is the improved display, which now uses LTPO technology. Thanks to Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, users can expect fast performance and 5G here.
Sony 1 II (Starts at US$ 1,049)
Sony has been delivering a great flagship in recent years, and the 1 II is a great example of that. Geared for professionals and content creators, there is a lot to love about its triple-camera setup which also includes a specialized lens for better shots. Complementing that superb camera hardware is the wealth of bundled professional apps for taking great photos and videos.
Even better, it comes with a headphone jack which is rare for a modern flagship. As a proper flagship, it comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865. Sony is known for bundling a 21:9 on its recent smartphones, so expect a tall-and-thin look on this one.
Motorola Edge+ (Starts at US$ 1,000)
Motorola Edge Plus marks the company’s return to making a proper premium flagship years after the Z2 Force. This time around, Motorola spared no expense in crafting its flagship. As such, the flagship goes head-to-head with established alternatives.
There is a gorgeous AMOLED curved display, an up-to-date Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, and a capable rear camera setup headlined by a humongous 108MP wide-angle lens. The 5,000 mAh battery is one of the best out there. Finally, a headphone jack that rounds out the positives for the flagship device.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G (Starts at US$ 699)
Samsung originally launched the Galaxy S20 FE with an Exynos processor and without 5G connectivity. Later on, it added another version with 5G connectivity, which is possible thanks to the inclusion of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865. With that version, the Galaxy S20 FE becomes a more tempting device to get for those after flagship features at a lower price.
The combination of a powerful processor with capable cameras, gorgeous AMOLED display, IP68 rating, and more only solidifies this device’s status as a “flagship killer”. Flagship devices now usually starts at US$ 900 and above, so this is indeed a welcome addition to the Galaxy lineup.
LG Velvet (Starts at US$ 600)
With the demise of LG, some may think twice before buying another smartphone from the brand. The LG Velvet, however, makes for a good exception. Launching just last year, it bundles the dual-screen case which is a noteworthy accessory that should give users more screen real estate. The device also tries to break from the ordinary with raindrop rear cameras that almost eliminate those unsightly camera bump.
A Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor powers the device, which should provide adequate performance and 5G connectivity for those who need it now. The cameras, by the way, are decent and the same goes for the battery life. It has a headphone jack too — a feature getting hard to find on this price segment.
Google Pixel 4a 5G (Starts at US$ 499)
Last year’s Pixel 4a 5G delivers solid features for the price that it offers, serving as a middle-ground between the budget 4a and the flagship 5. The keyword here is “middle ground”, since the device carries most of the features that make its siblings worth it. For one, consumers get a proper Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor which is the Pixel 5’s mainstay.
Consumers also get an extra telephoto camera, which is missing from the budget Pixel 4a. The biggest addition here though is of course, the added 5G connectivity. Overall, the device is the one to get for a clean, stock-like Android experience coupled with a competent camera experience.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G (Starts at US$ 499)
Samsung is putting more focus on its midrange devices this year, and the Galaxy A52 5G is a clear example of this. Whereas its predecessor last year put on a flashy design, the Galaxy A52 5G is simple yet almost premium looking with a wonderful choice of colors to boot. The feature list is almost exhaustive, and would simply attract budget-conscious buyers. Get this: it has IP67 water and dust resistance which is too much to ask in the midrange segment.
There’s an AMOLED screen, quad-camera setup, a headphone jack, and most importantly, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G chipset with support for 5G connectivity. With that feature list and a budget-friendly price, the Galaxy A52 5G is too awesome to ignore.
Motorola One 5G Ace (Starts at US$ 399)
Motorola is known these days for making budget devices with a pretty decent set of features for the consumers. The Motorola One Ace 5G is an example of this, featuring the popular Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G that delivers excellent performance and 5G connectivity. It is also one of the cheaper device to offer this processor too, proving that one doesn’t have to break the bank when buying a 5G-capable device.
The FHD+ IPS display of this device even has HDR10 support, which would come in handy for Netflix and other video streaming apps. Cameras are decent, and should be fine for most scenarios. Battery life, on the other hand, is outstanding thanks to the battery’s rated capacity of 5,000 mAh.
Best Premium Smartphones above $600
January 2021 Edition
If you’re looking for the very best high-end smartphones available, you’ve come to the right place! Every month, GadgetMatch updates this list with the finest devices money can buy, no matter how much they cost.
Updated monthly, this list takes every newly launched flagship costing more than US$ 600 into consideration, but doesn’t discount the smartphones that continue to make an impact since their launch last year.
Here they are in no particular order:
iPhone 12 series (starts at US$ 799)
Design-wise not much has changed for the iPhones, but that’s not where you should be looking. Not only does the A14 chip deliver the usual performance bump, the cameras are also reportedly better and all these iPhones can now access 5G. It also helps that there’s four of them to choose from so there’s likely an iPhone just for you.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (US$ 699)
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is meant to be a sub-flagship smartphone but its pricing still lands it on our premium category — something we probably need to revisit sooner than later. That said, this is a GadgetMatch favorite. It has all the “necessities” of a flagship smartphone in a plastic, easy-t0-grip build and is just an easy recommendation for people who can’t spend north of US$ 700 on a smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 (US$ 1,999)
This is about as premium and as cutting edge as it gets. Samsung followed up its Galaxy Z Fold with a much more refined and polished Galaxy Z Fold2. It smoothens the rough edges of the first generation device and the result is what probably is the best foldable on the market right now.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (US$ 1299.99)
The Snapdragon 865 Plus vs Exynos 990 hullabaloo notwithstanding, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra continues to represent the best that the Galaxy Note line has to offer. The S Pen’s latency has improved and the cameras are a refined version of the S20 Ultra. Galaxy Note loyalists will find that everything they love are still here — improved and refined.
Huawei Mate 40 Pro (EUR 999)
The Huawei Mate 40 Pro is everything you’ve come to expect from Huawei’s flagship Mate line — fantastic hardware and smart AI. Of course, there is the lingering issue of zero access to Google Mobile Services, but Huawei has done all it can to mitigate this. A change in leadership in the US provides hope but it’s not something we would hang our hats on.
Huawei P40 Pro+ (EUR 1399)
The only thing wrong with this phone is no fault of its own. It doesn’t have Google Mobile Services because of a silly trade war. But everywhere else, this phone can make the case as the very best. It looks and feels premium and of course, its crowning glory are its cameras. It pushes the boundaries of optical zoom unlike any other, proving once again that Huawei makes fantastic hardware.
ASUS ROG Phone 3 (EUR 1099)
ASUS doubled down on everything that made the previous generations of the ROG Phone great and gave us yet another spec-monster. Maxed-out specs, maxed-out mobile gaming. It has more competition in the mobile gaming smartphone space this year, but it’s still firmly ahead of everyone else in the pack.
OnePlus 8 Pro (US$ 899)
This phone has made its way into Michael Josh’s pocket as his Android daily driver. That says a lot. OnePlus has firmly placed itself as a legitimate competitor in the premium flagship space doing enough in the camera department (its long time waterloo), and finally adding wireless charging.
Google Pixel 5 (US$ 699)
Perhaps the biggest, most noticeable difference between the Pixel 5 from its predecessor is the price is the launch price. The best Pixel from last year would burn your wallet for US$ 200 more. Another key difference is the processor used. Instead of going for the most premium flagship SoC, Google opted to equip the Pixel 5 with Snapdragon 765 instead. It might be puzzling for any other phone maker, but with Google’s optimization, it may be more than enough to power your daily needs.
LG V60 ThinQ 5G Dual Screen (US$ 899.99)
Dual screen, pen support, the usual flagship internals, and a triple camera setup with no silly gimmicks. LG knew exactly what it was doing with the LG V60 ThinQ 5G Dual Screen. It’s a phone designed to lend you an extra hand in your quest for the ultimate mobile productivity.
vivo X50 Pro [CNY 4289 (around US$ 614)]
A gimbal system on a smartphone camera? Now that sounds new! Not only did vivo make a flagship-grade smartphone with an innovative camera system, they also made sure all the rear cameras are actually useable. Elsewhere on the phone, it performs day-to-day tasks with ease and also supports 5G connectivity.
Best Upper-Midrange Smartphones from $400 to $600
January 2021 Edition
When premium phones are out of financial reach and entry-level handsets just don’t make your cut, something in between is the next best thing. This is our updated list of the best upper-midrange smartphones retailing from US$ 400 to US$ 600.
Formulating this category was tricky, since you can’t set an exact price and some of these devices are, in fact, the flagship phones of their respective brands. To simplify things, we chose a price range that simply sits between our other lists for best budget, midrange, and premium smartphones.
Here they are in no particular order:
Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro (around US$575)
This is our 2020 best value smartphone for simply because of its price-to-feature ratio. You’re getting so much flagship-level specs for about half the price of most flagships these days. The Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro is the embodiment of Xiaomi’s commitment to bringing great value for money smartphones and is easily the best recommendation in this category.
Pixel 4a 5G (US$ 499)
This feels more like it should have been a Pixel 5 Lite than a 4a 5G. Weird naming aside, it shares plenty of characteristics with the Pixel 5. Chief among them are the Snapdragon 765G SoC and support for 5G. What this is, really, is a sort of future-proofed Pixel who’s pricing is a tier under premium.
OnePlus Nord (EUR 499 / US$ 570)
The OnePlus Nord launched with plenty of fanfare from OnePlus fans. After a few phones that veered away from providing flagship-level phones for less, OnePlus is back in that game. What we have is almost all the necessities you can want from any really capable phone.
POCO F2 Pro [6GB/128GB] (EUR 499/ US$ 560)
It feels premature adding this here but if the previous POCO phone was any indication, we probably have another worthy option at this price point. Worth noting though that the higher configuration (8GB/256GB) breached premium space — which is uncharted territory for the POCO brand.
Samsung Galaxy A71 5G (US$ 599)
Awesome screen, awesome camera, long-lasting battery life — that’s the LSS-inducing theme of the Galaxy A71 as it was being teased. Lo and behold, Samsung wasn’t lying. The phone certainly lives up to the hype and while specs-wise there may be cheaper options out there, the package that Samsung has put together is quite enticing. And in the US, it’s the most affordable phone with support for 5G.
realme X3 SuperZoom (US$ 509)
The realme X3 SuperZoom is equipped with late 2019 flagship specs — Snapdragon 855+, 64MP main camera, 120Hz screen refresh rate — while being priced at just a little over half the price of phones with comparable specs. realme is playing in that flagship killer territory and certainly deserves more attention.
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