Choosing a new smartphone can be such a difficult task, especially when it comes to high-value smartphones.
With dozens of big manufacturers jostling to outdo others each passing year, only a handful of devices are deserving. Not all of them that might be worthy of a spot will land a placement, either.
Making matters more challenging, there is a growing gap between what smartphone manufacturers and smartphones users identify as price brackets. That's true for everything from the upper and middle brackets down to the budget end of the spectrum. Coupled with that discrepancy is a decreasing gap between those in terms of performance and features.
Of course, deciding which devices truly fit the descriptor "the best" comes down at least in part to opinion. The devices listed here are readily available to purchase and work in most regions, if not all of them.
Some brands, such as Huawei, simply aren't recommendable right now for a variety of reasons. For example, the challenges Huawei faces are driving it to step back from Android as its primary operating system. Its smartphones also not widely available and its future partnerships remain in question. So it just won't be appearing here for the time being.
Here at Android Headlines, we spend a lot of time examining and testing nearly every new smartphone that hits the market.
This list was built on a foundation of knowledge about reliability and other aspects that make for a truly great experience, pushing boundaries with respect to the value versus cost metrics. While not without subjectivity, it represents Android Headlines's top ten best smartphones falling below that ever-increasing "premium" cost barrier.
10. Xiaomi Mi 9T
The Xiaomi Mi 9T is effectively the global variant of the Redmi K20 that launched in China back in May. Buyers can expect to pay just $300 on Amazon, it is primarily intended for Europe. There is also the possibility that it could work in the US — though not guaranteed and only on GSM carriers. That doesn't detract from its place among the best value smartphones around.
For camera and display gurus in the value segment, this is going to be an obvious stand-out. To begin with, that's because its 6.39-inch AMOLED FHD+ (2340 x 1080) panel is better-equipped than others in the segment. It also has a higher screen-to-body ratio than other devices because Xiaomi chose to use a pop-up camera.
HDR content is supported as well as modern features such as an in-screen fingerprint scanner and 18-watt fast charging.
The front camera is a 20-megapixel snapper while the rear triple-sensor array includes a 48-megapixel standard wide-angle snapper, an 8-megapixel telephoto lens, and a 13-megapixel 124-degree wide-angle lens. For features during video capture, Xiaomi has incorporated 4K recording as well as up to 960 frames-per-second slow-motion capture.
Those who need internal specs and performance to match shouldn't be disappointed. This brings the same 6GB of RAM as others in the Mi 9 range and 64GB of storage. A 2.2GHz Snapdragon 730 SoC drives that and a 4,000mAh capacity battery powers the package
Style isn't left by the wayside by Xiaomi here either. The company offers this gadget in Flame Red or Glacier Blue with a fiery arrow gradient. A Carbon Black version is available as well. That features a carbon fiber aesthetic, true to its namesake.Xiaomi Mi 9T - Amazon - $296
9. Nokia 7.1
The Nokia 7.1 will likely receive a followup this year and is the oldest handset on our top ten best value smartphones list. At just $299 on Amazon, with consideration for what it brings to the table as one of Nokia's most premium gadgets ever, it's also still an exceptional handset. That's just $249 for the Blue variant while the higher price is for a Steel coloration.
Behind the notched 5.8-inch full HD+ PureView display, buyers of this Nokia gadget are gaining a healthy but not remarkable 4GB memory and 64GB storage. That's backing up a more-than-capable octa-core Snapdragon 636 SoC. Android 9 Pie fills out the experience.
Android One is the big selling point here, setting aside USB-C, Bluetooth 5.0, a fingerprint scanner. Participation in the Android One program means that this device will receive plenty of updates to come both in terms of the operating system and security. Those should, in fact, be released on a timescale comparable to Google's own Pixel-branded handsets.
Android One also means a nearly-pure stock Android 9 Pie experience now with Android Q undoubtedly set to follow.
So despite only coming with reasonably decent cameras and moderate battery life, this is going to be a device that's still worth considering for those that don't want to spend quite as much as it will take to pick up other gadgets listed here. It also works with Verizon now, officially, so buyers aren't solely limited to those on GSM carriers any longer.
8. Razer Phone 2
Razer has built a reputation for gaming accessories and, more recently for gaming smartphones and add-ons related to that. It also happens to be listed at Amazon for $399.99, making it a prime fit in the value smartphone category. That only becomes a more prominent point with consideration for the over-$799 list price that seller gives the handset.
Looking past the price point, gaming is what this phone is very obviously for. A Snapdragon 845 SoC is nestled inside this smartphone's unique frame — built around two forward-firing stereo speakers. Razer packed in 8GB RAM and 64GB storage to back up the chipset.
The biggest drawback to that IP67 water-resistant design, despite being wireless charging-enabled, is its screen.
Now, the display does run at a mind-boggling 120Hz refresh rate but Razer chose an LCD panel rather than a newer OLED or AMOLED panel. So it isn't going to be quite as engaging as it might have been. It's 4,000mAh battery isn't necessarily going to be the longest-lasting either. Near-stock Android should help optimize the experience but that caveat is because it's made explicitly for gaming.
The addition of dual-12-megapixel snappers and an 8-megapixel shooter for selfies are just going to be the icing on the cake for anybody. For those who want a high-end gaming device on a budget, the Razer Phone 2 is the highest-value smartphones on the market.Razer Phone 2 - Amazon - $399
7. Sony Xperia 10/10 Plus
Sony finally brought its camera, display, and smartphone units together for smartphones this year under new management. The results of that, at the budget and mid-range side of things, are the Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus.
These are also some of the tallest handsets around if not the tallest, making them only slightly niche. By the numbers, the screens are rated at a ratio of 21:9. Sony set the screen sizes at 6- or 6.5-inches depending on the model and both come with a full HD+ resolution, made expressly for media consumption. They also serve well when using multiple apps at the same time.
Beyond watching movies, a more 'cinematic' experience can be had with this handset'ss 13-megapixel, 5-megapixel primary snapper too. On the audio side, Sony's experts have delivered with Hi-Res Audio backed by DSEE HX and LDAC encoding from the company. The larger Sony Xperia 10 Plus bumps the second sensor to 8-megapixels and adds in 2x optical zoom
The Sony Xperia 10 and 10 Plus aren't identical in specs either. Respectively, they use the Snapdragon 630 and 636 SoCs, coupled with either 3GB or 4GB memory. Both feature 64GB storage. The batteries are rated at 2,870mAh or 3,000mAh. So these probably aren't going to be the longest-lasting handsets or the most powerful among the value smartphone offerings available. What they do deliver, in terms of standing out, are a great display and cameras.Sony Xperia 10 - Amazon - $323 Sony Xperia 10 Plus - Amazon - $333
6. Samsung Galaxy A50
In the current world of mobile technology, leaving aside budget-friendly Android handsets, Samsung is the world's second-largest manufacturer. Its "Galaxy A" series lineup is a testament to its longevity in the market, bringing together the budget- and mid-range handsets under a single umbrella. The Samsung Galaxy A50 is a nearly-perfect example of an everyday mid-range smartphone with all the latest tech in tow.
Previously featured on the Android Headlines list with a price tag of $350, this handset is going to be among the least expensive here. Depending on the intended region for sales, warranty status, and color, Samsung's Galaxy A50 can be purchased online as low as $268.99.
That's going to come with a respectable amount of memory and storage too, comparable to other devices here, regardless of which version is purchased. Under the hood, a powerful in-house Exynos processor is in use here too.
Now, for the money, buyers aren't necessarily paying for those features though. The "A" series is a testing bed for Samsung.
That means users are getting a decent dual-aperture camera array with a 4,000mAh battery. Over the top of that and delivering Android 9 Pie-based OneUI, there's a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED Infinity-U display with a waterdrop notch.
An in-display fingerprint scanner helps round out the premium features. For those who want a new Samsung without spending an arm and a leg, this could be the one to buy.Samsung Galaxy A50 - Amazon - $265
5. Samsung Galaxy A70
Stepping up from Samsung's Galaxy A50 is the company's A70, priced right around $360. The latest in Samsung's "A" series lineup, the Galaxy A70 boasts a Snapdragon 675 SoC joined with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. That's compared to the 4GB memory in its more affordable sibling and equates to double the storage capacity.
Those aren't the only aspects that are better for just a bit more money though, although both should provide a similar experience. The primary camera in the Samsung Galaxy A70 has been bumped to 32-megapixels from 25-megapixels. The same screen style is in use but at 6.7-inches — for approximately 0.3-inches more real estate.
All of that is driven by a larger, faster-charging 4,500mAh capacity battery than can be found in its smaller counterpart.
This is a phone for those who want to spend a bit more for a slight boost almost across the board. While both smartphones represent a high value, the Samsung Galaxy A70 is going to be the better device from the top manufacturer on the planet.Samsung Galaxy A70 - Amazon - $369
4. ASUS Zenfone 6
Buyers looking for an amazing selfie experience without a punch-hole display or notches should not overlook the ASUS ZenFone 6. That's especially true now that it is officially supported in the US at a cost of just a penny under $500.
The first thing to be noticed about this device and its almost unremarkable design is that there's no camera to be found around its almost bezel-free 6.4-inch full HD+ Gorilla Glass 6 display. The primary camera is going to be the one a user accesses for selfies.
No second screen magic or guesswork is in place to make that possible, either.
A flagship-grade Sony IMX586 48-megapixel dual Quad Pixel snapper at the back of this device. The camera rests just above the fingerprint scanner mounted on a unique rocker mechanism. The rocker, at the touch of a button, flips that forward to any number of angles for quick and easy selfie shots complete with all of the specialty modes normally associated with the rear snapper on a smartphone.
That also means the display here is nothing to scoff at, at a screen-to-body ratio of 92-percent.
Under the hood, like the number two device on the list, 8GB RAM and 256GB storage designate this a flagship. So does the Snapdragon 855 SoC. While easy enough to purchase to be on our top ten value device list, limited carrier support and availability are primarily what hold this gadget from ascending here.ASUS ZenFone 6 - Amazon - $499
3. Moto Z4
Lenovo-owned Motorola's entry on this list is a gadget that has two major aspects setting it apart. Not least of all, at least on one carrier, the Moto Z4 is a semi-modular 5G-capable smartphone. For Verizon customers in the US who want bleeding-edge connectivity now rather than later, this $499 device is going to stand out among other smartphones on value.
The next big selling point is going to be that Android Q is, according to Motorola, a guaranteed update for the handset and that this smartphone is fully compatible with moto mods. At an extra cost, mods allow for a plethora of capabilities whether for photography, gaming, entertainment, connectivity, or much more.
A two-day battery and camera that comes close to approximating the Google Pixel's low-light photo mode round out the package. But those are hardly the only other noteworthy features. Aside from the 4GB memory, 128GB storage-backed Snapdragon 675 chipset, this smartphone also comes with an above-par display and a unique design that only 'Moto' could be responsible for.Moto Z4 - Amazon - $499
2. OnePlus 7
From last month's listing, the OnePlus 7 — likely thanks to the overwhelming comparative favor shown the "Pro" variant — has been dropped in price yet again. It can now be purchased for just under $488 on Amazon. That's for the international variant.
Under normal circumstances, that wouldn't be enough for any device to hold onto its number two spot on our best value smartphones listing. Put frankly, the real benefit from that for consumers is that this technically isn't a mid-range device.
The OnePlus 7, for starters, features 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. That's backing the current top-of-the-line flagship chipset, the octa-core Snapdragon 855. That makes it, in a word, a flagship.
For drawback to this device, the biggest is its camera. That is now fixed via software updates but doesn't quite live up to its larger counterpart or the current number one value in smartphones.
There's also no guarantee since OnePlus doesn't seem to actually mention the gadget on the official US store site, that it will see any kind of real support for users in the US. There certainly isn't any warranty stateside for the variant that's currently priced at the above-mentioned low entry point. If those things don't matter, OnePlus 7 is going to be the best that money can buy for now.OnePlus 7 - OnePlus.com - £499
1. Google Pixel 3a/3a XL
Google's Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are a return to near-Nexus form compared to flagship devices from the search giant. That's chiefly because the more 'premium' handsets have been met with staunch criticism and plagued with seemingly unending problems. By contrast, the series is a mid-range family of devices that will suit just about anybody. It does that without compromising where it's going to matter most to Pixel loyalists — namely, the cameras.
On software and hardware alike, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL come equipped with the same best-in-class features as their much more expensive siblings. Simultaneously, Google has equipped the handsets with one of Qualcomm's best octa-core mid-range SoC with plenty of memory and storage.
Google kept most of the stylings of the larger, more expensive counterparts too. Key differences include the abandonment of the divisive notch and the return of the headphone jack. The latter feature is one that Google entirely dismissed for its Pixel 3 and 3 XL.
All of that is jammed into either a 5.6-inch or 6.0-inch smartphone with a fullHD+ resolution OLED display and a squeezable frame for added functionality. A respectable 3,000mAh or 3,700mAh battery powers the package too. For $399 or $479, what buyers get is the purest Android 9 Pie — and soon Android Q — experience around. At those prices, these smartphones simply ooze value.Google Pixel 3a - Amazon - $399 Google Pixel 3a XL - Amazon - $479