If you’re not willing to pay out a sultan’s ransom for a triple-core ivory-plated iPhone 7, but still want a mobile phone for browsing, email and gaming then you should reach for a ‘mid range’ handset.
Phones that come under the mid-range label vary in terms of price, functionality and appearance. Generally they are more powerful than the pay-as-you-go phone, but retain the appearance and some features of a more expensive high-end smartphone.
Mid-range is a pretty broad category in terms of price; the phones we’ve featured here are priced in and around the £150 to £250 mark on pay-as-you-go or sim free. Here’s our pick of the top 10 mid-range phones in price order.
Sony Xperia U - £150 - ‘Ready for anything’
The Sony Xperia U and the baby of the NXT range is a stunning phone with a curved back, touch-sensitive buttons and interchangeable base section. Inside a dual-core processor ensures the Xperia U ably handles gaming, while the 3.5-inch LCD screen is pin sharp for browsing the web and watching movies.
Sony’s known for creating fantastic cameraphones and the Xperia U is no exception; use the dedicated shutter to capture smooth 720p HD video and impressively detailed 5-megapixel images.
Complaints? Well the Xperia U doesn’t include expandable storage and runs Android Gingerbread, but Sony has confirmed it will be getting ICS very soon.
Sony Xperia Go - £165 - ‘Tough and stylish’
The Sony Xperia Go is proof being tough means a phone has to forgo style. Despite being water and dust resistant to certification 1067, this Android Gingerbread phone is slim, with soft curves and black, yellow and white variations.
Mobile Bravia engine technology improves video playback on the 3.5-inch screen and the dual-core processor ensure the Xperia Go doesn’t feel slow. Round the back the camera shoots 5-megapixel stills and HD movies, which can be stored on the 4GB internal memory. Handsome, powerful and stylish, the Sony Xperia Go is the best rugged smartphone you can buy.
Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 - £170 - ‘Successful sequel’
The Samsung Galaxy Ace was a wildly popular phone, offering many of the features of the Galaxy S2 at more affordable price. Successor the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 retains Samsung’s TouchWiz UI and Android 2.3 Gingerbread and it's rumoured to be getting an update straight to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
The most interesting feature of the phone is that it’s powered by a dual-core 800MHz processor - designed to be provide power, yet not sap the battery. Elsewhere there’s a respectable 3.8-inch screen and 5-megapixel camera now with HD movies capture.
Overall the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 is a great mid-range smartphone with a fantastic screen, zippy processor and great camera and at an attractive price.
LG Optimus L7 - £170 - ‘Nice in white’
LG, like many manufactures streamlined its smartphone range in 2012. The LG Optimus L7 is the flagship device in its ‘Lifestyle’ range, available in standard black and a more elegant white finish.
Priced around £170 SIM free the L7 offers a wealth of features for the money. There’s a sharp and vibrant 4.3-inch screen, excellent 5-megapixel camera, NFC chip and best of all it runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich.
The Optimus L7 is let down by an underpowered 1GHz processor, which means it feel slows and build quality is no match for a HTC or Sony handset, but find it at the right price and it’s a solid choice.
HTC One V - £180 - ‘A class act’
With a distinct chin, reminiscent of the HTC Hero, the HTC One V is a gorgeous phone, compact yet with the high-quality build we expect from HTC.
HTC’s equipped the phone with Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich overlayed with the latest version of HTC Sense, which is smooth to use and packed with user-friendly widgets. The revamped camera with new back-side illuminated sensor captures excellent pictures inside and outside.
The HTC One V is a fantastic phone, but if you want a dual-core processor opt for the Desire X (below) instead.
HTC 8S - £180 - 'Affordable quality for day to day use'
HTC might be known for it’s Android phones, but the company has always retained an interest in Windows Phone. The HTC 8S - or Windows Phone 8S by HTC - is a premium handset with a sculptured design at an affordable price point.
Windows Phone’s simple tile layout is a joy to use and the latest update brings adjustable tile sizes and HTC Hub. There’s a respectable 4-inch WVGA screen, adequate 5-megapixel camera and a dual-core 1GHz processor for day to day tasks. What sets the phone apart from the pricier HTC 8X is the removable battery and memory card slot, making it a far more flexible option if you've got lots of music and games.
Three is currently selling the phone for £180, which is a fair price, for a good all-rounder.
HTC Desire X - £200 - 'Desirable'
The HTC Desire X bridges the gap between high-end One Series and lower end HTC Desire C. It’s an attractive phone, with a premium design and excellent 4-inch SuperLCD screen, running Android Ice Cream Sandwich overlayed with HTC Sense.
On the back there’s an outstanding 5-megapixel camera, which captures fantastic photographs.
Inside the dual-core processor ensures the phone feels quick, ably handling day to day tasks and 3D gaming. There’s 4GB internal memory and a card slot.
If you’ve got £200 to spend on a smartphone, the HTC Desire X is one of the best all-rounders here.
Samsung Galaxy S Advance - £240 - 'Mid-range Galaxy'
A mid-range offering from Samsung’s widely popular Galaxy range, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance is a stylish, more affordable alternative to the Galaxy S2. The camera shoots decent stills and HD movies, comes with internal and expandable storage and a dual-core processor to ably handle games.
The Galaxy S Advance looks and feels very different to the Galaxy S3, but it’s a good option if you’re upgrading from a smaller, less powerful Android device.
Google Nexus 4 - £239 - ‘Selling out - for a reason’
The first Nexus phone to be made by LG, the Google Nexus 4 packs incredible specs, with cutting edge software and breaks new ground with its sub £250 price.
Combining glass and plastic with light-reflecting checkerboard back, it’s the most premium Nexus handset since the Google Nexus One. There’s a fabulous 4.7-inch HD LCD screen, powerful quad-core processor, which can handle games and HD movies and decent 8-megapixel camera.
The Nexus 4 runs Android 4.2 the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, which is slick and fast with new features such as lock screen shortcuts and enhanced notifications.
Our only complaint is the lack of expandable storage - so if you’ve got lots apps and music opt for the 16GB (£279) version instead. But with high-end smartphone specifications at a mid-range price, the Google Nexus 4 comes highly recommended.
LG Optimus 4X HD - £250 - ‘Step out from the shadows’
The LG Optimus 4X HD is the forgotten phone of 2012, taking around eight months to launch in the UK. It may have been overshadowed by the Samsung Galaxy S3, but retailing for just £250 online, it’s an enticing option if you want specifications.
From the 4.7-inch HD screen, to the powerful NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor and joys of Ice Cream Sandwich, it’s fantastic to use, with expandable storage, along with 16GB on-board. Disappointing video quality and a mediocre battery prevent us from endorsing it wholeheartedly, but if you are willing to carry a spare, gaming and movie fans will really enjoy the LG Optimus 4X HD.