If you’re not willing to shell out over £800 for the latest quartz-cladded, deluxe flagship smartphone from Apple or Samsung, you’ll be glad to know that you don’t have to.
In fact, there plenty of devices that offer a similar experience at a fraction of the price. All of which can run essential apps, take serviceable photos and won’t become obsolete six months down the line.
The catch is that once you start looking at the so-called “mid-range”, that is to say phones priced roughly between £200 and £400, the number of brands and choices available increases greatly.
What's more because there are hundreds of devices on offer, it’s hard to make sure you’re getting the right one for your needs.
That’s where we step in. Here we’ve picked out our selection of the best smartphones to be had for under £400.
Honor Play - PRICE: £299
Best for gaming and high-performance tasks.
Honor Play homescreen
Honor Play back
Honor Play gaming
Honor Play camera
One of the best smartphones from Huawei’s sister-brand, the Honor Play is a great example of a device that gets the basics just right.
Marketed as a gaming device, it has some of the highest specs at this price point. And in performance tests to measure power and speed, manages to match high-end devices like the Huawei P20 Pro, which sells for a whopping £799. That’s more than twice the price of the Honor Play.
The upshot is that this somewhat generic-looking device is perfectly capable of handling any resource-heavy, battery-sapping app or game you throw at it without lagging.
The camera is nothing to shout about. But it’s still a dual snapper, so you’ll be able to take so-called bokeh portrait shots. And comes complete with the same AI (artificial intelligence) features found in other Honor and Huawei devices.
That means the camera senses the scene or subject you’re trying to shoot, as well as the lighting conditions you’re working with, and adjusts settings accordingly to help you get the best shot possible.
Although billed as a perfect device for a mobile gamer, the keenly priced Honor Play should be on the top of the wishlist for anyone looking for a powerful device on a budget.
Read our full review of the Honor Play
||Software is a bit fussy
|Good battery life
||Design doesn't stand out
||Camera's fine. But won't win any awards
Buy the Honor Play
Motorola Moto G6 - £199 for 32GB edition. £269 for 64GB.
A great all-rounder that’s easy to use, with super-fast charging.
Motorola’s early Moto G phones raised the bar for affordable smartphones. And the latest release in the G series has been similarly well received by reviewers and the public alike.
The processor is underpowered compared to its rivals and the camera requires favourable lighting for really good results. However, the build quality is undoubtedly some of the best on any budget phones.
The Moto G6 is constructed from hard-wearing Gorilla Glass 3 and is the only device in this price range with some level of water-resistance, thanks to a water-repellent coating to make it splash-proof.
The Android software that powers the phone is extremely clean and unfussy. Not least because Motorola has refrained from adding any apps of its own, with the exception of a genuinely handy maintenance app.
There really is very little to fault in the Moto G6 and it comes highly recommended if you’re looking for a dependable, well-built smartphone.
Read our full review of the Moto G6.
|Excellent build quality
||Not the most powerful phone around
|Software's easy to get to grips with
||Feels a bit hefty
Buy the Moto G6.
Motorola Moto G6 Plus - PRICE: £269
Much the same as the Moto G6, but with a bigger six-inch screen and a slightly better camera.
Buy the Moto G6 Plus
Honor 10 - PRICE: £369
Premium-features in a stylish package.
Honor 10 camera
Honor 10 back
The Honor 10’s dazzling multi-layered glass back is gorgeous to behold. And looks like it belongs on a much pricier smartphone.
It’s also the lightest phone this list and manages to fit in a very decently sized 5.84” screen in a compact package.
Not just for the fashion-conscious, the Honor 10 complements its striking looks with some of the best cameras at this price point.
The dual-lens main camera is very capable means you can take shots that blur out the background while bringing your subject into sharper focus. And like the Honor Play, it’s got with the same AI-assisted modes as more expensive Huawei smartphones.
Battery life is good but not great. That’s not too surprising, given that small handsets such as this one are limited in the size of battery they can accommodate.
But on the plus side, the fast charging mode comes in handy. And even without it, the battery should easily take you to the end of the day with little trouble.
Retailing at around £370, the Honor 10 is the priciest of the budget phones in our list. But it’s also by far the closest you can get to the specs and features of a premium phone without the ruinous price tag.
Read our full review of the Honor 10.
|Compact and light
||Relatively high price
|Fast face unlock
||Shiny glass attracts fingerprints
|Same AI camera as pricier Huawei phones
||Average battery life
Buy the Honor 10
Nokia 7 Plus - PRICE: £350
Nokia 7 Plus screen
Nokia 7 Plus
A solid, well-designed device with great battery life and a no-frills operating.
At the outset, the Nokia 7 Plus doesn’t feel as well constructed as other recently released phones. But don’t be fooled. Although the rear of the handset feels a bit plastic-y, it’s actually made of matte aluminium.
In fact, it’s a well-built device that maintains the distinctive durability historically associated with the Nokia brand, while adding a stylish copper-coloured metal trim.
It’s powered by Android One, a clutter-free version of Google’s software that’s simple, responsive and completely free of the kind of useless apps that clog up other phones.
The large 6” LCD built with branded Gorilla Glass 3 may not be the brightest but it is solid. The camera impresses too, and is one of the few at this price range to come with optical 2x zoom capabilities, albeit without Optical Image Stabilisation.
Another stand-out feature of the Nokia 7 Plus is its exceptional battery life thanks to its huge 3800mAh battery with fast charging.
Priced at around £350, the Nokia 7 Plus makes for a reliable workhorse that doesn’t lack in style.
Read our full review of the Nokia 7 Plus.
|Clean and easy to use Android software
||Not a great camera
|Premium look and well-designed body
||Dim screen struggles in sunlight
|Excellent battery life
||It’s a big, chunky device
Buy the Nokia 7 Plus
You may also want to consider:
Nokia 6.1 - PRICE: £270
If the Nokia 7 Plus is a bit out of your price range, this smaller take on the phone offers the same build quality and good performance. But has a slightly less capable camera, with no zoom.
Buy the Nokia 6.1