The best kept secret in tech is that you don’t need Completely wipe your credit card when picking up a new phone. It’s easy to drop four figures on a Samsung or Apple flagship device, but you’d be surprised what you can get for half that number or even less.
When it comes to mid-range, the same name comes up again and again. Companies like OnePlus, Motorola, and Google are experts at giving us top-of-the-line phones at reasonable prices, even if the generally accepted definition of “reasonable” over the past few years had to be adjusted for inflation. This year’s champion has been going through some sort of identity crisis in recent years, but its latest sub-£800 cookie ticks all the boxes.
This year’s affordable category is the really interesting one, with a whole new player set to compete with the budget phone mainstay and bring some fresh ideas. You’ll have to read on to find out which comes first, but a little distraction is always fun.
Mid-range phone of the year: OnePlus 10 Pro
Gone are the days when OnePlus was seen as an underachiever, but it’s still good at undercutting the big boys enough to make you think while you’re shopping. The OnePlus 10 Pro is pretty good at just about everything we can live with with a huge camera housing and not-so-great low-light performance. With more shots from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, great battery life, ridiculously fast charging and ace performance, the OnePlus 10 Pro is a home run for the £800-£900 flagship. Yes, sadly, that does count as mid-range these days.
Highly Commended: Motorola Edge 30 Ultra
In Mark Corrigan’s words, “200 megapixels, Jeremy? That’s crazy.” Maybe he’s right, but there’s no denying the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra’s 200MP main camera is the brand’s largest yet It’s an impressive piece of technology for such an affordable phone. The 50MP ultra-wide-angle lens isn’t bad either. The Edge 30 Ultra is an all-around performer, and we’re also impressed with its 144Hz pOLED display, large battery, and unshakable performance. If it weren’t for its lack of proper water resistance that made us more nervous than we’d like to handle it near wet stuff, it might have pushed the OnePlus even closer.
Also on the shortlist: Google Pixel 7, Realme GT 2 Pro, Asus Zenfone 9
The mid-range is still a competitive category, and the fact that the three aforementioned phones don’t quite make the cut shouldn’t be seen as a dismissal. Google continues to cater to those who just want a solid all-rounder that does the basics brilliantly, Realme gives us a true flagship but market positioning aside, and Asus has something for all fans of small phones.
Affordable Phone of the Year: Google Pixel 6a
The letter “a” can mean a lot of things, but if you see one on the end of a Google Pixel phone, you can be pretty sure you’re getting a really good phone at an affordable price. The Pixel 6a continues that tradition, and then some, packing the same looks and Tensor chipset as the now-successful but still very powerful Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, meaning it beats pretty much all the competition in the same price range opponent. While the 12MP sensor won’t make the headlines, Google’s algorithm could be put to good use to produce some great photos. We’re not all that hot about its 60Hz display, but if Google hadn’t made a sacrifice somewhere, it might have found its cheapest phone to shut out flagships.
Highly Commended: Nothing Phone 1
If there was an award for pre-launch hype, OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei’s latest project would have won it without credible competition. After unveiling a pair of AirPod vexing earbuds last year, the new company’s first smartphone is this year’s big launch, and while the final product isn’t as revolutionary as the cryptic marketing campaign would have us believe, But it did make an impression of success. The specs are great for the price (120Hz scrolling in some apps means it puts the phone on top in at least one area), but it’s snazzy LED glyph lighting that lights up differently when you’re notified or charging. Mode lighting marks the Nothing Phone 1 as refreshingly different.
Also shortlisted: OnePlus Nord 2T 5G, Motorola Moto G82
We were impressed with how many phones fell into our arms and completely exceeded our expectations. While they don’t quite deserve an award, the OnePlus Nord 2T 5G is a speed demon, and Motorola’s G82 brought us a high refresh rate OLED for under £300. Bargain and then some.
About The Stuff Gadget Awards
The Stuff Gadget Awards are where we honor the best tech we’ve seen throughout the year, with gongs celebrating their status as the cream of the gadget crop. Read more about The Stuff Gadget Awards.