With each passing year, we see the smartphone market push the bar for quality. This is especially true in the world of Android where a new year means a definite bump in specifications and performance. In 2015 we saw a very interesting trend. Traditionally, midrange smartphones featured compromises from their more expensive flagship brothers. However, we saw last year a very compelling group of smartphones that didn’t break the bank but offered excellent performance overall. So the real question is, which option is better for the consumer in 2016.
If you have seen recent reviews of mid tier smartphones, you probably noticed specifications featured by flagships from a generation ago. These devices often pack octa-core processors, Full HD displays and 3GB of RAM. Without dragging things too far, we can tell you this: most midrangers nowadays are very capable pieces of hardware and can handle most if not all intensive tasks smoothly. When we review phones, we look at how the device can handle intense game play and multitasking to gauge the performance but recently, it has become more and more difficult to actually distinguish between the performance of a $400 phone and a $800 phone.
You could argue midrange devices generally feel cheaper and less substantial than the traditional flagships but companies like Huawei will make you think twice. Huawei has set a new standard for excellent industrial design at an affordable price and other companies have made a conscious effort to do the same. These are devices which when held in the hand feel like they should cost $700-$800 but in actuality are much more affordable. Unibody metal builds have become common in the midrange section and companies are constantly trying to offer premium designs at crazy prices. We are even starting to see the use of ceramics and curved glass in these products which puts them on par with current flagships.
One may argue that build quality, performance and reliability have reached a point where the average user simply will not notice the difference between a midrange device and a flagship but there is one aspect where flagships still outclass the rest – the camera. Camera technology has come a very long way on smartphones to a point where they can easily replace traditional point and shoot cameras. Manufacturers like Samsung and LG launched extraordinary camera technology on their new products and truly redefined what a smartphone camera is capable of. Among the sacrifices midrange devices have to make, the camera is the most obvious. No midrange phone can currently claim to have a camera that can rival today’s flagships or even the flagships from previous generations. While you may see devices with very high Megapixel counts, the real magic in photography happens through the quality of the lens and post processing. Midrange cameras are not bad by any means but against the elite, they are unimpressive.
Now for the answer we have all been waiting for. Is it worth it to spend upwards of $800 for a brand new cutting edge flagship smartphone when a device at half the price can do a pretty respectable job? It really depends on you, the user. For the most part, a good midrange device offers everything you need with very few compromises. If your photos almost always end up on social media, there isn’t much reason to opt for the more expensive route. However, today’s flagships are on a league of their own. They are at a point where you’ll never see lag, slowdowns or drops in performance. You get a guarantee that your device can and will handle everything you throw at it and more. The most compelling aspect though is the fact that you get access to the best a company has to offer. It is the little things about the flagships that accumulate to make the exceptional. Ultimately, if you want the best experience without compromise, you have to still deal with the cost of the flagship.