Back To School Gift Guide: Mid-Range Smartphones

Daniel Bader

August 9, 2013 11:00am

Welcome to the Gift Guide section, where we list our favourite smartphones, tablets, accessories and deals of the moment.

In this section, some great inexpensive mid-range phones, usually priced between $20 and $150.

Last updated: August 14th, 2013

Nexus 4

The king of the mid-range, the Nexus 4 is an incredibly powerful device for just over $50 on contract, or $249 from Google Play. Thanks to its unorthodox availability from Google itself, the Nexus 4 never quite got the carrier support it needed to become a mainstream hit.

But with a 720p IPS display, glass front and back, stock Android 4.3 and a decent 8MP camera, the device is still the best bang for your buck, especially if you’re looking to buy off-contract and without device subsidy.

The Nexus 4 is available from Google Play directly for $249 for the 16GB model, or through various carriers for around $50 on a 2-year term.

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HTC 8X

The HTC 8X is a delightful little smartphone, with a bevy of delicious colours and a smart design that only HTC could pull off.

Running Windows Phone 8, the phone is fluid, capable and fun, and is great for a first-time smartphone user. Its 720p display and 8MP camera rivals any top-tier device out there, but its unassuming nature has depressed prices and is available for between $0 and $30 depending on the carrier.

See also: HTC 8S for something a little smaller and less expensive without a contract.

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BlackBerry Q5

The BlackBerry Q5 does a lot of things right, with a sharp, high definition display, a tight, responsive keyboard and excellent performance.

It almost lives up to the reputation of its big brother, the Q10, but at nearly half the price it’s far cheaper and a much better deal. Though the camera lacks detail and the battery life is underwhelming, it’s a great smartphone for those BlackBerry lovers who want to move into the next generation.

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Samsung Galaxy S3

The Galaxy S3 is still one of the best devices for the money, with a fast dual-core processor, LTE capabilities and a large 4.8-inch 720p display.

Thanks to the release of the Galaxy S4, its predecessor has been heavily discounted and can now be found for under $50 on a 2-year term, and second hand for around $300 outright.

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  • FKnm

    My recommendations would be: go to local kijiji and search for BNIB sealed Nexus 4. There would be plenty of them :) I just got one for 300$ 16Gb. ROBELUS is giving them away to people who are singing new weird contracts.

  • Jwoodisgood

    I still thing the HTC 8X is a great looking phone

  • GGB

    I would not consider the Nexus 4 a mid-range phone. It’s high-end for sure. Best phone I’ve ever used.

    • disqus_kCPMN1BEYg

      Just like Moto X, Nexus 4 is not a high end phone and it was never advertised as one. It simply provides fast and pure Android experience

    • Luke

      What about it is not high end though?
      720p screen = negligible
      Small storage space? Weak point.

      The only mid-range thing I see about the Nexus 4 is the price..

      Edit: also surprised to not see the iPhone 4S in this lineup

    • disqus_kCPMN1BEYg

      1080p is the new standard for high end phones

    • Mo Dabbas

      No LTE as well….. some (such as myself) would not use a non-LTE phone. When you feel the speed difference it’ll be hard to go back to HSPA+.

      Other than that I agree with you. The S4 pro is still a fast and reliable processor. I also think 1080p screens are over-rated. I had the One a while ago and it’s really hard to find the difference beteween 720p screen and 1080p screen, especially when talking about 4.3 to 4.8 inch screen.

      but at this point, when phones performance (for day to day use, not gaming or the like) is reaching a peak….. I don’t care whether a phone labelled entry level, mid range or high end. I just use what I feel comfortable to use.

    • Collin Lewis

      everything about this phone is mid range, Especially the display, probably it’s biggest downfall, colors are washed out, it’s very dim even by last years standards.. doesn’t even compare to the super amoled displays on the galaxy s3 or galaxy note 2, or even the galaxy nexus for that matter. it’s smooth i’ll give it that but thats all it is, the camera on it is terrible, But i guess you get what you pay for..

      a high end device will have a 1080p display, and SD card slot and a removeable battery.

    • Allan

      There is nothing wrong with the display on the N4. Sure it may be a little bit inferior to the LGOG, but both are amazing. So how exactly do they not “even compare to the super amoled displays on the galaxy s3 or galaxy note 2″? And no, the GNex’s display was good but it is still nothing compared to the N4. I presume that you already know while IPS delivers accurate colors while the AMOLED offers viewing angles?

      So the HTC One and iPhone 5 do not count as high end phones? Oh and the upcoming LG G2 which will compete with the GS4 and stomp the GS3 and Note 2 (not saying that they’re bad phones) doesn’t count either?

    • Collin Lewis

      Because the colors on the n4 are washed out, the brightness is sub par, compared to any samsung or htc phone its extremely weak, but like i said, i wouldn’t consider it a high end phone it’s mid range at best, It’s exactly what i would expect for a 350.00 phone.. Mid range display, good pure android performance, sub par camera.

      not saying it’s a bad phone, it’s the best value for it’s price but it’s not anywhere near an high end android device..

    • Thr1ve

      It is a mid range phone, always has been… It has an older model SoC (S4 Pro, compared to the new Snapdragon 600 and 800), mediocre quality display with a resolution of only 720P (1080P is the new standard for high end smartphones), no LTE (LTE is standard on any high end phone), very little storage (most high end phones come with at least 32GB of storage or offer expandable storage), terrible camera etc… It’s also reflected in its equally mid range price tag.

  • Xelstyle

    I’m confused. For the Q5 here it says…
    “Though the camera lacks detail and the battery life is underwhelming, it’s a great smartphone for those BlackBerry lovers who want to move into the next generation.”

    Yet in the review it says….

    “I found battery life to be pretty exceptional, lasting all day and then some, even with constant push notifications from email, texts and other apps…the Q5 is a capable smartphone, with great battery life, a clicky, responsive keyboard…”
    And received a 8.8 for battery life?

    So which one is it?

  • jetbeck

    The nexus 4 right now is the high end of the mid-range for a price that really can’t be beat. When it first came out, it was a high-end phone for a mid-range price though :)

  • Vacillator

    If you’re going to list the contract price for a phone, please include the off-contract price so there is some context.

  • Frederick Edwards

    HTC 8X is absolutely the worst phone to recommend for Windows Phone; Poorest support, slow updates and a pittance of exclusive apps. The Lumia 920, which is currently free to $49 on contract is a much better deal. Even the Samsung ATIV S is better.

  • Kabir Raza

    S3 rocks

  • Kabir Raza

    Why is MOTO X not here in this list

    • zanzee

      Maybe because its 3 times as much money as any of these on contract? Just a guess?

    • Kabir Raza

      it will come down. but R u forgetting the customization and its benchmarks it competes with S3 and N4

    • zanzee

      That’s irrelevant. This is about budget phones for school now. Not 6 months from now. The customizations are stupid as well and not available in Canada anyways, gimmick at best. $1 vinyl sticker or $50 cover? The effect is the same.

    • Kabir Raza

      Bro WE are in ASIA we get eve thing here

    • zanzee

      Bro THIS is a Canadian phone blog site.

    • Kabir Raza

      thanks for telling :P