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5G almost cheap: The best affordable 5G phones between $400 and $700

The Google Pixel 4A 5G ups the ante for mid-range 5G smartphone devices made by Motorola, OnePlus, Samsung, and LG. Here's a look at your options.

The launch of the Google Pixel 4A 5G and Pixel 5 sets the stage for a battle between mid-range devices priced $400 to $700 as a rocky economy means less love for premium smartphones and more 5G value plays.

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Google's primary argument for the Pixel franchise is that you can get pure Android, regular updates, and a strong 5G device for not a lot of money. Sure, Google has a more premium approach with the Pixel 5, but Pixel 4A 5G will also garner attention.

You can see where the market is headed, but it's soon going to be a buyer's market for relatively inexpensive 5G devices. The budget considerations behind these mid-range 5G devices is compelling: You can buy a new smartphone annually if you choose and spend money elsewhere.

Also: What is 5G? Everything you need to know about the new wireless revolution  

According to IDC, the price brand between $400 and $600 is the sweet spot in the smartphone market. IDC projected that global smartphone value is expected to fall to $422.4 billion, down 7.9% from a year ago. Tech buyers aren't going for premium devices and even Apple entered the mid-range segment with the iPhone SE.

Here's a look at your options:

Apple iPhone 12 mini

Apple: It's the 'smallest and lightest 5G phone in the world'

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Apple's iPhone 12 mini has a 5.4-inch screen, which is a step up from the 4.7-inch screen on the iPhone SE. The big takeaway is that the Apple iPhone 12 mini is a $699 5G smartphone that is able to sneak into your budget. The iPhone 12 mini could be disruptive even though it was just the opening act for its larger siblings

$699 at Apple

Google Pixel 4A 5G

Stock Android and the latest and greatest updates

pixel-4a-5g.png

Google Pixel 4A 5G. Starting at $499, the Pixel 4A 5G enters the budget device fray with a few unique advantages such as stock Android and the latest and greatest updates. The Pixel 4 launch is already raising questions of why Google is going for the premium category

The catch here is that Google can be flighty about its devices. It wasn't that long ago that the Pixel 4 came and went out with a thud. Nevertheless, Google is packing some key features into the Pixel 4A 5G.

Motorola One 5G

Good value for the money, plus a 6.7-inch display

2020-09-30-at-1-38-22-pm.jpg

This device is 5G and includes a lot of key features and specs for under $500. Motorola, owned by Lenovo, has a full range of devices, but this mid-range smartphone is compelling.

Simply put, it's a good value for the money and the 6.7-inch display feels good in one hand. The camera system--four cameras on the back and two for selfies in the front--is solid in my tests.

One key item here is that the Motorola One 5G has 4GB of memory with 128GB of storage with microSD card support. Typically, budget phones scrimp on storage and memory. The microSD card support in Motorola One 5G allows you to bulk up a bit if necessary.

Like Google's Pixel 4A 5G, Motorola is committed to speedy Android updates so that means Android 11 is landing soon.

$445 at Best Buy

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Pushing the upper range in terms of pricing

2020-09-30-at-1-38-26-pm.jpg

Samsung's S20 Fan Edition seemed odd at first, given that the company has an ample premium lineup with the Galaxy S20 Ultra and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

However, the Galaxy S20 FE includes most of the features that attract buyers to Samsung: Strong camera, microSD card support, and good display technology.

At $699, the Galaxy S20 FE is pushing the upper range of the middle-of-the-pack pricing band, but Samsung has a habit of offering discounts. Galaxy S20 FE has a more powerful processor with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 and 6GB of RAM relative to rivals in that $400 to $700 price range.

$700 at Amazon $700 at Best Buy $700 at B&H Photo-Video

OnePlus 8

Packs a wallop and may see further discounts

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Like the Samsung S20 FE, the OnePlus 8 packs a wallop with features at $699. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 is also the processor platform. Although the OnePlus 8 launched earlier in 2020, it is still a compelling value and may see further discounts in the future.

In Europe, OnePlus Nord is the budget play and comes in around $500.

$700 at Amazon $699 at OnePlus $700 at B&H Photo-Video

LG Velvet

Dual-screen productivity device

2020-09-30-at-1-38-14-pm.jpg

LG flies under the radar in the 5G smartphone landscape, but it's coming in with a device that has a stylus and 5G for $600. LG Velvet also has a dual screen. 

Matthew Miller noted:

When I first heard about the LG Velvet, I was expecting a device full of compromises and a launch unworthy of LG. I'm pleased to report that the LG Velvet is an excellent 5G smartphone and a great value at $600.

The cameras performed very well; the battery took me through more than a full day... Business customers looking for a productivity device will love the capability of the LG Velvet with the Dual Screen cover.

ZDNet's Cho Mu-Hyun also gave the LG Velvet high marks for the money.

$600 at AT&T

Google Pixel 5

Just a little more than the Pixel 4a 5G

pixel-5-just-black.jpg

In an interesting twist, Google priced the Pixel 5 at $699, the upper range of the mid-tier price band.

The Pixel 5 shares the same camera setup as Pixel 4a 5G as well as memory and storage specs. The big difference is Pixel 5 has fast wireless charging and battery share as well as Corning Gorilla Glass 6 cover glass compared to the soft touch Polycarbonate unibody on the Pixel 4a 5G.

In addition, Pixel 5 has water resistance and 8GB of memory relative to the 6GB on Pixel 4a 5G.

Are those differences between Pixel 5G and Pixel 4a 5G worth $200? Probably not, but the big takeaway is Google sees its smartphone future in the middle of the 5G market.

$699 at Google