iPhone XS Max cost too much? Great smartphones in every price range

It's a great time to buy a smartphone, no matter what your budget. You can find functional and reliable handsets from about $197 to over $1,000.
By Matthew Miller, Contributor on
1 of 11 Image: Alun Taylor/ZDNet

Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus

While I personally have never used a Xiaomi phone, ZDNet's Alun Taylor thinks the Redmi 5 Plus may be the best sub-$200 phone in the world.

With flagship smartphones in the $1,000+ range, it may seem you have to spend a lot of money to get a solid smartphone. That isn't true today and the Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus offers you a lot for less than $250.

There are definitely a few compromises at this price point, such as microUSB, no NFC, mid-level processor, and purchasing through an importer with no warranty. However, you get a big screen, long battery life, and more.

Check out the full ZDNet review.

Price: $243.47 from GearBest, but you may find for less through another importer.

2 of 11 Image: HTC

HTC U12 Life

HTC has been releasing mid-level phones that follow the naming scheme of its flagships with this year's HTC U12 Life launched on the heels of the HTC U12. The U12 Life looks like an iPhone X with vertical dual rear cameras and a smaller form factor.

It has a mid-level Qualcomm 636 processor, cool acrylic back panel, large 6 inch display, dual rear 16MP and 5MP cameras, a front 13 megapixel camera, and a large 3600 mAh battery.

The only real compromises at this price point is the processor since ample RAM, storage, battery capacity, and more are all present.

Price: HTC U12 Life is not available in the US, but can be bought in the UK for £299.

3 of 11 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Honor 10

Huawei makes my favorite affordable phones and the Honor 10 may be one of the best with a price less than $400.

The Honor 10 is a gorgeous smartphone with an iridescent glass back called Aurora glass, similar to what we see in Huawei's flagship P20 devices. The large 5.8 inch display has a high pixel density (432ppi) and it does have a notch.

The Kirin 970 processor is used, which is fantastic. Dual rear 24MP and 16MP cameras are present, along with a massive 24MP front-facing camera so there should be no compromises in photography.

The speaker is not the best, but that is one of the compromises that have to be made for a lower price phone.

Check out the full ZDNet review with an 8.5/10 rating.

Price: $387.50 from Amazon.

4 of 11 Image: TCL Communication

BlackBerry KEY2 LE

The BlackBerry KEY2 is a solid smartphone with many great features for the enterprise. To save buyers some money while still offering many of the same great features, BlackBerry released the KEY2 LE in late August.

At nearly half the price of the BlackBerry KEY2, we see some attractive color options, a solid Qualcomm processor, a bit less RAM than a KEY2, dual rear cameras, and a polycarbonate frame instead of a metal frame.

Usually, if you can afford it then the higher end model is preferred. However, after comparing the KEY2 and KEY2 LE, I would lean to just picking up the more affordable KEY2 LE this year.

Price: The BlackBerry KEY2 LE is available for pre-order on Amazon for $449.99 with a scheduled release date of 12 October.

5 of 11 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

OnePlus 6

It's been a few years since I purchased a OnePlus device, but after testing out a mirror black one I immediately went and purchased a Silk White OnePlus 6. It may be the most gorgeous phone I have ever tested and it is tough to beat.

It packs in many flagship specs at a price nearly half that of the leading flagship smartphones. You get a lot for your money with a Snapdragon 845 processor, dual rear cameras, large amount of RAM and storage, and fast charging support. It also keeps the headphone jack that so many others are taking away.

Check out the full ZDNet review.

Price: Starts at $529 from OnePlus for 6GB/64GB, $50 more for 8/128GB, and $100 more for 8/256GB.

6 of 11 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

LG G7 ThinQ

LG is the Rodney Dangerfield of the smartphone world and just doesn't get the respect it deserves. The LG G7 ThinQ is one of the best smartphones of the year and after spending more than a month with it my perspective changed and it truly is one of my favorites.

LG offers quite a bit in the LG G7, including dual rear cameras with one offering wide-angle support. The Quad DAC and Boombox speaker system make it an audiophiles delight and it even has a drop protection rating so it should survive an accidental drop or two.

The cons of this device are the battery life that struggles to go a full, long day while the software still has a bit too much inside to keep things clean.

Check out the full ZDNet review with a 7.8/10 rating.

Price: The LG G7 ThinQ launched at $750, but can be found now on places like Amazon in the $600 price range.

7 of 11 Image: Huawei

Huawei P20 Pro

The Huawei P20 Pro spent some time at the top of my 10 best smartphones list and when I want to have just a single phone for photography it is often the one that goes with me. The triple rear cameras are tough to beat, especially in low light.

The three rear cameras are the selling point for this phone with 40MP, 20MP, and 8MP providing you everything you need, except for wide-angle shots. The design looks fantastic with gorgeous colors and a fit and finish that appeals to the masses.

A 6.1 inch OLED, massive 4,000 mAh battery, Kirin 970 processor, water and dust resistance, and more make it a fantastic device. You can even turn it into a desktop computing experience with a simple HDMI cable connection to an external monitor.

Check out the full ZDNet review with an 8.9/10 rating.

Price: The P20 Pro launched in the $900 price range, but can be found now on places like Amazon in the $750 price range.

8 of 11 Images: Sony Mobile

Sony Xperia XZ3

Sony unveiled the Xperia XZ3 at IFA in August with a focus on its new brilliant OLED display and media experiences.

Unlike many other flagship smartphones, Google Pixel 3 excluded, that have multiple rear cameras, the XZ3 has one. It's a 19 megapixel shooter with some intelligence built into it in order to help you take better shots. There is no OIS though and the Sony camera may not live up to the potential when compared to Sony cameras.

The Sony Xperia XZ3 is gorgeous in various colors, such as Bordeaux Red and Forest Green. It's a bit light on RAM and internal storage though so you really have to be a Sony fan to consider this $900 smartphone.

Check out the full ZDNet review with an 8.0/10 rating.

Price: The Sony Xperia XZ3 is available for pre-order, ships on 17 October, on Amazon for $899.99.

9 of 11 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

LG V40 ThinQ

LG is known for its wide-angle camera and is unique in using it on its smartphones. This year, it went camera crazy by rolling out the LG V40 ThinQ with five cameras. Three are on the back and two are on the front.

The three rear cameras include a 12MP standard lens, a 12MP telephoto one, and a 16MP wide-angle variant. A standard 8MP shooter with a 5MP wide-angle camera are found on the front. On the rear, one click can capture images through all three and give you multiple ways to view the content in your viewfinder.

The LG V40 continues what we saw in the LG G7 with a headphone jack, Quad DAC, Boombox speaker, IP68 dust and water resistance, and more. A 3,300 mAh battery seems a bit light for a 6.4 inch display, but we'll have to see how it performs as reviews roll out.

Price: The LG V40 launches on 19 October and will be available from all major US carriers for a price ranging from $920 to $970.

S Pen
10 of 11 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is a stunning smartphone and is currently at the top of my 10 best smartphones because there is nothing it lacks. My full review is live and I've placed my own order for an 8/512GB one for $1,249.99.

The Note 9 has all of the latest technology with the Bluetooth S Pen stylus and advanced inking experience. It has a large 6.4-inch display that still fits in your hand. Dual rear cameras offer advanced still and video capture while the phone has water and dust resistance to be useful in many environments.

Check out the full ZDNet review for more details on this phone.

Price: $999 from Samsung

11 of 11 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Apple iPhone XS Max

The new Apple iPhone XS Max is now available and some people, like ZDNet's Jason Cipriani love it. I tried it out for a couple of weeks, but sent it back since the large size did not offer anything extra over the smaller iPhone XS. Personally, the small size of the iPhone X in 2017 was the reason it continued to be my primary device for nearly a year.

The iPhone XS Max is clearly the best smartphone Apple ever created and is blazing fast with improved camera technology. iPhone users will not be disappointed and those who want a big screen iPhone may not have trouble financing the $1,100+ required to purchase one of these big iPhones.

Check out the full ZDNet review with an 9.6/10 rating.

Price: The Apple iPhone XS Max starts at $1,099 and goes up to $1,449 for 64GB to 512GB internal storage capacity.

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