If you want a flagship device, there are a lot of options out there. You can get your hands on the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG G6, Huawei P10, or HTC U11, just to name a few. There are also more of them coming soon including the Galaxy Note 8 and Pixel 2 series.
Of course, all these handsets come at a premium price. The good news is that there are also a number of high-end phones out there with relatively budget friendly prices. These phones are sometimes playfully called flagship killers, a trend that started with OnePlus and its original OnePlus One. What makes them stand out? They all offer many of the same bells and whistles as phones that cost hundreds more, while making mostly small sacrifices to reach that point.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at a few budget-friendly high-end smartphones that may not be the best on the market right now, but are still more than suitable for demanding users. Let’s get started.
Best Android phones (July 2017): our picks, plus a giveaway
The first device on the list is the OnePlus 3T. The high-end smartphone isn’t really a flagship anymore, just because its successor has already been released. It was announced back in November 2016 and is known for offering a great price-performance ratio, keeping the flagship killer dream alive.
It comes with a 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED display and is powered by the Snapdragon 821 chipset. The device has 6 GB of RAM and either 64 or 128 of storage that isn’t expandable, as there’s no microSD card slot on board. You’ll find a 16 MP camera with an f/2.0 aperture on the back, and a selfie snapper on the front that also features a 16 MP sensor.
The OnePlus 3T packs a 3,400 mAh battery and supports the company’s fast Dash Charge technology, which fully charges the device in around 90 minutes. It sports a metal body that comes in Gunmetal or Soft Gold and has a curved back along with rounded corners that make it feel great in the hand. It runs Android 7.1 Nougat with the company’s OxygenOS on top, which is close to stock with the added bonus of a bunch of customization options.
When launched, the smartphone retailed for $439 (64 GB) and $479 (128 GB) in the US, while you had to dish out €439 (64 GB) and €479 (128 GB) to get it in Europe. The problem is that the phone is currently only on sale in India, as it has been discontinued in the majority of markets across the globe. However, there are still a few retailers in the US that have the device in stock and are selling it on Amazon.
ZTE Axon 7
Announced in May 2016, the ZTE Axon 7 was one of the best budget high-end smartphones of 2016 along with the OnePlus 3T. It sports a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with QHD resolution and is powered by the Snapdragon 820 chipset along with 4 GB of RAM.
The device has 64 GB of storage that you can expand for an additional 256 GB with the help of a microSD card. It’s equipped with dual front-facing stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos surround sound technology that provide a clear, loud, and full sound.
The ZTE Axon 7 has a metal body that packs a 3,250 mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0, which gets the device up to 50 percent in around 30 minutes. It features a 20 MP primary camera with an f/1.8 aperture, phase detection autofocus, optical image stabilization (OIS), and dual-LED flash. There’s also a selfie snapper on board that has an 8 MP sensor. Available in Ion Gold and Quartz Gray, the smartphone runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, which can be upgraded to Nougat.
When released, the Axon 7 retailed for $400, which was a fantastic deal. As the device has been on the market for over a year now, its price has come down a bit. Amazon is currently selling it for $370.
Honor is known as a budget brand and has quite a few great devices in its lineup. Among these is the Honor 9, which was revealed only a few weeks ago.
Just like its predecessor, the smartphone has a dual-camera setup on the back that features 20 MP (monochrome) and 12 MP (RGB) sensors. It sports a 5.15-inch Full HD display with 2.5D glass and is powered by the Kirin 960 chipset. It’s available in three different variants, as it comes with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage and 6 GB of RAM with either 64 or 128 GB of space.
The Honor 9 supports expandable storage (up to 256 GB), is equipped with an 8 MP selfie snapper, and packs a 3,200 mAh battery. It’s quite easy on the eyes with its combination of a sandblasted metal frame and a glass back with a 15-layer optical coating. It comes in a few different colors which are Blue, Amber Gold, Gray, and Black. Other things worth mentioning are a fingerprint scanner located on the front, Android 7.0 Nougat with Huawei’s EMUI 5.1 on top, and an AKM Hi-Fi audio chip that promises to improve the audio experience.
The Honor 9 is actually quite similar to the Huawei P10 in terms of specs. The differences are that the Honor 9 doesn’t have the Leica-branded camera setup, has 2 GB of RAM more (high-end model), and obviously looks quite a bit different. It’s also a lot more affordable, with the 4 GB RAM model retailing for €449 in Europe. There’s no word on when or if the device will make its way to the US.
Huawei Nova 2 and Nova 2 Plus
Back in May, Huawei took the wraps off the Nova 2 and Nova 2 Plus. The two smartphones are very similar in terms of specs with a few differences. Starting with the Nova 2, the device has a 5-inch display with Full HD resolution. You’ll find the Kirin 659 chipset under the hood along with 4 GB of RAM.
The Nova 2 has a metal body and is equipped with a dual-camera setup featuring 12 and 8 MP sensors. It also has a 20 MP selfie snapper on board and packs a 2,950 mAh battery. There’s 64 GB of storage available that’s expandable up to 128 GB via a microSD card. Then there’s the fingerprint scanner located on the back, dual-SIM support, and Android 7.0 Nougat with EMUI 5.1 on top.
The Nova 2 Plus, on the other hand, has a bigger 5.5-inch screen as well as a larger battery at 3,340 mAh. It comes with 128 GB of storage, while the rest of the specs are identical to those of its smaller brother.
The Huawei Nova and Nova 2 Plus are already on sale in China where they retail for 2,499 yuan (around $365) and 2,899 yuan (around $425). Unfortunately, they aren’t available in Western markets yet. Huawei just might bring them over to Europe and the US soon, although this hasn’t been confirmed at this time. If they do go on sale in the West, prices are expected to be higher than those in China.
The OnePlus 5, which was announced in June, has also made it to this list. Despite the fact that it’s the most expensive smartphone the company has ever made, it’s still considered to be a budget high-end device.
Just like its predecessor, the OnePlus 5 comes with a 5.5-inch display with Full HD resolution. You’ll find the latest Snapdragon 835 chipset under the hood along with either 6 or 8 GB of RAM. It comes equipped with a dual-camera setup featuring 16 and 20 MP sensors, has 64 or 128 GB of storage, and sports a metal body in Midnight Black and Slate Gray.
The non-removable 3,300 mAh battery promises a day’s power in half an hour and will get up to 100 percent in around 90 minutes thanks to the company’s Dash Charge technology. The smartphone runs Android Nougat with the OxygenOS skin on top, which adds a bunch of customization options while keeping the experience close to stock.
In the US, the OnePlus 5 with 6 GB of RAM will set you back $479, while the 8 GB version can be yours for $539. Prices in Europe are a bit higher than those in the US, as you’ll have to dish out €499 or €559 to get the device.
Xiaomi Mi 6
The last smartphone on the list is the Xiaomi Mi 6. As the rest of the company’s devices, it offers great value for money. Announced back in April, it comes with a 5.15-inch Full HD display and the Snapdragon 835 chipset.
The smartphone can be yours with 64 or 128 GB of storage, with both versions offering 6 GB of RAM. It features a dual-camera setup on the back with two 12 MP sensors and packs a 3,350 mAh battery. It’s not totally waterproof but is splash resistant and unfortunately doesn’t feature a headphone jack. This means you’ll have to get a pair of USB Type-C headphones or settle with using an adapter. The alternative is also to just opt for wireless Bluetooth headphones.
The Xiaomi Mi 6 features a metal frame with a glass back, although a special edition of the smartphone with a ceramic back is also available. Other things worth mentioning are a fingerprint scanner located on the front, stereo speakers, and Android 7.1.1 Nougat with Xiaomi’s MIUI user interface on top.
As for the price, the 64 GB model retails for RMB 2,499 (around $370) in China, while the 128 GB version can be yours for RMB 2,899 (around $430). The ceramic edition, which only comes with 128 GB of storage, will set you back RMB 2,999 (around $445). The only problem is that the smartphone isn’t available in Western markets. You can still buy it from one of the Chinese online retailers like GearBest, but you’ll have to pay a bit more in most cases.
So, there you have it. These are our picks for high-end smartphones that might not be able to compete directly with the Galaxy S8, LG G6, and other flagships, but still offer high-end specs and won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Let us know which one you think is the best in the comments below. Are any of these truly worthy of the name flagship killer?