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Mid-range smartphones are where it’s at, not flagships

Mid-range smartphones are where it’s at, not flagships

by Vyncent ChanAugust 9, 2019
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I remember a time when I would say, “don’t buy anything less than a flagship”. Back then, smartphones were still somewhat in their infancy. Only at flagship-tier price points could you ever get a device that’s usable. Good cameras, powerful chipsets and sharp displays were alien to anything other than the crème de la crème of any self-respecting smartphone maker’s lineup. But that has since changed.

Mid-range chipsets nowadays pack a real punch

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More than enough horsepower for whatever you need.

A flagship chipset back in the day was something like the Snapdragon 800, and the mid-range chipsets back then were just downright underpowered. The Snapdragon 615, anyone? It didn’t offer enough performance at all, and it ran hot. But now we have processors like the Snapdragon 730, which are plenty powerful for most practical usage scenarios. We do have even more powerful flagship-class processors nowadays, but do we really need that much power in a smartphone? I mean, a Snapdragon 855 is literally powerful enough to run Windows. We could do with less, and pay less too.

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Aside from a processor’s raw horsepower, another factor to consider is its efficiency. In smartphones, efficiency can arguably be more important than raw performance. A chipset’s efficiency is somewhat linked to the chip manufacturing process used. Just earlier this year, only flagship chipsets like the Exynos 9820 can be made on the 8nm FinFET process node. Now? Even mid-range ones like Snapdragon 730 are manufactured on the 8nm node.

You might score better features while paying less

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And while processing power is an area which mid-range smartphones may never match their pricier flagship brethren, many a mid-range now offer cameras that match, if not outperform, flagships. Some flagships are still hung up on 12MP cameras while the mid-range market has quickly creeped up to 48MP sensors. I am not saying that a higher resolution is better, but the Sony IMX586 sensors, in combination with great processing, can easily outperform the aforementioned flagships.

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In smartphone maker’s quest to bring even greater value to make their devices even more enticing, many of them have added even more flagship-tier features into their mid-range offerings. While many flagships are still stuck with either a notch or a cutout, the Xiaomi Mi 9T is already touting a bezel-less, notch-less AMOLED display.

Less fluff, more practical

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No dongles needed.

It also seems like smartphone makers are all too keen on offering less on their flagships. Headphone jack are disappearing from flagships. Why? I have no idea. Probably to emulate Apple. I dare say no one ever said

“How I wish my phone didn’t have a headphone jack.”

But hey, that’s what happening to all the flagships. On the other hand, mid-range devices like the Xiaomi Mi 9T retain the headphone jack, serving as the last bastion for smartphone users who wish to keep using their wired audio devices.

Now, I must say that if you want to be on the bleeding edge of technology, you will have to pay the premium for flagships. That where you see the latest and greatest innovations. Cutting edge technology is expensive, which is why flagships are expensive. But wait a little, and the price of the latest hardware will drop. The early teething problems would also have been ironed out by then, making them more practical to implement.

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Unreliable, slow and inaccurate first-gen under-display fingerprint scanner.

Remember when under-display fingerprint scanners were unreliable, and only available in devices well above RM2500? Look at them now. Just as reliable and quick as any other biometric technology, and they are now in devices that cost less than RM900.


To sum up, you pay less, enjoy much of the same features, and at times get to experience even more refined implementations with mid-range devices like the Xiaomi Mi 9T than you would with a flagship. The only downside is that you will have to wait a little longer than the people who can afford to splurge on flagships to enjoy certain cutting edge features like uber fast charging. But hey, when it comes down to the value proposition, you know which one will come up on top.

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Are you the type who needs to have the cutting edge, here and now, or are you willing to wait a little while, until the technologies mature and trickles down to more affordable offerings? Let us know!

About The Author
Vyncent Chan
Technology enthusiast, casual gamer, pharmacy graduate. Strongly opposes proprietary standards and always on the look out for incredible bang-for-buck.

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