Although boundary pushing flagship smartphones garner most of the headlines, there’s a budding market for lower cost flagships and mid-range smartphones that is due for a shot in the arm. While there are some great handsets out there, manufacturers are often slow at bringing flagship features to their lowest cost models, which greatly devalues the potential of this important mid-tier.

When you can pick up last year’s flagship with better specs and more features at the same price as the latest mid-tier handsets, there often doesn’t appear to be much purpose to many of these models. So here are some features that I think manufacturers should hop on right away to make their handsets more appealing.

1 – Android Nougat out of the box

Pet peeve number one of any mid-range handset buyer is almost certainly receiving out of date software with a new purchase. Granted, most manufacturers were fast at adopting Marshmallow last year, although there are definitely a few remaining villains, particularly when it comes to releases outside of the West. I’m looking at you Meizu M3 Note, Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus, and the Micromax Canvas 6 Pro, for example. Lollipop was not cool in 2016 and nothing but Nougat will do in 2017. The OS has been out for more than 4 months now.

There’s no notable reason why vendors can’t spend the time preparing the latest version of Android for any new hardware release so that it’s ready to go out of the box. Furthermore, it would be grand if manufacturers would support their mid-range phones at least as long as their flagship models. Again, some manufacturers are better at this than others, but there are still too many lower cost phones that lose software support too quickly.

After all, why buy an unsupported mid-ranger if last year’s flagship is still set to receive another year’s worth of updates? On the bright side, Huawei is promising 2 years of updates with its $400 Honor 8, a trend others should follow.

2 – A USB Type-C port

Much like Nougat, there isn’t really a good reason that I can see for mid-range manufacturers not adopting USB Type-C ports this year too. The connectors and ICs aren’t vastly more expensive than before and the technology has the added bonus of bringing fast charging compatibility to handsets instantaneously. So no need to spend precious development costs of a Quick Charge or other custom solutions.

This isn’t just for the sake of keeping up with the new port either. If manufacturers expect to sell us on the world of Type-C digital headphones and other accessories, everyone is going to need access to them and not just flagship handset owners.

That being said, we’ll be more forgiving to manufacturers who release phones in areas where USB Type-C hardware and accessories aren’t so readily available. Still, what’s wrong with being a trailblazer? For what it is worth, CES showed that most phones coming this year will probably make the move to USB-C.

3 – Fast Charging

As we’ve mentioned, fast charging needs to hurry up and become universal for all mid-range phones. Just because I’m not buying the latest flagship doesn’t mean that I don’t need to charge my phone in a hurry or that my battery life is good enough to get my through the day. With mid-range handsets typically shipping with smaller sized batteries yet gradually packing in more powerful processing and display hardware, fast charging is surely required in many of today’s mid-tier products.

See also:

Qualcomm Quick Charge vs Oppo VOOC vs MediaTek PumpExpress+ vs Motorola TurboPower vs the others (updated)

February 4, 2016

Of course, there are extra things to consider when it comes to fast charging; cost being the major one, followed by SoC support if you’re looking for Qualcomm Quick Charge or MediaTek’s Pump Express options. Even so, if the $150 Moto G4 can ship with Quick Charge technology, there’s little excuse for manufacturers not to match this in 2017. Alternatively, manufacturers could kill two birds by opting for USB Type-C and its compulsory USB Power Delivery compatibility.

4 – NFC and mobile payments

NFC is another hit and miss technology in the mid-range market, and I’d like to see it become universal this year. The absence of NFC from some of OnePlus’ earlier handsets caused a bit of a stir, but there are still many manufacturers not including the technology in their more wallet friendly models. Some otherwise excellent mid-tier models sans-NFC include the Moto G4 Plus, Honor 5X, and the ASUS Zenfone 3, although you can pay more for this option in the Deluxe model.

NFC is useful for a few little things but its main lure these days is mobile payments, and it’s a shame that a number of handsets still aren’t catering to widely available systems like Android Pay. Especially when two, nearly three generation old flagship phones came equipped with the technology.

Furthermore, Samsung’s magnetic secure transmission (MST) technology, and LG’s rumored similar implementation, need to hurry up and trickle down to the company’s extended smartphone range. Samsung is expected to bring Samsung Pay to almost all of its phones this year, so let’s hope that this is the case. We’ll also have to see what Samsung Pay Mini has in store.

5 – Dual cameras

Dual cameras may still be a new flagship concept for some flagship manufacturers, but the technology is also very promising for improving the quality of mid-tier cameras setups too. This obviously requires more powerful processing technology than a single camera setup, but this type of hardware is already available at mid-tier price points.

For example, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 653 and 617 sport dual camera ISPs, as do the budget level 435 and 427 chip sets. Combining this image processing capability with ideas similar to Qualcomm’s Clear Sight technology, could produce a significant boost to image noise, contrast, and color vibrancy even using lower cost sensors. Even if monochrome designs aren’t implemented, higher end features like focus readjusting or enhanced zoom capabilities would of course be appreciated at a lower price point.

Recent mid-tier announcements like Huawei’s powerful $400 Honor 8 show that dual camera tech doesn’t have to be reserved for $800 flagships, and the Honor 6X has a similar setup at just $250. However, the new ZTE Blade V8 Pro has even implemented its own dual sensor design at an even more affordable $230 price point, along with NFC and a USB Type-C port. Mid-tier manufacturers should take note that the bar of 2017 is already set quite high.

See also:

Best low cost Android phones

May 23, 2017

Wrap Up

The falling cost of flagship hardware certainly makes all of the above achievable this year, and we have already seen a number of manufacturers releasing compelling cost effective flagships and mid-range smartphones that contain a number of features on the list. The $250 to $350 price point is starting to look increasingly competitive, and that’s going to pile on the pressure for ranges like Samsung’s Galaxy A and HTC’s Desire.

2017 could be a very exciting year for those looking to buy a quality handset on a budget. Do you have any of your own features that you would like to see hurry up and arrive in mid-range smartphones? Let us know about them in the comments below.

Robert Triggs
Lead Technical Writer at Android Authority, covering the latest trends in consumer electronics and hardware. In his spare moments, you'll probably find him tinkering with audio electronics and programming.
  • Scott Pierce

    Any Phones meet those features?

    • Isaac

      ZTE Blade v8 pro, I think matches everything on it

  • Cakefish

    I’ll add water resistance and OIS for the camera to the list

  • Roby

    Two things I wouldn’t put on the list.
    Type-C: would require a lot of cable/charger/accessory replacements. If I tried to save money by going for a mid ranger I wouldn’t want that just yet.
    Dual cameras: they would increase hardware cost, take up more space and complicate things software-wise. Not to mention how one good sensor can easily outperform a mediocre dual camera setup.

    • Vinicius Lima Silva

      honor 8 had a good setup for dual camera, right? I think that the dual camera depends. I’m not a camera fan, so I’m really just saying

      • libra89

        The setup of the Honor 8 is excellent.

        • 468

          For a $199- YES, but Honor 8 is way more expensive than a $199… You don’t need dual crappy cameras- we just need good sensors (Sony) with aperture lower than f/1.8

          • Danidin

            THE HONOR 8 HAS A GREAT CAMERA. ONE OF THE BEST IN THE MARKET. AND ITS A SONY SENSOR.

          • Why are you yelling?

          • Danidin

            I’m not yelling, this is my voice. 😁

      • Roby

        Rest assured, one sensor with better low light capabilities and OIS would have produced better pictures and video on that phone.
        That’s why the single cam S7 beats the dual cam P9 in most if not all shootouts even though Huawei partnered with Leica.

        • Vinicius Lima Silva

          But maybe a better single sensor would be more expensive than the setup they gave? Idk, I’m just speculating.

        • NateB

          Samsung feels like the exception, not the norm; even flagships with higher MP and solid hardware can’t compete, so I think that’s not a realistic comparison for a midrange phone. I feel like the dual camera setup has more merit than you give it. feels like a lot more are coming out with them for a reason, but yes also marketing I’d expect

  • Vinicius Lima Silva

    Quick charge is a battery health sucker, with its high temperatures and the high stress it puts in the battery cells, so I’m not sure I want to use it anymore. Lets see the progress that Huawei make with its graphene batteries though.

    NFC and mobile payment will not be implemented here in Brazil so soon, so not a huge expected feature for me too

    • Daggett Beaver |dBz|

      Yeah, I never use quick charge, but then I don’t need to. Most of the time, I set my phone down on the wireless charger when I’m not using it or simply at the end of the day.

    • Dusty

      Yeah you don’t have to use it. Quick charge only works with a special quick charger. I plug my quick charge compatible phones into a 1000 mah standard wall charger every night. Takes 3 hours to charge fully but I’m asleep anyway.

  • sanilaS siuL

    definitely curved screens!

  • Daggett Beaver |dBz|

    I wouldn’t put USB Type C on the list.

    I would put wireless charging and water resistance on the list, way over and above USB Type C. And while Android Nougat out of the box would be nice, how about we wait until Google addresses all the bugs, first? I’d rather have stable Marshmallow than unreliable Nougat.

    • Dusty

      You’re missing out. Usb type C is wicked fast and both the male and female ports are way stronger, simple to connect, and easily fit together without a glance. I spent $5 on 4 micro USB to USB type C adapter ends and it was definitely money well spent. I could not go back to Micro USB now for my daily driver

      • Tale 85

        Well said. Obviously an acquired taste.

    • 3.5gb

      You know a USB c cable doesn’t need to terminate as type c on both ends? Why not just never adopt it and be stuck with 3.0 type a forever. USB c will never be a standard if it will never be adopted or delayed like you wish..

  • James Short

    a faster processor would be welcome in a mid range phone..

  • Fifen

    how about waterproofing?

  • Front facing speakers anyone? No? Just me? OK.

    • The Pool Man

      Go to Amazon. Look up ANKER ULTRA PORTABLE BLUETOOTH SPEAKER. It’s $20. You’ll never give a damn about a phone speaker again.

      • Kevin Young

        Doesn’t matter, it’s still something that you have to buy and carry with you separately. Not only is it $20, I doubt they sound as good as my axon’s speakers. Stereo makes a big difference, especially when watching movies. And you don’t have to carry a speaker around if the stupid oem just puts good ones in

  • Dusty

    Funny how they show an Axon 7 on the article picture. My Axon 7 has everything on the wishlist included except for the mobile payments. Of course maybe the Axon 7 is considered a flagship?

  • 3.5gb

    How about putting in a decent single camera sensor with a decent sensor size than shoving two cheap tiny sensors that will just increase the price for nothing

  • Venkatesh Evander Hades

    I think even budget phones need to have Nougat out of the box, Type C port and fast charging. Mid range phones should improve a lot in 2017 looking what oneplus is going to bring soon. It might have a QuadHD display this time around and that changes everything.

  • Sovat Oung

    One thing which is the most important isn’t added in the list — the bigger battery capacity.

    • Sehajpreet Singh

      Flagships don’t have the biggest battery capacities. See Lenovo, Xiaomi mid-range phones.

  • XaErO

    I agree with all of them except for – Dual Camera.
    I would prefer to have the storage to be of at least eMMC5.1 type (if within budget then, UFS2.0) and/or have the storage capacities increased (like 64GB as basic variant) ..

  • jimberkas

    i agree with most of this list. The ZTE Blade V8 Pro really seems like the best option at that price point

  • Tale 85

    So where does the 3.5mm headphone jack fit in?

  • Connor

    Agree with all apart from dual cam, doesn’t seem necessary at the price.

  • FitnessMethods Houston

    What in the hell is HTC doing? Weren’t they supposed to trimming down their portfolio. They’ve come out with more phones after they uttered those words. I don’t see HTC lasting anything than 2 years. This is sad because that was my go to company for my phones.

  • NFC? Aside from Android Pay, seems pretty useless. I’ve got it, but never use it.

  • Vinicius Lima Silva

    Thanks fpr the link!

    But, as a physicist I have to point out that Joule effect (the one which explains the heat of electrical components) will be high with high voltage or high current. But, as I didn’t test it and don’t know anyone who have a device with dash charge, I’m just commenting.

    Another thing, high current (amps) means more electrical charge per time, which means more eletrons per time. Maybe (and this must be tested before be stated as a fact) it will stress battery cells even way.

  • Gudbella

    Waterproofing should be no.1 on the list….

  • Major_Pita

    Personally I’d rather see IP68 water/dust proofing on mid-range devices before a dual camera design. In a mid-range device they would have to skimp on something else to fit dual cameras into the price point and it would introduce likely unwelcome compromises.

  • Blowntoaster

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ceb1bbe2a4ba5371ee4db26b8a8f4a32dabfc3caa7b1fd40807e0ee3bf0168af.jpg

    All we need is Fast Charging since a lot of mid rangers come with gigantic batteries these days, an IP 68 rating, and a decent camera with some form of slow motion and capture or 1080p up to 60 fps if the chipset allows…

    And most importantly, 32GB base storage for midrangers (3-4GB RAM), and 64GB for Flagships (4 -6GB RAM).