An Eye on Mobile - The Value Devices

Value smartphones can sometimes be downright bad. It’s for this reason people pay an extra $50 on top of their service charge to get the latest and greatest phones on the market. If you are someone that doesn’t need the power of a flagship device and doesn’t want to pay for a flagship, here are three phones that can provide a great user experience for under $500.

Google Pixel 5a 5G

Some reviewers might look at Google’s Pixel 5a and think that they decided to release the Google 4a all over again. Just like the 4a it offers a brushed aluminum back and Gorilla Glass 6 front protecting its aluminum frame. It also has a solid 6.34-inch,1,080 x 2,400 pixel OLED display. Google’s Pixel 6 features a brand new Tensor chip, but the 5a is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 5G chip and comes with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of onboard storage. 

The camera setup is similar to other Pixel phones. Powered by the Android 12 operating system, the Pixel 5a’s 12.2MP wide-angle lens and 16MP ultra wide-angle lens can do everything you need out of a mid-range phone. The front-facing lens is an 8MP wide-angle lens. Compared to the other Pixel phones, the battery here is quite impressive, sitting at 4,680 mAh for a 122-hour endurance rating and 18W fast charging. 

The Google Pixel 5a 5G is only available in Mostly Black, $449 can get you the Pixel 5a from the Google Store.

Google Pixel 5a
Body:  Aluminum frame, aluminum back, Gorilla Glass 3 front. 
Display: 6.34-inch OLED, 1,080 x 2,400 (~415 ppi)
OS: Android 11, Upgradable to Android 12
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
Memory: 6 GB RAM, 128 GB Storage
Expandable Memory: No
Cameras: Rear – 12.2 MP 27mm; 16 MP 119º; Front – 8 MP 24mm
Sounds: Stereo sound
Battery (battery endurance rating): 4,680 mAh (122 hours)
Security: Rear-mounted fingerprint sensor
Miscellaneous: IP67 dust and water resistant
Other versions: n/a

Motorola Moto G Power

Constructed from a hard plastic frame and back as well as a glass front, the Moto G Power is a far cry from quality build, but it does have a solid value proposition. Its screen is a 6.6-inch IPS LCD, 90 hertz display with a resolution of 720 x 1,600, running Android 11 on its Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 chipset, with 4 GB of RAM and your choice of 64 GB or 128 GB of onboard storage. This device only costs about $200, so it’s hard to beat that value.

As for its camera, the Moto G Power claims a 48 MP wide-angle camera with a pair of 2 MP cameras for depth and macro resolution. On the front, there’s an 8 MP wide-angle lens. This device also sports a 5,000 mAh battery and 10W fast charging with 130 hours of battery life, all for under $200. With a side-mounted fingerprint sensor to help secure it and a water-repellent coating protecting it, the Moto G Power is a relatively affordable choice in Flash Gray and Polar Silver.

Motorola G Power
Body: Plastic frame, plastic back, glass front
Display: 6.6-inch IPS LCD; 720 x 1,600 (~270 ppi)
OS: Android 11
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 662
Memory: 4 GB RAM; 64-to-126 GB onboard storage
Expandable Memory: microSDXC
Cameras: Rear – 48 MP wide; 2 MP depth; 2MP macro; Front – 8 MP wide
Sounds: Stereo sound
Battery (battery endurance rating): 5,000 mAh (~130 hours)
Security: Side-mounted fingerprint sensor
Miscellaneous: Water-repellent coating
Other versions: n/a

Samsung Galaxy A71 5G

Built on an aluminum frame, the A71 5G has a plastic back and a Gorilla Glass 3 front that houses the impressive 6.7-inch Super AMOLED Plus display. It runs on an Exynos 980 chipset and depending on the model you will get 6 or 8 GB of RAM and 126 GB of onboard storage with microSDXC expandability. The device comes with Samsung’s One UI 3.0 operating system and Android 10, but it can be upgraded to Android 11 and One UI 3.2.

The device’s back has four rear-facing cameras in total: one a 64 MP wide-angle lens, another 12 MP ultrawide lens, and a 5 MP macro lens joined by a 5MP depth camera. The selfie camera is a robust 32 MP wide-angle lens. The Galaxy A71 5G offers 5G capabilities powered by a 4,500 mAh battery with 25W fast charging. The device is also secured by an in-display fingerprint sensor. 

The A71 5G is available in Prism Cube Black, Prism Cube Silver, and Prism Cube Blue online for $250 to $350.

Samsung Galaxy A71 5G
Body: Aluminum frame, plastic back, Gorilla Glass 3 front
Display: 6.7-inch Super AMOLED Plus, 1,050 x 2,400 (~393 ppi)
OS: Android 10, upgradeable to Android 11; One UI 3.0
Chipset: Exynos 980
Memory: 6-to-8 GB RAM; 128 GB onboard storage
Expandable Memory: microSDXC
Cameras: Rear – 64 MP 26mm; 12 MP 123º; 5 MP macro; 5 MP depth; Front – 32 MP 26mm 
Sounds: Stereo sound
Battery (battery endurance rating): 4,500 mAh (98  hours)
Security: In-display fingerprint sensor
Miscellaneous: 25W fast charging
Other versions: Samsung Galaxy A71; Samsung Galaxy A72 (2021)

Other Ways to Get Value from Mobile Investments

There are a slew of other phones available in the midtier, but if you are looking for value, you may be best served by purchasing a flagship device from a year or two ago. These devices typically are supported by the manufacturer so they will get updates to security software and operating systems, and they typically come with top-tier specs, or at least better than anything that can be found in current budget devices. 

Next week we finish up our annual look at smartphones with a look at a few foldable devices. Check back next week!

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