It’s hard for a new brand to stand out, but Nothing managed to do just that with the phone (1). Thanks to a unique see-through design featuring LEDs at the back, and a focus on clean software that’s devoid of any bloatware, the phone (1) carved out a niche for itself in the mid-range category.
But it isn’t without its downsides. For one thing, the phone isn’t available in North America, and the hardware on offer is strictly average — it isn’t built for gaming, as I pointed out in my phone (1) review.
The good news is that there’s no shortage of alternatives if you’re looking to get your hands on a new mid-range phone in 2022. Here are my picks for the best phone (1) alternatives.
Google Pixel 6a
The Pixel 6a is Google’s best mid-range phone yet, and that’s largely down to the hardware. While Google went with Qualcomm’s mid-range platforms with previous Pixel A-series phones, the Pixel 6a features the Google Tensor — the same as the standard Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. The result is that the Pixel 6a is one of the fastest phones in this category, making it stand out that much more from its predecessors.
As I highlighted in my phone (1) vs. Pixel 6a post, Google’s mid-range phone runs circles around Nothing’s offering in day-to-day use. I didn’t see any slowdowns or lag even while playing the most visually-demanding games, and the Pixel 6a is an absolute joy to use in this regard. Google didn’t forget the extras either; the Pixel 6a is IP67 dust and water resistant, so you can use it at the pool without any issues.
Then there are the cameras. Google has always delivered standout cameras on its phones, and that’s no different with the Pixel 6a. While the device uses the same camera hardware as the Pixel 5, it gets all the latest software wizardry Google used in the Pixel 6 series.
That means you get phenomenal photos on par with some of the best Android phones. Honestly, if you take a lot of photos, there isn’t another mid-range phone that comes close to the Pixel 6a.
Of course, the Pixel 6a isn’t without its downsides. For whatever reason, Google went with a 60Hz panel here, so you don’t get the same level of fluidity as a 90Hz or 120Hz screen. That’s a letdown considering the caliber of hardware you’re getting with the phone.
That being said, after using the Pixel 6a for over a week, I wasn’t as bothered by it as I thought I would be. And if you’re still using a phone with a 60Hz screen, you won’t notice any difference. For what it’s worth, the OLED panel on the 6a delivers excellent colors in its own right.
If you’re willing to look past the 60Hz screen limitation, the Pixel 6a ticks all the right boxes. It has a good design that’s in line with the rest of the Pixel 6 series, the Tensor hardware makes it one of the most powerful phones in its category, you get clean software with zero bloat and three guaranteed Android OS updates, and the battery lasts well over a day. And there’s of course the marquee feature — truly amazing cameras.
With class-leading hardware and cameras, the Pixel 6a is the obvious choice if you want a mid-range phone in 2022.
Samsung Galaxy A53
Samsung knows how to deliver a mid-range phone that nails the basics, and that’s true of the Galaxy A53. The phone has a familiar design that’s backed by a vibrant 120Hz AMOLED screen, good internal hardware that’s ideally suited for daily use, decent cameras, and battery life that lasts over a day. In short, if you’re already using a Samsung device, you will feel very familiar with the A53.
What makes the A53 that much more enticing is the fact that it will get four guaranteed Android OS updates — more than any other device in this category. Samsung made a lot of changes to One UI in recent years, and while you’ll still find some bloatware, the interface as a whole feels very cohesive while still being familiar.
Just like the phone (1), the Galaxy A53 isn’t designed for gaming, and it struggles with titles that are visually demanding. That said, I didn’t have any issues with the device in day-to-day use, and the 120Hz screen with stereo sound is great for streaming videos.
Samsung didn’t make too many changes on the camera front as well — with the A53 retaining the same hardware as the Galaxy A52 — but changes to the tuning algorithms allow the device to deliver better shots in just about any scenario.
The Galaxy A53 doesn’t have the design flamboyance of the phone (1) or the hardware prowess of the Pixel 6a, but it is great in its own right, and is the ideal option if you’re already using a Samsung phone.
With the Galaxy A53, Samsung has delivered a great all-rounder that nails the basics. If you’re already using a Samsung device, this is the obvious upgrade.
OnePlus Nord 2T
OnePlus isn’t what it used to be, but its mid-range Nord series continues to deliver on the value side of things. The Nord 2T is basically the same phone as last year’s Nord 2, with a few design changes. The rear camera housing is significantly larger, but the overall design of the phone (and the in-hand feel) hasn’t changed.
The Nord 2T has the same 90Hz AMOLED screen as the standard Nord 2, and the Dimensity 1300 is virtually indistinguishable to the Nord 2’s Dimensity 1200. The cameras are identical as well, as is the software. It has the same 4500mAh battery as well, but you now get 80W fast charging, although I didn’t see any noticeable change in charging times over the 65W Nord 2.
In short, this is the same phone as last year, packaged in a slightly different way. And that’s fine by me, because I really liked the Nord 2 last year, and the hardware on offer is still relevant today.
The Dimensity 1300 is outstanding for daily use and holds its own during gaming. While OxygenOS 12.1 is just a derivative of ColorOS 12, it doesn’t have any bloatware, and feels good in daily use.
The Nord 2T has a distinct advantage over the phone (1) in that it is much more powerful, and while the software is heavily skinned, it is devoid of any bloatware.
OnePlus hasn’t changed too much with the Nord 2T, but you still get one of the best overall packages here, and the phone is particularly good for gaming.
POCO is doing all the right things on the hardware front, and the brand now has a decent selection of mid-range phones that deliver great value for money.
The F4 ticks all the right boxes: it has a 120Hz AMOLED screen, features the Snapdragon 870 and is ideally suited for gaming, has a large 4500mAh battery and 67W fast charging, and the 64MP camera at the back takes good photos.
The design isn’t particularly interesting, and POCO isn’t offering any meaningful software features that are different to what you’ll find on a Xiaomi phone. That said, MIUI 13 continues to be a good overall UI in day-to-day use, and it isn’t as bloated as it used to be. There is a lot of customizability here as well, but you’re unlikely to get software updates on time.
Sure, the F4 has its share of shortcomings when viewed against the phone (1). The design isn’t particularly interesting, and the software is heavily skinned — it isn’t as good to use as “vanilla” Android, but on that note, you get a lot of useful features.
With high-end hardware and a fluid 120Hz screen, the POCO F4 is built for gaming. You get all the best features of MIUI 13 here, and the affordability on offer makes the F4 a great option.
There is a lot to like here
If you’re looking to buy a mid-range phone right now, it’s hard to suggest anything other than the Pixel 6a. Google did a magnificent job with the device, and the caliber of hardware you’re getting with the phone, combined with its camera prowess, makes it a true standout.
That said, if you’re already using a Samsung phone and need something familiar, the Galaxy A53 has a lot to offer. Samsung’s interface is among the best on Android, and a large part of that is down to the unique features you won’t find anywhere else. The A53 has a good screen, reliable hardware, decent camera, and will get more software updates than its rivals.
If you’re in the U.K., India, or any of the 30 other countries where the Nord 2T is available, that is a good alternative to the phone (1) as well. Obviously, there’s the issue of OxygenOS to consider — the interface is an imitation of ColorOS — and even on the Android 13-based OxygenOS 13, there’s no difference. For what it’s worth, you don’t get any bloatware, and the Nord 2T has one of the strongest overall hardware packages in this category.