What makes a device a success? Is it units sold? Positive reviews on tech sites? Perhaps redefining the market landscape? Maybe all, or none of those things? In tech circles we spend a lot of time obsessing over the incrementally more expensive slabs of metal, plastic and glass that augment our lives.

However with an entry level top tier current phone now starting at the $1500 mark the 2015 version of us would think we were bonkers mad. To challenge this obsession with the high end, and the exclusively high price tags (and payment plans) that accompany them, we are now seeing challengers to the mould.

There’s always been cheaper phones, but I’d argue that until the Moto G5 there was never a good cheaper phone. In this authors opinion the Moto G5 started a movement, or at least was there at the start. Yes I know that there were great less expensive devices before the G5, hell the Nexus 5 was generation defining device, but it did have compromises, especially camera quality if you’re really honest.

The Moto G5 had a good usable camera that reliably gave good photos. Jump forward to 2020 and there is a growing number of not flagship devices that are pushing the boundaries of what is really needed in a device. The ‘flagship’ of the affordable phones has to be the ‘Pixel a’ line, at about 50% of the cost of it’s bigger siblings and with little noticeable drawbacks the Pixel 3a redefined what it was to be a mid-tier device.

Heading into the release of the Pixel 4a and all of the rumours are pointing towards it being a solid, reliable, all-day device, with a quality camera, guaranteed software updates and hopefully the same affordable price tag. And there’s more than Pixel, Motorola and Nokia both service the stock Android market with decent devices at almost every price point.

Step away from the stock experience and the options explode with almost every vendor having something on offer. Now you cannot get a no-compromise phone for $250, but you don’t have to spend anywhere near $1500 to get a smartphone that can take care of all your needs without barely a sacrifice in sight.

What’s all of this got to do with COVID-19? Money. COVID has greatly affected huge populations, while in Australia we have currently fared with only minor disruption, rest-assured the both locally and internationally the financial effects of COVID will outlast this current outbreak many times over.

Many people may well be forced to try something a little more mid-tier, a little more affordable, and honestly if they are I think many will discover they’ve been tricked for the past few years. The upper to mid-tier is more affordable, and if you’re not an uber-tech nerd (Editor: like us on the Ausdroid staff) will give you just about everything you’ll ever need.

Are the “compromises” of the mid-range really compromises? Do you really need all those extra bells and whistles? I think many people will discover that the camera on that mid-ranger is good enough. It was when the same hardware was on the premium devices last year or the year before. Is the phone fast enough and smooth enough? It was last year in the premium device. We have already reviewed some very good mid-range devices this year and think they can easily be good enough to make a vast majority of users happy, and leave a lot of money still in their pockets.

The barrier to entry for a premium device is lower than say a Lamborghini. I can’t afford many of the luxury goods that I may want, they’re for the 1%. But I can afford a premium smart phone if I want to. In some ways you could argue that it democratises luxury. I’d argue that argument doesn’t hold water, you may disagree.

Please know that this discussion of the financial impacts in no way is meant to overshadow the immense health, social and physiological effects that COVID will have on our plant and our people.

It’s possible that this will drive the price of flagships lower, or even bring more of the higher end features into the mid-tier. It’s possible that the luxury 1% marketing will prevail and the mid-tier will never get it’s day in the wider sun. But I’m hoping for the former, come join me it’s nice over here.

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    what might happen (or already be happening) is folks wearing out batteries, getting burn in on OLED/AMOLED and also oleophobic coating by higher hours of use per day.

    I hope there is a response to that if so … cause its my use case anyway, disabled since 2012 and wearing out phones too fast since most flagships became OLED and lacked removable battery.

    the Moto G8 Power is close to what I need but lacks 5Ghz wifi (weird!) and lack future proofing in other ways like its 64GB storage and 4GB RAM not being idea for future app sizes

    Jamie S

    Hey Duncan. I actually think mid-range phones are the new flagships for me. I know I’m not the averager consumer but the best phones I’ve had recently have all been mid-range. S10e – compact, great display, camera ok Pixel 3a – Great camera, a bit slow, not bright enough outside Xiaomi Mi 9T – Great display, no google smartlock, average software Pixel 3a XL (the 3a was too small and a few deal breakers on the 9T) My daily driver now is a S20+ 5G but that’s only because I got a good deal through the Samsung Government store. I’m… Read more »