Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Best Premium Smartphones Under $600 to Buy in 2024


With true flagship phones costing (way) above $1000, intermediate models started to trickle around the $500 price range. Even then, there are still a couple of smartphones around $600 that still offer a true flagship-level experience, without the tradeoffs found in the intermediate segment.

Editor’s note: the prices highlighted in this article may vary depending on discounts offered by the manufacturers.

What to expect from a sub-$600 phone

Different from other price categories, sub-$600 phones don’t make specific tradeoffs to reach the price point. Each brand usually chooses different features to distinguish smartphones in this category from the true flagships.

Their software update support is usually on the same level as the high-end devices but you can expect to find sacrifices in camera versatility—e.g. fewer lenses—, slower or fewer charging options, slightly downgraded display, or older generation processors.

The best smartphones under $600

Google Pixel 7a: All-in-one package phone

Google Pixel 7a review images
A dual camera setup that functions like three! / © NextPit

Read the full Google Pixel 7a review

Our pick for the best smartphone under $600 is the newly released Google Pixel 7a. Although the A-series has seen a $50 increase in its initial price, it has also seen a significant improvement in camera quality, with a 72% increase in the size of the main camera sensor and overall enhancements to all lenses. The device now supports wireless charging (albeit at a slow 5W rate) and maintains the top-notch Google Tensor G2 SoC inside.

On the software side, the Pixel 7a comes with Android 13 out of the box and includes the feature drop over time. This means it will receive Google’s newest and sometimes Pixel-exclusive software features. The device is expected to be supported up to Android 16 and should receive at least five more years of security patches.

The Pixel 7a received a 5-star rating on NextPit because it redefines our understanding of the premium mid-range category. Priced at $499, this budget-friendly smartphone even makes us question the value of high-end devices with top-tier hardware specifications.

Good

  • Compact design
  • Top-notch performance
  • Versatile and trustworthy camera
  • All-day long battery
  • Wireless charging

Bad

  • Slow charging time
  • No power adapter in the box
Google Pixel 7a

Google Pixel 7a

Apple iPhone 13: Ecosystem ties

iPhone 13 Mini
The iPhone 13 is still a very powerful phone / © nextpit

Read the full iPhone 13 review

Replacing the iPhone 12, the iPhone 13 is the best (and only?) Apple option in this price range. Of course, Apple offers the humble iPhone SE for even less, but while still very powerful, the SE is too firmly rooted into the iPhone 6 legacy, with its small screen, huge bezels, and a single camera.

With a pretty stable iPhone design since the 12th generation, the iPhone 13 still looks pretty much like any current Apple phone, with the exception of the display notch. Performance-wise, the phone packs a still very capable processor, with enough horsepower for all the latest apps and games. 

The dual camera system is comprised of main and ultra-wide-angle lenses, with excellent image quality in photos, and especially videos. Media consumption happens in the bright and big 6.1-inch OLED display, with sharp colors and excellent viewing angles.

Good

  • OLED screen with deep blacks
  • Good battery life
  • Good quality main camera
  • IP68 certification
  • Smarter iOS 15

Bad

  • 60 Hz refresh rate
  • FaceID is unwieldy to use while wearing a face mask
  • 20W charging speed
Apple iPhone 13

Apple iPhone 13

Google Pixel 7: The best camera

Google Pixel 7 review
The dual camera module of the Google Pixel 7 with its main lens can “simulate” a 2x optical zoom and up to x8 in digital. / © NextPit

Read the full Google Pixel 7

The Google Pixel family is well-known for its camera performance, and the Pixel 7 is no exception. The Android flagbearer is usually on top of camera comparisons and offers excellent results from both its main 50 MP camera and the 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens.

Being the Google reference phone, the Pixel 7 gets monthly security fixes and is first in line to receive new Android versions. Performance is top-notch, with the same processor used in the flagship Pixel 7 Pro. And all that with excellent battery life, without software bloat and exclusive software features thanks to the Pixel feature drops.

As a tradeoff, the Pixel 7 is limited to a 90 Hz OLED display—while its Android rivals go up to 120 Hz—and the performance of the Tensor G2 chip is not on par with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and 8+ Gen 1.

Good

  • Well-calibrated 90Hz Full HD+ OLED display
  • Premium design (Gorilla Glass Victus, aluminum frame, IP68)
  • Efficient dual camera module
  • Android 13 with lots of exclusive features
  • Excellent battery life
  • Competitive price

Bad

  • No 120 Hz refresh rate
  • 20W wired charging is too slow
  • Back design is less beautiful than last year
  • No significant performance gain between the Tensor G1 and G2
Google Pixel 7

Google Pixel 7

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE: Long-term support

The Galaxy S23 FE is one of the better smartphones out there, actually.
Despite what the critics say, the Galaxy S23 FE is actually a really great smartphone… / © nextpit

Read the Galaxy S23 FE review

After testing the European model, my colleague Casi Drees actually had a lot of good things to say about the phone, despite some questionable choices made by Samsung. The North American version of the Galaxy S23 FE solves the main issue we had in general, replacing the power-hungry Exynos chip used globally with the more efficient Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in the US.

But what makes the Galaxy S23 FE an easy choice in this price range, especially when compared to similar options from Xiaomi and Motorola, is the much better software support provided by Samsung. The S23 FE is promised to receive five years of security updates, with four Android upgrades. And in the past years, Samsung has been delivering on its promise to past models, even retroactively extending support to some.

The result is that not only you will get a capable phone for 2024 in the S23 FE, but it will also stay usable for years to come. Even if your needs outgrow the phone, you will be able to use it as a backup phone, give it to a friend or relative, or even resell it.

Good

  • Great workmanship
  • Great AMOLED display
  • Versatile camera
  • Android 14 with One UI 6.0
  • Solid performance

Bad

  • Too expensive and released too late
  • Too much internal competition
  • Thick bezels
  • Only average battery life
  • No charger included
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

 OnePlus 12R: The right compromises

OnePlus 12R back cover in detail
The OnePlus 12R makes a few hardware cuts from the flagship model to reach its excellent pricepoint. / © nextpit

Read the OnePlus 12R review

The OG flagship killer, OnePlus slowly crept into flagship territory over the years. To counteract that, the company offers its T or R models, with some hardware compromises to reach the $500~$700 price sweetspot. And by all accounts, they nailed it with the OnePlus 12R in 2024.

You will find 2023’s flagship processor, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, a big and crisp OLED display, excellent battery life, and a capable main camera. In return, you will give up some water protection, and high-resolution secondary cameras.

But the main selling point for the OnePlus 12R in the sub-$600 category is probably the battery department. Not only does it come with a big 5500 mAh battery, but it also includes a powerful and fast 100W charger in the box which reaches full charge in less than 30 minutes.

Good

  • Sleek Design
  • Alert Slider Onboard
  • Bright and Vivid Screen
  • Dependable Performance Stability
  • Flexible Photography Options
  • Two Days Battery Life
  • 100W Fast Wired Charging

Bad

  • Bulky Charger Adapter
  • Only IP64 rating
OnePlus 12R

OnePlus 12R

Tips to upgrade your phone and save money

Contract discounts

Flagship and premium phones are the models with the biggest (and best) discounts when buying with a phone contract. That’s why we added contract options in the deals links above, in case you are a customer of one of the mentioned carriers, be sure to check them out!  

Refurbished and used smartphones

If removing the protective film on your new device does not spark joy, you can pick up more expensive smartphones from the second-hand or refurbished market. It is particularly advisable to use devices that carry a refurbished guarantee.

These are used smartphones that have been checked and refurbished by reputable companies to ensure that they are in tip-top condition. Refurbished devices are particularly worthwhile to check out when they come with an extended warranty. This is how you protect yourself when picking one up just in case the handset gives up the ghost just a few weeks down the road.

Do you think we forgot a phone model? What would you change on this list? Share your opinion in the comments below!


Our ‘Best Smartphones Under $600’ list was updated in April 2024 to include new alternative suggestions.



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