You’ve no doubt heard that the new iPhone X is £1000/$1000, but it isn’t the outlier that most are reporting. Samsung’s latest super-sized smartphone, the Galaxy Note 8, isn’t much cheaper.
Further down the list, the incrementally improved iPhone 8 has received a wince-inducing £100/$50 price hike over last year’s model. Even at the mid-level tier, cult brand OnePlus has strayed above the £400 mark with its latest flagship phone, the OnePlus 5.
That’s not to say that there isn’t value to be had in the smartphone market. Indeed, you might struggle to separate many modern mid-rangers from last-year’s flagships without delving a little deeper.
What that means for avid pocket gamers is that you don’t need to spend top dollar for a good mobile gaming experience.
Here are some of the best phones available from established UK retailers for less than £400 at the time of writing.
The iPhone SE is 18 months old, with a 5-year-old design and a two-year-old CPU. It also features a teeny-tiny 4-inch display.
So how come we’re recommending it here? Simple – because it’s an iPhone.
No, we haven’t been infected by Apple-fanboy disease. We’ve always said that the best gaming phone is an iPhone, irrespective of hardware deficiencies, because the App Store has the best and latest games.
The iPhone SE arguably doesn’t offer as good an all-round experience as the other phones on this list. But it undoubtedly has access to a better library of games, which is primarily what we’re all here for.
Moto Z2 Play
The Moto Z2 Play continues Motorola’s still-rather-unique modular approach, which enables you to stick components on to the back of the phone.
But never mind about that. The Moto Z2 Play is a very good mid-range phone regardless of gimmicks, with a slim design, a crisp 5.5-inch AMOLED screen, stock Android 7.1.1, and a capable (if not outstanding) Snapdragon 626 CPU.
It also lasts ages in between charges, with impressive battery life for a such a skinny device.
The Honor 9 offers an all-round great experience and an attractively shiny glass design for less than £400. It’s not just a nice looker though.
Huawei’s HiSilicon Kirin 960 CPU, while not a mainstream chip, has plenty of raw power for playing games smoothly – particularly in conjunction with either 4GB or 6GB of RAM.
Meanwhile, a 5.15-inch 1080p display makes for a pleasantly pixel-dense yet pocket-friendly viewing experience.
Samsung Galaxy A5
Samsung makes the prettiest phones around, but its low and mid-range offerings don’t always benefit from the company’s flagship effort. Thankfully, the Galaxy A5 does.
Besides a classy design, the A5 offers a 5.2-inch 1080p Super AMOLED display that’s one of the nicest on this list.
Its custom Samsung Exynos 7880 CPU isn’t up there with the fastest, but will still see you through most 3D games without a hitch.
The Huawei P10 is out now, but that means you can pick up its predecessory for less than £400.
This is a handsome all-metal phone with an excellent dual-lens camera from none other than Leica.
It’s a capable performer too, with a Kirin 955 CPU and a decent 5.2-inch 1080 x 1920 display. Shame about the ugly EMUI skin, which it shares with the Honor 9.
For £50 more
Willing to stretch your budget that little bit further? If you’ve got another £50 to play with, you’ll open up a couple of intriguing options.
£450 gets you a brand new iPhone 6S from Apple. Yes, it’s two years old now, and you’re not exactly future-proofing yourself. But right now the iPhone 6S is plenty capable enough, with the same A9 CPU as can be found in the iPhone SE and (crucially for ongoing support) this year’s fifth-generation iPad.
You’re also getting yourself a 4.7-inch display with 3D Touch support, which is a considerable improvement on the aforementioned SE.
In terms of Android, £450 gets you a OnePlus 5, which made our list of money-no-object gaming phones. This is a slick, well-made smartphone with a vibrant 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display and an extremely fast CPU/RAM setup.
Alternatively, you might be able to secure yourself a LG G6, which pipped the Galaxy S8 (not to mention the iPhone X) with its edge-to-edge 5.7-inch display. It’s not as fast as the OnePlus, though, and its custom UI is a little OTT.