At the beginning of the year, you’re probably thinking about smartphones and how they pertain to you. You’re also thinking about how much the month of January sucked in terms of expenses. If you’re a student, you’ve probably got both of these points very much in mind. So why not combine them?
There are high-end smartphones everywhere you look these days. Trouble is, those handsets come with high-end pricing. Believe it or not, you don’t have to spend flippin’ great big wodges of cash in order to have an excellent smartphone in your pocket. We’ve collected a handful of smartphones available in South Africa today that’ll deliver a quality experience without you having to drop in excess of R20,000. In fact, you’ll get away with paying less than half of that (in most cases).
Here are the phones you should consider if you’re on a back-to-school budget this year.
Redmi Note 11 Pro — It’s almost unbelievable
The Redmi line of smartphones tends to be, mostly, affordable. Some are more affordable than others, of course, and the Note 11 Pro is one of those. You’re getting a 6.7in 120Hz Super AMOLED display for just R6.5k. Xiaomi packed a 108MP camera sensor into the quad camera array but you have to know that the large number is a distraction from the relatively teeny other sensors.
Coming in this far under the R10,000 mark, you also know that there are other concessions made. One of MediaTek’s Helio G96 chipsets powers the whole thing, you’ll snag 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for the price of admission, and there’s a 5,000mAh battery keeping the lights on. It’s not the very best smartphone Redmi has offered in this lineup — that award goes to the Note 10 Pro — but you’re still getting loads of smartphone for your money.
Samsung A53 5G — Skilled all-round
Samsung really wants you to love its mid-range lineup. Even its budget Galaxy A phones are worth paying attention to but if you’re looking to spend a little less than R10k, the Galaxy A53 is one of the better smartphones around. Samsung’s smartphones at the top end have mostly dropped Exynos (for some reason) but the A53 contains an Exynos 1280. It’ll get more than the job done, to the point that this 128GB/6GB smartphone actually offers up decent gaming performance. If you’re planning on trouncing fools online, this 6.5in smartphone can make that happen. You just need to supply the skills.
Elsewhere, an IP67 rating means you’ll have a tough time killing it. Even the dreaded toilet-dunk should prove ineffective. Samsung’s gone for a more… capable camera spread for its rear quad camera, with a 64MP main sensor followed by a 12MP secondary and dual 5MP lenses helping your snaps to stand out. A 5,000mAh battery seems like an industry standard now, unless you’re Apple, and there’s also a 32MP front camera. For some reason.
iPhone SE — The ‘affordable’ one
There’s only one way for one of Apple’s smartphones to turn up on a list of affordable smartphones. The iPhone SE, annoyingly, loves to edge its pricing out of range. Right now, the official cost of Apple’s cheapest mobile device? R11,600. We’d have stuck it here anyway because it’s close enough to ‘affordable’ to poke with a stick, but there’s a small price drop at the time of writing. So it has that going for it, which is nice.
For your money, you’ll snag the smallest device here. The display is just 4.7in in size, there’s a large chin-and-forehead up front, that mere 64GB of storage, and there’s that single 12MP camera sensor. Doesn’t really seem worth the money, right? But then you look closer at the A15 Bionic chipset, IP67 waterproof rating, and the fact that Apple made the bloody thing and you’ll realise that this is the most powerful device on this list. You can deal with the scaled-back camera and screen oddities, surely?
Poco X4 Pro 5G — Game of phones
The Poco X4 Pro is a strange phone from a strange brand. See, Xiaomi launched Redmi as a budget lineup. But then Redmi got big so Poco came along. Now Poco is so big that it’s its own brand as well. But in order to stand out, you’ll see some design weirdness from the company. The rear camera bump in particular is particularly obnoxious. But you’re judging a book by its cover now. There’s nothing wrong with that 120Hz 6.67in Super AMOLED screen, for instance.
Inside, you’ll find the most powerful Snapdragon on this listing — the Snapdragon 695. 6GB of RAM and a mighty 256GB of storage make it an attractive buy in the power stakes and there’s even an attempt at an IP rating to look forward to. It’s just IP53, so it’ll shrug off any dust and it’ll handle sprays of water, but it’s better than nothing (which is what your current phone has). A 5,000mAh battery and 67W fast-charging round the features out.
Honor X8 5G — Sacrifices were made
We’re awfully glad that Honor has made it back into South Africa. The lineup still closely resembles Huawei’s kit from the good old days, which means that even the affordable stuff should prove to be a crowd-pleaser. Hence, the X8 5G. But while this is the best of these smartphones in terms of budget, the spread of available features could be better.
The Honor X8 uses a 6.5in TFT display at a mere 720 x 1,600. A Snapdragon 480+ (which is still a 5G chipset) handles whatever work you throw at it and there’s 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage to play with. Most of the budget seems to have been thrown at the 48MP main camera sensor. You shouldn’t be too miffed at the performance on offer but if you could have scraped up an extra seven hundred bucks for the Redmi Note 11 Pro (or R1,200 for the Poco) and didn’t… yeah, you might feel a little upset.