1 – Samsung Galaxy A32
R4,500 | samsung.com/za
You’re probably asking yourself, ‘Why is this thing still here?’ And that’s a fair question. The reason is: It’s cheap, it gets the job done, and you can still buy ’em from Samsung. The Galaxy A32, when it launched in 2021, was a great addition to Samsung’s budget arsenal. At R4,500, it still is. It’s packing a decent roster of internals, lead by a 6.4in Super AMOLED display.
Inside, there’s a MediaTek Helio G80, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (in South Africa, anyway). A 5,000mAh battery and a surprisingly skilled camera are present. There’s also a 5G version of this phone, but, remarkably, that’s not the one you want. In order to keep the price more or less on par, Samsung turfs some of the best features in favour of speedier internet. 4G is the way to go with this budget banger.
But even so, expect it to be supplanted. Rather soon, in fact.
2 – Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G
from R6,400 | vodacom.co.za
Look, this phone is better in every way than the Galaxy A32. It’s got a larger screen (6.5in), and it’s toting 5G and 6GB of RAM. Even the cameras are about the same, even if the A52s has a slight edge over its rival. So why is it sitting in second place? Two reasons — it’s R2,000 more expensive and the A32’s battery is larger. That said, this phone hits all the right notes. But the advantages over our front-runner aren’t enough to let it take the crown. Maybe one day, Galaxy A52s. Maybe one day.
3 – Xiaomi Note 10 Pro
R5,000 | takealot.com
Look, we get that there’s a new Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro out there. We really do. But while the Note 10 Pro was a cheaper powerhouse, the Note 11 Pro was… kind of a disappointment. If we wanted to experience that, we’d go visit our parents. There’s all sorts of great stuff going on under the hood here. A 120Hz display, HDR, a huge main camera sensor — but there’s no 5G. That’s why Samsung’s slightly less powerful contender is at #2 instead of this one. And why this one is here rather than the Redmi Note 11 Pro.
4 – Poco X4 Pro
R7,000 | incredible.co.za
The Poco X3 Pro should be sitting here, but it turns out you can’t buy those anymore. Huh. This one will do just fine as well, though. For one, it’s prettier than its immediate predecessor. Throw in very serviceable mid-range specs, a screen even Samsung would be wary of (they probably made it), and a 5,000mAh battery and the X4 Pro is a contender. It doesn’t hurt that there’s 67W fast-charging, right out of the box, as well as a compatible charge block. Xiaomi isn’t following the ‘let them buy extras’ trend set by the bigger companies. Not yet, anyway. Also, the camera isn’t bad, but that 108MP sensor is overkill.
5 – Oppo A15
R2,500 | incredible.co.za
You’d think that costing a mere R2,500 would have the Oppo A15 right up there on the podium. Well, there’s cheap, and then there’s cheap. We’ll leave it up to you to guess which this is. Actually, we’ll just tell you. This handset is getting on a bit, but as an entry-level smartphone it’s hard to beat. It’s got a Helio P35 at its heart, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. The camera setup is serviceable, the 6.52in 720p screen does the job, and the battery lasts longer than you’d expect. You get a fair amount of phone for two and a half grand, but it’ll probably be bumped down our list fairly quickly.