Outcome: We settled on buying the Realme pro 7 for camera performance/price… Thx for all the help!
An even better silver lining was a mate dropped off a Samsung S9 Plus he no longer needed (bonus - as we were placing the order)…. and I'll drop him a few cases of beer instead.
Thx for all the tips. Made it so much easier. The Pixel 3a was the next best choice in value (for us) and the pixel 4a highly desired (more storage) but needing a deal… to clinch it.
iPhone SE V2 (2020) worthy option and only removed as we are on google ecosystem at home (speakers/displays)
My dearest wife drop tested the Note 8 Plus (X-large) I gave her some time ago because "too big for my hands" - put it in another casing and it lasted for quite some time, but now has this weird mode where the screen slowly fades to full brightness white and no useful response. Samsung Dex works fine on my mac USB-C screen and keyboard setup, so just screen or light sensor or something else.
Repair quote > $400 (backglass small crack too). Doesn't sound worth it for a 3.5-year-old phone
She loved the camera. Before that, she had the Xiaomi 5s.
Priorities - in order:
* Camera (Kids and stuff
* NFC (payments)
* Smaller hands friendly
Apps: Mail, Signal (Whatsapp), text, various basic apps.
Not so important: Screen. Processor. RAM. Etc. no gaming.
So I thought the Pico X3 NFC could be a good replacement, but the camera appears average to not great from reviews.
Maybe this Redmi Note 10 plus deal? Size may be an issue. and wait time too long… https://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/608445
Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 US$169.40 (~A$218.53) & Redmi Note 10 Pro US$246.40 (~A$317.87) Delivered @ Hong Kong Goldway AliExpress
Any other phone/deal suggestions that are a balance between waiting and the best price? We will pay a bit more than best price to source the phone sooner.