There’s no getting round the fact that many modern smartphones are expensive. The latest flagship models from Apple and Google are already both tipping the thousand dollar mark. With the Samsung Galaxy S9 also rumored to be in for a significant price rise from the S8, it looks like the 4-figure smartphone is here to stay.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Or does it? Is it smart to buy high and keep the phone for longer, or is it better to buy cheaper and not worry about when you have to buy a replacement?
Obviously, there are benefits in buying the latest, greatest models from major manufacturers. The technology will usually be cutting edge, and support is easy to find. Android releases are usually pushed first to high-end models, and Apple certainly update iOS to push the latest hardware to its limits.
But does it really have to be a case of go-big-or-go-home? It really depends on what you want, mixed in with a huge chunk of buyer beware. Although the latest tech upgrades are great, and we all love new toys, it does have its price. A thousand dollars isn’t small change for any average person, and it doesn’t mean your phone will last any longer than one a a third of the price or less.
With the news that Apple have been deliberately slowing older phones down to force people to upgrade, things took a slightly sinister twist. And by “older”, Apple meant anything pre-iPhone 6. Pre-iPhone 4, you could probably argue wouldn’t be such a big deal, but Apple were penalizing people using phones just 3 years old. Also, both Google and Apple make sure to stop offering updates to older devices. Google Nexus devices just over 2 years old never saw the Android 7 update, for example.
It is this overt resistance to keep anything but new devices relevant which makes paying big bucks for a smartphone a very risky strategy.
Because of what goes on with older devices, you have a couple of choices. You can either look a little lower down the current ranges of all the available manufacturers, or look at an older model with better technology. Either way, updates to the OS will stop sooner than they will for new, high-end devices. Don’t let that put you off, though.
There are a ton of people still using things like a Samsung Galaxy S5 or an iPhone 4. Unless they’re trying to run some really graphic-intensive games, they’re also using them quite happily. And that’s the key. With smartphones, it isn’t so much about what they can do, but what you want them to do. Even today, with ultra-fast connections, the majority of time on smartphones is still spent on email, text, and social media. You don’t need to spend a thousand dollars for that.
And that’s basically what a new iPhone or Galaxy S is, a status symbol. With the exception of things like retina and face recognition, there’s little you can do on those phones that you can’t do on a Motorola Nexus 6 at $299, or an LG G Vista 2 at less than $200. Especially when LG are giving you 13MP and 5MP cameras, a 1080p Full HD display and an 8-core processor. In theory, you could replace the LG G Vista 2 five times before being out of pocket, compared to an iPhone X.
Manufacturers know, of course, that there are enough early adopters out there to make any new device profitable. There are also a lot of alternate-release upgraders who make annual releases more than worthwhile.
However, a more annoying reason why technology moves on is lazy app developers. Right from the early days of PCs, if you gave a programmer a new bit of technology, he would write a program that used every ounce of the power it had. The same rule applies today, unfortunately. Instead of working hard to get software to be as good as it can be, it’s often a case of it doing what it does because of the hardware, and not in spite of it.
But, thankfully, such things tend to be restricted to games. As long as something isn’t ridiculously heavy on the graphics processor, it doesn’t need all the newest hardware.
Buy that thousand-dollar-old-in-two-years smartphone if you really must. You’ll be getting a great device if you do. But, if you’re not someone who chases the kudos such trinkets bring, then look at other smartphones.
As time passes, more and more mid-range and budget smartphones will appear, giving you even more choice. Think about it, that iPhone that was the best thing ever in 2015 is still the same phone. Unlike us humans, wrinkles and creaking knees aren’t a problem.
There’s also no guarantee that a brand new, top of the range smartphone will last any longer than any other. They’re usually no tougher or more hard-wearing than a device costing half as much.
Save yourself a few hundred dollar and buy smart(phones).