It’s a common debate for savvy shoppers looking to buy their next phone. Should you buy a new, less expensive phone, or should you buy a flagship phone from the year before. Opening up this question on Twitter over the weekend, I got some excellent response from people, bringing up numerous ideas to consider.
Overwhelmingly, people responding seemed to side with buying a year-old flagship:
If you have $400 or more, that flagship device from last year will serve you better. Also, don’t forget about the used market!
— Nicholas Gray (@nickmgray) November 4, 2017
Last year’s flagship for me. It comes with all the bells and whistles
— EFFI SAHARUDIN 📱 (@1Obefiend) November 4, 2017
Definitely the last year’s flagships. Flagships are the cream of the crop and made to last.
— francis june (@aishiteimasu09) November 5, 2017
Not to mention that even a six month old phone from the same year might be a bargain:
Last year’s flagship.
Here in Europe you might even do well with flagships launched early in the year (S8 and G6 already cost almost half)
— David Baptista Silva (@DBaptistaSilva) November 4, 2017
Several folks brought up features which might make mid-rangers the better option in general:
Depends if you need things like new band support or better battery from the lower range chipsets. Old flagships have many cheap accessories
— al (@alfveba) November 4, 2017
Last year’s flagships usually aren’t as up to date or optimized as a new mid-ranger from my experience. Flagships usually don’t age well tbh
— Kyle T (@kylethephoneguy) November 5, 2017
Depends. A Moto Z2 Play is doing better for me than an LG G5 or last year’s flagship Xperia. It may be different with Samsung.
— 😈 Victor Fermino 😈 (@UncleFermino) November 4, 2017
Generally id say yes, but then you look at the tech inside the Sony Xperia XA1 and for that price it’s an incredible piece of kit.
— Tony Featherstone (@O2GuruTony) November 4, 2017
And of course not all companies support their phones equally:
If the company has good software rapport than Last year flagship, otherwise midrangers are way to go.
— Manu Mishra (@itsMan_U) November 4, 2017
If last year’s flagship has some reliable support and is stable, go for it. If this year’s mid-ranger is just offering better batt, u choose
— Vaibhav Chaudhary (@Vaibhav_cee) November 4, 2017
It should be mentioned though that not all phone model years are equally improved. Some people had concerns about the 2015 year of Qualcomm chipsets:
The key is to look at the couch in thr phone. For example steer clear of any 2015 808 or 810 devices is a good rule of thumb.
— Andrew Wallace (@fatproduce) November 4, 2017
Depends. Snapdragon 810 was also a “last year flagship” SOC at the time. Things are getting better in this department and it’s likely to+
— Akif Emirhan Akyel (@akifakyel) November 4, 2017
There’s a demographic of folks looking to maximize their tech and entertainment dollars. This debate hits home in a number of ways, where some people might value pure processing power, and lifestyle features like enhanced water resistance or flashier design. Other people might be looking for better run time from lower power chipsets.
Many commenters replied with an “it depends”, which is the only correct answer when it comes to thinking about how to spend your money. While this debate online largely focused on Android handsets, several people mentioned using older iPhones, an idea resonating recently with guys like Steve Wozniak commenting on Apple gadget evolution. Especially present at a time where Apple is currently stocking three generations of iPhone in four different form factors.
A current year flagship might not represent enough improvement to justify the additional cost of “new”, against a phone which is often less than a year old. A phone built specifically to hit a lower price point often represents compromises, but can bring a few advantages over more powerful kit. As always, this is a terrific problem to have that from 2016 to 2018, we’ve seen great progress in design, horsepower, and battery life at all price tiers. Consumer choice and competition are key, even if it can be a bit overwhelming for some consumers.