Smartphones nowadays are looked at as a status symbol for us. It’s why Apple and the iPhone are still so successful. The funny thing is though, smartphone designs and features have become pretty standard. It’s not even really the actual phone that makes it stand out, it’s the case and maybe how you customize/set up the phone. A lot has changed from even just a few years ago and we want to share a different way of a buying a phone. Put it like this, for 90% of people you can get an amazing smartphone that will do everything you need it do and more, for between $300-$400 and you might even be able to go cheaper. Let’s take a deeper look.
Phones are better than they ever have been- This is the main point that makes all of our proposal even possible to say. Back in the day (4-8 years ago), you almost needed to upgrade your phone every couple of years. The software was improving so much that even within a year, you would be missing a key feature or a huge bug would hinder performance. We were still learning what we could and could not do on a smartphone and features improved so much that getting a new phone drastically could alter how you used a phone. The camera would be a lot better, the screen would be clearer and bigger, and the speeds were improving at a such a fast rate. At this point in time though, nearly every phone is “solid” that it will function fine and be serviceable for at least 2-3 years even with just one software upgrade.
The carriers old tactics- We also had 2 year contracts back in those times and while this has technically been replaced with a phone lease, there still is more flexibility now than there was before. Carriers used to bake in the upgrade cost of the phone even if you did not upgrade your phone. If you did happen to keep your phone past your upgrade date, you were still paying for a new phone even though you were using your old one. Thank goodness this has changed.
The unlocked revolution- Now that more carriers are allowing unlocked phones (whether that is the big 4 or smaller carriers), unlocked phones have taken off and this also helped bring down the cost of phones to purchase while increasing the available options. An unlocked phone means you can basically buy direct from a phone manufacturer, set it up with your carrier, and be good to go. You have more options this way and can save a ton of money buying unlocked phones.
We now see some of the things that have brought phone prices down, made them more stable and reliable, and give you more options than ever at better prices then before. Let’s now look at what we are proposing when buying a phone.
eBay and Amazon are your best friends- If you want to buy used, eBay is the way to go, if you want to buy new, Amazon has great deals on phones. Electronics are one thing that as long as you read the description and know what you are getting and are buying from a reliable seller, you should be in good shape. There is not anything fundamentally different with buying used. You could argue that maybe the battery life might not be as good, but again with phones and battery life improving, even that is not as much of an issue if the battery really is used. At the same time, even phones with non-removable batteries you can still pay someone to put in a new battery for you. Amazon has great deals on phones as well and if you want to buy new, not that you can’t do that on eBay too, but Amazon will have more options for you.
Buy last years model and buy it used- We just talked about buying used above, but let’s take it one step further. We are going to say something that might seem shocking and counter-culture. YOU DO NOT NEED THIS YEARS PHONE! LAST YEARS WILL WORK FOR WHAT YOU NEED. Now obviously there will be exceptions to the rule and we understand that. These days though, a lot of the upgrades are camera (which as long as you are spending decent money on a phone, the cameras are very solid), the screens get bigger/better (although they are already big and again in most cases, very solid), processors get faster (but they already are pretty fast), and maybe a new feature (In-display fingerprint sensor, face unlock, hand gestures, animoji, etc.). Now maybe something in there is what you need and you can justify getting the newest phone. We would argue that if you buy last years model, it will be able to serve 90-95% of your needs.
But I don’t want used- If you don’t want to buy used for whatever reason, there are new phones that have great features for under $400 and sometimes even cheaper. When looking for a phone, you want over a 10 megapixel camera, at least a 720P screen, 4GB of memory/ram, and at least 32GB of storage. If you want an iPhone, you probably can’t get last year’s model for under $400, but you could go back 2 generations and make that price. iPhones do generally hold their value in terms of price and performance better than Android does. Although in terms of long term performance/updates, that gap is closing.
Carrier deals- Sometimes a carrier does offer a great deal and personally I have been sucked into a few deals. After following this advice for years I gave in this past November for the OnePlus 6T. I actually bought a Google Pixel to trade in (paid $130 for it, to get $300 back) and then the plan was to pay off the phone right away. However….you can not do that! Since the trade in is spread out through bill credits, if you pay off your phone, the bill credits go away. They want you to obviously stay so that is the trade off. I was too far into my scheme to go back though so my carrier won. Even though I got a great deal and am happy with the phone, I gave up control to save some money. If I did want to leave T-Mobile for any reason, I would lose all of those bill credits and did all of that work for nothing. This is a good example of credit cards and trying to win the system. You can try, and in some cases you might win, but control is the most powerful thing you can have. When you give it up to get something (which is normally not equal value), you are the one who stands the most to lose.
This turned out to be a longer article then anticipated. The key takeaways are below.
Phones have advanced to a point where the latest isn’t always the greatest and phone performance is so good now that keeping your phone longer isn’t as much of an annoyance as it used to be.
Don’t be afraid to buy used or try different routes to get your phone. Know what you are getting into. Buying last years model used is a great way to have a high performing phone and in some cases save over 50%. It is almost like buying a new car and as soon as you drive it off of the lot, the value deprecates. Be the one who buys the depreciated model!
You can get a great phone for under $400 on Amazon or eBay. There are other sites too, but those are the two that we have had the most success with. Whether the phone is new or used, we promise that it will serve your needs and save you money as well. Your phone can still be a status symbol and not own you.