It’s the holiday season, and lots of people are thinking about upgrading their phones.
Tons of great new phones came out in 2018. Apple launched three new phones — the iPhone XR, XS and XS Max— Google released the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, Samsung had its Galaxy S9 and Note 9, and even OnePlus debuted two impressive phones with the OnePlus 6 and 6T.
You might find some great Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or holiday-related deals for these phones. And if you are dead set on upgrading for one reason or another, then you’ll be happy with a new phone, especially if it was made this year.
That said, unless your smartphone is extremely old and struggling with its current software, I would highly recommend holding onto your current smartphone for as long as you can.
Smartphones are more expensive than ever
It’s true that smartphones are better than ever in 2018. But they’re also more expensive than they’ve ever been.
Apple, as usual, set the trend last year when it released the iPhone X, a radically redesigned smartphone with a radically high starting price of $999. The year prior, the starting price of the company’s newest iPhone, the iPhone 7, was just $649.
Other smartphone manufacturers were quick to catch on to Apple’s idea to set even higher prices for smartphones. Samsung’s Note 9 also cost $999 to start at launch, but could cost $1,250. LG’s new phones for 2018, the G7 Thinq and V40 Thinq, started at $750 and $900, respectively. The iPhone XR, which looks like the iPhone X but has a lower-quality screen, started at $750. Even Google’s Pixel 3, with its starting price of $800, is $150 more expensive than the starting price of last year’s Pixel 2 phone.
For the most part, the best smartphones you can buy will easily cost you over $700 — and once you add the cost of insurance (you should) and a case or two, you’re paying close to $900 or even $1,000. And, of course, if you want the best iPhone experience you can get, your starting price is $1,000.
The best way to get around exorbitant smartphone prices is to hold onto your current smartphone for as long as you can
There’s a silver lining to all of these high smartphone prices: Smartphones are so good and so powerful now that they should last you quite awhile.
If you bought a smartphone in the last two years, there’s a good chance your smartphone is still in excellent condition. Smartphone chips have gotten extremely powerful to the point of overkill, but plenty of chips released in 2016 are still more than powerful enough to handle most smartphone tasks. Even the iPhone 6S, first released in late 2015, is still an incredible phone.
Plenty of people upgrade their smartphones because they see signs of aging. But instead of buying an entirely new phone, consider replacing its battery: Slowed performance can sometimes be due to an old battery, and replacing it will often make a phone feel like new.
But if it’s not a battery issue, and you’re convinced you want to upgrade because you think the latest smartphones are pretty, answer this question: Do you really want a phone with a notch, that dreaded cut-out at the top of the phone’s display that usually houses some form of camera system?
The fact is, we’re living in the Notch Era— again, you can blame Apple for this — where every smartphone maker is trying to recreate the success of the iPhone X by mimicking that phone’s signature design. It’s unfortunate because the notch design isn’t particularly attractive, and Android phone makers missed a golden opportunity to leapfrog Apple with better designs, but chose not to.
So if you want a new phone, that’s great, but all of the best phones in 2018 have notches: The iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max lead the way, but Google’s Pixel 3 XL, OnePlus’ 6 and 6T phones, LG’s Thinq phones, the Asus Zenfone, Huawei’s P20 Pro, and countless others all have notches. In a twist from the early days of smartphones, Samsung’s phones are the major exception, and have not participated in the new notch trend.
To recap: Smartphones are better than ever, but they’re also really expensive, and they’re not markedly better than they were from a few years ago to justify those higher prices.
And it’s not like the newest smartphones are much more attractive than they were before. On the contrary: with so many notches on smartphones now, it’s best to wait until new, better-looking designs come along, because they most certainly will.
So, if you can, save your money. Consider replacing your phone’s battery before getting an entirely new one. By getting the most value from your current purchase, you won’t feel so bad about spending a lot of money when you eventually need to upgrade.