Why You Don't Need An iPhone X, Or Any Other Expensive New Phone

Hold on just a moment before you drop $1579 (or more!) on an iPhone X - or another expensive phone from Samsung, Google, or anyone else. Do you really need that flagship handset? The list of reasons not to buy one of the latest and most expensive phones gets longer every year.

An example of a 2017 flagship. Image: Apple

Mid-Range Phones Are Better Than Ever

The Moto G5 Plus, a bargain. Image: Motorola

In the not-too-distant past, buying a mid-range phone meant a woefully out-of-date operating system, sluggish performance straight out of the box, and cameras that could easily be outperformed by the webcam on the front of your laptop.

That situation has changed, and has been changing for a while. Today's mid-rangers come with at least Full HD screens, performance that won't make you want to throw them at the wall in frustration, and cameras that do a fine job unless you're trying to shoot photos in the shadows or enter a photography competition.

The Moto G5 Plus, for example, has a good claim to being the best budget phone of the year. For $300, you get a capable Snapdragon 625 processor, a 5-inch 1920x1080 pixel screen, and a generous 4GB of RAM - that's the same amount of RAM as you'll find in, say, the Samsung Galaxy S8.

We're not trying to pretend there's no noticeable difference in performance between the various phone tiers, because there is, but whether it's actually worth the price markup is another question. When's the last time you ventured outside the likes of WhatsApp and Twitter to do something that really pushed your phone's hardware?

Flagships Aren't Innovating Year-On-Year

The Pixel 1, still a fine phone. Image: Google

In most cases, last year's flagships are still on sale - if you want to hit the refurb and eBay market then you can go back even further in time even further. Are the 2017 versions better? Yes. By all that much? No, not really.

Consider this: The $849 iPhone 7 can do everything the $1579 iPhone X can, except charge wirelessly and unlock your phone with your face. Oh and the screen's a bit smaller and the bezels are a bit thicker. That's $730 worth of difference in price for two features that you might not find all that useful anyway.

Alternatively, try picking out the differences between the rear-facing camera on the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the equivalent one on the Samsung Galaxy S8. We'll give you a clue - there aren't any, save for some slightly smarter image processing tricks available on the newer model. Both these phones feature a 12-megapixel f/1.7 snapper with optical image stabilisation.

This is the way the market is now: A little waterproofing here, a little wireless charging there, a bump up in speed. While there's no doubt the Pixel 2 is a better phone than the original Pixel, the latter will cost you $270 less, has a bigger battery, and comes with a headphone jack.

The Prices Keep Rising

Get your cash out for the iPhone X. Image: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

You've no doubt noticed that the iPhone X starts at $1579, while the Samsung Galaxy S8+ will set you back $999, and the Google Pixel 2 XL is pegged at the $1399 mark.

Those are pretty steep prices, and the trend only seems to be going one way. It's been a long time since a flagship phone appeared from the big-name manufacturers that was priced significantly below expectations (Nexus 5, anyone?).

It's your money, obviously, but you could opt to keep your current phone and spend that $1500 on a brand new laptop, or buy a plane ticket to, you know, anywhere in the world. Or maybe you could buy (nearly) three freaking iPhone SE handsets.

The high prices would be slightly easier to stomach if the mid-range phones out there were only a short distance behind, but that's not the case. For instance, you can pick up the very decent Nokia 6 with stock Android for $399. With each passing year, the choice of cheaper, better value phones gets wider.

You Won't Miss Out On Apps Or Updates

iOS 11, not an iPhone X exclusive. Image: Apple

As we mentioned above, a lot of the improvements to this year's flagships are cosmetic - in terms of the software on board, and the apps you can run, they're almost identical to mid-range handsets and the flagships of yesteryear. iOS 11, for example, will run on anything from the iPhone 5S onwards, the Instagram app for iOS will run on any device that can handle iOS 9.0, and so on.

Over on the Google side of the fence, Android has a well-publicised problem with fragmentation, but considering that all of Google's apps update separately from the OS, it's not as a big a deal as you might imagine. Android itself is now basically a bunch of underlying protocols and settings - the headline new feature in Android 8.0 Oreo is being able to snooze notifications - so those of you on 6.0 and 7.0 aren't missing out too much.

To be clear, it's better to be on the most recent OS updates, and your apps are going to be snappier on newer hardware, but the point is that these differences are becoming smaller and smaller with each round of flagship launches.

Maybe you're still going to splurge on the iPhone X and really make the most of that new wireless charging feature Apple introduced this year. Or maybe you're already in love with your Samsung Galaxy S8 and watch a ton of Netflix on its lovely display. For the majority of us, though, the flagship appeal just isn't what it used to be.

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Comments

    I've just ditched a cheap phone for a brand new S8 and couldn't be happier with my decision. My old phone was absolutely awful. Basic functions just didn't work. WiFi connections were horrific, the OS was frustratingly slow, to the point it was taking 1-2 seconds to take a photo, which makes catching a toddler clearly even harder than it already it is, and I never did adapt to the keyboard which seemed a mm or two off in terms of picking up finger presses.

    Every time I think of upgrading from my three year old OnePlus One, I have to ask myself what the latest models would do that it doesn't.

    Damnit. Nothing significant! Phones have hit the boring "good enough for almost everything" plateau that PCs hit many years ago.

    $1579 for a phone? wow things have changed since I last had a mobile

    Over on the Google side of the fence, Android has a well-publicised problem with fragmentation, but considering that all of Google's apps update separately from the OS, it's not as a big a deal as you might imagine.

    Stop making excuses for Google.

    If they can update Google apps, they can update the OS.

      They can and they do.

      However, Google only controls the rollout of Android OS on its own devices - previously the Nexus line and now the Pixel line. The rollout on other devices for the most part is controlled by the various phone manufacturers...eg Samsung, LG, Sony, Motorola, Nokia, Huawei, etc. Google can't just push OTA updates to these devices on their own - the manufacturers need to do that themselves as they need to do their own round of testing with their custom UIs and what not. Sometimes carriers feel the need to get involved as well (even though they don't for Apple) - for example Telstra may block an Android update because they haven't tested it on their network yet. This is why OS updates on these devices are often delayed, or worse still never come at all.

      Updating Google apps is a different case - because they are apps. Updating those is no different to updating any other apps that are installed on your phone. Updating the OS is an entirely different case.

      Having said that, we are seeing some manufacturers make more of an effort to stay on top of their OS updates recently - notably Nokia has been rolling them out like clockwork on their new range of Android phones. Sony have also started being pretty good with it, and Motorola have been acceptable too.

      He's not making excuses for Google. Google regularly updates the OS on their own devices and that's all they CAN do. Google doesn't control every phone manufacturer and updates on those devices are up to makers of those devices, not Google.

    Current phone covers everything I want: decent speed, wireless charging (via branded accessory), changeable battery and expandable storage. Not to mention still being alive after 10+ decent drops. Camera is average, but I'm no photographer. Fingerprint sensor is annoying, so it gets turned off.

    Once it dies I'll very likely get another S5 just because it ticks all the boxes.

    Totally agree that the latest smartphone features just don't make me want to upgrade, I'm still on my iPhone 6 and haven't had any issues apart from battery life dropping. The new AR capabilities would be nice to have but I'm not sold on the facial ID tech yet.

      Had similar battery issues with my iPhone 6 so youtubed a video showing how to replace the battery and found one plus a tool kit on ebay for $15 delivered, still not sure if i'll upgrade in a few years as it does all I want it too.

    I have a samsung J1 Mini.

    Does pretty much everything a Galaxy or Note does, just in a size that can actually fit in your pocket comfortably.

    Plus it was $99.00 unlocked from Optus, so if it breaks I’ll just go buy another one.

    I went from an S4 to an S8+. When you do that it actually feels like an upgrade. Most people don't need the kind of power modern phones have, they are just impressionable and need to keep up with the Joneses.

    Enjoy your unnecessary debt.

      So you spent a ton of money on the latest flagship, then chide others for doing the same?

      K.

        I didn't spend a ton of money I got a grey import which brought the cost down considerably, I didn't go into any debt or long terms contracts and I have no plans on upgrading for a few years.

        K?

    My mate is still using a Siemens m35i mobile I gave him 11 years ago. He finds replacement batteries on eBay.

    Know what? His life is no worse than mine, or yours for that matter.

    I respectfully disagree.

    If you own a phone from more than two years ago, the chances are it didn't have a great battery to start with. Manufacturers made plenty of compromises either being Apple, or chasing Apple and slimming their phones down and reducing battery life. After a few years of everyday use, that battery is no better. A phone without a working battery is a brick, and if you actually use a phone during your day you want something that works.

    As of late 2017 battery life has started to get back to where it was pre-smartphone, and I'm very much looking forward to having something that will allow me to use Google Maps to get to my destination, listen to a podcast, and then actually make a call on the way home. This is surprisingly hard when you own an iPhone 6.

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