Collectively as a global society, we all love smartphones. In a way it’s our guilty pleasure to fork out large sums of money for a little pocket computer, but don't get caught out in 2016 paying more than you should for one. Ask yourself this, when was the last time you saw crowds of desperate customers camping outside a store for the release of a new laptop or TV?
My thoughts exactly, you don’t. It’s the advertisers job to mislead us into believing we can't live without the latest handset and all its "amazing" new features. Is buying one every year really necessary though? Here are four of the pre-conceived ideas about smartphones which lead many to believe that paying a premium for enhanced features is worth it, when in reality you're simply not getting good value for money.
The following ideologies are what marketing campaigns lead us to believe when it comes to creating burning desires towards owning the latest model of smartphone. The majority of our savvy deal hunters on Buckscoop will be aware of these dubious statements, but do you agree with them?
"Always buy higher resolution screens"
You’ve probably heard that if you have more pixels on your screen, the better the picture will be. Well, that’s not exactly true. Whilst it might technically be true that more pixels can display text and images with greater clarity, it gets to a certain point when the human eye can’t even distinguish the difference. The figure that is loosely thrown around is that the human eye can’t recognise any difference past 300-400 pixels per inch (ppi).
Lets put this into perspective, the latest Samsung Galaxy S6, LG G4 and Galaxy Note 5 all have displays of 2560 x 1440 which is actually more than most HDTVs. That resolution means these phones have over 500 ppi, which is more than the human eye can notice, let alone greater than what most video sources can display. The only way you can really appreciate the difference is if you are a mobile phone gamer, but even then, who wants to do serious gaming on their phone?
The simple fact is that manufacturers love to cram as many pixels in as possible, because it’s the easiest and cheapest way to compete with other companies. Bigger numbers sound better, right? If manufacturers concentrated on display types (LCD vs LED), colour calibration and viewing angles the screen wouldn’t need half the amount of pixels.
However, people aren’t interested in whether a smartphone's colour calibration adheres to the standard sRGB/Rec.709 Colour Gamut, but they can tell which screen has more pixels. So, don’t let a salesperson sway you towards a more expensive handset simply because the device has more pixels.
"Slimmer is better"
Manufacturers have been peddling this notion since the 1980’s when phones literally were the size of bricks. Then, it was a great excuse to buy a phone which wasn’t the same size as your shoe. These days, however, it’s simply a way of getting you to shell out another $1,000 to have a couple of mm’s shaved off your previous phones dimensions. Samsung recently removed the removable microSD slot from its S6 and S6 Edge flagship smartphone, claiming it was done in efforts to improve the mobile phones performance and stability.
The only problem now is that phones are so slim and fragile (e.g. iPhones 'Bendgate' embarrassment), we are having to put extra protective cases around them, which only increase the size back to the previous models dimensions (which happened to be within a more robust casing anyway). It’s beginning to sound slightly counter productive and certainly poor value for money.
Ultimately, make your decision based on how a phone sits in your hand and how comfortable it feels to hold for longer periods. Slimmer isn’t necessarily going to make the phone easier to hold, and an easily broken phone is no not a good purchase no matter which way you look at it.
"We need to buy the latest phone every year"
Phone manufacturers are talented artists when it comes to marketing their latest flagship models. Apple, for example, keeps everything a secret until the release date, creating suspense and allure towards its latest edition. If they had it their way, we would buy the new model every year. This is exactly what Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program is designed to achieve, the only problem is that with this program you're effectively renting the phone which means you can sell it the following year to recoup some of the costs of buying the latest model. Something you need to consider before signing up as you'll end up paying quite a bit more overall if you don't sell the previous handset each year.
Another aspect which baffles me is the fact that these phones cost as much as a high spec laptop, yet we don’t buy a new laptop every year or even a new tablet or TV. So why should we feel the need to do so with mobile phones?
Of course, older phones sometimes struggle with newer updates and their batteries often deteriorate rapidly after the first year of use. However, think about it this way, any new phone is going to feel like a substantial upgrade compared to a 2 or 3 year old handset. So is getting the latest, most expensive flagship model really necessary?
Take the Motorola Moto G, it’s ridiculously cheap for the amount of tech it’s got packed inside. It will probably be out of date in 2 years like any other mobile phone but it costs a fraction of the newest flagship models. Essentially, depreciation is far less, meaning you lose less money which gives you far better value for money.
Locked into a Carrier
Generally speaking, buying a new handset every two years is derived from the 24-month contract terms that network carriers lock their customers into. When the contract expires, the carrier offers a new 24-month contract with a shiny new handset to go with it. They also charge you more for your phone in the long run than you would have paid if you bought it out-right in the beginning. Plus, it allows carriers to control the market and tariffs. Imagine if you could only buy your car from Shell, BP or Caltex and that you could only drive where you could fill up with fuel (the latter being a common issue with mobile phone carriers who don’t provide strong enough coverage in certain areas).
On top of this, a branded carrier phone also receives software updates later than cheaper unlocked phones. Why should we have to wait when we are committing two years of finances to that company, surely they should be investing in making our experience better than buying from the open market?
In my experience, I would always advise buying a handset first and then picking your provider. It’s cheaper in the long run and you have the flexibility to sell the handset when you want to switch to a newer model. You will also be able to decide whether to upgrade your plan as and when you see fit. This depends on whether you can afford to pay for the phone upfront, of course, but assuming you can, then buying a new smartphone outright is the best way to go. If you don't have the cash upfront, then second hand phones are a great alternative (from sites like eBay or Gumtree).
At the end of the day, if a mobile phone makes and receives calls and text messages, plus has the ability to connect to the Internet, it’s a smartphone. It doesn’t need to cost over $1,000 to achieve these simple tasks and just like your laptop, it wont need upgrading every year. Don’t let manufacturers use the above points to persuade you to pay more money when it’s not always necessary.