Now is a great time to go shopping for a new smartphone. It’s the holidays, or in retail terms “the gift giving season”, so this is one of the few times every year that all manufacturers are competing against each other to try and grab your attention with the best deals on their line-up of phones. While many people are of course keen to flock to the latest and greatest (with good reason - you can get some pretty sweet deals on those phones too) you can bet a pretty penny or two that you’ll find an even better deal on last year’s flagships as well.
If you choose to go the route of purchasing one of last year’s flagships this year, you’re going to be faced with a couple of sacrifices in the process. On the one hand, you’ll be saving a good chunk of money - especially if you’re looking for a brand new phone and signing a two year contract. On the other hand, you’re not getting the latest and greatest, and by hopping on the wagon a year later you’re even potentially risking missing out on updates 2-3 years down the road. But since contracts only lock you in for 2 years (or less) it’s really nothing to worry about. Most flagships will continue to receive updates at least two years in.
Even if your phone stopped receiving updates before you’re done with the phone, sometimes it’s for the best - take it from somebody who absolutely refused to install iOS 8 on their iPhone 4S. I saw the horror stories that came out of that update for that phone, and all I have to say that is no thank you sir. Software updates are nice, but they’re not the most important thing in a phone. The most important thing is making sure that the phone is functional and runs smoothly. You don’t want a software update to jeopardize that.
Another nice thing about checking out last year’s flagships is that you don’t necessarily have to sign a 2-year contract in order to avoid paying an arm and a leg for your phone. At this point, it’s not hard to find used or refurbished models for cheeeeeeeeap. Many places that sell these models also include a warranty of some sort, so you’ll know within the first month whether there’s something seriously wrong with the phone you got. You can find the HTC One (M7), Samsung Galaxy S4, or the LG G2 for under $350 - that’s almost half the price that you would be paying for the current generation of these phones. There’s also the Nexus 5, but apparently it’s out of stock until next year sometime.
I realize that we do a lot of write-ups assuming that everybody is just positively flocking to the new flagships, and never realizing that there are people out there who just don’t have the money or the ability to upgrade every year to the newest flagship phones. I myself have been piddling around with phones that are 2-3 years old all year long as I hummed and hawed over which phone I wanted, and I ended up settling on an iPhone 5s. It was cheaper, it was pretty much exactly what I needed in terms of size (one-handed use is extremely important in my life right now) and despite the fact that the phone is over a year old at this point, I don’t truly feel like I’m missing out on anything by deciding against the iPhone 6 instead.
So if you’re in the market for a new smartphone, take a look at what this year’s flagships have to offer if that’s what you need - but if you think you don’t need all that they offer, or you’d rather purchase something more affordable, don’t be afraid to go back a year and check out some of those phones as well. You might find that, for whatever reason, an older model just suits you better in the end anyway - and it saves you cash!