Must you purchase an outdated flagship or a brand new price range cellphone?

In the event you’re like us, you are all the time drooling over no matter gadget is on the horizon. Positive, you could possibly have a look at older {hardware} or take into account holding onto your present gadget for an additional few months. Nonetheless, when each evaluation praises no matter cellphone Samsung or Google simply launched, protecting your pockets in your pocket will be powerful. However smartphones are dearer than ever earlier than, and with inflation on each client’s thoughts, it is solely pure to wonder if a brand new flagship is well worth the money, leaving you with a few choices to contemplate


The price range area can appear alluring if you wish to get monetary savings in your subsequent cellphone. Sub-$500 gadgets have grow to be actually good over the previous few years, however they don’t seem to be the one alternative. Deciding between the 2 will be powerful, with older flagships supplied at steep reductions. Let us take a look at just a few private preferences that may assist you resolve should you’re higher off with an affordable new launch or one thing a bit of older and, doubtlessly, extra highly effective.

The Google Pixel 7a makes use of plastic backplates like its predecessor.

New price range vs. outdated flagship: Plastic or glass blackplate

A smartphone’s design serves as its first impression, and that is the place older flagships shine their brightest. Though this is not true throughout the board, price range telephones have a tendency to make use of plastic of their construct somewhat than the glass-and-metal combos normally seen on dearer {hardware}. For instance, your complete Samsung Galaxy S23 lineup makes use of strengthened glass backplates, whereas the Google Pixel 7a depends on plastic.

Having a plastic again does not all the time imply poor high quality, since plastic can normally maintain a fall higher than glass. Nonetheless, relying on the standard of supplies used, it might miss out on that premium really feel usually related to flagships. To not point out, it is extra vulnerable to scratches. And if a price range cellphone comes with a glass again, in lots of instances, it swaps the aluminum body for a plastic one.

In the event you’re searching for our opinion, plastic backs are fully usable, particularly should you plan to purchase a case to guard it from beauty injury. Aluminum frames make a distinction in rigidity; simply examine the Pixel 7a’s strong really feel to its predecessor. In the event you’re between two mid-range telephones combining plastic and aluminum versus glass and plastic, go along with the previous each time.

One other distinction between a flagship and a mid-range cellphone is the entrance show glass. The newer Gorilla Glass Victus sequence is normally reserved for premium telephones, however you will discover price range telephones utilizing the older Gorilla Glass 5 and even Gorilla Glass 3 as show safety. That mentioned, not everyone seems to be a fan of Victus. Though it is extra shatter resistant, it is also susceptible to selecting up micro-scratches in your pocket. And none of this issues should you preserve your cellphone inside a case and use a display screen protector.

The Galaxy S21 in a blue and yellow case.

Water resistance is an space the place mid-rangers have caught up with flagships. From the third-generation iPhone SE to the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G, many price range telephones now have an IP (Ingress Safety) score, promising good-to-great safety in opposition to water injury.

In the end, this comes down to private choice. Whereas it is exhausting to argue about how good the Galaxy S23 Extremely feels in your hand, most clients slap rubber instances on their smartphones. And at that time, who cares what supplies are beneath?

Winner: Previous flagship (but it surely’s shut)

New price range vs. outdated flagship: Shows

One massive approach premium smartphones set themselves other than their price range siblings is their shows. The differentiating issue was super-sharp QHD shows. Now, it is a variable refresh price. Flagships have moved on to LTPO panels, a few of which may dial right down to as little as 1Hz.

Other than battery life positive factors, we would argue that variable refresh price has little influence on how an individual makes use of their cellphone. You’ll expertise the identical fluid animations even on a mid-ranger that consistently runs at 120Hz. A handful of cheaper price range telephones, such because the Pixel 6a and the iPhone SE, nonetheless have 60Hz shows. However Google stepped issues up with its most up-to-date A-series gadget.

Left: Google Pixel 6a, Proper: Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely.

All that mentioned, not all screens are created equal. Take the Pixel 7a and its dearer counterpart, the Pixel 7. Though the 90Hz 1080p screens may appear similar in all methods however measurement, the 7a’s panel is noticeably worse than what you will discover on final yr’s cellphone, with rainbow artifacts usually showing at off-angle viewpoints. And with costs between the 2 usually inside spitting distance of one another, it usually is sensible to select up the older mannequin.

Within the final couple of years, manufacturers have began reserving QHD shows for his or her ultra-premium fashions — the likes of the Galaxy S23 Extremely — leaving the 1080p decision for different flagships and price range telephones. Except you’ll be able to’t dwell and not using a tremendous excessive pixel density show, you’ll be simply high quality with something near 400 PPI, which has now grow to be a norm throughout worth ranges.

The Pixel 7a next to the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro

However there’s another space the place flagships are typically forward of the curve: brightness. We have seen the top-of-the-line telephones from Samsung go over 1500 nits at their peak, whereas price range telephones are inclined to hover between 1000 and 1200 nits or much less. Sure, extra nits make a distinction when outdoor and watching HDR content material, however does that imply a mid-range cellphone can be unusable? Positively not.

It is in regards to the total panel high quality, not one particular person side by itself. And as such, older flagships win out right here. Not as a result of they’re all the time superior to their mid-range counterparts, however as a result of you’ll be able to nearly all the time depend on them to nail the fundamentals.

Winner: Previous flagship

New price range vs. outdated flagship: Cameras and picture processing

The Galaxy A54 next to the Google Pixel 6a

It should not be shocking that higher-end telephones all the time have an edge over cheaper choices concerning picture high quality and digicam options. For instance, the Google Pixel 7 Professional has a 50MP major sensor alongside an upgraded ultrawide and telephoto digicam, whereas the Pixel 7a makes do with a 64MP digicam paired with a narrower ultrawide lens. And sure, which may make the Pixel 7a sound like the higher choice (larger numbers are higher, proper?), however the sensor is far smaller.

That mentioned, tech specs do not inform you all the pieces. Though the Pixel 7 Professional is a extra versatile digicam than the Pixel 7a, Google’s strategy to computational images means its output is nothing to bat an eye fixed at — it even seems to be like a Pixel picture when positioned again to again.

However Google is an outlier. There isn’t any denying that mid-range telephones have come a good distance when it comes to their digicam efficiency, particularly for images taken in well-lit situations. Nevertheless it’s additionally true that even a year-old flagship can simply wipe the ground with a price range cellphone should you take into account more difficult conditions like night time images.

Winner: Previous Flagship

New price range vs. outdated flagship: SoC, RAM, and Storage

Flagship processors have peaked. A becoming instance is Apple recycling its year-old A15 processor for its non-Professional iPhone 14 fashions. Likewise, the bounce from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 saved efficiency ranges comparable whereas boosting its capability to handle varied different duties, together with these related to AI. Whereas some price range telephones share the identical processor as their pricier siblings — the Pixel 6a and Pixel 7a, the Galaxy S21 FE, and the iPhone SE, to call just a few — most choices use lower-tier chips that lack the identical oomph.

OnePlus 11 lying on a green backdrop

These processors — assume Snapdragon’s 6- and 7-series — are implausible on your on a regular basis apps however are inclined to fall quick on graphics, primarily affecting gaming. In addition they lack the identical degree of headroom as an 8-series processor from Qualcomm to maintain your cellphone snappy after a number of years.

In the meantime, RAM and cupboard space aren’t an issue anymore, as fashionable mid-rangers are beneficiant in these areas and undertake quicker RAM and storage somewhat rapidly.

It is price taking note of which chipset is utilized in older telephones. As an example, the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 stays a implausible providing a yr after it arrived on the scene. Nevertheless, regardless of its comparable identify, the older Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 was identified to face thermal points and battery drain. Be sure to try evaluations earlier than shopping for an older cellphone.

Winner: Tie

New price range vs. outdated flagship: Android updates and safety patches

A Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, showing the Android 13 emoji easter egg, sitting next to a bunch of bananas.

This one’s a fancy challenge. Beforehand, Android flagships had been seemingly the one telephones you’d discover available on the market with prolonged software program assist. However because of the actions of a handful of manufacturers — most notably Samsung — prolonged replace insurance policies are coming to gadgets in any respect worth factors. Nevertheless, you will have to preserve an eye fixed out for particular manufacturers on this one.

Samsung and Google excel right here. Samsung provides 4 main OS upgrades alongside 5 years of safety patches for current flagships and A-series telephones. Google has used the identical three OS bumps and 5 years of patches coverage for each Tensor-powered Pixel. Meaning the one distinction between the Pixel 7a and the older Pixel 7 is just a few months of safety patches, as each will prime out on Android 16.

Whereas Google updates its gadgets all concurrently, Samsung’s roster is broader, and as such, flagship telephones normally take precedence over older and cheaper telephones. So, for instance, when One UI 6 rolls out later this yr, it is prone to arrive on the corporate’s newest foldables and the S23 sequence earlier than making its solution to different gadgets.

That is to say nothing of smaller manufacturers, together with OnePlus and Motorola. Each corporations have rolled out new replace insurance policies up to now yr, however they solely apply to current flagships just like the 2023 Moto Edge+ or OnePlus 11. You may should cope with much less assist should you’re shopping for Moto’s G-series telephones or the OnePlus Nord N300.

We’re giving this one to flagship telephones, solely as a result of most up-to-date flagships from the previous a number of years have fallen underneath these improved replace insurance policies.

Widgets in Android 13

Android 13 on a Pixel

Winner: Previous flagship

Finances vs. Previous flagship: Battery life and charging speeds

Decrease-end processors on price range telephones are tuned for higher energy effectivity, and utilizing an FHD panel (over a QHD one) is even higher. Finances telephones are inclined to last more between expenses because of their extra manageable energy and show wants.

That is essential as a result of some manufacturers reserve quick PD (Energy Supply) charging speeds for his or her pricier telephones, leaving price range telephones with comparatively slower recharges. As an example, the Pixel 7a and the Galaxy A54 cost at 18W and 25W, respectively, however some Moto G sequence telephones are even worse and may take solely a 10W adapter.

A OnePlus phone box with a charger inside.

Manufacturers like OnePlus proceed to supply chargers within the field.

As extra manufacturers put off together with chargers within the field with flagships, some price range and mid-range telephones nonetheless include a bundled adapter. So, for instance, should you choose up a OnePlus 11, the corporate throws in an 80W adapter within the field at no further value. That mentioned, flagship telephones nearly universally include quick wi-fi charging, one thing uncommon on cheaper Android telephones. Choose your poison, however we’re going with price range telephones right here.

Winner: New price range cellphone

New price range vs. outdated flagship: Which must you purchase?

OnePlus N20 5G on a bookshelf

We have praised the “bang on your buck” that older flagships can ship, however there’s one factor we have not thought-about: your price range. When selecting between an outdated flagship and a brand new price range cellphone, you need one of the best worth on your cash.

With a price range of underneath $400, getting a brand new mid-range gadget makes extra sense, which is able to provide a extra fashionable bundle with out breaking the financial institution. It will not get the extra advantages of a premium cellphone, however an older flagship at this worth might be too dated to pique your curiosity. Nonetheless, telephones just like the Galaxy A54 or Pixel 7a have difficult issues, as they’ve come nearer to the expertise of their flagship counterparts whereas sustaining a sub-$500 worth level.

In the event you’re questioning whether or not it is for you, an inexpensive mid-ranger is an ideal match for somebody who does not care a lot for a flagship’s further conveniences (for instance, longer software program assist and wi-fi charging) and does not thoughts shedding out on gaming efficiency.

S21 FE face down on a cloth pattern

In the event you’re eyeing an outdated flagship for a greater digicam and gadget efficiency, you will should spare round $600 (or extra for one thing just like the Galaxy S22 Extremely). With this type of price range, you will get the earlier yr’s premium cellphone, which can be nearly as good as the present flagship. Since high-end telephones are getting solely iterative updates yr after yr, you will not be lacking out on so much. Telephones just like the Pixel 7 and OnePlus 11 may also be discovered on this area at new costs, which may make for an excellent compromise between older flagships and newer price range releases.

As a normal rule, do not go for something older than a yr, particularly within the Android world. Doing so would imply your “new” cellphone could be nearer to its typical end-of-life, and software program updates would additionally grow to be rare sooner somewhat than later.

Another choice is to consider going with a used cellphone on your subsequent smartphone. It is a sensible choice on your price range and for the surroundings.

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