Why my next phone won’t be a new flagship

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

There was a time when I needed to have the latest and greatest smartphone out there, regardless of whether there were still kinks to work out with it – I just needed to have it! Forking over for the investment was a satisfying thing back during those days, more so when there was a significant disparity between entry-level, mid-range, and flagship devices. Looking back now on it all, it’s unbelievable to realize why I was so intent on upgrading each year, rather than waiting for my 2-year agreement with my carrier to end.

Those were the days indeed! In recent years, however, my desire to get the latest and greatest each year has been diminishing. You could argue that I’ve been increasingly jaded by all the competition floating around, but even with each new phone, each successor, each evolutionary iteration, I soon had this clearer realization about what I really want in a phone – and that was just something that covers the bare essentials. Sure, others may have different priorities, but the more I kept on really uncovering what I use my smartphone for in my life, that’s when it occurred to me that I don’t need a flagship to satisfy my requirements.

Honestly, the last smartphone that I bought was the iPhone SE back in the fall of 2016 – the first iteration to be exact. Given the iPhone’s history, I was pretty confident that I would obtain the same rich and intuitive experience that previous iPhones offered without having too many compromises in the process. And you know what? It was the second time it occurred to me that I didn’t need to splurge $600+ for a smartphone to experience something satisfying. This brings me to my point of why my next phone won’t be a flagship...

The Cost

Without question, the biggest drawback I feel about the majority of today’s smartphones is that they’re ridiculously expensive. Some folks will argue that inflation may have a direct impact on today’s prices, which can range anywhere from $700 to $1000+. In comparison, flagships back 5+ years ago on the average topped out at roughly $650. Those prices were still considerable, but looking at how the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy Note 9 currently start out at $1000, the extra few hundred dollars you’ll need to shell out makes me cringe.

For me, those few hundred dollars could be spent elsewhere – or possibly saved up for something else entirely different. Sure, those $1000 priced smartphones may have additional conveniences and features, but the question is whether they truly warrant the extra few hundred dollars. If we’re to look at the iPhone 8 versus the iPhone X, or even the Galaxy S9 and Note 9, it does make me wonder if they’re really worth the extra money. We can argue the bigger size, addition of the S Pen, and even a dual-camera implementation for the Note 9, but does it all equate to an additional few hundred dollars?

Significant price drops with last year’s models (and more deals)

Naturally, when a new smartphone is finally released, it’s typical for last year’s model to receive a generous price drop. It may not always be the case for the iPhone, but when you look at many other Android smartphones, they tend to get the most love – often being given extra goodies in the form of BOGO offers, service discounts, gift cards, and much more. These are all incentives that I feel make last year’s flagships far more logical to choose over their newer counterparts. Factor in that they still perform reasonably well in a variety of areas, it just makes for a more convincing option for me.

Very little difference in build quality & design between flagships & mid-rangers

If you haven’t noticed yet, there’s a particular trend that nearly every phone follows. There was a time several years ago when there was a huge difference in design between mid-rangers and flagships, but that gap has seemingly been leaped in the last year or so. Today’s mid-range smartphones exhibit designs that could easily be mistaken for a flagship, especially when the glass-meets-metal designs became the standard for nearly every recent smartphone.

Nowadays, it’s super rare to find a phone that’s constructed from plastic, which you may find in some entry-level models. Beyond the aesthetics, build qualities have also been less defined between the various class of smartphones. Previously, it was feasible to tell the difference between flagships and mid-rangers by just holding them, but that’s no longer the case because manufacturers have perfected the recipe for crafting smartphones. Usually one can tell because a phone’s construction would be on the “cheap” side, one that traditionally would come with creaky casings, low-quality materials, and be shoddily put together.

New mid-rangers offer the basic essentials at the fraction of the price

Part of the reason why I fell in love with the iPhone SE, versus some of its newer, more capable siblings, was the fact that it did everything that those flagships could offer, but at the fraction of the price. From taking decent photos for social media, to email replies, and watching videos, the iPhone SE at the end of the day delivered the same level of completeness when it came to the basic essentials. And do you know the best part about it all? It’s that there wasn’t a huge difference with its overall performance, in terms of fluidness and responsiveness with basic tasks. This is crucial because I didn’t feel that the iPhone 6S, which at the time was the superior spec’d iPhone when the SE was released, offered something greatly more in terms of accomplishing these essential functions we all carry out with our smartphones.

Camera performance is more than ample

Another critical area that defined the gap between flagships and mid-rangers was the performance between their cameras. Back then, it was instantly noticeable how flagship smartphones were dominant in this category, as they produced sharper, more detailed images in all lighting conditions across the board. Mid-rangers, to their credit, took decent looking snapshots, but their performance under low light was complete garbage. Today, though, is a different story because at times it’s difficult to tell the difference what is what when photos are taken under ideal situations. Sure, it’s quite possible to spot the difference under low light, where flagships prove their worth, but for most people who don’t scrupulously put their stuff under the microscope, it’s almost meaningless.

The potential flagship purchase

While I’ve been listing several reasons why my next phone won’t be a new flagship, the flagship category now covers a significantly broader area than before. Take for example the OnePlus 6, which is one of the most impressive smartphones I’ve tested out and used for a great period of time this year. Part of the allure is its aggressive price point of $530, a figure that places it more in line into the mid-range category. At nearly the fraction of the cost of most traditional flagships, the OnePlus 6 is what I’d consider at the moment the only flagship caliber smartphone I’d consider purchasing and owning. The savings alone is appreciated, but more so when it doesn’t skimp out with its performance either.

Going with what works

If there’s one thing that the iPhone SE has proven, it’s that you can still have a great smartphone in what would be considered as an inferiorly spec’d device. It’s not trying to win awards or set new records in the specs department, which is why I would fancy another one if it follows in the same footsteps. Ultimately, though, if it’s able to still maintain the same level of responsiveness, capture pleasant looking photos, and can get me through at least one-day of normal usage with its battery, it’s a solid contender for being my next smartphone purchase.

Looking ahead

Everyone has different priorities. And it’s those priorities that help to dictate what phone you should get next. I personally don’t have a need for a phone that can produce those faux bokeh effects with portrait photos, nor do I see myself ever using my phone in the pool without a water-proof case on it. Others, however, may not share the same sentiments, which is exactly why they may feel it’s necessary for them to go with a flagship caliber device.

Going back to my original and most pressing reason, the cost is something that plays heavily into my decision. When I think of how people easily hand over $1000 for a smartphone, it shocks me because that’s the same price as some decently spec’d convertible laptops, which you’d own not just for a year or two, but rather, several years to really absorb the substantial investment. I would rather pay for a smartphone under or near the $500 range much more, seeing that it’s not totally draining my pockets in one single transaction.

Here’s the question that’s left on my mind. Are flagships over-rated?



1. ScottsoNJ56

Posts: 157; Member since: Oct 01, 2017

Overrated and overpriced.

2. kiko007

Posts: 7521; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

What is?


Posts: 952; Member since: Feb 23, 2014

His comment

26. Atechguy0

Posts: 918; Member since: Aug 03, 2018

First of all kiko007 when he asks What is? He was worrying that he would have to defend his iPhone purchases or anyone else's for that matter. But ScottsoNJ56 is correct. All flagship smartphones are overrated and overpriced. More so for iPhones, because they actually do offer you less for your money.

62. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

The iPhone more because no one else has iOS. With Android at least you have options.

70. path45th

Posts: 407; Member since: Sep 11, 2016

That an iPhone can get updates for 5 years is not less for your money. To put this way, a company that cares about security would hardly go for an Android that doesn't offer updates after two years. That company would need to upgrade every two years. With an iPhone, however, there's no need to upgrade for five years, so the iPhone is a better value.

32. MarvzIsFallen

Posts: 646; Member since: Aug 11, 2017

Its the only phone out there that runs iOS. And there’s nothing like iOS. If you can’t afford to buy it then settle for mid range phones.

34. iushnt

Posts: 3174; Member since: Feb 06, 2013

Affording iOS isn’t expensive. Even I got 7 Plus 256 gig back in 2016 and I don’t consider myself any rich guy. Like he said, last yr models for iOS are way cheaper than this years Android or iOS flagships.

55. Sammy_DEVIL737

Posts: 1529; Member since: Nov 28, 2016

Well that’s what the problem is. People feel superior after buying high end products when those products even can be bought on finance.

60. Venom

Posts: 3966; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

You can get good deals on iPhones easily. I think your comment is a little off base. Not even going to mention how overpriced the X is.

63. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

Most people can afford $8 month for an iPhone on Spri f. Or $30 on ATT or VZW. You fulz are so quick to think someone can't afford something. Not wanting to pay high price, doesn't mean I cant afford foo. Some people have better things to do than wasting money on overpriced garbage. To bad you're to much of a fanboy to understand the difference.

3. Plasticsh1t

Posts: 3109; Member since: Sep 01, 2014

I want all the latest tech that is available. more tech = more happy customers.

8. umaru-chan

Posts: 377; Member since: Apr 27, 2017

I'm moving away from this trend. If I'm gonna buy new phone each year I'll just buy cheap phones like F1 or 1 plus. I'm going to buy flagship phone once in three years so it's going to be 2020. Hopefully by then either Apple or Google will have a camera that will offer lossless (atleast) 5x zoom and add a monochrome sensor for superb night photo that will beat the $1000 plus sony's rx100 series camera.


Posts: 952; Member since: Feb 23, 2014

Mid rangers are the way to go or get a flagship every 3/4 years

56. worldpeace

Posts: 3135; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Or last year's flagships is good choice too... For under $500 you can get IOIS, NFC, wireless charging, and flagship-grade build quality.

50. Avieshek unregistered

Pocophone F2

51. Avieshek unregistered

1/3rd or 1/4th the price.

4. Doakie

Posts: 2478; Member since: May 06, 2009

I've been buying flagships for almost a decade. Then I switched my family to MetroPCS and instead of using my Axon 7 on there I chose to pick up a $50 LG Stylo 3 Plus and ride it out for 90 days to unlock the phone. I ended up using that phone for 8 months. I couldn't believe how little difference there was between the flagships I was used to and that Stylo 3 Plus. The main difference was the camera, the secondary difference I noticed but adapted to quickly was the speed of launching apps and switching between apps. Other than that I loved that phone. I then moved onto a mint condition LG G6 off Swappa I bought for $180. Now I'm HAPPY again. Better camera, quicker launch times. I'm satisfied, but now I miss the stylus. But I think my next phone is going to be a BLU VIVO XI+ or a LG G7.

5. Landon

Posts: 1248; Member since: May 07, 2015

I totally agree. I'd have a OnePlus 6 if it worked on Verizon. It's a beast of a phone but half the cost of a Note 9.

52. Avieshek unregistered

And Pocophone F1 is half the price of 1+ 6

6. clarity

Posts: 56; Member since: Jun 19, 2017

you're complaining about flagships being expensive when you live in America and a flagship phone is like 1/3 of your salary. In my country, it is almost twice the minimum wage. Phones are extremely cheap in America compared to the rest of the world.

9. AngelicusMaximus

Posts: 776; Member since: Dec 20, 2017

So he's not allowed to complain because phones are more expensive in your country? Where's the logic in that?

19. clarity

Posts: 56; Member since: Jun 19, 2017

phones are MUCH cheaper on America than the rest of the world. Salaries are also MUCH higher. It's insultuous to see an american complaining when they pay the least and when they have plans where they can have those phones for free or very cheap.

23. AngelicusMaximus

Posts: 776; Member since: Dec 20, 2017

We'll continue to complain & you can continue to cry about it.

41. clarity

Posts: 56; Member since: Jun 19, 2017

typical american ignorance. First world problems eh? Won't waste my time with some random ignorant, the ignorant will always think he's right. Have a nice day :)

43. AngelicusMaximus

Posts: 776; Member since: Dec 20, 2017

Thank you. I will. You too.

35. iushnt

Posts: 3174; Member since: Feb 06, 2013

@clarity, that was the same thought that came to me. Here the prices for flagships are a yr of minimum wage ($120/m minimum wage), and still you will see lots of flagships. Here. iPhone X 64 is $300 more exp than Note 9 128.

66. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

It does not matter that you think they are cheap. Carriers here just offer easier access to them. Like allowing low monthly payments. The vast majority of people who buy phones, buy them on credit. Either through the carrier ir on credit cards. Many countries dont have a credit or debt based system. In most countries you have to buy the phone outright. Most people finance phones. Doesn't mean they can't afford them, just means most can't buy them outright. I can pay cash, but most times I don't. Because if I plan to buy every year, I come out better just leasing and trading for the new model and get 2 phones for the price of one. No one wants to pay cash for a $1000 phone. Just because I can afford it, doesn't mean I cant complain about what it costs. You crazy!

18. baldilocks

Posts: 1547; Member since: Dec 14, 2008

1/3 of the salary? Yearly? Monthly? Weekly? I don't understand your comment.

21. clarity

Posts: 56; Member since: Jun 19, 2017


Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.
FCC OKs Cingular's purchase of AT&T Wireless