It’s that time of year again when major smartphone manufacturers roll out their new models and try to convince everyone that the phone they bought last year is out of date and already needs to be replaced.  So far this year, the flagship contenders are the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, the just announced iPhone XS, and the soon to be announced Samsung Galaxy 10, and Google Pixel 3.  

But have innovations leapt forward enough to warrant you spending up to $1,400 on a new phone that you just spent over $1,000 on a year ago?

No, not in my opinion.

Smartphones really became mainstream when the iPhone was originally released in 2007, followed by the release of an Android phone the next year.  During those first few years, there were significant enhancements in cellular networks, cameras, screen quality, and the formation of app stores.  Along with technological enhancements comes an increase in price. For example, last year’s iPhone X cost Apple $389.50 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 $369.00 in production costs.  The gross profit margins for both manufacturers were just over 60%.  The iPhone 3G cost Apple $173 to build.

There was a time when cellular network upgrades alone were enough to make me switch phones. The only time I waited in a release date line for a new phone was the iPhone 3G in 2008.  The internet speed enhancements from 2G to 3G to 4G LTE were well worth the upgrades.

But over the past few years, the enhancements to our cellular phones remind me of when the computer market peaked.  Sure, the chips were faster, but there is very little software out there that takes advantage of the speed and the average person would never use it.  It doesn’t take a high-end processor to browse Facebook. I am also sure there are some videophiles out there that can immediately tell the difference between 720P and 1080P pictures, but on my 5” screen, I can’t.

The new phone becomes more of a status symbol then something to spend your hard-earned money on.  Do you upgrade your laptop every year?

A major marketing tactic that smartphone manufacturers use as a selling point is the rainbow of colors that they are available in.  The new iPhone flagships come in a new gold this year and their “budget” model phones come in 6 assorted colors. The rumor is the soon to be announced Galaxy 10 will have 5 colors.  But I don’t understand why phone colors are even a selling point. I have yet to come across anyone that does not have their super expensive smartphone in a case that completely hides the phone color.  Shouldn’t we get more excited about the phone case colors?

Another thing to keep in mind as the price of the phones increased, so has the cost of the support.  The new iPhone XS Max AppleCare+ costs $199 paid in full for just two years of support or you can choose another option that costs an additional $9.99 per month and you still must pay a fee per incident on top of that.  

What do I look for before upgrading?  This list can be applied to pretty much any tech device.  

  1. Does my current device have problems affecting daily use?

  2. How old is the device?

  3. Is the manufacturer still supporting the device thru software upgrades?

  4. As third parties upgrade their apps, do they still run normally?

  5. Are any of the new features must have, that would really enhance day-to-day life?

Our phones are unquestionably our most utilized daily device.  They allow us to communicate, conduct business, and entertain.  In the new batch of phones this year, I haven’t seen anything earth shattering for me to advise anyone that bought a phone in the past couple of years to upgrade.  Rumor has it that the next big jump will be the rollout of 5G, but don’t expect that until 2020.

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