It’s the time of year when smartphone makers introduce their newest wares to tempt you to spend your hard-earned dollars on the latest, priciest devices.
The gadget mania began last month, when Samsung started selling its $1,000 Galaxy Note9, a luxurious device with an extra-large screen and the ability to be converted into a personal computer if connected with a display. Next month, Google is also holding an event where it is likely to show its newest Pixel smartphones.
And this Wednesday, Apple is set to introduce a trio of new iPhones, including some models with bigger screens and higher starting prices. According to a person briefed on Apple’s new products, who asked not to be identified because the plans are confidential, the changes will include:
- A new entry-level phone to replace the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, with a larger display, at 6.1 inches.
- The 5.8-inch iPhone X, which Apple took the wraps off last year and priced at $999, will be updated so that it is speedier.
- The introduction of a big-screen premium phone with a 6.5-inch display, Apple’s biggest ever.
In what has become an ever-clearer trend, the prices of some of these new iPhones are also expected to go up. The new entry-level iPhone may start at $749, with the 5.8-inch iPhone X coming in at $949 and $1,049 for the giant 6.5-inch-screen model, analysts estimated. In contrast, just a few years ago Apple’s iPhones started at $649 for the smaller model and $749 for the larger one.
An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the prices of the new phones.
The increasing number of higher-priced, bigger-screen smartphones has become a well-worn strategy by the phone makers. Given that many people around the world — especially in developed countries — already own a phone and upgrade at a slower pace than they used to, phone vendors industrywide are focused on wringing more dollars out of each device by having them get larger and more expensive.
So where does that leave us? If you want to upgrade to some of the latest devices without breaking the bank, I have a few tips on how to achieve that.
TRADE IN YOUR OLD PHONE
The easiest way to save some money on your next phone is to trade in your current cellphone. In the last few years, wireless carriers and retailers have expanded their trade-in programs to be seamless and more inclusive.
Here’s an overview of how some of them work.
- Apple offers a trade-in program called Apple GiveBack. On Apple’s webpage, you can select the device you want to trade in, including iPhones or other smartphone brands like Samsung, HTC and BlackBerry. You then answer a few questions about the model and condition of the phone to receive an estimate for what you can receive in Apple store credit. From there, you can bring your phone into an Apple retail store or ask the company to send you a shipping kit to mail it in.
- The carriers have similar programs. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint each accept a wide array of phones from various brands, which can be sold for credit that can be applied toward purchasing a new phone through the carrier.
- Gazelle has an extensive buyback program. The online reseller will let you sell smartphones, tablets and Macs. Similar to Apple, Gazelle will send you a shipping kit to mail in your device, or you can just send it with your own packaging. The benefit of using Gazelle — which is one reason I prefer it — is that it will offer cash, whereas the others only offer store credit that is tied to specific merchants.
- Best Buy offers gift credit in exchange for many used devices. Those include smartphones, tablets and video game hardware.This may be your most flexible trade-in option: Best Buy buys more types of devices from a broader array of brands than other buyback programs I have tested. In addition, the retailer sells phones that work with each of the big carriers. After trading in your phone, you can use the credit in a couple of ways.
Let’s say, for example, you are trading in an iPhone 7 to Verizon Wireless. The Verizon webpage offers $185 in credit for that phone, and you accept it.
Now let’s imagine that the next new iPhone costs $1,049. If you buy the device outright from Verizon, you could shave $185 off the $1,049, bringing the total to $864.
Or you could opt to pay for the new iPhone with an installment plan and spread the cost of the phone into monthly payments. If Verizon hypothetically requires a $300 down payment for the new iPhone, your $185 in credit would reduce the amount you pay up front to $115. From there, you’d pay $31.20 a month for 24 months to cover the remaining $749.
SELL YOUR OLD PHONE
You could sell your old device directly to another consumer for a chance to get more cash than through a trade-in program. This is similar to how selling a used car in a private sale usually yields more money than trading it in at a dealership.
There are plenty of sites for listing your phone and selling it directly to another person, including eBay, Swappa and Glyde. I have sold my used phones on eBay for roughly double what I was quoted by a device trade-in program. But there are trade-offs: Some buyers can be a nuisance and bombard you with lots of questions or take a long time to send payment.
You could also ask your friends and family whether they want to buy your used phone. Just don’t offer it to the hagglers among them.
SKIP THE UPGRADE
There’s an extra low-cost option of course: keep using the old phone and skip the upgrade altogether. Smartphones require periodic maintenance to keep running smoothly, but a bit of tender loving care will go a long way.
If your phone is feeling slow, there are methods to speed it up. Those include hiring a repair shop to replace your phone battery, clearing out storage from the device and doing a fresh install of the operating system.
Taking care of your gadgets takes time. But with the rising costs of phones, the benefits are greater now that you will save even more by sticking with the tried and true.