How to Buy An Android Phone That You Won't Regret in a Month, Really (or why I did not buy the Droid RAZR MAXX)
It seems that every week, a new model of Android phone was launched by someone, and sometimes, only very small changes were made to the models. Let us look at a few examples:
- Motorola Droid -- released October 2009
- Motorola Droid 2 -- released October 2010, a whole year
- Motorola Droid 3 -- released July 2011, only 9 months
- Motorola Droid 4 -- expected February 2012, only 7 months
You can see the subsequent generations are getting faster and faster. How about another example?
- Motorola Droid RAZR -- released October 2011
- Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX -- released January 2012, merely 3 months later
People who bought the Droid RAZR in October and November of 2011 are now having buyer's regret. They paid $300 for a phone on a 2 year contract that merely 3 months later was lowered to $200 and a better phone (albeit, just more battery) is now the king of the hill.
Lest you think this is unique to Motorola, I assure you HTC, LG, Samsung, and other Android makers do the same thing. For example, Samsung Skyrocket was released in the US in November 2011. It will be replaced with Skyrocket HD in February 2012, merely 3 months later.
So what can one do about it? The answer is simple: don't buy the latest and greatest Android phone, really.
Don't buy the latest and greatest
Due to the rapid pace of Android phone releases, and the decreasing product cycle time (mere 3 months between Droid RAZR and RAZR MAXX), with smaller and smaller feature changes (just the battery size, thickness, and amount of internal storage), it is almost guaranteed that any phone you buy will be supplanted in 6 months and obsolete in 18 months.
Thus, there is really no reason to pay the premium and get the best phone there is, unless you really, really, really want the latest and greatest. And if you do, then you shouldn't regret paying for it.
On the other hand, for the rest of us, we should just stop buying the latest and greatest, and instead, go one step lower.
So here's my advice: get the second best phone, not top of the line phone.
When I upgraded my own phone in December 2011, instead of choosing Droid RAZR, I picked one step down, the Droid Bionic, which is the 2nd best phone in the Verizon lineup. Not only did I save $100, but when the Droid RAZR MAXX came out merely a month later, I did not feel any buyer's regret. The specs between the Droid RAZR and Droid Bionic are almost identical (okay, RAZR has slightly faster CPU, and is much thinner, but Droid Bionic can have extended battery, that's almost as good as Droid RAZR MAXX)
Study your carrier's lineup and choose the Android phone that's the 2nd best, that had already experienced a big price cut, instead of the latest and greatest. Not only will you save money, you'll save your sanity when a different latest and greatest came out.
However, don't buy cheap Android phones either
Now you are probably thinking... If Android phones are so easily outdated, maybe I should just buy a cheap one? Please don't. You'll regret it and here is why.
Cheap Android phones have slower CPUs, less memory, and MUCH worse overall features than top of the line phones
For example, as of January 2012, a Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX has a 1.2 GHz Dual-core ARM CPU, HD resolution display, 1 GB of RAM, 3300 mAH battery, 8 MP rear camera, and 4G LTE connection. That's $300 with 2-year contract.
So what's the lowest end phone on Verizon that's also 4G? That's the Pantech Breakout, which is 1 GHz single core ARM CPU, regular 4 inch display, 512 MB of RAM, 1500 mAH battery, 5 MP rear camera, $50 with 2-year contract.
You are getting less than half the phone, which just means it will be obsolete that much faster, and you will feel its limitations that much sooner.
Furthermore, there are many rumors that Android 4.0, i.e. "Ice Cream Sandwich" will require a dual core CPU and 1GB of RAM. Motorola have promised that Droid RAZR and Droid Bionic will definitely get Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade as they are powerful enough. Motorola isn't promising the upgrade to anything else. Other Android phone makers have also only promised Ice Cream Sandwich OS update to their top of the line (or one that is very close to it) offerings.
if you want your device to last two years, which is what a typical US phone contract is, please buy something near the top, else you will regret it.
Extremetech also share this opinion: don't buy a cheap Android phone. .
A New Consumer Option: Lease Your Smartphone Instead
A company wants to bring something in Europe to the US: lease a smartphone for a year, so you can upgrade every year instead of every two years.
The math is simple: if you qualify (no more than 15% of a carrier's market) you will be able to lease a smartphone for about $20-30 a month, plus the necessarily data plan and voice plan, and insurance.
So let's say your current monthly bill is $60 for voice, $30 for data, and $10 for insurance, that's $100, and you're tied down with a 2-year contract. Over the life of the contract, you will pay $2400, plus whatever the initial cost of the phone is, let's say, $300. So it's total of $2700, or average of 1350 per year. (by then the phone will be nearly worthless, so I didn't count its resale value)
What if you can lease the phone instead? Let's say? If we assume the phone's $30 a month to lease, then monthly becomes $130, so yearly bill is $1560, assume no money down. You do pay more per year, but you're no longer tied to the phone for a whole two years. You are free get a new contract and new phone at end of 12 months.
A company called TMNG is working with the major carriers to bring smartphone leasing to the US market. So stay tuned.
While the Android phone just keeps getting better at a rapid pace, it also confuses the consumer, namely you and me, on what to buy. The advice is simple: aim for the top, but not the best, but one level just below that, where it was the best only months ago, but already has its price slashed. Avoid the middle and the bottom in order to give you some breathing room as you have to keep the phone for two years.
While smart phone leasing can change that, it had not reached the US market just yet. When it does, you and I may be able to afford a better phone more often.