(BPT) - With the latest flagship smartphones like the iPhone 11 and Samsung Galaxy S10 carrying price tags near $1,000, upgrading to a premium phone may seem out of reach to someone on a limited budget.
But it doesn't have to be. The pace of smartphone innovation has slowed from the breakneck speed of a few years back. In fact, the most recent tweaks to brand-new models have tended to be more about refining existing features than rolling out indispensable new technology.
What that means is that slightly older models - the flagships of two or even three years ago - can offer a great deal for users looking for an upgrade that won't break the bank.
Older versions priced to sell
Think of buying a smartphone the way you would buying a car. Dealers always put the latest models, with the biggest price tag, out front. But look around the lot and you'll find plenty of perfectly good choices from recent model years that have gone unsold - and that the dealer needs to move.
Smartphone manufacturers are no different than auto makers. Once they've released their latest flagship devices, usually in the fall, prices on previous flagships are slashed - some by hundreds of dollars - to clear out the backlog of inventory. These phones are in perfect condition, have near state-of-the-art features, and manufacturers still support them with critical operating system upgrades. They're just not 'the newest model' anymore.
Great features, great prices
Here are some recent examples. When Apple released the iPhone 11 series last September, the price of its 2017 flagship iPhone 8 fell to less than $500 - and the iPhone 7 from just one year earlier dropped to nearly half that.
Both models still offer terrific performance, top-notch cameras, and all the perks of Apple's iOS ecosystem. Apple even supports these older models with as many as five or six operating system updates, meaning they will still be running with the latest performance and security upgrades for upwards of four years.
For Android users, the support window is slightly less, but there are still great deals to be found. Samsung officially supports its releases for three years with monthly security updates, then a single year of quarterly updates. Currently, 2018's Samsung Galaxy S9, with features like an infinity-edge display, 12 MP camera, and wireless charging can be had for just over $500 - several hundred dollars less than its marketplace successor, the Galaxy S10.
More ways to save
Those good deals can get even better depending on the cellular provider you choose. After all, if you're going to be upgrading your phone, why not shop for the best wireless bargain at the same time?
For example, Consumer Cellular earns consistently great reviews for its low prices and customer service. In addition, it offers a unique way to make phone upgrades even more affordable, with a program called EasyPay financing. On select devices, customers can make a small down payment - often as little as $10 - then pay the remaining balance in installments added to their wireless bill. These monthly payments are as low as $5, with 0% interest.
The bottom line is, you don't have to spend a fortune to enjoy a premium smartphone. If you're willing to sacrifice just a few bells and whistles, you can save hundreds of dollars and still experience very nearly the best that the brilliant minds at Apple, Samsung, Google, and other modern manufacturers have to offer.