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How much money can you save by buying an older smartphone?

Older smartphone
Older and wiser? New phones don't represent the best value

All too often we fall for the latest, shiniest device when a slightly older smartphone actually offers the best value for money. Would you be able to tell the difference between and iPhone 7 and an iPhone 8, for example? Most new models consist solely of performance and, perhaps, camera improvements, so a phone that’s only a year old may still be extremely fast and feature packed.

Let’s take some of the latest phones – the iPhone 8, Google Pixel 2, OnePlus 5T, Samsung Galaxy S9 and Moto G5. There’s something there for all pockets but are the previous models of these a worthwhile consideration?

In all cases, we’re looking at new, unlocked models, prices correct at the time of writing. Where possible, the prices are from the manufacturer’s own sites.

iPhone 8

With a new, glass back, improved speakers and a faster processor, the changes to the latest iPhone are not as significant as many past releases. That glass back has put many off and, with a case in place, few could tell the difference between this and the previous iPhone 7.

So, let’s look at the prices. Apple sells both on its website, so comparison is simple.

For the standard model iPhone 8, you’d pay £699 for the 64GB model and £849 for the 128GB. The iPhone 7 will cost you £549 for 32GB and £659 for 128GB. Although there’s no direct comparison between 32GB and 64GB models, that’s a £190 saving between the upper-end 128GB. If you’re happy to settle for a 32GB iPhone 7, that’s a saving of £150 from the base-level iPhone 8.

For the iPhone 8 Plus prices are £799 for 64GB and £949 for 256GB. The iPhone 7 Plus will cost £669 for 32GB and £769 for 128GB. Because of the change in memory capacities, there’s no direct comparison, but if you’re happy with the base 32GB, then that’s a potential saving of £130 from the entry-level iPhone 8 Plus.

However, Apple phones retain their value well, so the savings here aren’t amazing – particularly as, for the extra cost, you’ll often get more memory as well as the extra features that the latest model provides.

Google Pixel 2

Google Pixel

Coming only a year after the popular Google Pixel, the Pixel 2 has been plagued with technical issues. If you can put that to one side, the Pixel 2 will give you improved speakers and camera, but the original is still a powerful and capable handset. Oh, and the original Pixel still has a headphone socket too, if that sways your choice.

The Pixel 2 costs £629 for 64GB and £729 for 128GB. The original Pixel can be bought for £318 for 32GB and £363 for 128GB. That’s quite a saving, albeit with different memory sizes. The best bargain is the 128GB Google Pixel, which is not much more than the 32GB model.

But, there’s also the XL model to consider. The Pixel 2 XL costs £799 for 64GB and £899 for 128GB. The original Pixel XL is £426 for 32GB and £455 for 128GB. That’s a £444 saving for the 128GB model and £373 for the base model. Again, that 128GB is the best bargain to be had.

OnePlus 5T

The OnePlus handsets are well regarded for their high-end features but middling prices. So, can you score even more of a saving? Thankfully, OnePlus helped us all when it released the 5T just months after its previous model. That means the OnePlus 5 is already ‘yesterday’s phone’, yet is still quite new. The differences are minimal too, mainly a physically larger screen with an improved resolution.

The OnePlus 5T can be bought for £449 for 64GB and £499 for 128GB. The OnePlus 5 costs £400 for the 64GB model and £449 for 128GB. They’re not huge savings, but as the phones are modestly priced in the first place and still aren’t even a year old, that’s to be expected.

Go a further model back, and you come to the OnePlus 3T (no, I don’t know why they missed out the OnePlus 4). Whereas the OnePlus 5 has a faster processor and better camera, the OnePlus 3T also has a bigger battery capacity and IP68 waterproofing. The 3T will cost £308 for the 64GB model. That’s a saving of £141 from the OnePlus 5T.

Moto G5S

When it comes to a budget-friendly phone, the Moto G range is difficult to beat. The current model is the G5S, although this came out pretty soon after the G5. The difference? A larger screen (although with the same resolution), a slightly bigger battery, a few more megapixels on the rear camera and a metal unibody case. The 16GB G5 is currently available for £139, with the G5S at £179 and the G5S Plus at £219.

However, wind back to the G4 and you’ll pick that up for only £69, with the G4 Plus at £144. The difference between this model and the G5, though, are a little more dramatic than with other phones, with most of the specifications gaining notable improvements (processor, camera, screen resolution, etc).

The only thing to be wary of is that the G5S introduced a non-removable battery – for those who like their battery replaceable, you’ll need to stick to the G4 or the G5.

So, with the G5 you can save £40 over the equivalent G5S. However, if you’re happy with the G4 then you can save a decent £110, or £75 for the Plus model.

Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung Galaxy S9

Barely out, the all-new Galaxy S9 will cost you £739 for the 64GB model and £869 for the 128GB S9+. In comparison, Samsung are selling the equivalent S8s for £609 and S8+ for £699. That’s up to a £170 saving for the larger model.

The differences between the S8 and S9 are minimal, with camera improvements and better performance (as with many of the other phones).

So, is it worth it?

As we’ve seen, most ‘updates’ to recent phones have been relatively minimal – usually they’re a bit quicker and have a slightly better camera. But plumping for the previous generation really does appear to pay dividends.

And the biggest savings can be gained from the Google Pixel, with a possible £444 saving, depending on model. This was actually the phone my daughter bought only recently and it does appear she has an eye for a bargain. I’ve taught her well.

About the author

David Artiss

Works for Automattic Inc., the company behind and Tumblr. Tech geek, international speaker and occasional PC Pro podcaster. Lover of Lego and video games.

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