Are Flagship Phones Worth It in 2019?

I currently have my 3 year old Galaxy S7, and have owned Samsung flagships every year or two since the S2 (including the S4 and S6). However at the time it would've been purchased for <$1000. I used to tell myself it was worth investing more into a device you use everyday but the mid-tier ones are increasingly closing the gaps with flagships and are value for money.

I've been holding out for a new phone, likely the 10th anniversary S10. However I don't know whether I am willing to fork out the estimated $1,500 RRP for the new model (up to $2,000 for the S10+ model). Admittedly the only reason I am holding out for a new phone is because of battery otherwise my S7 is perfectly fine!

So my question is how many of you still think flagships are worth the money or whether you have have now opted for a mid-range or other now (and what are you using?)

Poll Options

  • 122
    Yes - Will continue buying
  • 322
    No - I don't have one
  • 89
    No - But guilty of owning one

Comments

  • Depending on how long you generally keep your phones for, what you use it for, and other factors (how much you value convenience, reliability (even though that's still hit and miss), features and support, etc), flagship phones can still justify their price tags.

    • +36

      Not really, you can just buy a brand new one 1-2 years after release and save half the price and yet have all the benefits of it lasting a few years

      • +2

        Didn't say anything about buying them at launch… despite being a bit of a tech 'enthusiast', I've been wary of paying the early adopter premium for a while now.

        • +13

          I probably need to understand the definition of flagship better lol

      • +2

        They don't drop 50% in 1-2 years these days (new).

      • +1

        I have a 9+ and it shits over every other phone Ive owned, which has been the Nexus 5, 4P, etc. mid range phone.

        Shits on them

        • +9

          Cool story bro.

        • +2

          I prefer my phone not to act in such a scatalogical way to other phones.

        • +2

          Time for some proper toilet training.

        • +1

          Filthy 9+ needs to be taught some manners

        • +1

          I've heard that the previous generations of your phone literally exploded. I see version 9+ has a potty training problem.

  • I am on the same boat as you, I have just recently upgraded from S7 to S9+. It would be interesting to see what the S10 has to offer to justify the high prices.

    • +5

      I went from a note 3 to an s9+. I thought my note 3 was fine. The s9+ is great. However nearly any phone can run messenger, snapchat, netflix and spotify. If the phone I have can do all that, even occasionally take a phone call and browse reddit and Ozbargain, any phone will do.

      • +3

        I am still rocking my Note 3 :)

        • Extended batteries are great for the note 3!

  • +7

    Get the OnePlus 6T.

    • +6

      Or the Poco F1 if you want the headphone jack (although you'd lose out on NFC and band 28).

      I'm sure the Poco F2 might be coming this year and hopefully they added NFC to it, pretty much the only feature i want right now.

      • I flashed pixel experience on mine and it feels very much like a pixel. Its insanely good value for ~$400.00.

    • +1

      I second this, I have a OnePlus One (had since release, fabulous phone) and just upgraded to a OnePlus 6T and am equally as happy.

      IMO better performing than most "Flagship" phones, better reliability (my personal experience).

      I paid about AU$620 for the OnePlus 6T (using the recent 15% off ebay code) - great phone and good price compared to flagship phones.

    • I’ve ordered this and it is expected to arrive this Monday. Read a lot of user reviews and it seems like it has a good balance between value-performance for an Android.

      My current phone is an iPhone 6s Plus. This phone has been very good to me but I couldn’t justify buying a new phone (XS Max) that was too similar in user experience for a whopping price.

      I’ll most likely juggle between the Apple and Android phone.

  • +5

    Why not buy an older flagship phone? Huawei P20 Pro is regularly featured here for around $700 now that the Mate 20 Pro is out. I myself use a Note 8 phone I bought last year after Note 9 came out. And before that I bought a Note 5 after Note 7 came out and before that I got a Note 3 when Note 5 came out. You get the pattern here.

    • Out of curiosity, have you ever considered a "mid tier" phone for the same price as the previous year flagship?

      • +7

        I compared the specs, usually flagships phones come with Snapdragon 8xx whereas mid-range phones come with Snapdragon 6xx. For the same price, I would go for the flagship phone every time. eg. My retired Note 5 specs are still quite comparable to some of the mid-range phones of today.

      • +1

        I've always bought the latest Nexus/Pixel phone but last time I bought the Nokia 7 Plus for around $600, mainly for Android One. It received the Android Pie update in September, only about 6 weeks after the Google phones. I don't notice any lag or difference in speed but if I had a Pixel 3 next to it, I might (and I don't play games). I have the Pixel camera app installed and the camera is pretty good but again, probably not up to Pixel quality. The battery is amazing, and easily lasts more than a day. I don't regret my purchase at all. Headphone jack too.

        If the OnePlus 6T was officially sold in Australia, I'd definitely look at that too.

        • I purchased an original Pixel $300 on eBay.
          Great camera great software and responsive.

        • That's great about the Pie update. I have a Motorola g6 plus, nice phone, just announced there rolling out Pie to it, so I'm waiting impatiently.

  • +8

    A flagship iPhone bough outright, kept in mint condition and paired with a sim-only monthly plan then resold a year later for 80% of it's value is cheaper than a standard contract. I've been doing this every year enjoying the latest and greatest release (except the underwhelming XS which is no different to the X).

    • I know someone who does that too. He's also the first, or 1 of the first, in the line at every launch.

    • +13

      You're not going to get 80% back on a 12 month old iPhone. You'd get around 60% - 70% back.

      • -1

        I know a few of my mates who bought iPhone X at $1,500 and managed to sell it close to $1,200 this year.

      • I agree.

        In December 2018, the XS Max was already selling for around 20% off RRP brand new from certain ebay vendors.

        I bought my wife a brand new XS Max 512gb for $1930.50 from ebay towards the end of September.

    • +16

      kept in mint condition

      I'm out.

    • Where do you sell your phones? Gumtree/FB market?

      Not sure if I can keep it in MINT condition for a year… plus I generally give my phones to family members afterwards

      • A cheap JETech bumper case off Amazon will keep it in mint condition. Replace every 5-6 months. Don't need a screen protector, they're really resilient to scratches.

        I usually sell them on eBay or online places like sellmymobile.com about 2 weeks before release of the latest ones. They send you a box to post it to them and get bank transfer same or next day. Easy.

        • what do you use for two weeks between sale and release ?

    • This sounds like the best way to do it.

      I was thinking of doing it last year but I agree the iPhone XS is not a significant improvement over the X (which I will complete the 24mth contract at the end of this year)

      Hopefully the next generation iPhone will be worth the upgrade and I'll switch to your tactic (my iPhone X is in immaculate condition as I keep it in a good case with a screen protector)

    • Waste of money, for average families, Flagship phones should be kept for 2 years (minimum) or 3 years optimum if you can hold off.
      The technology in phones isn't fast enough to warrant a new device every year, with the exception of novelty and useless crap that the manufacturers suck you in (as they did with *Hybroid).
      I got a Galaxy S9, I wont be buying the S10 but probably will S11 (if it comes out in 2020 and depends on my financial sit)

  • +6

    Not for me. I'd rather have a fat battery so I settled on the mi max 3.

    • if there is no proper battery optimisation. then there is no point of bigger battery, seen the reviews and this point was highlighted

      • +2

        Sure proper battery optimisation. Ok. Now still give us a bigger battery.

        Why is this so hard?

        They treat it likes brain surgery. Like it's that difficult.

      • did you see the part in the review where the mi max 3 last almost 3 days with normal usage?

  • +2

    I guess it all depends on person and circumstances, even when you think of the Samsung S ranges as being premium, theres still the note which becomes bigger.
    If you had a S5 for example, an upgrade to an S10 would be amazing while if you're on an S9 its probably not much better, I think your issue is, being on an S7 is it worth it? I also have the S7 edge and its running great, it makes it hard to choose whether an upgrade is needed. To be fair though I imagine it still works great now because when I bought it, it was the flag ship phone.

    I do miss the the nexus range though, they had great price, great features and supported well and were basically flagship phones. Part of me thinks this is a supporting issue, the nexus worked great because apps and company supported it well. I kind of feel thats how Apple works in a way and why the Iphone 6S is still a good phone years later.

    Nowadays if you want that support from apps and company, you basically have to get the flagship phone. I guess theres also the talking point (hay check it out, I have the latest tech) which is always fun.

  • I've come to a very similar point as you.

    I've got the S7 Edge that I got when it was a brand new "flagship". Prior to that I'd basically move to the latest flagship every two years on contract.

    I've been off contract now for about 6 months (or so) and can't see any justification for moving off the S7 at this time. That is to say that the S7 seems to be doing everything I need it to do, battery is still reasonable (although I'm never far from a charger these days between home, car and office). I just can't see what moving to a newer phone is going to do for me in practical terms.

    When the time comes, I'm wondering if purchasing a new/current flagship is going to be worthwhile or whether I'd be better off with the one a model or two back (e.g. if I was buying today, get another S7 or S8).

    • What options have you been considering? Personally, I'm attached to many features of the S7 such as the fingerprint reader on the front, it's form factor and headphone jack. I've come very close to jumping ship to the new Pixel 3 if it wasn't for it's fingerprint at the back and lack of headphone, and price! Hence I've decided to look at alternatives and seems like every flagship is around $1,200-1,500 range

      • +1

        Do you see the cost as lost money or do you recoup some back by selling current handset when you upgrade to something new? Is your three year old S7 worth selling on? That may soften the initial cost for buying flagships outright.

        The way I see it, I can buy an $800 device that isn't barely worth $400 in a year's time or I can buy a $2,000 flagship that is still worth $1,600+ in a year's time. Either case say you lose out on $400 for the year's use but rather have the flagship.

        • I don't know what a three year old S7 would be worth?

          It's not so much the total cost that's the issue as what am I going to get from it. What I mean is, theoretically I could sell my current phone for $200, but then why buy a brand new S9 (for example) for $1,500 when I could get an S7/S8 for whatever a new one of those is going for?

          The phone manufacturers just haven't been able to convince me that a newer model is going to give me anything over the older models that makes the cost differential worthwhile.

          • +1

            @Seraphin7:

            I don't know what a three year old S7 would be worth?

            Go to eBay, search for the exact model and select a category. Then tick sold to see the prices people paid. Disregard any too good to be true prices from accounts with almost no feedback since these are usually scams. You can sort the list. Use -term to remove results you don't want to see.

      • I've probably not been considering anything too closely (in terms of specific model or features), it's just I can't see what I'm going to get from a new phone. That said, I'm "invested" in micro USB charging and 3.5mm headphone jack. Moving off these will be a friction.

        As I say, I just don't know what a new phone will do for me. So far as I'm aware, it won't run any better apps, the camera won't be materially better, etc., etc. Am I missing something here?

  • +1

    You mention battery being your main concern right now - why not just change the battery? Even if it means you keep your phone another 4-6 months the battery has probably already paid for itself (in terms of delaying purchase of a new expensive phone)

    • Already have! Definitely not interested in paying RRP on release day… but this is in anticipation of that 4-6 months time I suppose

      • +11

        The Samsung Galaxy S7 was the best phone of 2016.
        - It came out early
        - Has an efficient 14nm SoC
        - Has an advanced Quadcore A72 processor with a fast GPU (Exynos)
        - Has an innovative IP68 waterproofing
        - Has one of the best displays
        - Has a really good camera (the S9 is not too much better, P20 Pro/the best isn't that much better than S9)
        - It has a decent Slim body with FPScanner
        - Battery Life is average
        - Requires software r00t and Custom Rom

        You are not going to get much improvements with 2018 phones.

        However, 2019 phones will have more substantial improvements, and here's why:
        - 7nm means more efficiency
        - ARM Cortex A76 means a decent leap in advanced processor
        - GPU improvements will be noticeable (eg barely Gamecube Emulation vs full Wii Emulation)
        - More noticeable improvements to Front/Rear cameras
        - In-Display fingerprint scanner
        - Companies finally offering more than 3000mAh batteries (4000-5000mAh in 2019)
        - Software out of the box will be fresher.

        ….so I would upgrade if I were you and the price was right/had the means.

        Just beware of these trends:
        - A 35% increase in purchase prices
        - More expensive parts and servicing, on an increasingly slipperier and more fragile units
        - Death of proper audio (no front-firing stereo loudspeakers)
        - Killing of the AUX port/Headphone Jack
        - Increasingly weirder aspect ratios, taller narrow phones, larger phones as opposed to width
        - Uglier designes with asymmetric notches and weird rear layout
        - Curved display means no front Glass Protector, and a worse selection of Cases

        A good strategy is to buy an ex-flagship, particularly if used but food condition, as their Value plummets from AU$1,1000 to AU$600 in the first year. But make sure it can be rootable and has Custom Roms. Keep it for 1-1.5 years and sell it for about AU$400, and upgrade to the newer ex-flagship. Overall you can expect to pay ~AU$300 every 1.5 years, but get to stay in the "sweet spot" of hardware innovation and software fashion.

        The same tactic doesn't work for iPhones having a better resale value, even at bad/scratched conditions. Unless you buy 2-revisions back for the smaller version and smaller storage. Then upgrade it roughly every 2 years as opposed to every 1 year. However, the neat part is usually the upgrades feel more substantial (eg/ iPhone 6-> iPhone 7-> iPhone Xr).

        I'm torn between upgrading my trusty LG G6 to the LG V30, or holding out for the innovations in 2019. Just to give you an idea.

        • -1

          This. I bought my S7 Edge when it was a year old (mint condition), had it close to two years now and will probably replace it towards the end of the year or early next year.

        • Wow just saw this, thanks a heap for your thoughts! It agree that 2019 is an exciting year and I was hoping the s10 ticked a lot of the boxes of still holding onto the headphone jack, no notch and improved battery.

          How I used to justify buying a string of Samsung flagships was that it's an investment to something I use everyday so the speed and user exp was worth it. Hoping my next phone will be just as awesome as my s7 for years to come at a somewhat decent price

          • +3

            @darque: Yes, that's a justifiable stance if they're cheap or in your means.

            I'm afraid that when we hit innovation plateaus, these for-profit companies either raise prices, or undergo Planned Obsolescence, or both. Not to mention create gimmicks for marketing purposes only, which actually causes a decrease in the quality of user experience.

            For instance; dual/triple/quad cameras can barely compete against a single camera with good sensor. Glass Unibody phones pose a fragility/durability concern along with being slippery and ugly-smudge magnets. Wide displays are a poor effort to increase Screen to Body ratio. Notches are a lazy reason to remove front speakers. Removing the 3.5mm port for "courage" is blatantly false. Also removing the microSD slot is purely to increase Profit Margins. Extra features and Apps that no-one uses makes the software bloated and inefficient. I could go on etc etc.

  • Same as you, used to upgrade every 2 years till I hit the S5
    S1 - 2yrs - S3 - 2yrs - S5 - 3yrs - S8, which I have currently. Contract runs out in November, will decide around then.

    Can't complain though, $59/month for the phone was a good plan coming from a $39/month BYO plan

  • +4

    If you're looking at Android, I personally wouldn't since you can get good value and quality with a Xiaomi Huawai etc.

    iPhones, you don't really have many options but a 1 - 2 year old iPhone is still good. I used to upgrade every year, until I got my iPhone 7 and it's still fast enough for normal use today.

    • +1

      I was really close to pulling the trigger on the Mate 20 Pro from a deal here a few days ago, but even those are at least 1k!

  • +4

    S7 edge…..best phone in history.

  • +1

    Definitely worth it for me, I'm used to the monthly payments so every 2 years when the contract is up just renew it with the new flagship. Problem is recently every flagship is becoming more expensive every year, which is just ridiculous when it reaches 1500+. The price of a good laptop, that's really hard to justify. So maybe I'll be keeping the S10 for an extra year this time to offset the cost. The two biggest reasons for me are 1. The camera, the improvements and difference between my current S8 and previous S6 were massive, and 2. Battery, I currently have to charge my S8 every day even though I hardly use it.

    • Price of a good laptop yeah, but which do you find you use the most?

  • +9

    $200 Sharp Aquos S2 here.

    It's one of my favourite devices because I got so much for so little. I've asked people to guess the price and they usually say $600. I don't see a place for flagships any more. Spending ~$1000 a year or more is a waste IMO.

    • +6

      I'm on my second Xiaomi redmi note now (the old one still works, I bought the new one to replace my wife's broken phone but she didn't want it). Both have laster perfectly well, and can do everything I have tried. The only think that seems to be day and night better on a more expensive phone is the camera. I don't use my phone camera much, so I don't care.

      • +1

        Still rocking the Redmi Note 3 which I've had now for 3yrs, and yes haven't seen a need to upgrade as everything on it still works well.

    • Same.
      It often gets mistaken for the Iphone X.

  • +11

    I always buy china droid phones for around $100-$150.
    By only buying at that price range I don't continually expect something awesome.
    Also I don't need something "awesome".
    But each new china droid phone is better than the previous one- faster CPU, better camera, more storage, larger screen, better performance, etc

    basically, I just want a semi-fast phone with a decent camera. (on a $10 per month plan - unlimited text/calls + 2gb data.)

    This is achievable at my price range.

    Buying a flagship may be like buying flying first class. luxury, (but I get to my destination just as fast as in economy.)

    that said, I got a oneplus 3 today. a 2 or 3 year old flagship. will compare to my current meizu m6 note (a world of difference, but in terms of every day usage - "how different?")

    • +6

      Buying a flagship may be like buying flying first class. luxury, (but I get to my destination just as fast as in economy.)

      Phones take it even further:

      The price creep in "First Class" over the last few years has been a joke while economy just keeps offering more and more.

      • Absolutely this. The cheapy chinaphones have made giant strides in recent years. Besides, all the tosspots who change their phone every year are the sorts of people (real estate agents, etc) who never use them for anything beyond social media and messaging. I could understand a flagship phone if you wanted to play shadowgun, but if you are just stalking people on linkedin, there's not much point.

  • +1

    I'm still on S7, and a custom ROM gets me the performance and new flagship software features so I don't really see the need to change until the hardware begins to fail.

    • What rom are you using?

      • LineageOS 15.1 unofficial port from the XDA forums. I'm using a November/Early December build from memory.
        I use a gcam port to make up for the trash stock LOS camera.
        I tried an S9 port ROM for a while, but I eventually just lost my patience with Samsung's Android skin

        • Thanks! I haven't flashed a phone for a while, thinking doing the s7 might stave off the upgrade itch, it's probably not really needed.

          • @pin4e: Yea that's the position I was in. Samsung on Oreo even with a debloated ROM was starting to feel pretty slow so was considering an upgrade, but LOS is much snappier so I'm content now.

            • @Beanvee: I was looking to flash a few months ago, but couldn't find out how to choose a stable build?

            • @Beanvee: Im keen to flash my S9 and get rid of the Samsung Crap too, but not risking it now until it's 2 years old and ok to brick..

              • +1

                @frostman: Your call at the end of the day. Samsung devices are pretty hard to get wrong, a stock flash with Odin will recover almost any scenario. I did it first day with my S7.
                But I've been doing this a while, inexperienced people tend to find unique ways to follow the steps wrong.

                • @Beanvee: will this be the vanilla android (say same as the one on Nexus)?

                  • @frostman: LineageOS is a spiritual successor to CyanogenMod if you ever used that. The goal is as close to stock as possible but with extended customisation options.

    • Hi,
      I'm also having a S7 and like the OP, I'm contemplating what my next "flagship" phone will be. In the meantime, I love my S7 - yes it's a little slow now and battery life could be better however when there is a QC charger at work, home and the car, the phone is never out of juice.

      I was considering rooting my phone too to bring on some improvements however I was worried about tripping the Knox bit. So what features did you lose from original S7 that you may be "missing" now. One of them I know I will miss is Samsung Pay and I would have to rely on Android Pay + Stocard which is not necessarily a bad thing. Any others that you felt you missed out on due to rooting?

  • I have an S9 which is less than a year old and I have to put in battery saving mode as it keeps going flat and it has a different connector.

  • +6

    No. Buy a $500 phone. Invest the other $500, that will be the gift to yourself that will just keep on giving!

  • I don't think they are. I purchased the OnePlus 6 several months before the OnePlus 6T around the time sellers were looking to offload or their OP6 stock resulting in a large discount.

    Mostly because of the specs as many of them including the camera, processor, graphics, RAM and storage remained the same. While the 400mAh battery increase is impressive, it's not a major improvement and personally I find the OP6 6.2" screen to be more than enough compared to the massive 6.4" screen in the OP6T.

  • +3

    Get a new battery?

  • +1

    While the telcos are doing crazy deals its probably in your best interest to go on a family and friends deal, they seem to put the best deals out in December.
    IIRC S9 galaxy for $59/$69 with 30gb

  • +2

    Don't think so, i never bought a flagship phone tbh. I recently bought a Poco F1 (my Mi 5s Plus had bad connectivity issues) and i think this phone can last a while, despite not having band 28 or NFC (which i wanted but i'm willing to let go of).

    Flagship phones are pretty much useless except if you wanna have the latest phone and camera. For me Poco F1 has a pretty good camera (even with the MIUI camera it's still great).

  • +3

    It's very subjective. Depends how much spare income you have, to some extent .
    Getting phone you cannot afford, by payment plan contract, is a very very bad idea IMO , unless the plan happens to be something you want anyway, you end up paying way too much on the phone itself (once you account for what you lose, by being locked into contract) .

    I think having the latest >$1,000 phone is bad idea for following reasons
    1) security risk. Much more likely being robbed, attacked for phone, car broken into, house, hotel room etc broken into. Yes , I know ideally one would never leave phone in car, hotel room, cabin, house, etc, where it might entice thieves who see it. Recently caravan park security guy told me how cabin was broken into, they had their phones stolen, and saying how they should not have had them in cabin while they were out from there (probably across road at pub, or at BBQ area of park) .
    2) paying a massive premium to have it first, wait a year and probably worth half original price (I wait 2 years or more and generally pay about quarter of release price) . That said, people feel good about having the latest phone , as a brag, to show off sort of thing. The marketing kind of leads you to thinking you are special because you have the latest >$1,000 flagship you are special, and the same person with or without that phone:) , but it does give you some added value, boost of self esteem I guess, for some.
    3) much more expensive when you crack screen, or break it in any way, will cost much more for repairs, because it's a new phone. In fact, when phone is first released, repair shops will often not be competent doing repair, and may likely have trouble sourcing part at all. Then when 3rd party does repair , you've voided warranty on $1,000 item. Again, sure ideally we will take care of our phones and keep them immaculate and never crack screen or get phone wet etc, but sheet happens .
    4) there are often bugs, failure in design, etc, which of course aren't known when phone is first released. Sometimes the new model flagship is actually worse. At least if you buy after its out for a year or so, you can be fully aware of all the issues (with a bit of research) . The Samsung s6 IMO is a good example, many users disappointed that they took removable battery away, took micro sd away, and then the permanent battery has terrible battery life, I wonder how many buyers would still have purchased this expensive phone at release if they had known about the problems with battery . The iPhone 4 is another great example, a phone that has no call reception when you hold it, lol. I felt embarrassed for 1 of my mates that bought iPhone 4 on release, he was all happy and bragging kind of thing, then came the news about how bad it was as an actual phone that can't make phone calls . Then there is phones that overheat, explode etc :/ I'll let someone else test that out, I'm not keen to be the first to find out the phone has a design flaw whereby it shall catch fire while charging

    Like I said, highly subjective though. Above just a few things to consider , and why I would never buy a new release flagship (even if I could afford it) .

  • +5

    I accidentally pressed yes instead of no and I can’t change it. The poll is ruined now.

  • +1

    Really enticed by Samsung M20 (released in India only) $200 and top notch phone! They should have such stuff all around.

    • There are ways to get them into the country…

  • +3

    There are plenty of Chinese phones that are literally world class now, $300-400 will get you into a stellar flagship which will blow the S7 out of it's socks.

    Buy one to tide you over? I imagine the battery replacement on an S7 at a decent shop would be $100-200 anyway. Flog it off to CEX etc (the S7), take the cash and put it towards another phone?

    Although may be worth getting the battery replaced depending on it's condition. They were/are still great phones!

    • I've replaced the battery for $80 already but I am thinking down the line in about 6 months time after several new phones launch. I typically also pass my old phone to my parents.

      Did you have any recommendations? Was looking into Huawei and surprised some of their 2018 offerings pushed the 1k mark!

      • +1

        kimovil.com

        Do a feature sort to find out what you want. Read reviews, watch youtube and go nuts!

        • Thank you for introducing me to that website. And before anyone cracks a joke, I obviously didn't mean youtube!

  • +4

    I buy my phones outright and only upgrade when i can no longer upgrade the OS or there is a hardware failure. my current flagship is 5 years old and I am looking at replacing it this year with another. $2000 over 5 years is only $400/year which i think is reasonable. I generally have the mindset: buy better, less often.