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When cheap phones can do everything, what happens to flagships?

We’ve gotten to the point where you don’t have to break the bank to get a budget smartphone that works just as well as a premium model. Yes, besides you, AndroidPIT readers, who worry about performance, design, the quality of the camera and features, you should know that most people just want a device that works.

There used to be a time where you either had to spend a fortune or you’d have something worthless that couldn’t even run WhatsApp and was constantly letting you down. Nowadays, for around $300, mid-range models can do everything that a high-end device can, with almost the exact same performance, camera and, sometimes, even better battery life.

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Is there anything basic that a Moto G5 Plus can’t do? / © AndroidPIT

For less than $600, you can have a way above-average phone, which I’m guessing is perfect for 85% of the population who only need Facebook, WhatsApp, an acceptable camera and game play for more than 15 hours a day.

Mid-range models don’t have incredible features, like a breathtaking camera, hardware that can run any game, a design made of titanium-like glass, speakers to get the party going or display brightness that, even at high noon, gives you razor-like definition on VR headsets. They just work well.

We don’t have to settle for the devices only sold in your our country either. Nowadays,  phones from Asian countries would satisfy a lot of people for less than $300. That’s because they’re not officially sold here and so they don’t get slapped with massive import costs.

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The humble Galaxy J7: I’m sure you know someone who’s got one / © AndroidPIT

Mid-range phones aren’t on any “best of” lists, but they do make the top 5 phones with the best cost-benefit, and most certainly the most affordable. These devices aren’t targeted by websites or tech channels since the most sought after and most wanted features are on high-end models.

“This device works well,” “the battery is good, it lasts 15 hours”, “the camera takes decent photos,” “Bluetooth and Wi-Fi don’t have any problems, they work well,” “You can run social media and messaging apps without any problems.” These are all things that can be said about mid-range phones, but who wants to read about that? How much interest would that create?

However, in the end, what sells are phones from the Galaxy J line, Zenfone 4 Max, Moto G and LG K something. Plus, those that also sell are the ones launched months later, since they’re not as expensive and more reasonably priced. All they need is a relatively recent version of Android and to be able to run the most popular apps.

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Phone and Galaxy Note: way too expensive. / © AndroidPIT

It’s becoming harder and harder to justify spending so much on the most talked about, most expensive, top of the line smartphones. Do they have an audience? Of course, they do. They’re called “power users” or “early adopters,” all those tech enthusiasts. Most AndroidPIT readers would probably fit into those categories. However, we’re far from being the majority.

This isn’t a complaint. I'm just inviting you to see and celebrate a genuine cell phone revolution! Yes, every phone with Play Store access can have the same apps as any other device, although they don’t always run them as well and can’t handle every single game if they’re a bit older.

Apps are the things that let people work, create businesses, connect to far-away loved ones, meet new people, learn languages, watch movies, and consume and produce content and knowledge. The cheapest cell phones out there can run the most popular apps, even if it’s not as fluid.

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Your mom doesn’t need an S8 to send voice messages on WhatsApp. / © AndroidPIT

Some good examples are the Galaxy J7 and Moto G5 Plus. They’re not the best at anything, but they fit in a lot of people’s pockets. It’s the type of phone that our parents would have. With the right use, they can make a lot of people happy for a few years.

And that’s perfectly alright, isn’t it?

What about you? Do you agree with this idea or do you still go for flagships?

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17 comments

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  • Nope. I like flagship phones. They're flagship for a reason.


  • I agree with the basic point of the article, that for 80% or more of users there's no "functional" need for flagship devices - they are by and large under-utilized by consumers. There seem to be three main reasons for their continuing appeal to buyers who will never need the advanced horsepower or camera functionality:
    a) with the price built-in and obscured in a monthly telco bill, there's simply a habit of repurchasing and renewing with the contract (recently read that in the UK thousand of users are being billed for the price of phones a year or two after the device is paid off, without ever replacing it ),
    b) it's also pretty darn hard for users to evaluate what's really needed to do the few things they need to do, the perception being that an inexpensive device won't work right for ordinary things like messaging apps, hogware like Facebook, or other purposes - people do need the phone and there's no clear guideline to reasonable specifications for ordinary use as opposed to overkill,
    c) in some social (flirtation, bromance, holiday get-togethers) and business (MBA, sales or tech, holiday get-togethers) environments, a recent iPhone or clearly equivalent Android is useful "bling" for either current identity or aspirational presentation - and in fact even at $1000 or more it's pretty darn cheap and more than usually effective bling by comparison with a flagship wristwatch, jewelry, or art deco full arm tattoo that might not even be noticed and costs many times more,


  • From S2 to a S7 Edge, with Notes 2 and 3 in the way, my last phone was an Asus Zenfone 3 and the current one is a Huawei Mate 10 Lite. I got elder thoughts and values and I don't have spare kidneys to sell and buy things from the galaxies.


  • I refuse to spend over $500 for a smartphone. Typically, I wait until a new one comes out, then buy LAST years new one, and usually it's half price or less. Given on the play store, most apps run on 4.3 or higher, and they pretty much run the same, unless you are playing cutting edge 3D games, your phones are way over powered, considering what people use them for.


  • I was a flagship lover, but this year I decided to stop that and be reasonable, I don't need all those functions with 1000$ ! All I need actually is a good battery life and a good performance, and I found that in the Galaxy J5. Now for me, It's about your daily use and what fits that the most, it's not necessary to always have the latest flagships with freaking high prices offering functions that I won't even use.


  • I like the idea of flagship and cheap.. currently defined by Nokia 8 available (in UK) for £340, or Essential ph1 £380


  • 2018 is going to very interesting if phones keep getting more expensive,loads will looking for phones they really can afford,so with more bezeless Chinese phones getting better every year,some people love to show off they have got the Top phones on contracts and do not really no Full cost of what there paying over 2 years,sim only deals will be getting more popular as people would love the switch to a new phone but can"t to make the switch,hope Smartphones can do the same trend as Smart tvs and start to be more affordable


    • I saw an add, for a home computer from 1992, over $1,400 dollars! 486, 1 meg ram, 2x cd rom, vga video card...look how much more powerful computers are today, and how affordable they are. Typically, as features & performance go UP, the PRICE drops! But, the smartphone world has been able to buck the trend. Most phones have build costs of 200-350 dollars, but are commanding upwards of $1000.


  • I was bored last weekend and had a look round the shops to see what phones were about, I have an S8, I looked at all sorts of top of the range phones, Google Pixel XL 2, LG V30, both around the £800 mark and I thought, there's nothing spectacular about any of the phones that stick out to charge that much, then I came across the Oneplus 5T for £499.99, and I must admit I spent some time going through it trying to pick faults with it..... Seriously I could barely find any, for it's price it certainly is a top end phone and I was impressed with it, goes to show that it's just the brand and name people pay a price for half time the time, if I didn't upgrade to the S8 seriously, the 5T would of been a serious thought if it also meant putting the cost down on my contract also.


    • I've had pretty good luck with the Huawei mate series. Started out in 2014 with the Mate2, then got the 8 last year and the 9 this year, only because someone wanted to buy my 8.


  • I have been using a Motorola G5 since release and it is a perfect phone for me. I am also starting to use a Ulafone MIX , fantastic phone for the price but I don't expect any backup or update for this.


    • Yeah, hardware-wise I agree. But the bezels on the Motorolas G's are horrible.


      • Do the cheaper phones get updates like the flagship phones?


      • Shoot, other than Apple & Google, most phones are WAY slow about updates. Hopefully, with Google's project Treble, everything from Android 8, should be better about major updates & software/security updates.


      • can't think of any OEM other than HMD Nokia who are doing cheap hardware with regular software and security updates..


      • Depends on what you mean by updates. OS or security.. OS, who cares. Security updates are much better than they used to be.


      • Not really -- I had a Blu phone and got a handful of updates; lots of security updates, and one major OS update. But that's a lot of development on older cheap phones, and I was pretty satisfied with the price/performance/update ratios. It might not matter as much with Project Treble, but the manufacturers will still have to push the updates. I don't see that happening for more than a year or two on commodity devices. But flagships don't get major OS updates very long either, in the big scheme of things.

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