January is often touted as a great time to spend any leftover Christmas cash. But if you’re shopping for a new smartphone, I’d advise against investing this month. Here’s why.
The start of a new year is generally an exciting time for technology enthusiasts. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas kicks off the year with plenty of excitement and announcements. CES is quickly followed by the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain, at the end of February. Traditionally, smartphone manufacturers use MWC as a platform to launch new devices.
As a result of these two major tech events, the first couple of months of the year are when you should be resisting the urge to splash out on a new smartphone. As new flagship smartphones arrive, older models decrease in price. As you all know by now, a two or even three-year-old smartphone is still a perfectly usable product these days. A little patience can save you a lot of pennies.
Upcoming smartphones and potential price drops
Where else to start than with Samsung. The South Korean manufacturer has been very busy of late, confirming both the S10 Lite and Note 10 Lite this month. We now know that the successors to the Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e will be launched at an Unpacked Event on February 11, ahead of the MWC 2020.
All signs are pointing towards Samsung calling these new smartphones the Galaxy S20 range. That would suggest that there is major innovation coming to the S-series, or at least a new direction in terms of design. For those shopping for a new phone, though, the arrival of the S20 line means one thing… discounts!
Samsung’s S10 phones have already plummeted in price since they launched in early 2019. In the UK, for example, you can already buy a Galaxy S10 for less than £600. Then there’s the question of what happens to the S10e when the S10 Lite comes out. For fans of compact smartphones, that S10e could be an absolute bargain in a couple of months. Let’s not forget that the S10e has a Snapdragon 855/Exynos 9820 and is still a high-end phone by today’s standards.
Huawei is still a bit of a mystery as the Chinese mobile giant remains under the cloud of US sanctions, but despite this, we’re still expecting to see a P40 and P40 Pro at some point in the first quarter of 2020. This could be at the MWC in February, or at its own launch event in March. Either way, the P40 is likely to showcase the best that Huawei has to offer, and that’s good news for those looking to snap up a bargain.
The P30 Pro remains the Huawei phone to buy in our opinion. Sure, the more recent Huawei Mate 30 Pro is hugely impressive in terms of hardware. But, as we found out when we tried to run it through our usual review process, the lack of Google apps and services means it’s not a device we’d recommend you buy. The P30 Pro, on the other hand, was certified before all of the mess with The White House started, which means you get full access to all the Google and Android essentials right out of the box. It’s worth keeping an eye on the price of this one next month.
At the MWC last year, Sony surprised a few with the launch of its Xperia 1 and Xperia 10 smartphones. The 21:9 display format wasn’t for everyone, but Sony has a loyal fanbase and the Xperia name is still a draw for some of the more nostalgic consumers.
The Barcelona tradeshow could be the place Sony chooses to announce the latest addition to the Xperia line. Don’t ask us to predict the number. After the Xperia 1, Xperia 10, and Xperia 5 landed last year, we could be looking at an Xperia 2, 3, 20, even 11… your guess is as good as ours. One thing is sure though, retailers will be slashing the prices of the current Xperia line to make way for the new model, so if you are interested in a new Sony smartphone, you might want to wait a month or two.
Chinese manufacturer OPPO loves to experiment with new technologies and the Find X was a great example. It’s pop-up camera started a trend last year as consumers called for alternative solutions to 2018's notch. As we eagerly await the arrival of the Find X2, new innovations are once again on the cards. Although OPPO has already admitted an under-display camera is unlikely, the Find X2 could be the first phone launched with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865.
Whatever cool new tech we see on the Find X2 this year, the original Find X is likely to drop in price as a result. The smartphone, which features a Snapdragon 845, a beautiful AMOLED display and a motorized pop-up camera, is already going for under $500 today. If this drops to around $350, it would be a real steal.
Is there ever an optimal time to buy a new smartphone?
I stand by my advice to hold off on buying a new smartphone for now, but I also accept that there is truly never really an optimal time to buy a mobile these days. Sure, the MWC is just around the corner and there will be price drops on last year’s flagships, but smartphone cycles have become so short these days that you are only ever a month or two away from a new launch.
Most manufacturers are releasing two flagships a year or more, and that’s before we even dip our toes into the mid-range market where it feels as though there’s a new phone out every week. There will be some who argue that the best time to buy a new smartphone is when your current one has stopped working. I have to admit, I do find it difficult to disagree with that sentiment.