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opinion 3 min read 7 comments

High-end smartphones: we need a new premium concept

The smartphone year 2018 is now half over and the industry is facing a radical change, especially in the high-end sector. Why? Because the typical established concept of a top smartphone just doesn't work anymore.

Whether we call it a top smartphone, flagship or premium or high-end smartphone: it doesn't matter. We're always referring to smartphones that offer everything available in a manufacturer's product lineup. In many ways, most manufacturers work with similar components, so we see a competitive high-end league every year and the big manufacturers get involved with their products, sometimes more, sometimes less successfully.

But for some time now we have seen that the high-end class has a problem. After more than ten years of development, smartphones have reached a technical level where it is becoming difficult to make further improvements.

In the past the main point was performance, which could justify an upgrade with every new iteration. Today? Even two or three-year-old high-end phones are still perfectly suitable for the work they need to do in everyday life with messengers, games or websites.

The latest smartphone ideas always went into the smaller details. The manufacturers liked to work on the camera in particular. Super slow motion videos or perfect night photos, for example, were the top selling points in recent models.

A beacon to show the way

OPPO recently presented the Find X including the Lamborghini edition. Finally, we've been treated to a bag of new ideas: The turbocharger of the Lamborghini edition or the bezel-less display including camera periscope. Now I don't want to say that these are smartphones that everyone will buy immediately, but they are actually worthy of the flagship label.

There is actually no reason why the top-range cameras could not also be in a $300 smartphone. Even with inexpensive smartphones, the camera has become the only distinguishing feature. To charge an extra 400 or 500 dollars for an even better system is a mockery! If you need power, you can find top performance for around $500 with Honor or OnePlus.

Buyers of a high-end phone à la Galaxy S9, Huawei P20 Pro or Pixel 2 XL - to name just a few - have to suffer quite a bit: actually, a smartphone half as expensive can do just as much.

Looking back, it becomes clear that smartphone buyers are now aware of this: while a Galaxy-S launch a few years ago was a media event with a great response from the audience, the Galaxy S9 has left quite a void. "What is new exactly?", many people are asking themselves.

AndroidPIT Samsung Galaxy S9 0938
Galaxy S9: not enough innovation. / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

Above all else, the high-end class lacks a story: a story of how this hardware can have a positive effect on users in everyday life. Or a story of how this smartphone pushes the boundaries of technology.

Yes, a smartphone stuffed with the latest technology may not sell quite as well. But the laws in the Android world are different from those in the Apple universe anyway. A beacon shines here from a manufacturer known for the middle class: OPPO will demonstrate this to us in the coming months. Other manufacturers should follow urgently, because nobody needs the next $900 iteration of a good but also irrelevant smartphone.

What do you think: Do manufacturers have to rethink the high-end smartphone? What could make you spend $900 on a smartphone?

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  • agreed, we need more innovation.

    anyone here that thinks their $500 device offers everything my $700 devices offer is mistaken, and likely justifying their position. no oneplus or honor has ever offered water resistance. neither of them has a camera that can compete with the best. a lot goes into the engineering and design of these devices, as well as the software features you won't get on a mid-range device, like oneplus.

    if you don't wanna spend the money, that's fine. don't pretend your toyota has everything a lexus has. some people are willing to pay it (like me) for the extra features.


  • Don't hear much sneering at the sight of a $25k Rolex or Breitling shown on the wrist at a professional meeting or destination bistro, just because it says who the wearer is or wants to be, rather than just saying the same thing as a $50 Timex. It's easier to imagine BLING smartphones, currently quite a bargain at attracting attention from folks who wouldn't be able to identify premium jewelry, shoes or neckties, going to a couple of thousand bucks more. I certainly do agree with others that technical specs, in themselves, can't justify premium pricing any more - but design, materials, STYLE - are priceless.


  • I'd love to see the glass backs disappear and dual, front-facing speakers return. Don't make me look at my phone to unlock it; nothing will beat a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner to unlock a phone carried in a pocket. Don't make me use a dongle to listen to music using high-quality earphones I have already bought. Don't make a thin phone at the expense of battery capacity. Don't duplicate Google apps and load a bunch of bloat that can't be uninstalled - if you think a feature is worthwhile, let me decide to download it from the Play Store. Other than that, OEMs are doing great.


  • Anything over $500 bucks is just hype. The key marketing words to "justify" the price are: colorful, stylish, slim, sleek bla bla bla. But as long as consumers still fork over 800+ for a phone, the industry would be stupid to change it. But, hopefully, the peak is close and maybe they will actually go back and start INNOVATING something new.


  • Mark
    • Admin
    2 weeks ago Link to comment

    $900 dollar for a phone designed to last only 2 years is crazy. Bring back the removable battery and I would be willing to pay more for a phone, because I know it will last longer than 2 years. My old Galaxy Note 4 and S3 are both still going strong. I recently bought a LG V20 $385, that is a the only way to buy phones is last years flag ship at half the price.

    I agree with Storm Premium is just a marketing ploy. There is nothing premium about glass. I would much rather have a plastic ( polycarbonate ) more durable phone.


  • storm 2 weeks ago Link to comment

    Premium was an apple marketing gimmick and Android blindly
    followed. We don't need premium. It doesn't mean quality or performance or toughness. It was always prestige and image and overcharging the consumer.

    Let the concept die the death it deserves.


    • Correction: Premium was a marketing gimmick Apple adopted in the 80s and has used for technology for decades. They're entire corporate DNA is built on making any slight improvement seem like the biggest change in technology. And the industry has endless followed in their footsteps pushing prestige over actual progress in innovation.