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Why phone makers need to give us less choice, not more

Remember the good old days when a flagship phone came out and there wasn't another one until the following year? When you could confidently stroll into a retail outlet, lay down a fistful of dollars and walk out knowing that your shiny new purchase would be the most current for the next 365 days? I don't, but it's a nice picture to have in your head.

samsung 2
When is a flagship no longer a flagship? / © AndroidPIT

Nowadays a flagship has barely been released and snapped up by the eager early adopters than tales of a Prime variant, LTE-A version or metal-clad, diamond-encrusted update start to circulate. This naturally makes the blood boil and bile rise in the loyal fans that instantly rushed the shops, only to find out they should have waited another two months for the next best thing after the next best thing. Does that make it the next best thing Plus?

prihtc one m8 me
Sometimes a Prime seems so close, and then evaporates into thin air. © @evleaks

Now, Minis and Compacts make sense, following as they do in the wake of the flagship's impact and reducing its footprint. Active versions certainly have their place and who doesn't want faster LTE speeds or an updated processor? But at which point should an OEM just not release the first version and wait until the faster processor and Cat. 6 LTE is ready to put in, you know, the ''first'' flagship. What even counts as the flagship now anyway?

s5 s5 mini teaser
One for big hands and one for small hands: makes sense. © ANDROIDPIT

Take the Galaxy S5. It arrived, then everyone thought there was a Galaxy S5 Prime, which never materialized. But the slings and arrows of the backlash were just as sharp. The S5 Mini came and went, the S5 Active, the S5 Zoom (which was re-branded as the Galaxy K Zoom), then the Prime idea resurfaced but turned out to be the Galaxy Alpha instead. Then we had the Galaxy S5 LTE-A and now we've got the Galaxy S5 Plus in the Netherlands with an upgraded processor (Snapdragon 805) and faster LTE.

LG G3 s 8
LG has also brought out multiple variants of the G3: the G3s, G3 Stylus, G3 A, G3 Cat.6, G3 Screen and so on. © ANDROIDPIT

Samsung is hardly the only manufacturer to churn out multiple variants of the same device (I'm looking at you, LG), often without significantly improving on the original in meaningful ways. Sony has copped the same criticism with the similarities between Xperia Z flagships recently. So is this simply a way to give a buyer the latest handset no matter which month of the year they decide to buy? Or is it a damaging strategy that waters down the flagship brand and offends the loyal customers that want the number one device from their OEM of choice? Should these other versions be called something else entirely?

Have you bought a <insert flagship here> variant? What do you expect from a ''flagship'' phone these days?


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  • GT Ohh Oct 27, 2014 Link to comment

    Hi Kris,
    I agree with you whole heartedly & expect my hard earned money to mean something to these uber rich tech companies.

    It should be like the car manufacturers only ONE new model every 12 months by law.

    Let us have the joy of owning the latest greatest new gizmo for at the very least a year.

    • The thing that is interesting now is that ppl won't be as willing to rush it and buy the new flagship because they know there'll be an 'update' or otherwise improved version just a couple months away. Which might make you wait longer and longer to finally pick your next upgrade. So hopefully it works against the OEMs and they go back to one clear flagship device at a time.

  • steve Oct 27, 2014 Link to comment

    I agree, 1 flagship device a year

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