5 things to remember when buying a phone for Christmas
Buying a new phone for your Christmas stocking (or maybe someone else's)? Make sure you've checked all these points first.
Purchasing a new phone isn't something you should blindly rush into. After all, you'll most likely need to live with the decision for a year or more. With that in mind, we've gathered some tips to assist you on your journey to buying the perfect smartphone for the least amount of money.
Consider buying your phone outright
The beauty of buying a phone outright is that you aren't restricted in your choice of plan. Instead of being saddled with a small selection of telcos, you can choose between hundreds of SIM only plans from any provider you feel like. You also end up paying less over the long run as you're free to jump ship with minimal hassle as soon as a better offer appears elsewhere.
While it's true the upfront costs are higher, you can offset this by following tip number three and buying an excellent mid-range phone for a fraction of the price. (If you absolutely must have a flagship, consider buying a 2019 model for a significant discount. Some of this year's best phones actually have the same processor as their direct predecessor.)
To get the best bang for buck, it definitely pays to look beyond the "big three" (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone) even if it's just to one of their subsidiaries. For example, Gomo is currently offering new customers 18GB for just $10 for your first month ($25 per month thereafter) when buying a SIM online before 10 January 2021, as part of its Summer SIM Sale promotion. Also, if you activate your subscription by 28 February 2021, and pay for the first three consecutive months, you can get the next three months free. Together with the $10 promotion, that works out to just $60 for 6 months' coverage.
You can use Finder's interactive comparison table to find the right plan for your personal needs, be it international calls, lots of data or personal/business.
Get fast charging!
Fast charging is one of the most convenient features of modern smartphones. It dramatically cuts down the time it takes to charge your phone – think hours of battery life replenished in a matter of minutes. Once you've used a phone with fast charging, you'll wonder how you ever made do without it.
For fast charging to work, you will need a phone that supports one of the main fast charging standards (such as Samsung's Adaptive Fast Charging) and a compatible charger. The latter is usually supplied in the box.
Fast charging used to be restricted to top-of-the-range phones, but it has since begun to trickle down to more affordable models. For example, the Samsung Galaxy A50 and Oppo A91 both come with fast chargers and retail for under $500. Which brings us to our next tip.
Consider a mid-range phone
In recent years, the difference between top-of-the-range smartphones and their less expensive siblings has begun to blur. Today's mid-range phones have most if not all of the same features as a flagship from a year ago, including fingerprint sensors, 1080p displays, multiple cameras and support for 5G. More importantly, they are usually just as fast and reliable during operation.
You can also expect your mid-range phone to receive a raft of improvements over its lifetime via OS updates. A cutting-edge feature that debuted on a premium handset will often find its way to cheaper models a few months later.
The main compromise you'll need to make is with the camera. A mid-range phone will typically have cheaper and fewer lenses. However, with imaging software doing most of the heavy lifting, you won't notice a huge difference, especially when it comes to sharing pictures on Facebook and Instagram. As mentioned above, it is becoming increasingly common for mid-range phones to come with multiple cameras which allows for more versatile photography.
If you're looking to save some money, set your budget at $500–$600 – the amount of premium features you miss out on is surprisingly small. Models worth considering include the Pixel 4a, Oppo A91, realme X3 SuperZoom, Motorola moto g 5G plus and any mid-tier Samsung Galaxy phone.
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Look for bundled extras
Christmas is a great time to score some bundled extras with your new phone, whether you're haggling in-store or bargain hunting online. The freebies on offer can range from a free phone case to high-quality items such as smart speakers and wireless earbuds.
If you plan to get your hands on an upcoming flagship, be sure to buy during the pre-order period. This virtually guarantees you will receive an expensive freebie. For example, the Galaxy Note20 came bundled with a pair of Galaxy Buds Live earphones valued at $319.
Even if you have no interest in the free pre-order gift, you should be able to easily resell it to recoup some of the cost of the phone. The only catch is that you usually need to buy before the phone officially goes on sale.
If you're buying a phone that is already available in-store, any potential bundled extras will be lower in value. However, it should still be possible to nab a discount on a peripheral like a case or screen protector if the phone in question is premium enough.
Consider accidental damage insurance
There are few worse feelings than buying a shiny new phone only to have it lost, stolen or broken a few weeks later. While anti-theft software has effectively killed the blackmarket for used phones, this doesn't help you get your phone back after it has been pinched. Meanwhile, a cracked screen can cost hundreds of dollars to get repaired, sometimes exceeding the value of the model in question.
If your phone is on the expensive side, getting it insured is worth considering. There are three main types of insurance available: a standalone phone insurance policy, a "portable contents" add-on to your existing home and contents insurance or getting direct insurance from the phone provider.
Many phone manufacturers have their own insurance policies, such as AppleCare+ for iPhone which provides repair or replacement coverage. Getting insurance from your telco, such as Optus, typically costs between $10 and $20 a month, depending on the policy and carrier.
Bear in mind that most phone insurance policies only cover your gadget in certain situations or specific types of damage. It therefore pays to carefully read the terms and conditions before signing up for a policy. To learn more, read Finder's in-depth phone insurance guide.