When to buy a new mobile phone

We'll help you decide if you should get a new phone and tell you what to consider when choosing a new phone.

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If you're deciding whether or not to get a new mobile phone, asking yourself the following key questions can help you come to an answer.

Do you need a new smartphone?

While this question might seem obvious, it's the most important one to ask yourself if you're not sure if now is the time for a new phone.

Does your phone simply need a new screen which could be done as a repair rather than replacing the whole thing? Is your phone working fine, but you want an upgrade?

If it's the latter, remember that while smartphone manufacturers release new models each and every year, most phones will continue to function perfectly well for many years beyond that. In a lot of cases, smartphone manufacturers continue to release software updates for older phones years after they've been superseded, unlocking features that keep those phones feeling fresh for quite some time.

Take a look at the new features offered by the latest smartphones and consider whether they'd improve your life. If the answer is yes, you might be able to save by waiting until prices drop.

Do you want the latest phone?

Manufacturers love to drum up excitement for their new phones, although in Apple’s case the fans tend to take care of that all by themselves.

The way marketing campaigns tell it, new phones are a rare commodity that you need to go out and purchase right now lest you miss out forever. Of course, this is complete balderdash, as smartphones rarely go out of stock and tend to remain on the market for years after their release.

There's always the chance you can snag a particularly good deal by pre-ordering a new smartphone or buying it right at launch. Manufacturers and telcos alike will often bundle in accessories like headphones, fitness trackers or other desirable tech to encourage you to lay down your cash early.

However, as with any consumer electronics item, prices will inevitably drop. Some fall faster than others, with Apple notorious for fixing the outright price of its current iPhones until new models arrive. Regardless, waiting a little while might be what it takes to score some serious savings.

Would you consider an older model?

If you’re partial to a particular brand of smartphone and you're happy to live life a step back from the bleeding edge, there's a simple little trick you can take advantage of for some big savings.

Wait until your favoured brand announces a new model but hasn't launched it yet. In this interstitial period, you’ll likely see steep discounts on the previous year’s model as retailers attempt to shift stock and make way for the Next Big Thing.

While this approach requires sticking with your current phone for around 12 months after the launch of your desired handset, it's an effective way of saving money. You may never have the latest and greatest smartphone at your disposal, but these days most yearly releases are only incremental improvements over their predecessors so you're rarely missing out on any must-have features.

Can you afford a new phone?

Mobile phones are expensive products. They’re a significant investment whether you purchase them outright or pay them off over a fixed-term contract. Either way, it's important not to let the hype suck you into a financial situation you're not prepared for.

The best move is to wait until you can safely afford a new smartphone, even if it's a premium handset you're going to have to save a long time for. If you desperately need a phone on short notice, there are plenty of cheap phones available that can get you by while you wait for a price drop on something with a few more premium bells and whistles.

What to consider when choosing a new phone

Shopping for a new phone can be quite intimidating. There are many, many factors to consider, from the size of the screen and the quality of the camera to battery capacity and operating system.

Narrowing down which of those factors matter to you is tough. To ensure you make the right decision, read on for our breakdown of the most important features to consider when choosing a new phone.

Screen size

Generally, screen sizes of five inches or more means you won't have to squint to read texts, but there's no shortage of massive, six-inch and larger smartphones for people who enjoy streaming Netflix or playing games on the go. Keep in mind, the bigger the screen, the faster your battery is going to drain. Battery capacity is typically higher on big-screen smartphones to account for this, but it isn't always enough.

Internal storage

Make sure your new phone has enough storage to support all of your favourites apps, photos, videos, music and podcasts. Internal storage is, as the name implies, built into the phone and can't be changed should you decide you want more. Many smartphones (including Apple's iPhones) only support internal storage. While you can offload some of your files to online cloud storage services like iCloud or Google Drive, running out of internal storage can still be quite frustrating.

Expandable storage

If you don't want to deal with the limitations of internal storage, you'll want to look for a phone that supports expandable storage via a microSD card. microSD cards are affordable and can be swapped in and out at your leisure, making them invaluable for folks who want to snap photos and shoot videos without worrying about hitting their phone's storage limit.

Camera

Smartphone camera technology has come a long way in recent years. Outside of a few ultra-budget prepaid phones, most modern handsets are going to be more than capable of taking decent-quality photos and videos with minimal effort. That said, there's still plenty of competition at the higher-end of smartphone cameras. Phones with multiple lenses give you far more flexibility, letting you apply depth-of-field effects to your photos or take ultra-wide panoramic shots.

IP rating

The "IP" in IP rating stands for Ingress Protection and it lets you know just how secure your phone is against dust, grime and moisture. That last one is the biggie, as anyone who's ever held a wet phone while screaming for a bag of rice will know. Learn more with our guide to waterproof phones.

Drop-resistant glass

Big screens mean there's a lot more real estate to damage when you drop your phone. Keep an eye out for phones that offer hardened or drop-resistant glass. It doesn't turn your phone into a diamond, but it will add an extra layer of protection. Corning's Gorilla Glass 5 is the current gold standard, offering an 80% survival rate for a 1.6m drop onto a rough surface, in careful testing conditions.

Quick and wireless charging

You're probably going to be disappointed by your phone's battery life. Different manufacturers will have different fast-charge options, but they do tend to rely on you using the charger that came with the phone.

Wireless charging is becoming increasingly common in modern smartphones. It allows you to charge up your phone's battery by simply laying it on a compatible wireless charging pad, no wires needed. Getting a phone that supports wireless charging can be convenient, but it's typically slower than wired charging.

Price

Nowadays, there are smartphones to cater to all budgets. While the top-of-the-line smartphones can set you back $2,000 or lock you into a long-term contract, there are plenty of cheap phones that still pack the latest features and solid performance suitable for the average Aussie.

Alternatively, you can look at purchasing a pre-owned smartphone which can save you many hundreds of dollars. Most retailers put their second-hand phones through comprehensive inspections to ensure they work just as well as new phones, plus they typically come with warranties should anything go wrong.

Headphone jack

The once-ubiquitous 3.5mm headphone jack is now something of a rarity among the latest smartphones. Most of Apple's iPhones and many Android handsets have ditched support for the jack, requiring you to purchase separate adaptors or go with a pair of wireless headphones instead.

Fortunately, fans of wired headphones still have a few options, but support is slowly eroding so be sure to check the specs as you compare phones if a headphone jack matters to you.

To learn more about how to choose a mobile phone, check out our mobile phone buying guide.


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