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Buying a slightly older phone has never made more sense
You’re not alone in feeling your wallet a little lighter these days; everything seems to be more expensive this year, technology included. With inflation and recession woes lingering in the back of all our minds, stretching those pennies as far as possible is even more important than ever. But that needn’t involve postponing important gadget upgrades, such as a new smartphone.
While spending over $1,000 on a smartphone might not seem so appealing in the current climate, there are always bargains to be had out there. Picking up a slightly older phone, such as last year’s flagships, can save you $100s while netting you a device that will still last many many years.
Related: Buying a used phone — the essential do’s and don’ts
Why you should consider older phones
If you’ve been following cutting-edge mobile hardware in the past couple of years, you’ll undoubtedly lament the lack of significant innovation as much as we have. However, this slower pace is excellent news for those looking to pick up a bargain. A flagship phone that’s a year or two old still performs just as well, takes virtually identical snaps, and has many of the same features as a flagship phone from 2022. While there will obviously be a few downgrades, they’re not going to make the phone any less usable for the day-to-day.
Newer handsets can save you hundreds for hardware that's still really, really good.
Smartphone hardware is good enough to age well over several years, especially in the flagship category. Phones no longer go out of date once their successor comes along — they’ll continue to run your favorite apps and games just fine. Even mid-tier smartphones are holding up better these days, with 5G, faster processors, and better cameras than ever before that will hold up well for years to come. There’s never been a better time to get bargain-hunting for older phones.
Read more: It’s 2022, phones should be built to last five years or more
The only real drawback of picking up old phones is buying in partway through the phone’s lifecycle. Support will end a bit sooner than if you’d bought new, which means fewer OS and security upgrades while you have the phone in your hand. With this in mind, we’d always recommend picking up an older or used smartphone that still has a couple of years of support left. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself spending on another phone sooner rather than later. Don’t go out and buy 2017’s LG G6 just because it’s $200. Apple, Google, and Samsung are the best in the business for long-term updates right now.
How old is too old? We'd always recommend buying a phone that's still receiving security patches.
All that said, you don’t have to buy old to pick up a good deal these days. There are also a number of very affordable smartphones built to last years. Google’s latest lineup boasts five years of security updates, starting at just $459 for the Pixel 6a, $599 for the Pixel 6, and $899 for the high-end Pixel 6 Pro. Similarly, Samsung’s Galaxy S22 starts at $799, the Galaxy S21 FE is $699, and the very reasonable Galaxy A53 5G is just $449, all with four OS and five years of security updates to carry them until 2026/2027.
Speaking of: How to save money buying used Pixel phones
Still, you might be able to find better phones for the same or cheaper prices by shopping around.
What are some good old phones to buy?
There are plenty of older phones on the market to pick from but here are some of Android Authority’s recommendations that are well worth keeping an eye out for.
Samsung Galaxy S20 series, S20 FE, Note 20
Samsung backdated its industry-leading update pledge to include the Galaxy S20 series, S20 FE, and Note 20 (among others), meaning that all of these phones will see Android 13 and security updates until 2024. That makes them pretty good to pick up today, if you can. These phones sport excellent displays and powerful processors that you’ll struggle to tell apart from 2022 flagships. Samsung’s older flagships also take great photos and come equipped with little extras like wireless charging and an IP68 rating.
Of course, anything newer than that will last longer, but the S21 series hasn’t seen much of a discount yet. The trouble is finding new units nowadays. We’ve spotted the Galaxy S20 FE for as little as $450 but it’s tough to dodge the imported and refurbished units at prices this low.
New, official stock may be a more straightforward bet here, even if the discounts aren’t quite as good. At $599 through official channels, 2021’s OnePlus 9 is a solid pick for a not-quite-flagship on a budget. It boasts a great display, super-fast charging, a solid processor that’s virtually as fast as today’s models, and it’ll be kept secure with updates until 2025.
We’d also suggest looking into Sony’s powerhouse Xperia 1 II and Xperia 5 II handsets, which have seen significant discounts. However, Sony’s update pledge isn’t as good as the competition and will only see support for another year, so OnePlus is probably the better bet.
Apple iPhone 12
If you’re thinking of looking outside the Android ecosystem, Apple has discounted the late 2020’s iPhone 12 by $100 to a not unreasonable $599. The phone’s hardware and design aren’t much different from the newer iPhone 13.
The regular iPhone is certainly not as feature-rich as the Pro and Pro Max models, but it still takes excellent snaps, and the 60Hz display looks just fine. The iPhone 12’s A14 Bionic processor is still plenty sharp, plus there’s an IP68 rating, wireless charging, FaceID biometrics, and virtually everything else we’ve come to associate with recent iPhones. Apple supports its phones with six or more OS upgrades, so you’re well covered for years to come.
If you’re on a tighter budget, we’d also recommend grabbing any leftover stock of the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G, Google Pixel 5 or Pixel 5a, and OnePlus Nord, if you can spot them on the cheap. Those were all some of our favorite affordable handsets last year.
With inflation rearing its ugly head, saving hundreds on an old phone could be a smart move.
We could go on and on with more examples, but we can’t cover the countless temporary and regional deals in one article. Broadly speaking, though, keep an eye out for decent discounts on older flagship handsets once new models launch, and watch those retailer sales. If you’ve picked up an absolute steal recently, let us know in the comments below.