Opinion post by
Jimmy Westenberg

I doubt I’m the first to tell you that smartphones are getting expensive. Shocking, I know. But it’s a fact we’re all coming to terms with, and companies are starting to see the difficulties of increased prices. That’s why I’m surprised Google has yet to create a Pixel upgrade program.

If you don’t upgrade your phone too often or buy from different online stores or carriers every time, you might not be aware of the benefits of buying from companies like Samsung or Apple. Say what you will about the prices of their phones, but both companies provide easy ways for loyal users to get their hands on the latest and greatest devices.

Samsung’s upgrade program is one of the best available from any Android OEM. Once you sign up and upgrade to your Galaxy phone of choice, you’ll select a payment plan over a 24-month period. 12 months later, once the next Galaxy phone is announced, you can trade-in your current Samsung smartphone for credit towards the new phone. Throughout that year of owning your Galaxy phone, you’ll pay equal monthly payments as if you purchased the phone through a payment plan.

On top of that, you can trade-in your old Samsung, Apple, or Google phone to save even more on your monthly payments.

Google Pixel 2 vs Pixel 4 home screen - pixel upgrade program

Let’s use a real-world example. Say I own a Pixel 3 and want to purchase the Galaxy S10e. Samsung will give me $200 to trade in my Pixel 3, bringing the overall price of the S10e down to $549.99 (from $749.99). This means I’ll pay $22.92 per month for the phone through the Samsung Upgrade Program while also guaranteeing I’ll be able to trade in for the Galaxy S11e when it’s announced next year.

Theoretically, once you become a Galaxy S or Note owner and are okay with trading in your device every year, you’ll be a Galaxy owner for the long haul. Apple has a similar upgrade program that allows owners to upgrade to the latest iPhones every year.

Unfortunately Google provides no such upgrade program, leaving diehard Pixel users behind.

You really only have one upgrade perk (aside from store credit) if you buy from the Google Store: a lackluster trade-in program. We’ve covered this before, but Google really gives Pixel users the shaft if they want to trade in their old phones for the new hotness. Trading in a well-working Pixel 3 only gets you $185 — that’s $15 less than what Samsung will give you to upgrade, and $15 less than what Samsung takes for busted-up phones.

Alternatively, if you trade in one of last year’s iPhones for money towards your new Pixel, Google will give you hundreds of dollars more towards your trade-in compared to what it gives out for Pixel phones. It’s just… odd.

We know people are holding onto their phones for longer periods of time. Smartphone costs are going up, and phones are so good now that people don’t feel the need to upgrade every year, every other year, or even every five years. An upgrade program, where loyal users would benefit from remaining loyal, would ensure people stick within the Google ecosystem while continuing to pay for new Google hardware every year.

I can’t say I’m an expert in upgrade programs and I certainly don’t know what financial drawbacks a decent Pixel upgrade program would take on the company. But I’ve been a Pixel user since phone #1, and I’m still paying nearly full price for Pixels without getting the benefits other users are getting.

Let’s just say, those Galaxy trade-in programs are looking better and better with every passing year.

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