The Best Time to Buy a Smartphone

Summary: When choosing a new phone, timing is everything. When you buy a phone, and indeed if you do, could mean the difference between paying full price or a whole lot less.

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Buying a new smartphone is one of the most exciting purchases you can make. The thrill of careful lifting the lid off the box and gently peeling the plastic protective strip off the screen of a new phone is always worth the wait.

But, when is the best time to buy a new phone?

Of course, the answer to this question is that you should buy a new smartphone when you need one, but if you are looking for the best phone at the best price, there are a few general rules of thumb.

1. Wait for the excitement to die down

Ever since queues of customers formed outside of Apple stores for the first iPhone, we've been keen to grab the latest model phone as soon as it hits the showroom floor.

But in terms of value for money, there is a good argument for waiting for a few months. Smartphones, like most consumer electronics, depreciate in value pretty quickly — even if you are talking about the price per month when bundled with a phone plan.

Take the Samsung Galaxy S5, one of the most popular models of 2014. Prices hovered at around $20 per month for the GS5 on a plan when it hit stores in April last year, but take a look at what happened shortly after.

Samsung Galaxy S5: Monthly handset repayment on $60 plans

(Blue = Telstra $55 plan | Yellow = Optus $60 Plan | Red = Vodafone $60 Plan)

As you can see, as as you’d probably expect, the Galaxy S5 started out as one of the most expensive phones in the phone shop, and gradually become cheaper over time. After 6-months, the Galaxy S5 was significantly cheaper on plans than at launch, and since February this year (10-months after launch) both Optus and Vodafone offer it as a $0 option on the $60 plan.

This is a common trend across most popular handsets, so if you were a bargain hunter looking for the best price on the best phones, you'd wait for 6-months before diving in. Even the newer Galaxy S6 is starting to go down in price.

2. Unless you plan on buying an iPhone

The big exception to this pattern is the Apple iPhone. Take a look at how the iPhone 6 manages to hold its value over the first 10-months of availability.

iPhone 6 64GB: Monthly handset repayment on $80 plans

(Blue = Telstra $70 plan, Yellow = Optus $80 Plan, Red = Vodafone $80 Plan)

Defying all logic, the iPhone 6 is actually more expensive today than it was on launch day back in last September. One contributing factor in this increase was an Apple price hike across the iPhone range in March of this year, but still, prices were trending upwards before this bump.

If iPhone 6 pricing follows that of previous models, the per-month price of the handset repayments will take a dive as soon as the new model is announced (presumably in September). Expect the per month price to halve to $5 per month or even lower.

The best time to buy an iPhone is nearly always as soon as it is superseded by a newer model, but of course, by then you’ll probably want the newer model anyway.

3. Do you need a new phone at all?

If you're looking to save a bunch of money every month, it's important to be aware of the little guys in the telco game — known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators, or MVNOs.

Basically, an MVNO is a company that buys Minutes, SMS and Data at cheap wholesale rates and then sells them on to us in cheaper plans and packages than those offered by the major telcos. Companies like Amaysim, Boost Mobile and Yatango are some of the better known examples, as are supermarket chains like Woolworth's and ALDI.

Let's pretend that you bought an iPhone 5s on an Optus $60 plan back when this model was first released in 2013. With handset repayments included you have been paying $74 per month and your contract expires in 2-months. This means two things:

  1. You now own an iPhone 5s and have no more repayments to make
  2. You could nearly cut your phone bill in half

If you keep your iPhone 5s and pair it with a new SIM Only plan, this is a few examples of what you might be paying from here on:

Plan Minutes & SMS Data Price
Your Old Optus $60 Plan 600 mins & Unlimited SMS 1GB $74 (including phone)
Optus SIM Only Unlimited Calls & SMS 4GB $45 Check out this
Optus plan
Amaysim Unlimited Calls & SMS 5GB $44.90 Check out this
Amaysim plan
Boost Mobile Unlimited Calls & SMS 3GB $40 Check out this
Boost plan
Yatango Unlimited Calls & SMS 3GB $39.90 Check out this
Yatango plan
Woolworth's Connect $1,500 Credit 1.5GB $30 Check out this
Woolworth's plan
...or Click here for more SIM Only plans

This is by far the least exciting option — there is no plastic film to peel back off of a new SIM card — but the savings speak for themselves.

Not only will you be saving over $30 per month (or $720 over the next 24-months) but you actually get more for your money — over 3-times the data and no limit on the number of phone calls you can make within Australia.

Smartphone smiling image via Shutterstock

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