As prices for mid-range phones tumble whilst their functional abilities continue to improve, it’s hard to know which phone is truly good value for money.
Some devices might have a cheap upfront cost, but only offer one year of software support, which means you’ll have to buy another in 12 months if you want the latest OS update. Others might have longer software support, but cost more upfront and have poor trade-in value.
There’s more to which phone is best for your wallet outside of raw specifications and performance, so here’s a quick guide to which of the major budget phones released this year offer good value for money.
Best trade-in prices
If you’re planning to buy directly from the manufacturer, there’s a good chance you can get some cash for your old phone. Trade-in prices vary per manufacturer but a good rule to go by is: the newer the phone, the more you’ll get for it.
Presuming you’re not doing something silly like trading in an iPhone 11 for a OnePlus Nord (if you are, stop what you’re doing right now) and, instead, handing over your old 128GB Samsung Galaxy S8, which is no longer receiving Android support and coming to the end of its guaranteed security updates – here’s what you can get for it from Apple, Motorola and OnePlus.
Note: these prices are based on the phones being in full working order, unlocked and with minimal damage.
OnePlus: £130 (roughly $170)
Motorola: no trade-in
For a comparative Apple device, the iPhone 8, released the same year as Samsung’s Galaxy S8, OnePlus comes out top again.
OnePlus: £140 (roughly $180)
Motorola: no trade in
Motorola tells me it doesn’t offer trade-in discounts for your old phones.
It’s too early to know how much the Nord, iPhone SE or Motorola G 5G Plus will depreciate in value, but we do know how past phones from the same companies have fared over the years.
Online trade-in and second-hand electronics store Music Magpie has a helpful guide on which phones hold the most value over the years, which is based on the company’s own sales data. In its 2020 depreciation report, it found that Apple’s iPhones topped the list of handsets that depreciated the least over 12 months. Apple’s handsets lost 44% of their value in a year and 62% over the standard two-year phone contract period.
Google and Samsung came second losing 62% of their value over 12 months, whilst OnePlus lags behind the others at 77%.
But it’s not all bad news for OnePlus, as the report explains. “OnePlus handsets were losing an average of 97% of their value in the first 12 months, while now their 12 months depreciation figure is just 77%, reaching 89% by month 24.”
Despite the recent improvement in second-hand value, the Chinese company’s phones depreciate 33% more than iPhones on average. As you can see from the next two graphs, Apple’s iPhone 8 has held the most value in its first year, whereas the OnePlus 5 came second in losing the most value in its first 12 months.
Motorola’s long absence from the premium smartphone market means there’s no data on the depreciation value of its handsets.
Winner: Apple’s iPhone SE.
This should be an easy one, with Motorola’s supremely cheap Moto G 5G Plus taking home the win. But conversions and which territories these phones are available in make it more complex.
OnePlus Nord: £379 (roughly $495)
Apple iPhone SE: $399
Moto G 5G Plus: £299 (roughly $390)
But, as I say, conversions aren’t representative of the actual price in that territory. OnePlus could well launch the Nord in the US for $379. Motorola tells me it’s “committing to launch a sub-$500 5G device in North America this fall.”
If you decide to import there are additional costs and technical headaches that come with that too, not least the issue of band support.
Winner: if you’re in the UK, the Moto G 5G Plus, if you’re in the US: the iPhone SE.
A phone might be cheap to buy upfront, but will it still be supported with OS and security updates in two years’ time? Or will you be forced to buy another device because the manufacturer has decided to disappear after you handed over your money? When it comes to discussing value for money, longevity is particularly important. Here’s how each device breaks down in terms of after sales support.
Apple iPhone SE: Apple hasn’t officially confirmed how many updates its phones receive over their lifetimes, but the 2015 iPhone 6S is compatible with iOS 14, which will release later this year.
OnePlus Nord: two years of software updates and three years of security updates.
Motorola G 5G Plus: One Android update with two years of security updates. This policy of only promising one update is fairly common among Motorola’s phones.
Winner: Apple iPhone SE
In updates and second-hand value – getting the most for your money and longevity – Apple’s iPhone SE comes out top in comparison to the other two devices. But it’s worth noting that both the OnePlus and Moto G devices support 5G connectivity, whilst the iPhone SE doesn’t. So there’s a potential issue of future-proofing, which may affect its long-term second-hand value.
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