For most of us, a smartphone is an essential everyday tool, whether you're using it for a critical business call, spending a few idle minutes at your desk slyly checking your social media or watching the latest Netflix binge fest on the way home from work.
If you're in the market for a new phone, you're always going to check the price to make sure you're getting the "best" deal, but price isn't the only factor you should consider when trying to make the most out of your smartphone spend.
Firstly, make sure you don't spend too much. This isn't just a matter of getting the best price for your handset (although that's part of the equation). It's also about not overspending purely because of a brand name or glitzy features that you might not actually use much, if at all.
Premium smartphones from brands such as Apple and Samsung sail north of $1200 outright, though the mid-range phones from these same companies often deliver many of the same features for between $500 and $800 outright. Yes, that does include large displays, multiple-rear cameras and big batteries. Typically, Australians are very brand loyal to just a few phone manufacturers, but in doing so, we end up spending a lot just for that "badge" value. Sure, it's great to be able to drive a sportscar, but for many of us, a simple hatchback can get the same job done at a much more reasonable price.
People also often overspend on features such as the ever-popular smartphone camera. Australians take millions of photos with their smartphones every day and it's easy to be drawn to the allure of a smartphone that promises an ever-increasing megapixel count. If you'd instinctively think that a 20MP camera on a phone must be better than a 12MP one, then you're falling for the age-old megapixel myth, and most likely buying the wrong phone. Between pixel size, additional features such as a dual camera and software optimisation, it's entirely possible for a camera with a lower megapixel count to outshoot a camera with a higher one. Make sure you're checking reviews or even testing the camera in the store before you buy to make sure you'll be happy snapping rather than regretting your choice.
Perhaps you're buying a new phone because your old one just took a terminal tumble to the concrete. Painful, isn't it? I can't go a single day without seeing someone struggling with a smashed screen or unresponsive phone somewhere, and these are issues that could be averted with the simplest of solutions: a smartphone case.
Yes, you'll pay anywhere from $20 to $100 for a decent case, and that's an additional cost, but it's one that could save you from a huge array of expensive fixes that could quadruple the cost of the case. If you've spent $1829 on an iPhone X, why wouldn't you try to ensure that it doesn't break and take a lot of the value of your cash with it?
Then there's the contract vs prepaid trap. Some pundits will tell you that you must buy your phone outright and go on a prepaid plan if you want to save. Others will point to the subsidies that contract phones attract with most carriers.
The reality is that it's nowhere near that simple because it very much depends on your usage and handset desires. Want a simple and cheap phone that people can call you on with not a lot of data? A prepaid plan and a cheap handset all the way, baby! But if you're super keen on binge watching Netflix on the iPhone X, a contract plan with a decent data inclusion is a better financial fit. You don't have to stump up the full cost upfront, you'll save a little on the overall handset price and you'll typically get a better data deal on a contract plan than you would on prepaid, especially if you frequently find yourself going over your data quota anyway. A third option is to buy your phone outright and then find a postpaid plan without the contract so you're free to leave at any time.
Our research shows that Australians spent at least $259 million in excess data charges last year. Purchasing a plan with larger inclusions, rather than waiting to go over your quota, could shave millions off that cost. There's no one simple answer, but as with any significant purchase, doing your research first and carefully comparing products can save you both headaches and unwanted costs in the long run.
The top 5 mistakes made when buying a new phone
1.Spending too much
2. Not protecting your phone
3. Not comparing the total cost for contract or prepaid
4.Not comparing every brand
5.Buying the wrong camera phone
Alex Kidman is the tech & telco editor at comparison site finder.com.au.