Last year certainly helped change and shape the future of the wireless industry – more so than years past.
Android, for one, transgressed beyond the false pretense that specifications are the be-all and end-all of great smartphones. Before, it was always about bigger, better, more impressive specifications – optimization be damned. OEMs were more worried about packing smartphones with 1080p screens, high-res cameras, faster CPUs with more cores, etc. All the while, prices of most the viable smartphones remained the same. Nearly all the affordable smartphones of yore offered a terrible user experience for approximately half the price of a high-end smartphone.
It simply wasn’t cost-effective, and I never would have recommended anything but the absolute best smartphones to someone in the market for a new smartphone.
In 2013, however, devices like the Moto X, Moto G, Lumia 520, and even the newer Lumia 630 redefined what it is that makes an acceptable smartphone, and they’ve proven it isn’t all about specs or price. Great phones can come from other avenues, too, like user experience and great design.
The Moto G and Lumia 520, for instance, were incredibly affordable – both originally launched at $180 unlocked. The Moto G remains at that base price, for now, while the 520 can be had from various retailers and wireless providers for as little as $30 sans contract. The Moto G, though, is a device I could have actually pictured myself carrying, solely for the fact that it gets the job done using the bare minimum. It isn’t excessive in any way; it doesn’t cost too much; and it’s almost as good as its larger sibling, the Moto X, which I willingly and happily carried as my daily driver for nearly eight months – far longer than I typically carry a smartphone. I explained most of that in my review – that the Moto G is the most practical backup smartphone around, and that it will suffice as a spectacular daily driver for the mass market, though many buyers will inevitably be enticed by subsidized pricing and better specifications.
In a world where subsidized smartphones are less common (read: where the U.S. is slowly climbing to the same level as the rest of the wireless world), cheaper, no-contract smartphones are increasingly important. They’re necessary.
In the same respect, price does matter, particularly when it comes to what can be done within a certain budget.
What Motorola can pull off for $179 with the Moto G may be incredibly impressive and the user experience may be great, comparatively, but it definitely isn’t for everyone. Maybe, for instance, you need something geared more towards multimedia or gaming, or maybe you need a better camera. Chances are, you’re going to need to look for the better value, not the better price.
What do I mean, exactly?
The Nexus line of devices is the perfect example. For just $350, you can score specifications which are in line with some of the best smartphones on the market. Sure, some corners were cut along the way, such as in design, materials, camera quality, and even build quality (if you say those rattling power and volume buttons aren’t annoying, you’re likely a compulsive liar). No less, the Nexus 5 is easily one of the best values on the market. If you’re interested in why that is exactly, check out Episode 32 of our After The Buzz series.
In the same vein, the Moto X is a killer deal. It, too, can be had for just $350 no-contract. It’s specifications may not be exactly comparable to some of the best phones on the market, but the user experience it delivers is second to none. Motorola packed the phone with tons of value adds, made the experience polished and smooth, and threw in user customizable design and hardware into the mix, at no additional charge.
And these value and budget markets are really only just beginning. The OnePlus One will be officially announced in just two days. It’s rumored to come with some of the best specs around: Snapdragon 801 SoC with a quad-core Krait 400 clocked at 2.5GHz, 3GB RAM, a 5.5-inch 1080p display, 3,100mAh battery, a 13MP Sony Exmor IMX214 camera with OIS, and swappable back covers. It’s also rumored to hit the market with three storage options – 16, 32, or 64GB – and hit below the $400 price point.
And now Google is rumored to be bringing a $100 Nexus smartphone to market sometime in the near future.
Point being, so many great budget and value options are now – or soon will be – available. And buying full-priced, high-end smartphones from the largest manufacturers is increasingly difficult to justify.
Sure, I just bought the M8, but I financed it through T-Mobile for around $25 per month, which makes stomaching the $630 easier. But it took a great deal of consideration to pony up and buy the M8 over the Nexus 5.
The question is, now that there are so many great, affordable smartphone options with fewer consequences than ever, which option do you go for? The budget option or the best value? Do you go for the Moto G or Lumia 630, or do you opt for the Nexus 5 or OnePlus One?
I’m a value guy myself. I pounced on the Moto X when Motorola ran the $150 off promotion. And, over the course of a few months, I’ve hovered over the Add to cart button on the Nexus 5 Google Play store page for literally hours on end, trying to decide if I actually wanted the phone for myself or not.
Even though I don’t really need all the horsepower in the M8 or Nexus 5 (I probably won’t need more than the Moto G has to offer for the foreseeable future), I’m a sucker for a great value, not the cheapest option available. Every time.
But, hey, there’s nothing wrong with either. And there’s no shame in buying a full-price device either. We’re just interested to see where you ladies and gents lie on the spectrum. Are you budget or value people? Or, rather, are you excessive, in every way, like your overpowered, overpriced smartphone? Take our poll below and let us know!