A decade ago, the concept of spending £1,000 on a smartphone would have seemed absurd.
Yet as the third decade of the 21st century approaches, Apple’s decision to whack a premium price tag onto its 2017 iPhone X doesn’t seem exceptional any more.
Paying a four-figure sum for a small electronic gadget which gets battered around in handbags (and occasionally dropped down the toilet) is still quite ridiculous.
Yet the upper echelons of today’s luxury smartphone market see handsets being advertised with five-figure price tags.
Admittedly, that will secure you a phone fashioned out of calfskin and diamonds, with 90 per cent of the purchase price going on the case rather than the actual working components.
Most modern handsets are comparatively affordable – if hardly cheap.
You’ll pay over £700 for a Samsung Galaxy S10 or Google Pixel 3 XL, though the 512GB iPhone X S Max is now an eye-watering £1,450.
This poses two questions.
Firstly, will that expense really deliver a perfect phone? And secondly, what can you do to drive down whole-life costs when you buy a luxury smartphone?
Not so smart
The first thing to consider before you buy a luxury smartphone is whether it’ll meet your needs long-term. Brand snobbery doesn’t improve day-to-day practicality.
To justify its cost, an expensive handset should really be future-proof.
To illustrate the point, Apple’s iPhone X range comes in three storage sizes – 64GB, 256GB and 512GB.
Analogue obsessives who demand lossless audio files and uncompressed images could fill a 64GB model surprisingly quickly.
And other than backing up files to the cloud, there’s no way to boost the storage on an iPhone.
Nor is storage the only issue which can prematurely date a phone.
The 5G network is still in its infancy, but 4G will probably seem anachronistic in a year’s time.
Is it worth paying a premium to buy a luxury smartphone which isn’t 5G ready?
Next, we’d recommend working out the cost saving when buying the handset outright and combining it with one of the affordable SIM-only deals listed on our homepage.
In recent years, manufacturers have hidden inflated device costs within two-year contracts, but consumers increasingly recognise this sleight of hand.
We offer a choice of one-year SIM-only deals across different networks for less than £10 a month. Over a two-year period, this represents a substantial saving over a contract phone.
Shop til your connection drops
There are numerous sites where handsets can be purchased. And some are more expensive than others.
As a general rule, manufacturer websites list items at their full RRP. They rarely offer the incentives high street stores and online-only ecommerce sites sometimes provide.
Don’t forget to check Argos and Carphone Warehouse while doing online research. Google Shopping lists many sellers in one place, as do price-comparison sites like PriceSpy.
Bear in mind that phones often develop faults. Unless you’ve bought a brand with its own high street repair centres (like Samsung and Apple), getting it fixed may be challenging.
You could end up without a handset for weeks if you have to send it back to an online stockist – assuming they’ll even undertake warranty repairs.
Conversely, buying from a network-specific high street shop tends to ensure a basic courtesy handset is provided while yours gets repaired.
We’d also counsel against buying a phone from online auction websites. Seller quality varies, and rogue traders occasionally disappear from third-party platforms.
Always check a prospective online seller has received good customer feedback and reviews prior to handing over your cash.