I don't know about you, but I'm getting tired of $1000 smartphones

Samsung Galaxy S20 Series All Three
Samsung Galaxy S20 Series All Three (Image credit: Android Central)

I don't know about you, but I'm growing a little tired of $1000 and up being the new norm for smartphone prices. Apple was the first company to break that threshold in 2017 with the iPhone X, and in the years following that, it's quickly become something that we now have to expect.

Take this year's Galaxy S20 lineup, for example. At the low-end of the bunch with the regular S20, you're paying a minimum of $1000. The mid-tier S20+ steps things up to $1200, with the highest-end S20 Ultra selling for a cool $1400. There's also last year's Pixel 4 XL, which has a retail price of $999 for the 128GB variant.

It's only natural for phone prices to increase as time goes on and money loses its value, but the sheer level at which prices have been rising is a bit much. Just two years ago, a brand-new Galaxy S9 was selling for $720. Compared to this year's S20, that's a price hike of $280.

Google Pixel 4 XL and Galaxy S10+

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

I've mostly grown used to these increased costs as a result of writing about them almost every day, but there's still part of me that's annoyed with how much money these companies are asking us to spend these days.

Smartphones are valuable tools and are something a lot of us rely on to live our lives. There's a valid argument to be made that buying a phone is an investment and a necessary purchase, but the prices being charged for high-end models are climbing at an alarming rate year after year.

The Pixel 3a was a wonderful slap in the face to expensive flagships, including Google's own Pixel 3.

Thankfully, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. Looking back on the past year, the phone that stands out to me the most is the Pixel 3a (opens in new tab). The idea behind the phone was to give users the same basic experience offered by the flagship Pixel 3 while shaving hundreds of dollars off the asking price. That's exactly what Google did, and the 3a ended up being so good that we awarded it as the Best Value Android Phone of 2019.

Mid-range phones aren't anything new in the Android space, but the Pixel 3a offered something different. In the areas where most budget devices stumble, the Pixel 3a took the torch and ran with it. It had one of the best camera systems regardless of price, Google's promise of guaranteed updates, good build quality, and reliable performance. These are the core building blocks of any good smartphone, and the Pixel 3a made them available on a phone with an accessible price.

Andrew shared his thoughts on the Pixel 4a just a few weeks ago, explaining how Google doesn't need to change much in order for it to be another hit. He's exactly right, and based on what the rumor mill has shown us so far, it looks like that's the route Google is taking.

According to the latest information that we have, the Pixel 4a will have a Snapdragon 700-series processor, 12.2MP rear camera with Google's top-notch image processing, slim bezels around its display with a hole-punch cutout, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. In other words, basically the same phone as the 3a but updated for 2020 standards.

And you know what? That's all I need.

Holding the Pixel 3a XL

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

$1000 smartphones might be the new norm, but they're far from your only option.

The Pixel 3a is one of those phones that "just works." It runs apps as you'd expect, takes consistently great photos, and doesn't leave you waiting for a software update. It also has all of the little features that round out the smartphone experience for a lot of people, like NFC for Google Pay and a headphone jack. Assuming the Pixel 4a keeps all of those fundamentals in place and retains a reasonable price tag, we're going to be in for another treat. Google's shown us that it knows how to deliver a worthwhile Android experience without going overboard on cost, and that's an ideology we need more of.

In all honesty, what does the Galaxy S20 offer that makes it worth $600 more than the Pixel 3a or however much for the Pixel 4a ends up costing? Sure, it has multiple cameras, wireless charging, and a more capable processor, but I think anyone could argue that those aren't necessities. Even as someone that loves Qi wireless charging and recently blasted OnePlus for not yet adopting it, it's not something you need on a phone.

Google Pixel 4 vs. Pixel 3a

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

If it wasn't for my job here at AC, I know for a fact I wouldn't have been able to play with all of the phones that I have over the last couple of years. As much of a nerd as I am when it comes to mobile tech, I'm also someone that likes sticking to a budget and saving money. If I was in a position where I needed to go out and buy a phone with my own cash right now, I'd happily skip over the Galaxy S20 for something like the Pixel 3a.

I'm glad we have these high-end devices that are pushing the boundaries of what we can do with a smartphone, but I also think it's OK to be critical of what's happened with the industry's pricing. I'm not a fan of it, and I have to imagine a lot of you aren't either.

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

111 Comments
  • $1k phones amuse me. I'm not really sure what >$500 phones offer except bragging rights, but I don't mind them: people should be able to (over-)spend as they wish. Life at $200-$300 has never been better, I don't feel compelled to spend more - actually, I'm spending ever less each time, went from Galaxy Noteto Huawei Mate to Xiaomi Mi Max, each significantly cheaper than the previous one... and significantly better. I don't feel a need to buy Supreme or even Nike stuff either. It wouldn't make any difference in my life.
  • Exactly. I'm of the opinion that companies should charge whatever they think the prices should be for products, and consumers can choose whether or not to pay those prices. These are luxury items that we're lucky to have at all.
  • They are luxury items, but that shouldn't be an excuse for monopoly or price-fixing. Currently one thing driving up prices is the Qualcomm monopoly on phone chipsets sold in the US. Phones sold outside of the US are cheaper to make without the "Qualcomm tax." I'm all for letting free market forces set prices, but that only works when the markets are actually free. I'm seeing phones with alternatives to Apple or Android on them, and think that's great for healthy competition.
  • Sensible people who care about price don't buy Samsung phones at launch! they literally drop like a stone once released! wait till August when the Note 20 comes along and you'll get the S20 ultra alot cheaper!
  • The Fold hasn't dropped the tiniest fraction where I live since launch...
  • And neither will the S20 Ultra. The other two probably will at the end of the year.
  • The fold isn't really a mainstream handset so it won't budge it price until the new fold 2 or whatever is out.
  • But these 1000 - 1400 $ phones ARE...?
  • What I'm saying is the Note and S range are mainstream flagships the fold isn't, I've yet to see anyone with one in the flesh.
  • Really? The Galaxy Fold's price is 500€ lower now than at launch, here!
  • Between the trade in and Samsung credits I'm paying $375 less for the ultra than it's MSRP (taking into account resale vs trade in for my trade in, Samsung credit etc); that phone will NOT be that cheap new from a retailer for at least a year. Often pre-ordered is the best price you can get for it for the first year, after that, sure, you can get cheaper but it's over a year old then (and if you prefer to save the cash and run a generation behind that's cool, nothing wrong with that at all)...but to say it's going to drop like a rock once released is no where close to reality.
  • Samsung's midrange line is fantastic, 200-300 outright, don't have to bother with cellphone contracts, and you can typically get better rates under BYOD plans. never have to worry about carrier locks (although I'm in Canada and that's no longer a thing) and you can upgrade yearly without breaking the bank. I gave up chasing the latest flagship long ago and will never go back
  • Indeed... the A50 and the new A51 are great phones for the sub $300 market.
  • You may be getting tired of $1000 smart phones but the public doesn't appear to feel the same way. Sales appear to be through the roof whenever a new one is released. There are plenty of low end phones available for cheap or free.
  • I think that's primarily due to being able to run over to AT&T or Sprint or etc and pick one up on monthly installments of $40-$60. If everyone had to drop a grand or more out of pocket, there would be far less sales.
  • Installments have a lot to do with it IMO. No one thinks much about dropping $30-40 a month for a phone - even though it's for 30 months on AT&T. Cough it up all at once though ... People were averse to paying all at once for phones back when a high end phone cost around $500. It'd only be more so now.
  • I think part of it is in the financing that disappears into people's bills. My wife and my situation are different in that we need to buy our phones ourselves off of our bill, so we're always looking to have where we can. I'm still using an LG g5. I've been wanting to upgrade to something in the $500-600 range but each one comes with a compromise or there are other circumstances that prevent me from buying it. Right now I'm waiting to see how the US pricing for the S10 lite shakes out.
  • You can get a OnePlus 7T for $500 right now! No need to wait for a Samsung with less specs.
  • I agree entirely for OnePlus! I have the 7 Pro which I purchased at the end of availability on their site. I got the 6/128 version and could not be happier. Paid around $500 also for what is still hard to beat to this very day.
  • Pixel 4xl is on sale for 499
  • With the mid-rangers getting so good why spend a g-whizz? I'm guilty, I pre-ordered my S10+ last yr and paid the 1,ooo dollars. It will be the last time? Then as a backup I picked up the pixal3a XL. You know what, this phone is so good I could use it as my daily and it only cost me 4oo.oo bucks tax included. The time has come to say hell no to these 1,ooo dollar phones? Consumer's should start drawing the line with these very expensive phones!
  • Or they shouldn't, if they happen to disagree with you...
  • If people weren't willing to keep paying more and more for phones, they wouldn't charge more for them each time. If people keep paying more and more for incremental upgrades like sheep, they'll continue to pay more and get less bang for the buck than the previous iteration. Prices are at the point of diminishing returns for the consumer - what do you really get for all the extra money you pay? Especially compared to flagship phones from before? There's a reason Samsung phones' values drop like a rock a few months out.
  • With today's processors, cloud storage, and the Pixel's camera, I think the only reason someone will need a high end phone will be if gaming is important. I've never used a Pixel 3a, and I currently have a OP6t, but I think the Pixel 4a will be my next phone. Google also keeps adding cool software that can only be found on Pixel phones now.
  • I'm in the exact same spot. Love the 6T but very interested in the 4a
  • We are being groomed by Samsung. They intro these things at astonishing prices then they start getting creative with the enticements to get them off the shelves. If Samsung is tenacious enough it will condition us for even higher prices. The only way to fight back is to not buy them.
  • ... And the frustrating part of it all, especially on the Android side, is the abysmal support that these devices get. Two to three lousy years of security updates and you're back in the market (if you care about security updates) for another device. Yes, my S-Pen is indispensable, but I hate that I have to consider replacing my Galaxy Note9 (which by the way just got the Android 10 update from T-Mobile early this morning), sooner than later, due to the short security update lifespan. Google isn't any better with their Pixels. If they supported their devices just as long as Apple does with the iPhones, I may buy (actually bought one last week when T-Mobile dropped the price to $500 for the 4XL) Pixels more.
  • Same here. Couldn't pass up a top tier phone for a mid range price. Night 2 of them actually.
  • Android support stinks --sounds so lazy and meaningless. Please enlighten me because I'm no expert, here's the little I know: over the last couple years, I've owned every available prepaid at&t device at least once. Blu. Samsung, LG, Moto, Nokia, ..$40-$90 phones, all getting security patches. $200-$400 range phones will likely see at least one OS version upgrade and 2yrs security patch. I'm talking about name brand phones here, (exclude LG ) . That's at least. The Pixel line, along with several affordable devices mfg under Android One, are GUARANTEED THREE YRS OS updates, and while I haven't heard an official guarantee from Samsung, I'd bet they'll keep up. That's a bunch of phones, starting at under $200. With a 3yr promise. For comparison, the iPhone6 supported 4 updates. But 4 year old Apple hardware struggles to keep up. Another fun fact: About a month ago, Android 10 was ported and running on Galaxy S2(2011) and S3 (2013). If you have a popular Android phone, you can update it as long as you want . What did u miss?
  • Kinda crazy to think about $1000+ phones until you think about how much you use and depend on them. I don't ever see spending that much.
  • Except the phones half the price do everything the mass majority of the population needs.
  • The whole selling point behind OnePlus phones. 90-95% of the performance at 60-70% of the price. Sounds like a good trade off.
  • If you want the S20 Ultra 512gb here in Ireland it's 1579 Euro (1714 USD)
    So yes we're a bit sick of the spiralling prices as well :-)
  • Traded in my S10 Note+ (for $700) and got the Ultra 16Gb/512GB for $899. Got $200 worth of goodies for free. On their way, and I couldn't be more thrilled.
  • Is that with the insane VAT included?
  • Everyone gave Ms hell with Windows phones but they always got updates unless it was processor related. I like new devices but a $500 phone bill has me rethinking
  • I think I'm at the point of "good enough" for me. In most cases, I'm not seeing what the new bells and whistles get for me. As long as the camera produces good enough pics for casual use, I'm happy. I have real cameras if I want really good pics, or a big zoom. With my last few high end phones, I haven't really been doing anything that couldn't do with a good mdi/upper midrange phone. The $1000+ tag is getting ridiculous - especially if you want to upgrade every year. It's getting to be more about usability for me than the overall power from the phone. I loved my OP6, for example, but don't like my OP7+ that replaced it. As long as it performs as well as a high end chip a couple years ago and has some good support, I'm ok with that. I can pocket the extra money not spent on the latest high end phone and do something with that - say buy a half-decent laptop, a new TV, a few new games, a few nights out on the town with the wife, etc. We're past the point of diminishing returns. The returns are really diminishing for the price paid.
  • Literally everything cost more while wages remain the same. It's unfortunate but it's the way things are right now.
  • Everyone I know is getting raises at regular intervals. Maybe it's just you. Perhaps they're trying to tell you something.
  • Yearly raises aren't the same as wages going up. *eyeroll*
  • My raises have always far surpassed the cost of living. (Likewise for all my coworkers.) Wages going up faster than the cost of living equals wage increases. Sorry your experience is not the same as mine. But your boss knows you better than I do.
  • My what a smug little social Darwinist you are. Sorry if we failed to notice we were in the presence of a superior human being.
  • That's why it pays to have a side hustle. Relying on companies who would cut you off at a moment's notice is way too risky imo.
  • I do not mind phones being $1000 as long as we get what we pay for. And especially if Samsung or other retailers provide trade-in programs where the price tag of these phones get a significant cut I could see myself going for $1000+ phones.
  • I would happily pay $1,000 for a phone if it gives me everything I want. However, Flagships appear to remove features making me less likely to want them.
  • Or the upper midrange phones have most of the features at a significant discount. You could probably buy solid midrange/upper midrange phones every year and still save money over the current flagships.
  • Meh, I don't care either way.
    Just glade there is multiple options with different price points... I like the note line up and wait every 2 to 3 years to upgrade...but if I wanted to I could buy a new 1000 phone every month, would not