Looking at a Brand New Low-End Phone? Get an Old High-End One Instead

Many people are spending around $100 on brand new low end Android phones. While these phones are good value for money, and run Android along with most apps and games and everything else great about Android, I’d like to put forward an alternative: buy an older high-end Android, second hand.

Instead of spending the cash on a brand new low-spec phone, why not spend roughly the same amount of money on a great phone with much higher specs?

The Upside

Admittedly, these phones probably don’t have the dual or quad core processors, the fancy 8MP camera, the massive internal storage or any of the latest features being added to phones. But what they more than likely will have is a working camera of decent quality, in most Android models of the last year or two; decent internal storage; and a stable, full-featured ROM (something a newer high end phone may lack!).

Plus, since the original owner spent so much money on this phone they’ll more than likely have taken care of it. This phone should be a lot more powerful than anything at the same price range in store too. Result: decent specs, decent condition, decent software. And if it’s not an in-store purchase, that means you won’t be tied to a contract or even a specific carrier.

So many to choose from

The Downside

On the other hand, you’ll have no manufacturer guarantee or warranty, unless the phone is still under the original guarantee – and even then, this may not be transferable to another owner, so be careful. There’s also the likelihood of some wear and tear which, while not affecting how your phone works, will detract from that new gadget feel you’d otherwise get.

Wear and tear is one thing, but I wouldn’t recommend getting a phone with serious damage. Of course, if you’re getting a great bargain and you can live with the issue, then that’s a good deal you may enjoy pursuing!

These are both points associated with buying anything second hand. Caveat emptor.

My New Phone

I must admit to something, though: I’ve been a bit of a hypocrite, as I’ve recently upgraded to a new HTC Sensation.

It’s a great phone, it’s incredibly fast, and it looks amazing with its red and black design. I love it to bits. Despite this, I honestly had no real reason to get this upgrade; my old phone (HTC Desire) still works great, is as fast as I need, and supports all the apps I use. The only real reason is that I geeked out and treated myself!

I really do love my new phone, and everything about it – bar the cost. I do lie awake some nights trying to bear the guilt of money spent unnecessarily. Our editor also recently upgraded from an HTC Desire, though he went for the Galaxy Note – I wonder if he agrees with me on upgrading? [Yep; HTC Desire still did everything I need, and a shiny new phone is just a luxury - but it's a fun luxury - Ed.]

Even when writing this article, I couldn't resist the pull of a shiny new device.

Of course, I wouldn’t suggest that every single old high-end phone is better than every single new low-end one; I can only talk about the phones I’ve had experience with myself. As always, you need to check reviews of any phone you’re thinking of buying, and make sure your favorite ROMs and apps support it. It’s overwhelming, but that’s the flip side of having so much choice.


  • http://gregschier.com Gregory Schier

    I am pretty snobby about smartphone performance, but I still have an old Galaxy S running ICS and couldn’t be happier with it. The battery is above 50% at the end of the day (granted I’m not a heavy user), and it runs smooth as butter.

    Something I will always consider when buying a smartphone is the popularity of it. Since the Galaxy S is one of the most popular lines of Android phones it has an amazing developer community, and more custom roms available then you know what to do with!

    ~Gregory

  • Vladimir

    Get a hd2 and get everything! :D

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  • Sam

    Your HTC Desire’s still do everything you need? I had to uninstall three apps yesterday to install Instagram! The internal storage is pathetic.

    • http://michaeljameswilliams.com/ Michael James Williams

      Good point. Forgot to mention, you really need to root it and install something like DarkTremor Apps2SD first. Without that, it’s barely got enough room to hold all the standard apps. With it, it’s still a great phone!

    • http://darrenmeehan.me Darren Meehan

      Install a custom ROM like Cyanogenmod, or an app2sd app!

  • RZMR

    I bought my wife an HD2, and gave it a clean gingerbread rom. She couldn’t be happier as it works extremely well. Cheap phones don’t come with 4.3 inch screens, and certainly don’t sell for 100 bucks.

    I bought my own first android phone two months ago, a Motorola Droid Pro. Right after that Motorola came out with their latest update with smoothed out some issues that had been frustrating users for over a year. A root method is also available and so I could remove all the Verizon/Blur bulk and now it runs very smooth.

    The android ecosystem of root, custom roms, and good apps definitively gives certain phones a much better second life than there first one.

    And let’s not forget the ethical side of things:
    http://www.good.is/post/the-answer-to-the-unethical-gadget-problem-buy-only-what-you-need/

    • Vladimir

      Next thing. Put a wp7 on that hd2 and dual boot all the way :) Still the best phone there is imho (for me atleast). I love the freedom of choice it gives you, noting else like it :)

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  • http://ruairiog.wordpress.com Ruairi

    Completely agree. Whenever I’m on the prowl for a new phone I usually check eBay first. It’s especially beneficial if the phone has a great modding community. For example; my ZTE Blade: I bought it off eBay 1 year ago, since than it has received numerous updates to 2.2, 2.3 and now stable 4.0. I couldn’t be happier with the modding community!

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  • Raoul

    Stable ICS on ZTE Blade ? Your enthusiasm blind your judgement I think…
    But I agree, zte blade with the help of the modding community is great.

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