How to Get a New Phone Every Year Without Spending a Fortune

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You don't have to wait long for a new smartphone to turn up on the market: most manufacturers, including Apple, Google and Samsung, have settled on an annual launch cycle, which means a brand new phone appears at the same time each year.

But keeping up with the march of tech progress doesn't have to be as expensive as you might think – there are ways to keep costs down to a minimum and still get the latest and greatest kit in your pocket. Here are five of the smartest ways to do it...
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1. Get your timing right

We've already mentioned the annual launch cycles of the big players in the smartphone world and knowing a little bit about the tech calendar can make a big difference to prices.

New iPhones turn up in September, for example, although the iPhone SE bucked the trend and launched in March instead. If you know when the next model's hitting the streets then you might be able to pick up a bargain on the current one.

The biggest industry event of the year is Mobile World Congress, usually held at the end of February or the start of March, and it's here that Samsung Galaxy phones and several others traditionally see the light of day for the first time.

Google's Nexus devices, meanwhile, tend to appear towards the end of the year, though they're less predictable: it was late September 2015 for the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, and October 2014 for the Nexus 6.

Whatever type of phone you've set your heart on, check when it came out – if it was more than a year ago, a new handset might be imminent.

This isn't an exact science, but look for tech news and rumours on the web and you should be able to get a fair idea when a handset is about to be replaced, and that can be an excellent time to make your move for a phone.
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2. Take the refurb option

Buying refurbished phones means you can get up to half off the original price for something that's almost as pristine. In fact it makes so much sense that companies like Apple have gone all in on the idea.

Refurbished items have been returned by their original owner before going through a rigorous testing and cleaning process. While it may seem riskier to go down the refurb route, you'll usually find lengthy warranties and guarantees included – in fact all items bought though eBay's Refurbished Tech hub come with a 12-month warranty as standard – and you're saving a huge chunk of cash by not going for brand new gear.

You can still consider the other tips here when picking up a refurbished smartphone – you don't have to go for the most recent or most powerful handsets, and the timing of your purchase will affect the price too.
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3. Choose the right handset

We've come a long way since Steve Jobs held the first Apple iPhone aloft in 2007 and nowadays there are some very capable mid-range and budget phones on the market. Don't think buying a brand new phone each year means buying the most expensive one available.

Devices such as the OnePlus 3 and  Moto X Play offer a whole host of power and features for a very reasonable price. The Nexus 5X from Google and LG is another modern phone combining excellent specs with a competitive price.

Even Apple is getting into the game with its cut-price iPhone SE: a phone with the guts of an iPhone 6s but an older, smaller chassis.

If there are no new phones that tempt you or meet your budget constraints, consider going back a year or even a few months. You'll often find these phones are a lot more affordable while still giving you plenty of power.

Take last year's Galaxy S6 or the iPhone 6 or Nexus 6 from 2014, for example – these are all still very competent phones even if they have been replaced by something newer and faster.

Get an older phone on refurb and the savings really start to add up. It's definitely worth considering if you can live without the newest bells and whistles, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7's iris scanner or the fancy new camera on the iPhone 7 Plus.
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Make money from your old phone

Remember that you're not buying a phone from scratch – you're upgrading from whatever handset you've already got in your pocket, and that can bring down your costs.

Whatever network operator you're currently with will usually let you return and recycle your handset for a set cash fee, and a number of high street chains will do the same, and of course you can always sell it as used / second-hand through eBay.

While it might take you longer to photograph and list your phone, you'll get the rewards if interested parties get into a bidding war for your phone – maybe some of them are buying new phones on a budget every year too.

It's important to do your research first to work out how much you might get: search completed listings on eBay for final prices, and see how many other people are flogging a phone just like yours.

You should also read through eBay's help pages for sellers, particularly if you've not used the site in the past.

You might be surprised at how much someone is prepared to pay for something you no longer want, even if it's slightly damaged, but make sure you write a listing that's honest about the condition of your old phone.

Some phones (primarily the top-end ones) will fetch more than others, but you should be able to make a bit of money on almost any handset.
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How to save big with refurbished tech

You can cut the cost of your next smartphone by buying a refurb model instead of brand new. Savings are typically 15-30% of the usual list price – or even as much as 50% – but here are a few things you need to know first.

What is refurbished tech?
  • A refurbished product that’s nearly new and may have undergone some repairs to restore it to near-mint condition.
  • A product that has technically already been sold once, so can no longer be sold as new.
Why is a product sometimes sold as refurbished?
  • It may have had a hardware or software fault, which has since been 100% corrected.
  • It may have had missing accessories or manuals.
  • It may have had some cosmetic damage.
  • It may be the result of a cancelled order (returned unopened) and so can no longer be sold as new.
  • It may have damaged or missing packaging. If this is the case it may be listed as ‘new other’. The seller will say why it’s being sold as such.

Important: A product which is described as ‘reconditioned’ or ‘used’ is not refurbished.

You can find out more about what these and other definitions mean in How Refurb Tech Can Make Your Money Go Further.

Shop smart

Go to the eBay Refurbished Technology hub to find deals on refurb products.

Any more questions?

We have an easy to read, comprehensive guide to buying refurbished tech here.
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