Ask the readers – my dilemma

I have a dilemma and I need your help.

Since ditching landline and starting to use a cellphone over 16 years ago, I have never paid for a cellphone. I have always gotten a “free” phone by signing up to a 3 year contract on the cheapest voice & text plan available.

Many moons ago my manager decided that it was time for me to get a work phone. Instead of carrying a personal phone and a work phone, I decided to merge the two together. My personal phone number became my work cell number and work started paying for my monthly cellphone bill. As an added bonus, work would also pay for the fancy cellphones.

I started with a Samsung Galaxy S3 then upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy S5.

After roughly 3 years of usage, I’m still using the Galaxy S5 today.

While the phone is still works great, because I don’t use a case, the phone has taken bit of a beating. Despite replacing the battery and back panel earlier this year, I often have to charge it around 3 PM or so after a full day of moderate usage.

I think I am due for an upgrade.

Thanks to one of work’s many cost saving practices, work no longer pays for the full amount of the phone. Rather, work now pays for a set amount of $250 + taxes (works out to $280) and I have to pay for the rest.

I thought I would be able to pick a phone that costs less than $250, and essentially a free phone.

But I was wrong.

Unfortunately under the “corporate” rate, all the phones available are priced higher compared to the same phones available to typical consumers. Furthermore, there’s only a limited selection of phones available.

So I am left with the following choices:

  • iPhone 6s 32 Gb – $270 + taxes
  • iPhone 7 32 Gb – $400 + taxes
  • Galaxy S8 – $490 + taxes
  • Pixel 32 Gb – $400 + taxes

Take out the amount that work will cover below are the amounts I have to pay out-of-pocket for each phone.

  • $22.40 for iPhone 6s
  • $168 for iPhone 7
  • $268.80 for Galaxy S8
  • $168 for Pixel

When I asked friends and co-workers about whether to go with the cheap route and buy an iPhone 6s over a newer phone, below are some of the comments I got.

“But it’s one generation old, the phone is like dinosaur ancient old!”

“Always go with newest and greatest when purchasing electronics, especially phones.”

“You don’t know how long Apple will support iPhone 6s for.”

“The iPhone 7/Pixel/S8 camera is so much better!”

“iPhone 7 is at twice as fast as the iPhone 6s. Go for the performance.”

“S8/Pixel screen is so much better than the iPhone 6s!”

Essentially, everyone I have asked has told me to fork out the extra money to get the latest and greatest phone.

But I do wonder, does it really matter if I go with an older iPhone?

When I purchased my Apple MacBook Pro about 8 years ago I purchased it refurbished, meaning it was one generation older than the newest model. This saved me about 20%.

This was the also case when I purchased a refurbished Apple iMac a couple of years ago. Again this move saved me about 20%.

Similarly, I have been purchasing my DSLRs used. I purchased a used Canon 5D when the Canon 5D Mark II came out. I then purchased a used Canon 5D Mark II when the Canon 5D Mark III came out.

By buying refurbished and used, I have saved a ton of money on electronics.

When I was paying the monthly cellphone bill myself, before I got a work phone, I was using a non-smart phone (aka dumb phone) despite everyone I knew already had a smart phone. I didn’t miss a thing back then.

(The picture above you see was the dumb phone I used, the picture was taken on film using a double exposure technique in case you’re wondering)

So here’s my dilemma – do I go with the cheapest option (i.e. iPhone 6s) or do I fork out $150 or more and get the latest and greatest?

“You’ll still get a new phone and it will be newer than your existing phone.” Mrs. T reminded me the other night.

Cheapo/frugal option vs. spending $150 – $250.

I guess you can probably figure out where I lie on this subject.

What would you choose if you were in my shoes? Do you have a different view than mine?



Share on:

77 thoughts on “Ask the readers – my dilemma”

  1. It’s a matter of priorities.

    For some the latest and greatest is most important, for others the savings.

    For some 50 USD is a lot for other’s it isn’t.

    Seeing that you use your gear for a long time, I would personally opt for the Newer iPhone 7.

  2. If an iPhone 7 was couple of hundreds more, I would understand going for iPhone 6s…
    For around extra $150, considering you keep your phone many years, I don’t understand why it’s an huge issue.

    My gf got an iPhone 7 – 128GB (new Telus corp customer so she got $300 off extra on new contract) and here are some advantages (in real life) compared to iPhone 6s:
    – speaker quality (example to listen to music or podcasts at home)
    – home button is more sturdy
    – pictures quality (possibly not an advantage for you).

    If you don’t switch headphones often, you simply put the adapter they provide in the box on your headphones jack, and it works well.

    Considering a new iPhone will come out this September, one could argue that iPhone 7 will soon be “last generation”…. iPhone 6s came out in September 2015.

    The fact a cellphone contract gives $500 off the phone (making the contract price $400 +taxes instead of $900 + taxes), and work gives you $250 off … the price asked for iPhone 7 is really good price.

    You cannot compare with buying a refurbished camera or computer, since there is no rebate on buying new equipment.

    Either phone is a good choice.

  3. If you’re used to Android, you may want to make sure that you are comfortable using Apple. They’re different enough that you could be annoyed by having to do things a different way.

    You could go the cheaper route if you’re comfortable, but if you go the expensive route, you should feel no guilt as you look back on the years and years of savings that you’ve had to date. Either way I think you should be comfortable with your decision.

    • Good point. Haven’t used Apple iOS but we have Mac at home. Being a technical person I’m sure I’ll figure out iOS pretty quickly so Android vs. iOS isn’t a big concern for me.

  4. My Samsung Galaxy J5 is one year old and I still love it. Actually, I’m a big fan of Samsung, they’ve never disappointed me when it comes to smartphones, so I always recommend them to everyone.

    Apple products here cost an arm and a leg. And a kidney. They’re so expensive, it’s not really worth the investment. So, personally, if I have to choose an Android phone, I go with Samsung.

  5. I’m with the older Apple phone. First they last longer and generally to me are of better quality. I would pick up Applecare though as it covers two years of raw stupidity if you do anything to your phone and especially since you don’t use a case. It also covers any issues such as a defective battery which popped up on me in my last iphone 5. The other big selling point for me is that iphones retain their value nicely. A quick ebay search on an iphone 5, five generations of phones ago, show that it’s still selling between $60 and $100. That pretty decent return on a phone from 2012.

  6. I use an iPhone 6 largely due to smaller screen than the 7 as well as having a headphone jack available that the 7 does not have.

    I bought the most advanced phone that I know that I could use for at least 4-5 years while still having the up-to-date accessibility features that it has. The battery lasts me a day and a half for normal usage that doesn’t include watching videos and minimul music. My last phone lasted 5 years and it was a BlackBerry.

    • Yes the no headphone jack on the 7 is a bit of a deal breaker for me. That’s awesome that you are able to get a day and a half of battery life on your phone.

  7. I’d say the iPhone 6s as well. I recently upgraded to the 7 after having the 6 for over 2 years. Usually after 2 years I would start wishing for a new phone since my current one would be starting to feel a little slow. Not with the iPhone 6. Still felt fast until the day I sold it. The iPhone 6s is even one generation newer and will be plenty fast for years to come.

  8. Go for the 6 l say. My husband has the iPhone 4 and l the 4s. They still work fine and we bought them refurbished years ago. If and when they break down, we will move up to the 5 or 6 refurbished. Our friends laugh, but who cares! Get the most memory you can, and it will play nicely with your other Mac products.

    • It’s kinda surprising that we aren’t tied to the Apple ecosystem given we use Mac at home. Maybe an iPhone would make sense in the long run.

  9. Looks like your getting tons of different opinions here as well. I can’t really recommend anything but I’m happy with my iPhone6. It seems like these phones are getting the slightest of upgrades with each phone instead of revolutionary upgrades that we really want. Battery life seems to be the slowest to gain any performance upgrades. Too bad Moores law doesn’t apply to battery life! That being said my iPhone6 battery life seems fine unless I’m streaming Youtube for hours (which I do at work, listening to playlists). Best of luck!

    • You’re definitely right when it comes to newer phones not getting much of an upgrade compared to the previous generation. Lately it seems the upgrades are typically a bigger screen, a more powerful processor, and a better camera. A better battery life with a newer phone isn’t necessarily a guarantee.

  10. I still use my samsung s5. Thing is for me. I love the camera aspect of the phone. Generally all phones can go on the internet and do all the same things. The camera is the big thing for me, but like you i don’t want to spend $ on a phone. Would your work pay for a used phone off kijii or something? people always post phones on there and if you wait and watch you can get a great deal. People always want the newest and greatest when the new iphone or something comes out check kijii and stuff out and there’s great phones. If not just get the iphone and save the money.

    • When it comes to pictures I have my 5DII so the cellphone camera isn’t a huge feature for me. Work wouldn’t pay for a used phone off Kijii or Craigslist unfortunately.

  11. I was in the same place recently with my S5. I made a few changes and my battery is better or it doesn’t drive me as crazy. I know I will be forced to upgrade at some point but not ready to spend the money. Hopefully, I can put it off for a few more months or longer.

    Have you tried any of the suggestions online. One of the best ones I used on my S5 was setting my wallpaper to be black for both the home and lock screens. I also run my brightness really low. You could try an extended battery or just buy an extra one to keep with you. Amazon has the regular batteries for less than $10. I know it is a pain but at least you have the option of changing your battery. A lot of the newer phones are not allowing that without sending it in so that it is waterproof supposedly.

    Some of the suggestions that I tried in addition to the black background.
    Turn off animations inside hidden developer options.
    Turn off S voice.
    Adjust power saving mode.
    Turn off touch key lights.
    Turn off motions and gestures, air view.

    • As stated, I have replaced the battery and back cover. I have also tweaked the system to try to save as much power as possible. Last week on my business trip the phone ran out of power around lunch time which was a bit of a pain. Maybe I’ll just start carrying two batteries when I’m traveling for business.

  12. I would go with the s8. it has a great camera and the best features. If all goes well you will be so close to FI you wont need to upgrade when you start downsizing your work load. I don’t like the I phones at all. I have the s6edge+ and love it after two years my battery still lasts all day. When my contract is done I hope the s8 will be available for $0 as it is a fantastic phone

    • s8 does look like a great phone but I have a few complaints about Samsung phones in general. The slow update and amount of bloatware are concerning.

  13. Bob,
    Phones are among the worst investments you can make. They are overpriced, they depreciate very fast, are easy to lose/be stolen/stop working, and become obsolete fast. Moreover, differences among phone generations are less and less impactful. You can compare their differences on this website:
    Years ago I paid $450 to get the latest Galaxy S4. One of the worst money decisions I’ve ever made. Go for the cheapest option, and with the money you save, either buy a case with a battery, an external battery, a screen protector and maybe other useful accessories, like a car holder (to use phone as GPS), or a jogging/waterproof case. I bet you that those might make a bigger difference than a few more pixels here, or a few more camera megapixels there.
    My two cents

    • That’s exactly why I have never paid for a cellphone. I don’t plan to do so now, hence for leaning toward getting the iPhone 6s instead of newer phones. In terms of waterproof… the Galaxy S5 was waterproof, until the USB connector cover broke off.

  14. I’d go for the iPhone 6. The only Apple product I have is an iPad mini and I love it. The battery is awesome in keeping it charged.

    I’d also go for the most storage possible. I have a Moto G I bought new for $99 which works very well. But the operating system and native Google junk take up so much space. I haven’t added many apps but I often have to remove some and clear caches if I want to download another app. This is with 8GB storage.

  15. Personally I would go for the Pixel. I’ve never had a good success rate with Apple products, so I tend to prefer Android myself. I also prefer Google Fi’s service, which you can do with a Pixel phone, so that’s what’s most economical to me.

    • I haven’t used Apple iPhone so I wouldn’t know. I love their laptops and desktops though. In terms of Project Fi, don’t think Canadians are eligible. 🙁

  16. I wouldn’t buy a new one. Do you need it, or just want it? If you current phone works great you could:
    – replace a body/case
    – replace the battery
    and you would get a new, perfectly working phone.

    And if you need the latest OS on you Android device you can install an open source Android project. But it most cases… you don’t need the latest OS 🙂

  17. Another vote to go the cheap route Bob. My work phone is an iPhone 4 and serves me beautifully. Granted I don’t use it intensively, and only for calls/texts but I still get a few days between charges. I’ve also done the refurbished route and did home upgrades and repairs to my previous MacBook Pro, installed an SSD and extra RAM to get more life out of it. A few years later the hard drive cable went which I replaced for $30, incidentally Apple thought it was a faulty motherboard and wanted to charge $900 for a repair! I subsequently sold it for $800 and upgraded to the refurbished MBA.

    Enjoyed the photo, at first I thought it must be from an advertisement.

  18. Ha! Go the cheap route. I have $40 Tracfone smart phone. Only has 2 GB of space, but it does everything I need it to do. No reason to spend much more than that.

  19. For me, it would be about the app ecosystem. Presumably you have Android apps already. Even if you didn’t for them, it is easier to go from Android to Android. How much time will you spend migrating your stuff to Apple’s system and apps?

    Is it worth trying to save $150 if you have to go back a generation (I think the 6s is a good deal older than than the Pixel and definitely the S8) and spend hours trying to make it work?

    I’d go with the Pixel or S8. However, you can’t really go wrong with any of the choices. They’ll be big upgrades and if you use you phone a lot, you’ll be more productive than you were before. I think that’s worth more than a one-time outlay of less than $250.

    • That’s a good point about having to migrate my stuff. I don’t have that many apps and have only purchased one or two apps. I wouldn’t think it’d take me that long to migrate to Apple’s system and apps. I could be wrong though.

  20. I would go for the iphone 6s as well. Had a generation 4 until last year (didn’t do anything anymore) and decided to switch to a 6. Still not the newest, but it was way cheaper and will do fine for the coming years.

    Eventually you have to update the phone, but then you can choose an older phone for a lower price again… I don’t think the performance will matter that much, at least for the next 2 years or so.

  21. I personally wouldn’t buy a new phone. Your S5 just needs a little love to keep running well. Check out my recent post “Angry Phone Rant”.

    The phone and cell companies WANT you to continuously upgrade every couple years. Are phones really that important to you? I suggest ditching the spendy habit.

      • can’t you replace the 5S with a refurbed 5s – that has to be the cheapest solution 🙂
        as for Apple I’m definitely not in that camp – fie on anything Apple the biggest nanny company out there isheep unite:)

        • If work isn’t paying for the phone then I would guess this might be the cheapest option. If I purchase a refurbished phone via Amazon/Craiglist I am not eligible for the $250 from work.

  22. Depends on your ecosystem preference, but the 6s will last you at least another 2 years before the software starts to become a bit “heavy”. The Pixel, S8 and iPhone 7 are all beautiful phones.

  23. I would get the Galaxy S8 because of that sexy screen. Also, I prefer Android. 🙂 But you do whatever tickles your pickle. Let us know what you end up with.

  24. My 2 cents… go with what you **need** which may not always be the newest, fastest, latest generation and most expensive option. Phones/laptops/tech gadgets are ridiculous when it comes to value. They are like cars losing value with every passing day as every 6 to 9 months a new generation appears rendering your current phone/tech a “dinosaur.” This is how the industry keeps you in a never ending spend cycle. Buy what you need is all I say. I have a LG Optimus S from about 2010 I believe. Yes, it’s old but for my needs it works just fine. Talk and text is my main usage. I still go online with it for basic emails/news via wi-fi. The point, for my current needs and usage it’s perfect.

    • Very true on determining what I need rather than being told on what I need. For what it’s worth, I think S5 still works pretty well but it’s the battery that’s driving me crazy. On my this week’s work trip the phone died around noon after a few hours of usage on the plane. I had to find a plug and charge it prior to heading to a meeting. Very inconvenient.

  25. iPhone 6s. In terms of obsolescence, I don’t think you need to worry about it for many years. I know people still using the 4s, which came out in 2011. As you know from your MacBook and iMac, these are quality products that perform well for many years.

  26. I’ve always bought new but a few generations old. For instance when my S2 died ~2.5 yrs ago I bought an S4 even though the S6 had just been released. Now it’s dying and instead of buying a little older phone, I bought a moto G5 plus for $250 before taxes brand new. It was on sale also, so there was that savings, but it was still better technology than my old S4. I just wanted to try something else besides Samsung since my last one didn’t last too long, in my opinion.

    I never had issues using “older” technology phones except for me making the mistake of getting the S4 int’l and not realizing it wouldn’t pick up 4G. whoops. However, it still worked great on just 3G or less these past 2.5 yrs, so no real issues there even.

    You can get unlocked brand new older versions of phones off of Amazon a LOT cheaper than new present day just released type prices for sure. It’s definitely the most frugal way to go. 🙂

    • As you can see, I have never had issue using “older” technology in my personal life. It’s only with work I have always gotten the latest and greatest phone because work paid for the full amount. Maybe I should just adopt my frugal approach when it comes to this next work phone.

      Unfortunately I need to order the phone using a set procedure to get work to cover the $250. If I just buy the phone off Amazon/Craiglist then I will end up having to fork out the money myself.

  27. One of the things I spend money is phones,last year I got pixel 32gb phone,it’s really integrated into Google eco system,
    You can save all the original quality prints on Google photos.and Google now is becoming more useful.

    • Although I work in high tech when it comes to electronics I’m probably not the most high tech person out there. 🙂

      Google Photo backup is useful for sure but I have second thoughts about backing up photos on a corporate cloud.

  28. I purchase my electronics the same way you do. Refurb and 1 to 2 years old is just fine. A year or two ago, that item was the latest and greatest and probably cost at least double (at least when it comes to camera bodies).

    I’d go with the bargain model, but I’m not an Apple enthusiast.


    • I do pretty much the same but over here iPhones really hold thier value, 6s plus only 150€ less than new. Iphone 6 plus shopping around found one at 350€

  29. I am also still using the iPhone 5S and still am really happy with it. I agree with Brian-get the most memory possible. But other than that there is very little downside to the previous generation iPhone except that one day in the far future the support will no longer be there. I was using the 3rd generation iPhone last year before I “upgraded” to the 5 and had no problem talking/texting/using apps or the internet.

    • More memory means the phone will cost more. My Galaxy S5 only has 16Gb and that seemed to work for me (haven’t used an external memory card). So I’m sure updating to 32Gb will be more than sufficient for me.

  30. I’ve never owned a cell phone. I’m not against them, just holding off until cell service becomes cheaper than landline. So being a frugal person I’d say go the cheapest route.

  31. I’m still using the iPhone 5s. It works fine and does all the things I need it to. I guess that’s the best question for yourself. What do you need the phone for, what do you expect it to do? If anything I’d say get the most memory as possible. I use my phone for music, podcast, apps, etc.

    • That’s great to know that iPhone 5s still works great. Right now I need a phone that can last the whole day, especially when traveling for work.


Leave a Comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.