Why more people are buying high-end phones (and why it’s a good idea)

Smartphones come in different prices. From budget phones to flagships, there’s something for everyone. Yet, although budget phones have become much more capable in recent years, reports show that today more people are willing to buy premium phones than ever before.

Why is that? And are premium phones really a better deal?

Premium phone sales are on the rise

Before we dive into why more and more people are buying high-end phones, let’s take a look at some supporting statistics to get a better perspective. Note that by premium phones, we mean phones over $400.

In the image above representing counterpoint research, we can see that more than a quarter of all smartphone sales in 2021 were high-end smartphones. Given the growing contribution of premium phone sales from 2016 to 2021, it’s safe to assume that this trend could continue into 2022 and beyond.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of the high-end smartphone market share is provided by Apple. In 2021, the tech giant held 60% of that market share, and we’re guessing Apple’s recent success in China played a big part in that win. After Apple on the chart, Samsung is at 17%, Huawei at 6%, then Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo and the rest.


Now that you have some context, let’s move on to why today’s buyers might be more willing to buy high-end phones as opposed to budget or mid-range phones.

1. High-end phones are more economical in the long run

Granted, premium phones are expensive and not for everyone. But there are ways they can be more economical than cheaper phones. The top three reasons people upgrade their phone are because the battery has degraded, software support has ended, or they just want new features.

Knowing this, premium phones may turn out to be a better deal for you under three conditions:

  • You’re ready to carry your phone for more than three years.
  • You don’t care much about having the latest software update.
  • You can have the battery replaced once it degrades.

Think of it like this: let’s say you buy a cheap pair of headphones every year or so. Even though the headphones are brand new, you will still get poor sound quality every time because the components inside are just inferior. But if you upgrade to premium headphones, you can just buy a pair once and enjoy great sound quality for years to come.

The same goes for smartphones. If you buy a budget phone every few years, you get average performance, cameras, and build quality every time. But if you buy a premium phone, you can enjoy its premium hardware and software for longer, assuming you agree with the three conditions we mentioned above.

Replacement batteries cost between $25 and $100, so you’re saving money in the long run by not buying new phones.

2. Mobile gaming is set to experience explosive growth

Mobile gaming has a bad reputation in the gaming industry and among gamers. After all, most mobile games feel like they’re designed to help you pass the time, not engage you in immersive stories or gameplay. Think Candy Crush or Subway Surfers. This is one of the main reasons why mobile games still suck compared to console/PC games.

Fortunately, that is changing for the better. Experts believe that mobile gaming is on track for explosive growth in the coming years. After all, there are far more smartphones in the world than consoles and PCs. Mobile games allow developers to appeal to a wider audience, which can help generate greater revenue through microtransactions.

Additionally, as phones get more powerful and 5G becomes more accessible every year, the graphics and multiplayer experience will also improve. All of this will result in developers making better mobile games, and to play those games (which will likely be free to download), buyers are more likely to buy premium phones with better performance.

3. There are more choices

We have already discussed how Chinese phones are so cheap and that Chinese brands have a reputation for making some of the best budget phones. And while that’s still their bread and butter, it looks like more Chinese companies have started prioritizing flagships.

As we saw in the chart, Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo now offer competitive flagships positioned right next to Samsung’s counterparts with impressive specs, excellent build quality and a very deliberate “cool factor”.

Chinese brands aren’t as prevalent in the US (with the exception of OnePlus), but they’ve got the Asian market under control. Thus, they can potentially downplay their budget phones and prioritize marketing their flagships to increase sales of the latter.

4. Buyers are better informed

Buyers today are different from those of the past decade, in that they are more aware, informed and vocal about their needs. Since there are more options than ever before, they have the freedom to be more selective.

And with the rise of new content creators and tech publications, shoppers can easily watch videos or read articles to compare two or more phones of their choice and make a better buying decision.

All this is not surprising. As society becomes more technologically advanced and we become more reliant on smart gadgets for daily activities, people will naturally be more willing to spend more on these gadgets, not just smartphones. . Yes, cheap phones have gotten really good, but some features are exclusive to high-end phones.

High-end phones are gaining popularity

Most smartphone sales consist of budget and mid-range phones, as most of the needs of an average buyer can easily be found in this price range. However, for the above reasons and more, shoppers around the world are increasingly willing to spend more to get that affordable premium or “flagship killer” experience that the tech industry seems to be obsessed with lately.

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