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2021 may be the year smartphone prices are finally kept in check



Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G 10

Credit: Adam Molina / Android Authority

Opinion post by

Jon Fingas

As rough as 2020 was for just about everyone, it was a silver lining for smartphone fans: the prices of really good phones fell. While there was an early increase due to premium 5G phones, it was budget devices, affordable flagships and “super medium” phones that defined the year, including the Pixel 4a, iPhone SE and Galaxy S20 FE. Smartphones under $ 700 were already hot, but they quickly became stars. There are signs that will continue until 2021.

Of course, many of the smartphones that arrived in 2020 will still be relevant for a while. However, there are also hints phone manufacturers are taking lessons from last year into account. From early indications, 2021 will be the year smartphone manufacturers learn to rein in their previously sky-high prices. Whether it’s due to changing trends or sheer necessity, you may not have to pay $ 1,000 or more to have a powerful handset in your pocket.

Affordable smartphones will remain hot in 2021

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE front with tube

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

One of the most likely motivators is simple: if devices in a given category sell well, companies will make more products like them.

There are definitely signs that at least some of these less expensive phones are very popular. Wave7 Research Rector Jeff Moore noted that the Galaxy S20 FE was one of the best-selling phones by US carriers by the end of 2020, displacing the Galaxy A51 and even the regular Galaxy S20 line. LG credited “massetier” phones like Velvet for improved summer sales. The iPhone SE, meanwhile, was a rare bright spot at the crudest point of the early pandemic. Buyers have a clear preference for less expensive smartphones, whether it is due to pandemic-related pressure or simple economy. It would be foolish for brands to ignore it in 2021.

See also: What to expect from smartphones in 2021

You may even see some early signs of that awareness. It’s not entirely surprising that Chinese phones like Xiaomi’s new Mi 11 will have very aggressive prices given the domestic market, but it’s still a positive sign for the first Snapdragon 888 phone to be launched anywhere in the world. Maybe Qualcomm’s flagship silicon will not raise prices quite as high this time. As an example, it is rumored that Samsung will lower the Galaxy S21 prices by as much as $ 150 against the S20 series.

And if the story is any indication, some phones can create a ripple effect that makes competitors feel compelled to keep prices down. Like it or not, the fast but even cheaper iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini have to influence prices and features throughout the industry. If they sell well (and probably do), you can expect to see a wave of 2021 Android smartphones offering a similar mix of top-notch with a price tag of under $ 800.

The pandemic may not offer much choice

Google Pixel 4a 5G in the back of the phone

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

There is also a simple (if harsh) reality at work: the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to continue to dampen enthusiasm for expensive smartphones, although vaccines will help restore some luster of normality in 2021.

While there are signs of improvement, many are still out of work or have had to accept permanent pay cuts. It limits consumption power. Businesses need to take this into account if they expect to sell smartphones in 2021. It’s hard to justify a premium device (or any device at all) when you may have to stretch your budget further than you ever expected. The success of budget phones at the start of the pandemic probably reflects the cost-conscious mindset.

Related: Did smartphones become much more expensive in 2020? Let’s look at the numbers

People may not be willing to spend even if they still have good incomes, for that matter. If you work from home and otherwise live in as much as possible, why buy a premium, 5G-enabled phone that will not live up to its potential? A $ 2,000 Galaxy Z Fold 2 is hard to sell when you just use it to check your social feeds on the couch. Cheaper, focused devices will make more sense until it is safe to commute to the office or take pictures at a concert.

Cheaper phones are more than good enough

Google Pixel 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs OnePlus 8T back 2

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

Smartphone manufacturers may not be quick to acknowledge it publicly, but they may have to accept that mid-range phones in 2021 will be good enough for many people. You no longer have to buy the most expensive model to feel like you are getting a powerful device.

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The aforementioned Galaxy S20 FE – Android authorityThis year’s smartphone for 2020, no less – may be the most important example. Although it will not surpass 2021 smartphones, it is still a fast, full-fledged handset that takes quality photos and otherwise goes well against more expensive alternatives. Why pay more for a regular S20, or even S21, when the S20 FE nails the basics? Pixel 5 is another strong example. Google took a slightly different approach with its relatively understated super mid-ranger, but still managed to cram in practical premium features such as wireless charging and water resistance while maintaining a reasonable price tag.

This is not to say that you are mistaken for the latest and greatest devices with Snapdragon 888 chips and powerful cameras. They will still be great for gaming and multitasking. And yes, the final end of the pandemic should make it easier to justify advanced phones again. For a growing number of people, however, there is little value in buying more than a modest phone – and providers may find it difficult to argue otherwise.




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