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When's the Best Time to Buy the Most Popular Smartphones?

New Android phones can see discounts relatively soon after they're released, but iPhone prices tend to stay high.
group with smartphones

New smartphone models are released throughout the year, which can make it difficult to know the best time to buy the latest handset. With $1,000 handsets becoming more common, no one wants to overpay just to have a new cell phone.

We're here to help you keep it all straight! Read on for our complete guide to all the flagship smartphones for 2018. We go over the phones' release dates, when to buy, and what to look for if you'd rather get a slightly older model.

When to Buy the Best Smartphones of 2018

New Apple iPhone

Release Date: Around September 2018
When to Buy: Summer 2019

As usual, the Apple rumor mill has been working overtime to tell us what to expect from the next iPhone. Or iPhones, rather — there are talks of three potential new iPhones this year. Two would feature OLED screens, and one would be a more affordable LCD model.

Prices for the 2018 iPhones could range from $750 to $999.

It's also been rumored that all three will have Face ID and edge-to-edge displays, as well as new gesture controls that were originally introduced on the iPhone X. The two higher-end models could be additions to the iPhone X line, with names like iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max. The cheaper model could reportedly look like the iPhone X (and may have a small delay, too).

And what will you have to pay for the phones? According to a rumor roundup from Tom's Guide, the priciest model — the possible "Xs Max" — is expected to cost $999, or the same amount as the iPhone X. That would put the smaller OLED model at $899, and the least-expensive model could cost $750.

Apple deals can be scarce, and we expect to see these iPhones at full price, even during the holidays. However, they could be bundled with hefty gift cards in the range of $200 to $300, which would make that full price tag a little more appealing. The first discounts will be very small, around 3% to 5%, but if you can wait longer, there should be a marked increase in savings.

About nine months or so after its release, the iPhone 7 finally saw a discount of around 45%. After 10 months, we saw a deal for the iPhone 7 at 54% off. If the new handsets follow the same trend, we expect to see the best discounts the summer after they're released.

Samsung Galaxy S9

Release Date: March 16, 2018
When to Buy: May 2018

Samsung had a bit of a tumultuous year when it came to the seventh generation of its flagship Galaxy series. While the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge were both fine, the Note7 had that notorious problem of catching fire. Since then, Samsung appears to have turned things around, and the S9 has gotten many positive reviews. Announced on the Sunday that began Mobile World Congress (MWC), it was released just a couple of weeks later.

SEE ALSO: Everything You Need to Know About Buying Refurbished Electronics

With 2017's Galaxy S8, we saw price drops on eBay fairly early. In fact, the first noticeable discount we saw was about 4% off and came five days after the phone was released, dropping it to $685. However, the best deals we saw were from Samsung in July, when the S8 fell to $479, and then in November, when we saw the S8+ for $500 at Best Buy.

The S9 has followed similar trends, with the first notable deals dropping in April 2018. In May, the S9 indeed dropped even further to $590, but in June it fell again to $510, which was the best price we saw for an unlocked unit until late August. That's when we saw an S9 for $506. Waiting until Black Friday 2018 will likely provide further savings.

Samsung Galaxy Note9

Release Date: August 24, 2018
When to Buy: May to August 2019

We expect slight discounts on the Galaxy Note9 as soon as October, with better price drops coming in mid-to-late November. Better deals will pop up throughout 2019, but it's likely the best prices will be seen next summer, from May to August 2019. Obviously, the longer you can wait, the better savings you'll see.

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 became available for purchase on September 15, 2017. The first discount popped up in October, and cut $99 off. Decent discounts were available in November 2017, especially around Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Prices continued to fall, but the best price we saw came in August 2018, when an unlocked Note8 dropped to $484.

Google Pixel 3

Release Date: October 2018
When to Buy: April 2019

Google released the Pixel and Pixel 2 models in October, which suggests we'll see the same for the Pixel 3 this year. We're expecting it to be released between October 4 and October 9.

Speculation includes the possibility of an iris scanner rather than a face scanner, along with three new Pixel models this year. Additionally, two of the handsets are rumored to be "premium" devices, while the third will be "high-end." And there seems to be evidence pointing to dual front camera lenses, wireless charging capabilities, and the presence of a notch, at least on the XL model.

The best Pixel phone deals often require you to pay full price, but include excellent extras.

However many new Pixels we see, they're all expected to have Android 9 Pie as their operating system, as well as the Snapdragon 845 chip to ensure optimal performance.

Around six months after it was released, we started seeing discounts of around 10% on the Pixel. Overwhelmingly, though, the best deals we've seen on Pixel phones have often involved paying full price, but getting excellent extras. For instance, we saw the full-price Pixel XL bundled with a free Google Home about eight months after the Android phone was released. In August 2017, we did see discounted Pixels bundled with a Daydream View VR headset for as little as $524.

The longer you wait, the more likely you are to see an outright discount on the handsets. In November and December 2017 — just over a year after the Pixel was released — we saw a 38% discount on the first-generation models. Obviously, opting for refurbished models can also save you serious cash. In fact, 78% of the Pixel deals we've seen in 2018 have been for refurbs, with the lowest price for a refurbished unlocked model dropping to $175.

As for the Pixel 2, it was released last October — almost a year ago. We've seen a few deals, but they haven't been prolific. The best one was in January 2018 for a Pixel 2 with Verizon for $450 — but it required you to sign up for a 2-year contract. Otherwise, the best deal we saw came last November, when you could snag the Pixel 2 plus a Google Home Mini (which was retailing for around $29 at the time) and a $100 Google gift card for list price. Since then, we haven't seen many deals, although we've seen open-box models drop to $530.

LG G7 ThinQ

Release Date: June 2018
When to Buy: August to October 2018

The LG G7 was announced on May 2, 2018, but industry reviews have been lackluster. As expected, it comes equipped with Android Oreo and the Snapdragon 845 chip. Additionally, it also has IP68 water resistance and a fingerprint sensor.

SEE ALSO: Are Unlimited Data Plans Ever Worth It?

We've only seen one deal on the G7 since it was released, and that required a sign-up on an 18-month Sprint Flex Lease. Still, for only $7 per month, that amounts to a very affordable $126 overall. We expect to see more deals in the next couple of months, as well.

The LG G6 was released in late March and early April 2017, depending on the carrier. We saw deals as soon as May, but the $360 price tag required a monthly payment plan. However, that deal also offered a free Google Home when you registered your phone. We saw an unlocked model fall to $400, which was about 38% off. The deal came three months after the phone was released.

Sony Xperia XZ3

Release Date: October 2018
When to Buy: December 2018 to April 2019

Earlier this year, Sony released the Xperia XZ2. Bewilderingly, the company recently announced this handset's successor, the Xperia XZ3. It'll be available in October for around $900. According to The Verge, the two phones are "virtually identical," but the XZ3 boasts a bigger OLED display, new AI features, and a slightly larger battery. We've seen the price of the XZ2 falling, and expect it to keep falling for a while.

When's the Best Time to Buy a Phone?

The best time of year to upgrade your phone is easy to figure out — if you're loyal to one brand. Manufacturers stick to their own timetables, as well as their own deals, as detailed above. By now, it's safe to say Samsung will release its newest Galaxy between February and April, and Apple will drop a new iPhone (or three) every September.

It's safe to say Samsung will release its newest Galaxy between February and April, and Apple will drop a new iPhone (or three) every September.

But what if you aren't married to a particular lineup? If you're interested in the latest models, it's a good idea to hold off on upgrading until you know what the year will bring. Both the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January and MWC in February tend to highlight at least some of the popular models for the upcoming year. Additionally, November and December can be a great time to snag excellent deals on new handsets. Even if a new model isn't released until the fourth quarter, manufacturers don't want to miss out on the Black Friday hype.

What Deals Can You Get on Older Handsets?

What if you don't want to buy a 2018 smartphone, but still want a big-name handset released within the past year or two? Here's the lowdown on deals for those models.

  • Apple iPhone X: We didn't see the first price drop for this phone until April 2018. Even then, it only dropped $10 below Apple's price. Since then, we've seen decent deals that required trading in an eligible device and activating a new plan. Doing so meant you could grab a unit for as little as $5 per month.

  • Apple iPhone 8: The best deals we've seen have included discounts around payment plans, or have been bundled with gift cards. Though we've seen the phone drop to $670, we've seen open-box and refurbished units fall further. Those hit $499 and $450, respectively, this year.

  • Apple iPhone 7: While refurbished models are pretty common now, you can still find new units. Refurbished units have fallen as low as $240, which might be the lowest we see them go. However, we've seen unlocked iPhone 7 models fall to $350 via certain carriers, or $625 standalone (for the 128GB version).

  • Samsung Galaxy S8: The best deal we've seen appeared on eBay this August, when the handset dropped to $357. We also saw the S8+ drop to $427 in July. We were surprised to see that open-box and refurbished units didn't become more prevalent over the past few months, though.

  • Google Pixel 2: It's almost a year old, but we haven't seen many notable deals. The best prices we've seen have been with carriers, which dropped the Google handset to $450 with a 2-year contract. Additionally, we've seen an unlocked Pixel 2 XL for $849, which was bundled with a charger, along with a $200 credit when purchased from Google with financing. Look for deeper discounts — or at least better bundles at full price — around Black Friday.

  • Google Pixel: While new units can be found, the majority of the deals we've seen have been for refurbished Pixels and Pixel XLs. Refurbished Pixel XL handsets have fallen as low as $153 for select carriers, while a refurbished and unlocked XL has dropped to $187. As for the smaller Pixel, a refurbished and unlocked unit could go for as little as $175.

  • Sony Xperia XZ2: It was just released earlier in 2018, but we're already seeing the price of the XZ2 fall, and expect it to keep falling for a while.

Readers, what phone models are you excited about this year? When do you plan to upgrade your current handset? Let us know in the comments below.

Senior Staff Writer

Julie joined DealNews in 2015. Her work has been featured on MSN, Business Insider, Lifehacker, The Motley Fool, GoBankingRates, and Moneyish. In her spare time, she enjoys baking sweets, reading thrillers, and listening to an ever-growing list of podcasts.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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