It’s official, Apple’s new iPhone models — the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and the iPhone Xr — are here. That of course raises the annual dilemma for consumers thinking about getting a new phone: Spring for the latest, swankiest iPhone XS, or see what kind of deals you can find in light of older models receiving price breaks.
Unfortunately for some, the evidence suggests that buyers seeking a used model could nab the best deals ahead of the announcement. That said, if you’re in the market for a new phone you’re likely in luck, because your needs are perfectly aligned with the peak of the product cycle.
This year’s launch bore out most of the most common rumors: All three phones will use an iPhone X-style design with a face scanner and no home button. The $749 iPhone Xr will serve as the cheapest model alongside an upgraded $999 5.8-inch iPhone XS and the $1099 6.5-inch iPhone X Plus.
On the other hand, if you don’t care about the latest and simply need an upgrade, you may be on the lookout for a good price on an iPhone 8 or iPhone 7, the models unveiled in previous years. Per the launch, the iPhone 7 will now start at $449, while the iPhone 8 will start at $599. The iPhone X has given way to the iPhone Xr, which will start at $749.
iPhone 8 and X: The Best Time to Buy New
If you’re looking for a brand-new iPhone directly from Apple, the answer is simple. Log in to the Apple Store and make your pre-order ASAP. Apple always lowers the prices on older iPhones to serve as cheaper entry points without actually releasing cheaper iPhones (mostly).
This pattern has born out for years. When the iPhone 3G launched in June 2008, it was priced at $199 for the 8GB version and $299 for the 16GB model. Around 12 months later, Apple launched the 3GS with 16GB of storage for $199 and 32GB of storage for $299, with the 8GB 3G model dropping to $99. It’s continued this practice ever since, although the asking price has risen, in part, because the cell phone industry has moved away from locking consumers into two-year contracts.
Here is how the lineup looks now.
As you can see, the iPhone SE inhabits the lowest spot at $349, one of Apple’s rare decisions to specifically design a cheaper iPhone. The iPhone 6S, the company’s flagship model in 2015, takes the $449 spot. The iPhone 7, the 2016 flagship, retails at $549. The three latest iPhones round off the high end of the market.
This trend has been charted here, showing how the phones drop in price.
iPhone 8 and X: The Best Time to Buy Used
It’s harder to track the price of used smartphones, but evidence suggests the market may have already started tilting against consumers. Unlike buying new, though, you have traditionally gotten the best deals on older models before new devices launch, as sellers seek to get ahead of the crowd and shift their inventory before the big announcement.
Trade-in site Gazelle noted in 2013 that the value of an iPhone doesn’t only drop straight after an announcement but rather gradually declines over the course of a year. NextWorth noticed similar gradual declines in price in 2015, while uSell reported that old iPhones lost about five percent of their value one week after the next device launched, dropping 20 percent by week four.
The best time to buy a used iPhone, it seems, is a few weeks after the next phone’s announcement. Unlike buying new, though, you will see savings even if you buy outside of this timeframe.