How to measure value in mobile phones


I recently moved from AT&T to T-Mobile for a variety of reasons. This was for four lines. We purchased 2 new phones and intended to transfer phones we already had but had to wait to have the AT&T phones unlocked (that turned out to be more a hassle than it should have.)

Any way, during the transition and while waiting for my wife’s Samsung Galaxy S7 (originally about $750) to be unlocked, she used an LG Stylus 3 Plus ($250 or 1/3 price of S7) for a couple of weeks. When the Samsung was finally unlocked she returned to using it and made a comment she was glad to have her phone back. I asked her if she felt if the Samsung was $500 better than the LG, she rattled off a few reasons she preferred the Galaxy. Most of her reasons are due to being more familiar with the Samsung UI – which may explain the reason OEMs do not stick with the standard Android UI, a gentle form of lock-in. Then she listed some things she did like about the LG.

So this experience got me wondering – is the Galaxy $500 better than the LG. The LG has a larger screen, it comes with a stylus (if that matters), same or similar SOC and memory options. both have nice fingerprint scanners, … so what else should matter?

  • camera
  • support
  • reputation/name recognition?
  • form factor

curious what others think. What factors go into your decision and how do you make a value decision. I am not a shutterbug so I do not give the camera as much weight as others. I mostly use camera with Office Lens and the occasional picture.

PS – I moved from Lumia 950 to a Motorola Z2 and somewhat “Redmondized” it. I find I do miss the smart tiles but I do appreciate the improved App situation somewhat. I do wonder if it is worth $250 more than the LG. It feels to me that the Delta between the worst phone on the market and the best is not worth the delta in cost — so what is the sweet spot?

Comments (16)

16 responses to “How to measure value in mobile phones”

  1. arunphilip

    Not specific to your question but as another WP to Android convert, I totally get and echo your statement of "I find I do miss the smart tiles but I do appreciate the improved App situation somewhat".

    To your question, the things that matter to me are:

    • Camera
    • Screen - quality and size
    • On-board storage + expandability
    • Samsung Pay

    I use a Galaxy S8+ as my daily driver, but also have a Galaxy A5 as an alternate phone. At the time of purchase, the A5 cost a third of the S8+, and I have to say that with such a vast price difference there is very little the S8+ offers for my use case over the A5 (the camera being the one exception).

    The big advantage of the A5 is that I handle it rougher. :-)

  2. jimchamplin

    For me,


    Screen quality



    Pocketability is hyper important to me. I heavily considered the iPhone SE but after looking at the 6S last summer, decided on it. Summer of 18 will probably be an iPhone X or a Pixel 2, depending on if I want to drop the Apple ecosystem. At this point I'm using Firefox and Chrome for browsers, Dropbox for cloud, and Spotify for music, so I'm pretty platform agnostic.

    The camera is nice to have. I like to snap photos of places I see when we go on day trips, and durability is also extremely important - and goes along with pocketability - because I have to pull my phone out a lot at work. How it survives a fall onto concrete is as Important as how well it slips out of my pocket.

    • Simard57

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      your choices are at the top end of the spectrum. What factor justified the added cost over a mid tier choice? you mention durability - I never recall hearing that associated with how well an iPhone survives hitting the concrete. Supposedly the Motorola Z3 has crack proof screen but that has issues (

      • jimchamplin

        In reply to Simard57:

        Well for one, my phone always has a case. Currently I prefer Apple's silicone case and if I'm going to be out for a while (day or two) I pop it in a Mophie Juice Pack Plus. A case will only do so much though. I can be reasonably certain that my 6S will survive going from my pocket to the showroom floor in that case with no damage, or from countertop to floor at home.

        As for the x-factor here it ended up being software support. I don't want the carrier or OEM to drop OS support for my phone in less time than my contract or lease. That was why I went back to Apple. There are some great Android phones out there, but in mid-2016, there weren't any options on AT&T for an Android set with decent software support without paying full price up-front.

        Like I said, the iPhone SE was my original choice, but the little larger screen of the 6S felt fine in my pocket (the salesman let me try his) so I went with that.

      • lvthunder

        In reply to Simard57:

        In the Apple world the SE and 6S last summer is not the top end of the spectrum. Whereas other manufacters produce cheap phones and expensive phones Apple just sells last years model at a cheaper price.

        • Simard57

          In reply to lvthunder:

          fair enough but the cheapest Apple is higher than most mid-range Android phones (I could be wrong and am too lazy to check). That is what I meant by top end - price wise.

          I suppose I was more asking about Android as Apple's offerings have a natural differentiation,

  3. Jules Wombat

    For me, I consider the Premium age is over. Certainly since the last couple years the justification for spending £400+ for a phone is frankly ridiculous in my opinion. The Smartphone has become pretty commododised in the last three years. My year old Lumia 650 (£125) , is as 'good' as my previous Lumia 925 premium (which owned for three years), and a Lumia 950 simply does not offer the feature/ value proposition to pay £450+. I really haven't seen sufficient features/ quality to justify paying more than £150 for a new phone (for three years usage), I insist upon SD storage expansion, which is more prevalent on the cheaper phones.

    The dissapointing trend in the last few years are bigger and bigger 5 inch inch plus screens, as I really want pocketable comfortable phones, not bulging pants. And putting expensive phones into a protective case, just adds further bulk in my pockets.

    I do have got a Nokia 6, (at £160) which is rather blah, great build quality, too big, tedious Android UI. Typically £500+ phones are paid off by contract at £30+ month, but I have seen grown men suffer broken screens, displays for months, because they can't afford to replace/ re contract. Wheras I can treat my phone as a cheap useful appliance rather than precious china doll. Gadget fever gone mad, when there are frankly more interesting things in life to spend your money on, like a decent holiday experience.

  4. wunderbar

    Camera is number 1. And while midrange phones are getting there, the top end phones still have enough of a gap for me. I take a lot of pictures. I got my GS8+ in June, and have taken almost 4300 pictures on it since I got it. For me, a top of the line camera is the biggest factor, one that midrange phones can't quite match yet.

    After that, software support. Flagship phones are more likely to get software support for longer periods of time. I know that the GS8 will get Android 8, and unless something crazy happens it'll get Android 9. I've also received the monthly security update every month since June. Except for certain phones, midrange phones don't get that kind of support.

    And then it comes down to the fact that I am using my phone for something for the vast majority of the day. And no, that doesn't mean I'm looking at the screen for 18 hours in a day, but when I'm at work I'm listening to podcasts or music on it, same in the car. It's my primary communication tool, it's the device I use more than anything else I own. I'm 100% ok with paying the premium prices to get the best devices because of how much I use them.

    And as a point of reference, as recently as 5 years ago I'd put maybe $500/year upgrading various components of my home built PC. that's down significantly. Maybe, $800 every 5 years or so, usually in one go, then not another penny for 4-5 years. The way I look at it, I'm shifting resources. the PC used to be "the most important device I use" that was worth spending the money on. Now it's the phone. So more of my resources go into that, because I just use it more.

    • Simard57

      In reply to wunderbar:

      do you also own a $1000 camera?

      • wunderbar

        In reply to Simard57:

        I technically still have a mirrorless camera, as it is in my condo, in a bag, largely unused now. My phone has replaced it most of the time. And the reason isn't because the phone is a better camera. Technically, the mirrorless (an APSC NEX-5N), will still take far superior picture. But in reality, 99% of the time I'm only carrying around one thing with me, and that one thing will always be my phone.

        I'd rather have a phone that's 80% as good as the mirrorless camera and not need to carry the camera around than a phone that's only half as good as the camera, and then need to haul another thing around with me.

  5. lvthunder

    I enjoy the Apple eco system with the exception of the Mac. So I get the value out of the phone by only buying one every three years. I had the original, the 4, the 5s, and the 7. Believe it or not I then sell the phone back at the end of the three years and get $200 for it. I buy the model with the most storage though. That's why the resell is so high. I have also been lucky and never broken one.


    Just buy the MOST smartphone you can afford and tell yourself you are smarter than everyone else. Isn't that the system everyone uses?