So you want to buy a new phone:
Is it worth the wait?

Of course, it is no secret that new flagship phones are losing significantly in value in the first few months of their availability. This is the norm in a highly dynamic market with annual innovation cycles. Nevertheless, it is interesting to trace the curves of the decline in value (or better still the fall in retail prices) over the various product iterations.

So when is the best time to buy a new phone after its launch? Is it worth waiting a few more weeks?
I think this can be calculated...

 
 

Step 1: Get yourself some prices

I looked at the price history of a few popular telephone series over the first three sales years. Examined were Apple's iPhones, Samsung's Galaxy series as well as Google's Nexus and Pixel series. If you plot the data over time, characteristic patterns appear between the manufacturers.

Two trends can be seen in the pricing of the Samsung Galaxy series: The devices gradually become more expensive over the iterations, but then adopt very similar pricing patterns. They are introduced to the market in regular innovation cycles and have very steep price decline curves.

The pricing structures of Apple iPhones are also expected to decline. However, these are somewhat flatter overall. The simplified statement is therefore that Iphones are more stable in terms of their price than Samsung devices.

Over the past few years, Google (partly via manufacturing partners) has released a number of Nexus and Pixel phones. In the first two models, these were well-equipped phones with a very reasonable price. It is clearly visible that with the introduction of the Nexus 6, the devices have moved into a significantly higher price range.


Step 2: Normalize them for release date

To make a comparison between a manufacturer's products, I normalize the prices by days since the release of the product. I'm looking at the first 500 days, as we see a relevant part of the price drop at this time (and hey, who buys an almost two year old model anyway?).

Very exciting to have a look at at Samsung: Almost 100 days after release, practically all prices (regardless of the initial price of the model!) have settled at approx. 520-610€. The drop in prices is stronger for the newer (and more expensive) models of the series than for the models up to the Galaxy S5.

The iPhones show a very homogeneous progression over time. Until the 6th iteration of the iPhone, the launch prices remained relatively stable and also the price progressions did not show a very broad bandwidth. However, the significantly higher issue prices for model numbers 7, 8 and for model X, which started at a completely exceptional price, are clearly visible.

The prices for the Google models in this article show one thing above all: they are not comparable. The different model variants and their initial pricing strategies were too different. However some data points are quite interesting. For example the Nexus 5, is one of the phones with the highest price stability in this comparison.


Step 3: Normalize them for maximum price

The last, and most exciting step of the processing is the normalization not only to the release date but also to the release price. This allows the progress curves of the individual telephones to be compared with each other. In some cases, similar curves can be seen - but in some cases it is also easy to tell when individual phones perform worse than their predecessors or successors.