The latest iPhone is the most expensive ever. We talk to an Android convert about making the switch. Jefferson Graham reports on Talking Tech.
Apple made headlines this week with its announcement of iPhone upgrades woes. While Apple users debate whether the new iPhone XR, XS or XS Max are right for them – or if they are better off waiting for potential new promotions – it’s worth reminding that plenty of really great Android alternatives exist.
From the Galaxy S9 and OnePlus 6T to Google’s latest Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, there are plenty of great phones available, with more on the way in the coming weeks that will work with the new 5G networks.
While the switch may take some getting used to, if you’re looking to move past Apple, here are few things and devices to consider.
Note: We’re focusing on phones that are similar in quality and specs to Apple’s latest iPhones. While there are myriad Android options at a variety of prices, the options below are the ones we feel are the best alternatives to Apple’s on the main four U.S. carriers. These options also don’t require you to switch carriers or add a line.
Be prepared to give up iMessages
Before we go to the devices, it’s worth quickly reminding you that before you ditch Apple’s proverbial “walled garden,” you will have to give up certain services. Chief among them: the ability to use iMessage. Apple’s popular messaging app obviously doesn’t work with Android, so you will need to be prepared to lose the blue bubbles that show up in text threads for iMessage users and embrace that “green bubble” world.
Luckily, between WhatsApp, Signal, Snapchat and countless other messaging apps you should still have no problems texting or even video chatting with friends (you’ll lose FaceTime, too) – that is, if you can convince them to move there to chat with you.
iPhone XR/XS alternatives
Samsung Galaxy S9
Last year’s Galaxy S9 was one of the best phones of 2018. With a speedy processor, excellent camera, vivid 5.8-inch display, water resistance, and even some hard-to-find features like a headphone jack, it remains an all-around excellent device.
While it is almost a year old, and the Galaxy S10 rumored to arrive in the spring, there are plenty of deals to be had on this still very good phone. On Samsung’s site, you can find the 64GB S9 for as low as $519.99 from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint when purchasing on a monthly installment plan. T-Mobile starts at $619.99 but doesn’t require an installment plan.
And this is before you trade in your existing iPhone, which, assuming it is in good and working condition, could knock potentially hundreds more off the price. Samsung is giving $50 for an iPhone 5S/SE, $75 for an iPhone 6 while more recent phones like the iPhone X and 8 Plus get $300 off.
As part of a promotion, T-Mobile users can get up to 50 percent off a new S9, S9+ or Note9 with values ranging from $150 for a 5S/SE and $250 for a 6 all the way up to $500 for an iPhone 7 or later (if purchasing a Note9).
Google Pixel 3
Google’s latest Pixels are an equally excellent alternative, particularly for those who value the camera above all else.
Although they have a number of impressive features – water resistance, speedy processors and the latest Android tricks Google can muster – the standouts for the Pixel line continues to be its cameras and the incredible images it captures.
One of the more recent camera features, Night Sight, is particularly useful and impressive for taking pictures in dark environments or at night without washing out your subject by using the flash. Dual front cameras also allow for wider group selfies.
The 5.5-inch Pixel 3 starts at $799 unlocked, $50 more than the iPhone XR, but like Samsung, Google is offering trade-in deals to lure iPhone switchers. A 16GB iPhone 6 can get you between $142 and $155 off and going all the way up to $500 off for certain 256GB iPhone X phones.
iPhone XS Max alternatives
Galaxy S9+ and Google Pixel 3 XL
Both of these phones are the larger siblings to the aforementioned Galaxy S9 and Pixel 3. While the Galaxy S9+ adds a second rear camera and slightly more internal storage, both phones’ main differences are their slightly larger screens (6.2-inches on the S9+, 6.3-inches on the Pixel 3 XL) and larger accompanying batteries.
Both phones are also much cheaper than the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max which starts at $1,099 for the 64GB version.
On AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, the Galaxy S9+ starts at $639.99 when purchased on a payment plan, or $739.99 from T-Mobile. As with the S9, Samsung offers trade-in options to bring that price down even further. (Those who want the slightly bigger 6.4-inch Note9 will pay an extra $160, regardless of carrier).
Google’s Pixel 3 XL starts at $899 for the 64GB version. Google similarly offers trade-in options for the Pixel 3 XL.
Those who don’t have a phone to trade in but still crave the latest specs and features should take a look at the OnePlus 6T.
While it lacks the impressive camera and water resistance of the iPhone, Pixel or Galaxy, at $549 for the base model with 128GB of storage, OnePlus 6T makes up for it with impressive speed and performance. New features including a fingerprint sensor built into the screen add a futuristic vibe, while the reduced notch on the front 6.41-inch screen allows the camera to be much more stylish than other large screened phones like the Pixel 3 XL.
There is no headphone jack, unfortunately, and the phone will work only on AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon’s networks. But for its price, it’s hard to top the value.
While there is no trade-in for the OnePlus 6T, you could still sell your older iPhone or trade it in to Apple for a gift card to buy headphones or AirPods.
5G and new phones are coming
One other thing you will want to keep in mind when buying a new phone is that we are on the cusp of the next refresh cycle. Samsung, LG, OnePlus and others usually come out with new phones during the spring. Samsung has traditionally announced its latest Galaxy S phones between February and March.
This year’s new devices will also have 5G and usually improved hardware. And though these new phones may be pricey, their arrival will also likely lead to further price drops for the phones mentioned here as carriers and manufacturers look to drive people toward the latest and greatest.
As always with technology, waiting is often the best option since something newer, faster and better is always right around the corner. But if you can’t wait any longer and need a new phone now you can rest easy knowing that there are plenty of excellent, and cheaper, alternatives to the iPhone.
Follow Eli Blumenthal on Twitter @eliblumenthal
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