Are Mobile Devices Getting Too Expensive?

May 9, 2024

When cell phones first went mainstream, they were fairly expensive, considering they were more of a luxury than a necessity. However, even accounting for inflation, they weren’t nearly as expensive as they are today. In fact, some cell phones now cost more than a good laptop.

Since mobile devices are something you take with you everywhere you go, there’s a greater risk of damage, and that makes some people hesitant to buy the higher-priced options. Thankfully, durable cases make it easy to protect your devices, whether it’s an iPhone, a Galaxy, an iPad, or another type of tablet.

However, protecting your tablets and phones will only reduce the money you spend on preventable repairs. It won’t make it cheaper to own your devices.

Smartphone prices increase every year

It can be argued that cell phones have replaced laptops for most people and that’s why they have higher price tags, but no matter how you slice it, they’re still expensive. And the cost doesn’t stop after the first purchase. In fact, over 40% of people buy a new smartphone every 2-3 years.

As of 2023, the average cost of a smartphone was $790 – a cost that continually increases over time. If you buy a new smartphone at that price every two years, that’s a minimum of $3,950 every ten years. That’s a lot of money!

Why do mobile devices cost so much?

Manufacturers are making millions of dollars in profits from selling smartphones and tablets. The profit margin is fairly large. However, they know we can’t live without them, so they aren’t going to be cheap.

Unfortunately, for many people, buying a smartphone is out of the question. Around 2.5 billion people reside in countries where the cheapest smartphone costs at least a quarter of one month’s salary. That’s about the equivalent of forcing everyone in the United States to buy the most expensive luxury model from a lineup.

Smartphone models are designed to get you to spend more

When major smartphone manufacturers like Samsung and Apple release new lineups, there are usually three different models: a barebones model with limited storage and features, a mid-priced model with decent features, and a fully loaded high-end model. There’s usually a small difference in price between the low and mid-priced models and a much larger difference between the mid and high-priced models. This is intentional.

Manufacturers price the bottom two models closer together to influence more mid-model purchases. The marketing psychology behind this is that when presented with two options, most people will choose the least expensive. However, when a third option is presented, people are more likely to choose the middle option. If Apple and Samsung hadn’t released three different models, they wouldn’t have made as much money. The mid-tiered model is the device they’re actually trying to sell by offering the other two options.

A culture of carelessness might double your cost

When you buy a device, you might be able to justify the initial cost, but if you’ve adopted careless habits, you might end up doubling your cost when you have to replace your device.

Also, YouTube encourages people to ruin their devices for views. It seems like there are an endless number of videos that aim to test the durability of devices by scratching the screens, dropping them from heights, and throwing them around. If you do this, hopefully, you will earn more than enough ad revenue to replace your devices.

There are additional expenses, too.

It’s not just buying mobile devices that can drain your wallet. It’s also what you do with them. For instance, both cell phones and tablets can come with the following expenses:

  • Your regular monthly phone bill
  • Monthly phone insurance
  • Mobile internet plans for tablets
  • In-app purchases
  • Paid apps
  • Buying virtual items while playing games
  • Unexpected repairs, like screen replacements
  • Device replacement

If you didn’t have a smartphone or tablet, you wouldn’t be tempted to buy apps, make in-app purchases, or buy virtual items for games. These expenses arise solely from owning a device and they can rack up your monthly bill really fast.

Just owning a mobile device means spending money during the course of normal use. That’s not a bad thing, but if you’re trying to be frugal, it can be difficult.

Are mobile devices really that unaffordable?

Ultimately, mobile devices come with a high price tag but are more affordable when you get a refurbished device. For the best price, avoid the newest models. You’ll pay around half as much, and your device will look like new.


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