We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the best time to buy an iPhone. It’s an endless debate over whether you should go for the phone that’s just been released, or wait to see what’s included in the next model. But the problem is that if you really want the latest and greatest, you can end up waiting forever — and that can be an even bigger problem for Android phone shoppers, who have many top brands and exciting flagship lines to choose from. So when is the best time of the year to buy a new Android phone?
Vlad Savov reports for The Verge that while the world of Android smartphones is often chaotic and disorganized, this year, April seems to be the month that will bring the debut and availability of the widest range of attractive new Android devices. Six months after Google released Android Marshmallow, manufacturers are introducing “a deluge of phones” built around the latest version of the operating system. We’ve already seen the beginning of that influx with devices like the Xiaomi Mi 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S7, but the variety of options are set to “explode” in April.
Huawei’s P9, with its dual-camera system, is scheduled on launch on April 6, the same date when Meizu will unveil the M3 Note. A week later, HTC will unveil its 2016 flagship, rumored to be called the HTC 10, and around the same time, Oppo will release the R9 and R9 Plus internationally. “Whether it’s the R9’s 16-megapixel selfie camera, the revival of HTC’s BoomSound, or the prospect of another Huawei smartphone with a monster (3,900mAh) battery, there’s going to be something to tantalize most Android fans,” Savov writes. “And for the ultimate spec extravagance, there’s also the Zopo Speed 8, which lays claim to the title of being the first deca-core smartphone.”
Combined, the timing of Google’s Marshmallow release and the introduction of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 chipset create the ideal circumstances for what Savov terms a “bumper crop” of exciting new Android flagships. It takes Android phone makers up to four months to completely integrate their software with Google’s — this time around, to take advantage of new software like better camera apps and superior image processing — which explains why some phones, like LG’s G5 and Sony’s new Xperias, aren’t yet ready to ship.
Google routinely releases the latest version of Android in October, which helps it to counter Apple’s latest version of iOS, which arrives with the latest iPhone in September. Because of the time that it takes Android smartphone makers to create phones that integrate the latest version of Android, the Mobile World Congress event held in February has become the venue where many new Android flagships are announced.
Typically, the phones announced at MWC arrive in the subsequent weeks, and this year, many will be released during or around the first week of April. That timing seems coincidental this year, but Savov posits that if Google’s schedule remains the same, an influx of new Android flagships in April “might well become a normal and familiar cadence to the Android smartphone market.” While Android’s release pattern makes it difficult for Android smartphone manufacturers to launch exciting new flagship devices ahead of the holiday season, spring is becoming a season of Android launches. Apple is throwing its hat into the ring with its recently-announced iPhone SE, but it looks like April will be dominated by Android launches for which all the pieces are falling into place.
So when should you plan on purchasing a brand-new Android smartphone? It’s logical that you should avoid purchasing a new phone right before lots of exciting new options are expected to hit the market. (So early in the year is often a better time to wait than to make a purchase.) And common wisdom indicates that it’s best to wait to purchase a new flagship model until a few months after its debut, after price cuts have had a chance to take effect and any major bugs have had a chance to be squashed.
Another favorite time to purchase a new phone is the holiday season, when electronics stores and other retailers offer promotions and discounts, or when the latest Nexus phone has been released. But if you’re hoping to shop for a phone when you have lots of brand-new and exciting options, spring is increasingly the best time to take stock of your choices and try out phones that leverage the strengths of the latest version of Android.