Brace Yourselves, More Affordable Flagships are Coming

Brace Yourselves, More Affordable Flagships are Coming

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An increasingly competitive cellular market has brought an interesting shift in strategy for OEMs. With the entrance of companies such as Huawei into North America, we’re seeing an increase in the mid-grade and budget device spaces.

In North America, the first really decent budget phone was the Moto G. The Moto G created waves with consumers and enthusiasts alike, since it was such a great device for a small price. Motorola’s success with the Moto G caused other manufactures to take notice, and now the budget offerings are arguably just as important as the high-end, since they appeal to a wider range of customers. More importantly, they are providing the Android experience that we deserve, without the compromises that we were seeing with budget devices before. And, as higher-end technology becomes cheaper and more accessible, budget offerings will only get better. And that might mean the rise of “budget flagships”—that is, flagship phones at budget phone prices.

Even Samsung admits their competition is truly ramping up in 2016

The budget device scene has expanded even further through the incursion of Chinese companies in the western market. Huawei specifically surprised enthusiasts by producing the Nexus 6P, but they are also offering a variety of both high-end and budget devices as well.

Now, they are entering the U.S. with their Honor brand and the impossibly cheap Honor 5X.  Other phones are just as good a deal; the Y6, for example, is only $149.99 CDN to buy outright, and has relatively decent specs that you’d expect for a sub $200 phone. According to this forum thread, it can be rooted relatively easily as well.

The Huawei Mate 8, which was announced for new markets at CES, sports a Kirin 950 processor, alongside the Mali T880 GPU — apparently making it the first phone to use this GPU.

So what does all this mean? Well, Huawei states that the setup will perform 22% better and consume 12% less power than the Exynos 7420, and perform 25% better and consume 44% less power than the Snapdragon 810. Whether these numbers are accurate or not will have to be determined when the phone is fully reviewed, but given the A72 cores adopted on this chip, it wouldn’t be too surprising. If it turns out these numbers are close to being accurate in real world performance, and if the phone can show the excellent speed and fluidity we come to expect from flagships, then we have a powerful smartphone that falls into flagship category specs, but for less cost.

If smartphones can be of good quality at lower prices, and even more so than they have been, we’ll start seeing the second wave of affordable change in the cellular market. Hopefully that change means a couple of positive things, like more selection and cheaper phones, meaning we can upgrade our devices more often and even pass on carrier contracts without having to shell out a ton of money for a good device — we are already seeing some outliers from the carrier trend, as various companies are favoring online sales and unlocked devices. Cheaper device prices could also cause a positive change with carriers as well; at least in Canada, generally the cheaper the phone is outright, the cheaper the plan is.

We’ve seen this trend continue throughout with new competitors joining the scene. Even Samsung, a smartphone giant, had to admit that it’ll be a challenging year for them due to competition, whereas the previous year they had said they were not worried about it in the emerging market battlefront. With new fingerprint technology, pressure-sensitive displays and Qualcomm attempting to reclaim the silicon throne, we should expect to see great options that benefit all groups of people and all walks of life. And of course, enthusiasts like me who are just starting out with tinkering can buy a cheap device and just be surprised with how awesome we can make it become.