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When Is the Best Time to Buy an iPhone? Apple Plans Its Next Launch

Apple’s next iPhone models are almost here, which raises an annual dilemma for consumers thinking about getting a new phone: hold on to what you got until the new slate of phones is released — likely next month — or hunt around for deals on last year’s models?

As the tech world turns its attention to the next range of devices, evidence suggests buyers could grab a discount on used models ahead of the announcement while those in the market for a new phone are likely better off waiting until after the new phones launch to take better advantage of the product cycle.

Apple is expected to release three new phones this fall. For this year’s launch, rumors suggest all three phones will use an iPhone X-style design with a face scanner and no home button. The 6.1-inch iPhone will serve as the cheapest model alongside an upgraded $899 5.8-inch iPhone X and a $999 6.5-inch iPhone X Plus. Unlike the more expensive versions, the 6.1-inch phone will use an LCD screen instead of OLED, and images suggest it will also only offer one camera lens unlike the dual lens found on other phones.

If you don’t care about the latest and need an upgrade, you may be on the lookout for a good price on an iPhone 8 or X, the models unveiled last year. Here’s what to know about buying an iPhone.

iPhone 8 and X: The Best Time to Buy New

If you’re looking for a brand-new iPhone directly from Apple, the answer is simple. Wait until the new product launches. Apple has established a model of lowering prices on older iPhones to serve as cheaper entry points without actually releasing cheaper iPhones (mostly).

When the iPhone 3G launched in June 2008, it was priced at $199 for the 8GB version and $299 for the 16GB model. Around 12 months later, Apple launched the 3GS with 16GB of storage for $199 and 32GB of storage for $299, with the 8GB 3G model dropping to $99. It’s continued this practice ever since, although the asking price has risen, in part, because the cell phone industry has moved away from locking consumers into two-year contracts.

Here is how the lineup looks now.

iPhone lineup.

As you can see, the iPhone SE inhabits the lowest spot at $349, one of Apple’s rare decisions to specifically design a cheaper iPhone. The iPhone 6S, the company’s flagship model in 2015, takes the $449 spot. The iPhone 7, the 2016 flagship, retails at $549. The three latest iPhones round off the high end of the market.

This trend has been charted here, showing how the phones drop in price.

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A report from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo earlier this month claimed Apple’s three new iPhones will retail for $700, $900, and $1,000. It’s possible that Apple will cut the price of the iPhone 7 to bring it down to the level of the iPhone 6S while also bringing the iPhone 8 down in price so the new devices can inhabit the same price point as the current phone.

It’s unclear whether Apple will keep the current iPhone X in the lineup. A July report from Barron’s and a January report from Kuo both suggest the company may drop the model altogether, creating a clearer distinction between the iPhone 8 and the newer models. If that’s the case, you may have to look elsewhere to get a good price on a brand new iPhone X.

iPhone 8 and X: The Best Time to Buy Used

It’s harder to track the price of used smartphones, but evidence suggests the market will also drop closer to the time. Unlike buying used, though, you may get a good deal on an iPhone 8 or X before new devices launch, as sellers seek to get ahead of the crowd and shift their phone before the big announcement.

Trade-in site Gazelle noted in 2013 that the value of an iPhone doesn’t only drop straight after an announcement but rather gradually declines over the course of a year. NextWorth noticed similar gradual declines in price in 2015, while uSell reported that old iPhones lost about five percent of their value one week after the next device launched, dropping 20 percent by week four.

The best time to buy a used iPhone, it seems, is a few weeks after the next phone’s announcement. Unlike buying new, though, you will see savings even if you buy outside of this timeframe.

Photos via Apple, Unsplash / Nicholas Santoianni

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