The best time to upgrade your smartphone
It isn't easy being a smartphone fan, especially if your timing's bad: no sooner has the ink dried on that two-year contract for the Uber Mega X than it's rendered obsolete by the slightly thinner, slightly faster Uber Mega Y.
And that got us thinking: are there patterns here? Should we be buying Samsung's in spring and Sony's in summer? Is August ever a good time to buy an iPhone? Let's look at the history and see what patterns emerge, so you'll know the best time to buy a new phone.
The most obvious pattern that emerges is the dwindling power of trade shows.
The big one for mobiles was always Mobile World Congress, which many manufacturers use to launch their most exciting products.
Increasingly, though, smartphone manufacturers prefer to host their own, separate events for their flagship phones to maximise publicity. Shows such as MWC and IFA are still important, but the biggest hitters are often announced elsewhere.
The other pattern that you'll see is annual releases, so if you're a keen early adopter it's a good idea to get your existing handset on eBay or sent to a reputable trade-in firm a month or so before.
Leave it too late and you may see the value of your phone plummet as it goes from next big thing to last year's model.
Predicting a new iPhone launch is easy: for the first four years we saw new iPhones every summer, but in 2011 that schedule changed from summer to autumn and Apple's stuck to it ever since.
The iPhone 4S shipped in October 2011, the iPhone 5 shipped in September 2012, the iPhone 5S and 5C launched in September 2013 and the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus landed in September 2014. So it's a pretty safe bet we'll see the iPhone 6S in or around September 2015.
It's worth remembering that Apple is on a major/minor release schedule now: major revisions of the iPhone happen every two years, with relatively minor upgrades - the S models - in between. So right now if you're considering a new iPhone it's probably with waiting for the imminent launch of the new model, but don't expect massive changes.
- Current flagship: iPhone 6
- Launched: September 2014
- Current estimated price (SIM free): £539
- Expected iPhone 6S release date: September 2015
The HTC One was announced in February 2013 and shipped in March, the HTC One M8 was both announced and shipped in March 2014 and the HTC One M9 was announced and launched in March 2015. So you can probably take a good guess at when the HTC One M10 will be unveiled.
HTC is one of the few companies that still likes to do things around MWC, although it sometimes holds an announcement event just before the show kicks off. It took almost a month to get the HTC One M9 into shops after its announcement, but the HTC One M8 launched on the very day of its unveiling, so in that sense HTC's launch timings can be a little variable.
It's also announced the HTC One M9+ is coming to Europe in July, so we might start seeing dual cycles in the future.
But if we were betting people, we'd be sticking a portion of our wages on a new HTC flagship at least being announced the next time the month rhymes with "larch".
- Current flagship: HTC One M9
- Launched: March 2015
- Current price: Roughly £470
- Expected HTC One M10 release date: March 2016
Samsung loves variants - for every Galaxy there are eleventy-three variations to cover niches such as "smartphone owners who live under the sea" and "smartphone owners who don't believe Mars exists" - but the big ones follow a fairly predictable pattern.
All given the 'S' suffix, the Samsung Galaxy S4 was announced in March 2013 and shipped in April, the Samsung Galaxy S5 was announced in February 2014 and shipped in April and the Samsung Galaxy S6 was announced in March 2015 and shipped in April, while older handsets in the range followed a similar pattern.
Samsung's clearly working to an annual upgrade cycle here, with its launches timed for shortly after Mobile World Congress is over to ensure it gets the headlines all to itself, so we expect to see the Samsung Galaxy S7 announced in February 2016, as that's when next year's MWC is.
- Current flagship: Samsung Galaxy S6
- Launched: April 2015
- Current price: Roughly £450
- Expected Samsung Galaxy S7 release date: April 2016
Do you prefer your Android unadorned, its skin unsullied by TouchWiz or Sense? If the answer is yes then it's Google's Nexus range for you, and so far that appears to be sticking to a reasonably predictable schedule.
The first Nexus, the Nexus One, may have been a January launch back in 2010, but since then Google has aimed to launch its Nexus phones early enough for the lucrative Christmas shopping season.
The Samsung-made Nexus S was launched in December 2010, the (Samsung again) Galaxy Nexus was unveiled in November 2011, the LG Nexus 4 was released in November 2012, the LG Nexus 5 landed in November 2013 and the Moto-made Nexus 6 in November 2014.
However it's possible that the next Nexus (made my Huawei) could land earlier, as it's likely to be timed to coincide with the launch of Android M, which itself could arrive in late Q3, possibly September, so if you've got your eye on a new Nexus it's worth waiting until around then.
- Current flagship: Nexus 6
- Launched: November 2014
- Current price: £499
- Expected Nexus 5 (2015) release date: September 2015
While most smartphone makers tend to launch a new flagship once a year, Sony has taken to releasing two every year, at roughly six month intervals, so you may not have too long to wait if you want to upgrade to the next Sony flagship.
For example the Sony Xperia Z1 landed in September 2013, the Sony Xperia Z2 hit stores in April 2014 and the Sony Xperia Z3 landed in September 2014. However Sony changed things up a little bit with the Sony Xperia Z3+, which didn't arrive until June 2015, which is more like a nine month gap (and only a mere refresh, rather than all-new phone).
As such it's a bit harder to predict when the next Xperia flagship (likely to be called the Xperia Z5 since the Z3+ is already called the Z4 in Japan) will land. Our best guess is still a six month gap, but Sony typically times its late year releases with IFA in September, so that's where we're pinning our hopes on seeing the new, fancier, Sony phone.
- Current flagship: Sony Xperia Z3+
- Launched: June 2015
- Current price: £499.99
- Expected Sony Xperia Z4/Z5 release date: November or December 2015
Our best guess for the launch of the LG G5 would be May 2016, but given that the release dates have been gradually sneaking earlier into the year it's possible that LG will try and push the release forward to March or April, so it's better able to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S7 and HTC One M10.
Either way you're not going to see the G5 until sometime in 2016, so if you want to upgrade to LG's latest flagship you can either grab the LG G4 or play the waiting game.
- Current flagship: LG G4
- Launched: May 2015
- Current price: Around £450
- Expected LG G5 release date: May 2016