Difference between a $200 phone and a $1200 phone

It’s time for a new android phone. Current one is 4 years old.

I don’t understand the appeal of a “flagship” phone for $1000+, vs a less expensive phone under $400.
What does one get for the extra $600+ ?? What can I do on a $1200 phone that I can’t do on a $400 one?

A good topic for a show.

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I can sort of speak to this.
Both my wife and I have Pixel 4 XLs. Bought when they were first released.
Unfortunately, my wife’s phone “broke” so had to go in for warranty work. In the past, when I’ve had to replace phones, I’ve always gotten an advanced replacement. Apparently, Google doesn’t do that for warranty work. Not being to be able to be without a phone for 7-10 days (if lucky) I ran to Best Buy and bought an unlocked Samsung A10 ($150). So far the differences that she has noticed:
Battery doesn’t last as long.
No fast charging, so takes longer to charge (of course it helps to plug it in).
No wireless charging.
Camera not as good.
Phone not on Android 10.

Those are just some of the issues she has with it. Again, in this case, I was going for a cheap phone to last until her normal phone comes back. So its sufficing for that.

If you for a midrange phone, you probably won’t see a different. I just have a preference for the Pixel line. Though next time, I might wait for the Pixel XA to be announced next upgrade.


I’m not sure what the appeal is. I’m very happy with my Pixel 3a - less than $400.

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Quality of the parts is a big part of it. Not their reliability or their durability - in fact some of the cheaper phones are tougher than flagship phones.

But you tend to get more modern, fast processors (Qualcomm 800 series or equivalent, instead of Qualcomm 600 or 700 series). This is like the difference between Celeron, Pentium and Core processors from Intel. For a lot of people, a low-end processor will be more than quick enough.

RAM and storage are also usually faster and more spacious on high end flagships, although cheaper phones tend to also offer memory card slots.

Then there are things like the camera - cheaper sensor and glass, not as many “AI” features in the camera app (Pixel “a” series being an exception, it has pretty much the same camera as the full Pixel, but they are showing their age a bit, compared to Huawei, Sony and Samsung, in terms of lenses, for example, although their AI is better). If you are into photography, you want a decent lens, if you want good snapshots, the AI can make up for the lack of lens quality.

Wirless charging, waterproofing and other costly “extras” will also generally not be included in low and mid range devices.

There are some brands, like Wicko, Oppo, Honor and Xioami that make very good mid-range phones that make the already overpriced flagships look ridiculously overpriced - although they have pretty much all started producing flagship phones at “almost” flagship prices this year; I think part of that could be the cost of the 5G Qualcomm chip pushing prices up and leaving their otherwise cheap phones in a nomansland, so they push the specs to justify the price hike.


Doesn’t address my question. Other than brag about my processor, storage and memory, what can I do on a $1000+ phone that I can’t do on a $400 phone?

Lower priced phones all take acceptable photos. A serious photographer will purchase a camera, not use a phone.


It depends on what you call acceptable. :wink:

And it can go swimming, it can wirelessly charge etc. which most mid range devices can’t. The screen will probably be better than most mid-range devices, including 120Hz screens.

Actually do that a mid-range can’t, as in what apps run or not, probably no real difference, unless you are into high end gaming or some other powerful app that really needs that extra horsepower.


The difference in true “functionality” is probably the gimmicky stuff. Performance (and reliability as highlighted above) won’t be as good for some things - that’s probably the major difference.

Edit: For Android security is a big issue. The cheaper phones tend to be older phones and go end-of-life on support quicker. Your phone will be vulnerable when purchased or become vulnerable quicker then the newer flagship phone. All phones become vulnerable at some point when they stop receiving updates.


@big_D answered your first question-- “What does one get for the extra $600+ ??”

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Since you’ve not understood or hand waved away multiple excellent explanations it’s certain a flagship phone is not a good fit for you. IMHO a flagship phone is not a good fit for the vast majority of smart phone users, including myself.

I love the camera in my Pixel 3a, so much easier to use for quick photos than fetching the DSLR out of my 25 pound backpack while on the trails.
First six spotted tiger beetle seen this season Saturday:
Google Photos


You can for the most part do the same things, though on the “cheaper” lower end phone those things just might not be done as well, like taking photos with lower MP camera or a smaller battery. The higher end more expensive phones I would say are more enthusiast devices, they are for the people who love to have the latest and greatest and don’t like to compromise on anything, with the fastest speeds and longest life batteries. Others do just fine with “cheaper” lower end phones and see no sacrifice, its all a matter of preference. In my opinion.

I would say it’s comparable to the difference between a $400 PC and a $1000+ PC. Assuming the OS is the same between models, then the difference is a matter of degree. $1000+ phones tend to be faster, have more storage, RAM, etc than older phones. They also have newer versions of the OS, which - in addition to whatever functionality is present in the newer version - means they will get security updates that the older phone is not likely to receive.

In terms of real functionality - that’s more of a feature of the manufacturer than the phone. Samsung’s phones have the Dex option (if you want hook up your phone to an external monitor) and their newer S-models have some integration with Windows 10 that other phones do not have.

Frankly - this is something where you have to look not just at the price and features - but the make and model - to determine if spending extra gets you functionality that you want.


I had a couple of Samsung J3 phones previously. Around $150 for each, at the time I had them. But, they were SUPER slow. And, the picture quality/camera really sucked.

My son had the same phone too, and he quickly grew tired of the limitations of that cheap phone. (I don’t play games - he does - he couldn’t play most of the popular ones on the slower phone)

I may not be a pro photographer - but when I want to take a picture, I want it to look decent. It did not on the J3’s.

I dropped my 1st J3 in water once, and it was ruined. I had to buy another…

But, I got so sick of the slow phone. When I discovered that Best Buy had 12 months with no interest, I bought an S8. It was about 2 months after the S9 came out. I got the S8 for about $450. It was nearly $1k when it first came out.

The S8 is waterproof too. I REALLY like that feature.

Unfortunately, I dropped my S8 and broke the screen just over a month ago (it was in a case and had many dozens of drops - this one was just bad luck). It was 18 months old. As battery life starts to degrade after 3 years, it was not worth spending the $250 it would cost me to fix the screen on an 18 month old phone.

I bought an S9 for $500 just over a month ago. I like it a little more than the S8 (better speakers).

Sometimes ya do get what you paid for. If you buy a model 1 or 2 generations back - it is still a flagship model, but for 1/2 the price by that point.

However - people here have explained the differences, but you still ask. I see the same question when a guy buys a $200 gun versus a $500 gun all the time. You do get what ya pay for. If ya like the cheaper gun - then fine. But, don’t kid yourself that there are not some useful differences.


I think the only thing a current flagship phone will do that lesser phones will not is 5G. I think that is only thing they have others do not.

That’s true, the flagship phones will introduce the “bleeding edge” technologies: 5G, WIFI 6, Bluetooth 5.0, etc. These will later be available in future phones, assuming the technology gains traction. Trickle down technologics!

Galaxy S20 Ultra ($1,400), Google Pixel 4 ($900) and OnePlus 7T ($600). Add it all up and you’ve got $3,000 in Android phones against one lowly $399 iPhone

I picked the three phones I did because they represent the cream of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon crop. The S20 Ultra uses the 865, the best system-on-chip available, the OnePlus 7T is powered by the Snapdragon 855+, and the Pixel 4 runs the Snapdragon 855. Simply put, you won’t find a trio of faster processors in any Android phone. But pitted against the lowly iPhone SE, the three phones simply can’t stack up:

Geekbench 5 (CPU)

Galaxy S20 Ultra

Single-core: 901
Multi-core: 3245

Pixel 4 XL

Single-core: 724
Multi-core: 2529

OnePlus 7T

Single-core: 772
Multi-core: 2883

iPhone SE

Single-core: 1331
Multi-core: 3310

Before you ask, those results are with all of the latest patches and updates installed and following fresh restarts. I performed them multiple times and took the best results. In short, there’s no contest. The iPhone SE not only handles the best Android phones, it handily beats phones costing twice and thrice as much. And when it comes to graphics, the iPhone SE is a beast.

from Michael Simon

Let’s not forget (I didn’t see it mentioned above, apologies if I missed it) that some of these less-expensive models are subsidized by various crapware baked into the ROM. Also, you can typically (although not always, sadly) expect a more expensive device to have it’s software package maintained a little better/longer by the manufacturer.

GSMarena.com is useful for comparing features between devices.

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Thanks for all the replies.

For my needs,I don’t see the need to spend 3X the money for a flagship phone.

  • Wireless charging is not important to me. I plug it in at bedtime and it’s charged in the morning.
  • I can’t notice the difference in picture quality.
  • Most all phones come with the current version of android. All manufacturers drop updates after 2 or 3 years.
  • 5G is not available where I live, and 4G is fast enough
  • I don’t game. Any phone runs the apps that I use fast enough.

If others feel good about having the newest phone (for a while…), so be it. To each his own.

This subject would make for a great AAA podcast!

Regardless of cost, I wish manufacturers would support their phones with updates and new OS versions. Forced obsolescence is terrible.


Updates are priced in the flagships.
Without them you will buy a news phone every few years if you want to have the latest OS.
So what starts as a cheap phone multiplied by four over four years if we assume that you want to have the latest android at all times will bring you to the price of an iPhone 11.
The reason why the companies who make the cheap phones do not offer upgrades is because they want you to buy the new cheap phone every few years otherwise they would not survive. That is their business model.

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of course, if you buy a $399 iPhone SE, you get wireless charging, ip67 water resistance, nice display, nice camera, and the fastest CPU/GPU in any smart phone - no CPU/GPU in a flagship Android phone is near as powerful. AND the SE is future proof - you’ll get 5-6 or so years of iOS updates…

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For me no cell phone is worth $1200.00. For a lot of people this is not an issue because they don’t mind paying for High Cell Phone Plans to get a Free Phone. it all comes down to your needs.

I know a friend who paid $1000 bucks for a high end Samsung, & now he is stuck with Android 8.

I recently got a new phone myself. it does everything I need to do & does it well. It came with a Fast Charge Kit for the Car & a Clear case.

Here are the specs…

200 g (7.05 oz)
Glass front, plastic back, plastic frame
SIM (Nano-SIM) Hybrid Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
Water-repellent design

Display IPS LCD, 90Hz
Size 6.5 inches,|

720 x 1600 pixels, 20:9 ratio (~269 ppi density)|

Platform OS Android 11

Chipset Qualcomm SM6115 Snapdragon 662 (11 nm)|
CPU Octa-core (4x2.0 GHz Kryo 260 Gold & 4x1.8 GHz Kryo 260 Silver)
GPU Adreno 610

Memory Card slot microSDXC (uses shared SIM slot)|

Internal 128GB Storage 6GB RAM

Main Camera Quad 64 MP, f/1.7, 26mm (wide), 1/1.97", 0.7µm, PDAF
8 MP, f/2.2, 118˚ (ultrawide), 1/4.0", 1.12µm
2 MP, f/2.4, (macro)
2 MP, f/2.4, (depth)|

Features LED flash, HDR, panorama

Selfie camera 13 MP, f/2.2, (wide), 1/3.1", 1.12µm|

Features HDR

Comms WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot

Bluetooth 5.0 A2DP, LE
NFC Yes (market/region dependent
Radio FM radio, RDS, recording
USB Type-C 2.0, USB On-The-Go

Features Sensors Fingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity

Battery Type Li-Po 5000 mAh, non-removable

Fast Charging 15W/20W

Anybody want to guess what I payed for this More Bang for your
buck Cell Phone??? If your thinking $1500.00 you’d be wrong. :laughing:

This Phone has better specs than the iPhone in certain areas, except for the Screen of course.

$213.00 at Amazon. Just call me be the Myth Buster. :laughing:

I will be getting android 12 as well. My old phone on Android 8 with a replaceable battery is now my backup phone.