I wouldn’t spend more than $250 on a phone. I know what you’re thinking: that doesn’t sound like a lot of money considering how expensive some phones are these days. (And by these days, I mean yesterday, and by expensive, I mean the Pixel Fold’s eye-watering $1,800 price tag.)
But yesterday, I also ordered a new Pixel 7A and, after two years of Google Fi rebates, it’s coming in at a tidy $250. That’s the same $250 I spent on the Pixel 6A last year, which I’ll be giving to my partner to replace the Pixel 4A 5G I bought in 2020, which also cost me… you guessed it, $250.
It’s not that I always live by this rule. I bought my first iPhone in 2008, the iPhone 3G, with the 16GB variant costing me $299 on a two-year contract. Before the iPhone — from my Danger Hiptop (🥰), which had a $20 monthly service charge, to the Palm-powered Treo 650 (not that), to my HTC Apache (a complete unit) — I spent more than $250 on phones because smartphones are a thing. Even my first Android phone, the Pixel 3, was more than that.
But with the A-series, I discovered this simple and compelling truth: I just don’t need to spend more than $250 to get a really capable smartphone and, I’ll bet, neither do you.
The idea of carrying around several hundred dollars of mostly glass in my pocket has been a source of no small amount of anxiety for years. All the AppleCare in the world didn’t help my iPhone 6 was inexplicably bent. A trip to the Apple Store was rewarded with the suggestion that I not carry the phone in my front pocket… major deformation is not covered by AppleCare. My iPhone 4, not even $250, has bad reception, not covered either. Come to think of it, almost all of my iPhones have had some significant issue (battery life is disappearing!) that insurance usually doesn’t cover, but their price keeps going up. But my A-series Pixel phones aren’t just affordable — again, I’ve never spent more than $250! — but they’ve also proven to be quite resilient.
I switched to the Pixel series for a number of reasons. First, because I use a Windows PC and, until recently (like, “mid-May” now, relatively recently), iPhone users have not been afforded the simple pleasure of being able to reply to text messages on a Windows computer . Innovation! And second, after I became a parent, I realized that the most important thing my phone can do is take great photos at a moment’s notice and store them safely — two things Google’s Pixel line excels at.
Now, nearly five years after switching to Android, I’d add a third reason: it’s too economical to make any other decision. Parenthood has shaped my brain at the molecular level to respond positively when I hear a “great deal,” which is how we described the Pixel 7A in our review. Whatever happens to my phone, regardless of whether insurance covers it, I don’t carry the permanent anxiety of traveling with a $1,000 piece of glass in my pocket. And I don’t know that I’ve clocked that intangible cost before, but I have now.
Going the A-series route used to mean giving up some of the phone’s nice set of fancy features, like a higher waterproof rating or wireless charging, but I got around these limitations by not washing of my phone in the pool and using a corded plug. While that’s been fine with me so far, the new Pixel 7A adds some features traditionally reserved for high-end phones, like wireless charging and a 90Hz display, so I can really feel the pokéballs spinning around that.
I don’t mean to feel bad about those with fancy, expensive phones — I really hope you enjoy them and that they don’t bend when you store them in your front pockets. But for me, the Pixel A-series continued the tradition of delivering a more than adequate phone for a completely reasonable price and further convinced me that smartphones are increasingly a commoditized category.
Will my phones always be like this in the future? It’s going to take something really innovative beyond a faster processor and a more attractive camera array to convince me it’s worth more than $250.