High-end handsets can take a hike

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The iPhone Something Or Other, HTC One, HTC One More, Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S9 – my smartphone back catalogue is more high-end than Harrods.

I’m not a true smartphone fanatic, one of those obsessed souls who camps out on Regent Street to get the latest handset at 6am on the day it launches. However, I do tend to go for the most powerful phone I can lay my hands on – and fit my hands around (those massive phablet things are not for me). And, by Jove, do I pay for the privilege. My tariff has crept up to around £50 per month over the past few years. It’s starting to feel less like a phone contract and more like a mortgage.

Well, not any more. The reason I’ve stuck to the upper echelons of the smartphone range until now is largely due to performance. When you test mobile apps and games for a living, as I do occasionally, you want a phone that can handle anything you throw at it. If I’m being honest, the geek in me also loves to have the latest and greatest handset to show off down the pub, too.

So what has changed? For one thing, paying £600 a year for a phone when the economy has just been detonated suddenly feels ridiculous. Equally, though, there has been nothing – absolutely zip – in any flagship smartphone launched over the past year or so that has brought on even the slightest wallet twinge. If you think I’m paying £1,500 for a phone that folds in half, Samsung, think again.

The real clincher, however, is that the market’s mid-range is incredibly strong now – so much so that it can be hard to tell the sub-£400 handsets from those costing twice as much. In the past two months alone, we’ve seen the launch of the OnePlus Nord, a 6.4in beast of a phone with top-grade performance, 5G compatibility and a selection of high-performance cameras, costing only £379.

Then there’s the Moto G 5G Plus. There’s no Mars Bar for guessing that it’s also 5G-compatible, and it has an excellent 6.7in screen, decent performance and a camera that captures 4K video, albeit at a slightly juddery 30 frames per second. Still, it seems churlish to grumble when it costs £300.

At the top of my current wishlist, however, is the Samsung Galaxy M31.

It doesn’t have 5G, but considering I live in the wilds of Sussex, there’s more chance of Meghan Markle popping in for a brew than getting a 5G signal round here for the next few years. What it does have is slick performance, a fine set of cameras and – glory be – a massive battery that keeps the thing running for two or three days, according to our friends at PC Pro. And you get all that for £245 – or about five months of my current contract.

My current deal runs out in late autumn, so I’ve got a few months to wait and see if anything better comes along. But unless Apple equips the iPhone 12 with a time machine or the Samsung Galaxy S21 comes with its own beer tap, I won’t be plumping for a high-end handset this time.

Barry Collins

Barry Collins is an experienced IT journalist who specialises in Windows, Mac, broadband and more. He's a former editor of PC Pro magazine, and has contributed to many national newspapers, magazines and websites in a career that has spanned over 20 years. You may have seen Barry as a tech pundit on television and radio, including BBC Newsnight, the Chris Evans Show and ITN News at Ten.