The best cheap phones you can buy in 2020: Flagship features for any budget

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(Image: CNET)

Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro starts at $1,000, while the iPhone 11 Pro Max starts at $1,099, and the Samsung Note 10 Plus starts at $1,099. Even the more affordable flagship from OnePlus, the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren, is priced at $900. These manufacturers, along with wireless carriers, offer monthly payment plans to help people afford these high prices, but no matter how you slice it, the price of flagships is still a deterrent for many folks.

Thankfully, there are some outstanding affordable alternatives, and these alternatives have significantly improved over the past few years. Various manufacturers, including many from China and Korea, have compelling products that are becoming more popular as we reach smartphone saturation. Amazon has its Alexa Built-in phones that offer reasonable prices on current models and ones that might be a year or two old but are still valuable options.

Also: Money no object? The 10 best smartphones you can buy right now

Camera performance was a major differentiator between flagships and mid-range phones over the past couple of years, but even today’s affordable phones can help you produce decent photos to share with family and friends or on social media. Let’s take a look at some of the lowest-priced options available.

These phones are in order from lowest to highest price.

Disclosure: ZDNet may earn a commission from some of the products featured on this page. ZDNet and the author were not compensated for this independent review.



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The Coolpad Legacy (see my review) is designed with a large display, huge capacity battery with Quick Charge 3.0, high-quality plastic and glass materials, a microSD expansion card, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and even launches with Android 9 Pie out of the box. There have to be trade-offs made at the $130 price (free on Metro by T-Mobile), but they are hidden well on the Coolpad Legacy.

This is a great first phone, one for someone who needs a phone battery that will last a couple of days on a single charge, or someone who wants a big display that is easy to read.

It has modern features and solid design aspects while performing reliably to help you get things done. I am still stunned by the low price of this phone and did not expect it to be this good.

View Now at MetroPCS



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(Image: CNET)

The Moto G7 Play has a full retail price of $159.99, down from the MSRP of $199.99. It can be found on Amazon or directly from Motorola at this reduced price.

The Moto G7 Play has a 5.7-inch display with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 processor, 13MP rear camera, 8MP front-facing camera, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage with a microSD expansion card slot, and a rather large 3,000mAh battery. It has some water resistance and retains the 3.5mm audio jack.

The Moto G7 Play is priced at less than most insurance policies for flagship phones, so if you need a low-cost phone or a backup, then this may be the one to consider. Motorola also does a great job of providing a stock Android experience that gets fairly regular updates, too.

View Now at Motorola



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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The Moto G7 Power (see our full review) is available at Amazon for just $200 or at Motorola for $250.

ZDNet’s Jason Cipriani stated that the Moto G7 power is the budget phone you are looking for, thanks to its very long battery life, solid performance, and affordable price. The photo quality won’t match flagships priced five times higher, but photos are still good enough for social media sharing.

The Moto G7 Power has a 6.2-inch display, rear 12MP camera, an 8MP front-facing camera, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage with a microSD card slot, and whopping 5,000mAh battery. It is a mid-level phone available at an entry-level price.

View Now at Amazon



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Image: LG

The Samsung Galaxy Note series is one of the most capable devices for the enterprise, but models also start at $1,000 and go up from there. If you still want an experience with a stylus at a much more affordable price, LG’s Stylo line is worth considering.

The LG Stylo 5 is available as an unlocked smartphone with a 6.2-inch display, 3GB of RAM, microSD card, 3500 mAh battery, 13MP rear camera, and 5 MP front-facing camera. It’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 processor.

You can use the included stylus for note-taking, artwork, drawing chat messages, and more. Like the latest Galaxy Note devices, you can also slide out the stylus and capture handwritten notes on the go with the screen off.

View Now at Amazon



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While we tend to focus on the Samsung Galaxy S and Note series, Samsung is making waves with its extremely capable A series. The Samsung Galaxy A50 is available from various carriers with the least expensive option being the unlocked version at $249.99 from Samsung.

The Samsung Galaxy A50 (see our full review of the Xfinity Mobile model) sports a gorgeous 6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage with a microSD card and a Samsung Exynos 9610 processor. There are three cameras on the back: 25MP, 8MP, and a 5MP depth sensor with a whopping 25MP front-facing camera. A very large 4,000mAh battery keeps this gorgeous phone powered up.

An optical fingerprint sensor under the display works very well while we also still have a 3.5mm headset jack and USB-C port. The Galaxy A50 is a very good phone and will give you an appreciation for the A series.

View Now at Samsung



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The Motorola One Action stands out from the pack of affordable phones with a triple rear camera design that brings a 117-degree ultra-wide-angle camera, 12MP standard camera, and a 5MP depth-sensing camera lens at a price much less than flagships with three lenses. ZDNet’s Jason Cipriani was very impressed by the release and I personally am considering one for a test phone.

The Motorola One Action is powered by a Samsung Exynos 9609 processor with Android 9.0 Pie, a 6.3-inch display, 4GB of RAM, 128GB of internal storage, and a 3500mAh battery.

One unique function we haven’t seen from others is the ability to film video in landscape while holding your phone comfortably in portrait orientation. You can enjoy media on the big display with a small hole-punch front-facing camera too.

There is a minimal level of water resistance, a 3.5mm audio jack, Bluetooth 5.0, and more inside. It’s a capable phone available at a very affordable price.

View Now at Motorola



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Google’s Pixel line of phones has been competing with flagships from Apple, Samsung, and Huawei. Google revealed the Pixel 3a at just $399 a few months ago, and the press has been extremely pleased with its performance. It’s a mid-level phone, but the standout camera from the Pixel 3 is included, so if you want the absolute best phone for under $400 that will be updated for years, then you can’t go wrong with a Pixel 3a in Just Black, Purple-ish, or Clearly White.

Even better for the masses, Google is selling these in T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint stores. Stay tuned as Google gets ready to announce the Pixel 4 in October.

The Pixel 3a is running Android 9 Pie and is assured of getting updated to Android 10 on a timely basis. It has a 5.6-inch display with a rear 12.2MP camera, and a front 8MP camera with Google’s fantastic image processing software.

A Snapdragon 670 powers the Pixel 3a with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a 3,000mAh battery, and stereo speakers. A fast rear fingerprint scanner unlocks the phone while it also still retains a 3.5mm headphone jack.

View Now at Best Buy

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Apple: ‘Here’s why ditching iPhone Lightning port for a standard charger is a bad idea’

Myths and (one) truth about iPhone Lightning cables
Makers of third-party Lightning cables for iPhones keep pushing falsehoods to try to dupe people into buying their cables.
Read more: https://zd.net/2IF5IF8

iPhone maker Apple has given its not-so-surprising response to the European Commission’s proposal for a standard phone charger. According to Apple, that rule would stifle innovation and wouldn’t help the environment. 

Apple likes to promote the green benefits of its trade-in program, but the Cupertino-based company disagrees with Europe’s idea that a standard charger for smartphones would be good for the continent’s environment. 

EU politicians earlier this month outlined plans to introduce stricter regulations to make smartphone makers conform in offering a standard connector, with the main objective of reducing tons of waste in tech accessories. 

SEE: IT pro’s guide to GDPR compliance (free PDF)

The EU has had voluntary rules in place for the past decade, but politicians reckon they’ve been ineffective in reducing waste.  

Apple’s policy people say the industry doesn’t need European standardization because the whole industry – except Apple – is moving towards USB-C. 

“We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole,” Apple said in a statement to Reuters. 

“We hope the (European) Commission will continue to seek a solution that does not restrict the industry’s ability to innovate,” it said.

Apple has adopted USB-C for MacBooks but, unlike nearly all Android handset makers, Apple uses the Lightning connector for the iPhone, because it gives the company more control.   

“More than one billion Apple devices have shipped using a Lightning connector in addition to an entire ecosystem of accessory and device manufacturers who use Lightning to serve our collective customers,” said Apple. 

“Legislation would have a direct negative impact by disrupting the hundreds of millions of active devices and accessories used by our European customers and even more Apple customers worldwide, creating an unprecedented volume of electronic waste and greatly inconveniencing users.”

While Americans might scoff at stuffy rules from EU politicians, Apple has created a costly headache for many consumers because of its charging cable choices.

It’s adopted USB-C for new iPad Pro models but iPhones remain off limits for USB-C, meaning consumers need to employ an array of connectors. 

Apple’s new statement is a slightly toned-down version of the line it took last year, arguing that European regulation would “freeze innovation rather than encourage it”. European politicians hope the regulation could reduce the 51,000 tonnes of waste per year in old chargers across the EU.

At the time, Apple also argued in a fear-mongering statement that cable legislation would “render obsolete the devices and accessories used by many millions of Europeans and hundreds of millions of Apple customers worldwide”. 

Apple is thought to be planning to eventually remove the Lightning port on the iPhone in a bid to make its flagship phones completely wireless. 

SEE: Do you make these iPhone charging mistakes?

Apple’s new statement follows a study it commissioned from Danish economist consultancy Copenhagen Economics, which concludes that a European common charger law would cost consumers far more than any environmental benefits it could deliver. 

“The consumer harm from a regulatory-mandated single connector type (at least €1.5bn) [$1.66bn] significantly outweighs any associated environmental benefits (€13m) [$14.3m],” wrote Copenhagen Economics.  

“On this basis, given the centrality of consumer benefits in policy evaluation, it is unlikely that a Common Charger initiative forcing a single connector type would achieve a positive socio-economic outcome.”

The consultancy ran a survey and claims to have found that, on average, consumers have one cable in regular use for each device and that half of households already use a single connector for all mobile devices, which means half the population wouldn’t reduce cable consumption if a standard was mandated. 

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The almost-secret hidden iPhone switch that blocks spam text messages and notifications

Are you getting a ton of spam text messages? How annoying is it to be interrupted with a notification on your iPhone, only for it to be yet another junk message? Here’s a secret: you can make these go away using a feature already in iOS.

Here’s how you do it. First, open Settings. Scroll down and down and down until you find Messages. Tap it.

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Next, scroll down and down and down until you find “Filter Unknown Messages.” This is the magic. Turn it on. You’ll have to scroll almost three pages to find this thing, but it’s worth it.

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That’s it. Now, if you go into your messages app, you’ll see tabs at the top of the screen. On the left will be “Contacts & SMS” which will contain messages from known contacts in your address book. On the right will be the new “Unknown Senders” tab.

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When you get a message from a sender not in your address book, you won’t get a notification. Instead, it will be dropped into this tab.

Warning: Once “Filter Unknown Senders” is enabled, it becomes very important to add all legitimate senders to your address book. Any message from a number not in your contacts will wind up in the Unknown Senders tab. If you’re expecting a text from someone you know, be sure to enter them into your address book. Otherwise, you’ll have to scan this list to see if there’s anything new you need to pay attention to.

Related warning: Gig workers from services like Door Dash, Uber Eats, and InstaCart often use rotating custom text message numbers to reach out to customers during the shopping or pickup process. If you’re expecting a delivery from one of these services, be sure to check your Unknown Senders tab during the delivery window.

See also: I installed Verizon’s free junk call blocker and it seems to kind of help  

This need for added diligence in certain cases is probably why the feature is turned off by default. For new iOS users with an empty contacts app, all messages will necessarily be from contacts not in the address book. That said, this is such a huge benefit it’s worth a little extra diligence to add contacts you want to be able to get text notifications from.

Let us know whether you’re excited about this new feature. How many spam messages are you getting these days? Share in the comments section below.

More iOS tips


You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.



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iPhone savings: Up to $250 off as Apple sells refurbished iPhone XS and XS Max

Owners of an iPhone XS: Is it worth upgrading to the iPhone 11 Pro?
Apple just announced the first iPhone with a Pro name. But is it really that much better than the iPhone XS?

Apple for the first time is offering customers refurbished iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max devices at prices between $200 and $250 less than they cost when they arrived in September 2018. 

Apple has made the refurbished models available on its US online store. The iPhone XS is available in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold with 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB storage options. 

Consumers can buy a refurbished 256GB iPhone XS for $829 instead of the original price of $1,049. The refurbished iPhone XS with 64GB storage costs $699 compared with $899, while the iPhone XS 512GB costs $999 instead of $1,249.

SEE: IT pro’s guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

The refurbished iPhone XS Max with 64GB storage costs $799, or $200 less than the original $999 price. The iPhone XS Max with 256GB costs $929, down from $1,149, while the iPhone XS Max with 512GB can be purchased for $999, down from $1,249. 

The polished up iPhone XS models are only available in Apple’s US store and have not appeared in other markets such as the UK, Germany or Australia. 

Apple says the refurbished iPhone models come with a one-year warranty, a new battery, and new outer shell. The devices have undergone “full functional testing”, cleaning, and have genuine Apple replacement parts where necessary. 

iPhone fans on a budget can also buy the refurbished iPhone X from 2017 for up to $350 less than the original price. The iPhone X with 64GB storage costs $599 compared with $899. The refurbished iPhone X with 256GB storage costs $699 compared with $1,049. 

While the used and buffed-up iPhone XS and XS Max models aren’t cheap, Apple’s prices are lower than the refurbished iPhone X models when Apple started offering them in February 2019. Back then, the 64GB iPhone X cost $769 while the 256GB model cost $899.  

SEE: You can now use an iPhone as a security key for Google accounts

But consumers will still need to weigh up the cost of buying a brand new iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro. The higher-end iPhone 11 Pro starts at $999 for the 64GB model and features a newer A13 Bionic chip, three rear cameras, and OLED display. The 256GB model costs $1,149, while the 512GB model costs $1,349. 

The LCD display iPhone 11, the equivalent of the iPhone XR, costs $699 for the 64GB model, $749 for the 128GB model, and $849 for the 256GB model. 

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You can now use an iPhone as a security key for Google accounts

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Image: Google

Last April, Google announced that users could use the chips inside their Android smartphones as a de-facto security key for their Google accounts.

Starting this week, Google has expanded this feature to iPhones.

Google users will be to register their iPhone as a two-factor (2FA) method for their Google accounts, similar to how they register hardware security keys.

The next time they’ll log into their Google accounts, the user will enter their username and password, and then turn on their iPhone’s Bluetooth connection, which will verify the login attempt similar to a hardware security key.

According to a Google, to set up an piPone as a security key for a Google account, users will need an iPhone running iOS 10 (released in Sep 2016) or later.

In addition, iPhone users will also have to install Google’s Smart Lock app (v1.6 or later), which was updated on Monday to support iPhones as a 2FA method.

A step-by-step tutorial on how to set up your iPhone as a security key for your account is available in this Google support document.

Under the hood, an iPhone will be able to work as a security key because of Apple’s support for secure enclaves in its T1 chips, which started shipping with Apple devices in the fall of 2016.

The secure enclaves allow the iPhone to compute cryptographic operations in a secure environment, similar to how hardware security keys work.

Updates to Google’s Advanced Protection Program

With today’s expansion, Google is now letting users replace hardware security keys with their phones. This change will also trigger a modificaton to Google’s Advanced Protection Program (APP).

The APP is a program at Google for users facing higher security risks than others — such as politicians, business executives, and journalists. These users can enroll in the Google APP and benefit from extra security protections features, provided by Google at no extra cost.

Before making Android and iPhone smartphones de-facto security keys, Google users needed a separate hardware security key to enroll in the program.

Now, that Androids and iPhones can work as security keys, this won’t be necessary anymore, and users will be able to sign up for the APP just with their phones, making it easier for more users to sign up, especially in countries and regions of the globa hardware security keys are not ubiquitously available for purchase.

The move is more than welcome on Google’s part. In a joint study conducted with The Harris Poll, the two companies surveyed 500 high-risk users living in the US, including politicians and their staff, journalists, influencers, and business execs. According to the survey’s results, it was clear that this category of users were facing more security threats than others, and that they needed any extra protection they could get:

  • 74% report having been the target of a phishing attempt or compromised by a phishing attack; of those, 72% say that attack was tailored to them
  • 65% report being more concerned about their online accounts being hacked today compared to one year ago
  • 46% agree that they have not changed how they keep their online accounts secure from hacking because it’s too complex or too inconvenient
  • 60% of politicians have not significantly updated how they secure their online accounts from hacking following the 2016 DNC breach

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Apple’s not helping with shooter’s locked iPhones, says US DoJ – not true, says Apple

Survey: 17.7% of Americans learned about encryption watching Mr. Robot
The survey also offers fascinating insights into whether people think the FBI should have an encryption backdoor.

Attorney General William Barr has called on Apple to help the FBI beat the password-protection system used on all iPhones to access data of the gunman accused of shooting three Navy personnel at a base in Florida in December. 

Barr said the shooting by Saudi air force trainee Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani was an act of terrorism and that Apple hasn’t helped the FBI’s investigators access data on the shooter’s iPhones. 

“We have asked Apple for their help in unlocking the shooter’s iPhones. So far Apple has not given us any substantive assistance,” said Barr at a press conference. 

“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that investigators be able to get access to digital evidence once they have obtained a court order based on probable cause. We call on Apple and other technology companies to help us find a solution so that we can better protect the lives of Americans and prevent future attacks.”

SEE: Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

The standoff between Apple and US law enforcement over cracking iPhone passcodes is reminiscent of the pressure Apple was under in 2016 to help unlock an iPhone 5C used by the San Bernardino shooter’s terror act in December 2015. The FBI reportedly eventually used a vulnerability in iOS 9 to hack the device after Apple refused to provide assistance. 

At the time Apple CEO Tim Cook posted an open letter to customers explaining why it couldn’t act on the FBI’s request to build a custom version of iOS that bypasses built-in security measures. 

A key obstacle is that iPhones block passcode attempts after a certain number of wrong guesses, and the delay is increased with more wrong attempts.   

As ZDNet reported this month, the FBI had asked Apple to help unlock two iPhones that belonged to Alshamrani, who was shot dead. 

The FBI said investigators “are actively engaging in efforts to ‘guess’ the relevant passcodes but so far have been unsuccessful”. 

Barr said the FBI had received a warrant to search both iPhones to find out who the shooter was communicating with. 

“During the gunfight with first-responders, the shooter disengaged long enough to place one of the phones on the floor and shoot a single round into the device. It also appears the other phone was damaged,” said Barr. 

“Our experts at the FBI crime lab were able to fix both damaged phones so they are operational. However, both phones are engineered to make it virtually impossible to unlock them without the password. It is very important to know with whom and about what the shooter was communicating before he died.”

Apple refutes the claim that it has not provided substantive assistance to the FBI, saying it has provided gigabytes of data to investigators, including iCloud backups.

“We reject the characterization that Apple has not provided substantive assistance in the Pensacola investigation. Our responses to their many requests since the attack have been timely, thorough and are ongoing,” Apple said in a statement to Input. 

“Within hours of the FBI’s first request on December 6, we produced a wide variety of information associated with the investigation. From December 7 through the 14, we received six additional legal requests and in response provided information including iCloud backups, account information and transactional data for multiple accounts. 

“We responded to each request promptly, often within hours, sharing information with FBI offices in Jacksonville, Pensacola and New York. The queries resulted in many gigabytes of information that we turned over to investigators. In every instance, we responded with all of the information that we had.”

SEE: Cyber security 101: Protect your privacy from hackers, spies, and the government

Apple added that it only received the subpoena for the second iPhone on January 8 and responded to the FBI’s request within hours of receiving it. The company also reiterated its stance on refusing to provide law enforcement backdoors.

“We have always maintained there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys. Backdoors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers,” Apple said. 

“Today, law enforcement has access to more data than ever before in history, so Americans do not have to choose between weakening encryption and solving investigations. We feel strongly encryption is vital to protecting our country and our users’ data.”

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As Apple plots to drop iPhone ports, Europe plans law to give all phones same charger

Myths and (one) truth about iPhone Lightning cables
Makers of third-party Lightning cables for iPhones keep pushing falsehoods to try to dupe people into buying their cables.
Read more: https://zd.net/2IF5IF8

European lawmakers want to require smartphone manufacturers to provide a common charger for all mobile phones.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on Monday discussed the idea of introducing “binding measures” that would require chargers that fit all mobile phones and portable electronic devices. 

The EU introduced the voluntary Radio Equipment Directive in 2014, but MEPs believe the effort fell short of the objectives. 

“The voluntary agreements between different industry players have not yielded the desired results,” MEPs said. 

The proposed more stringent measures are aimed at reducing electronic waste, which is estimated to amount to 51,000 tonnes per year in old chargers. 

While most smartphones today use USB-C ports for charging, Apple’s iPhone still uses a Lightning connector. However, Apple has adopted USB-C for the new iPad Pro and MacBooks. 

Apple last year argued that regulations to standardize chargers for phones would “freeze innovation rather than encourage it” and it claimed the proposal was “bad for the environment and unnecessarily disruptive for customers”.

“More than one billion Apple devices have shipped using a Lightning connector in addition to an entire ecosystem of accessory and device manufacturers who use Lightning to serve our collective customers,” Apple said.  

“We want to ensure that any new legislation will not result in the shipment of any unnecessary cables or external adapters with every device, or render obsolete the devices and accessories used by many millions of Europeans and hundreds of millions of Apple customers worldwide,” Apple added. 

“This would result in an unprecedented volume of electronic waste and greatly inconvenience users. To be forced to disrupt this huge market of customers will have consequences far beyond the stated aims of the Commission.”

Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reckons Apple has a different idea in store: getting rid of the Lightning port and not replacing it with USB-C, which is a standard that Apple doesn’t have complete control over. 

According to the analyst, Apple plans to remove the Lightning connector on a flagship iPhone to be released in 2021. Instead it would rely on wireless charging. 

While Apple’s predicted removal of the Lightning port on the iPhone could render European mobile charger requirements useless, the company was thought to have been eyeing a no-port mobile with the iPhone X from 2018. 

Earlier this year it killed its AirPower wireless charging pad before it was able to deliver it. Plus Apple will probably continue to sell older generation iPhone models that aren’t affected by its war on ports.

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iPhone trade-in values: Apple cuts what you get by up to $100 globally

Owners of an iPhone XS: Is it worth upgrading to the iPhone 11 Pro?
Apple just announced the first iPhone with a Pro name. But is it really that much better than the iPhone XS?

For the past year Apple has heavily promoted its trade-in offers to help boost new iPhone sales, even offering consumers up to $100 more on old iPhones when purchasing a new one. 

But the company has now reined in trade-in values on used iPhones across the board. It’s cut the top trade-in value for the iPhone XS Max from $600 to $500, as spotted by MacRumors and German Apple-focused tech site iFun.de, which found that the iPhone XS Max trade-in value dropped from €500 to €430 ($556 to $478).

The iPhone XS model saw the heftiest cut, while other models were devalued by between $80 and $20. Across all iPhone models, Apple has reduced the trade-in value by between 15% and 17%.

SEE: Top 20 Apple keyboard shortcuts for business users (free PDF)

For example, the iPhone XS maximum trade-in value fell from $500 to $420, the iPhone XR fell from $370 to $300, and the iPhone X fell from $400 to $320.  The top trade-in value of the iPhone 6s fell from $100 to $80. Apple offers less if the screen or other components are damaged. 

The cuts are even steeper when it comes to estimated iPad trade-in values, which have fallen by between 25% to 30%. 

The top trade-in value for an iPad Pro is $220, down from $290, while the iPad’s trade-in value dropped from $140 to $100. The iPad Air has fallen from $100 to $70, and the iPad mini at most is worth $80, down from $120. 

Apple hasn’t explained why it cut trade-in valuations just now. The company is still keen on consumers upgrading hardware but it is also in the middle of a shift towards services revenue and driving subscriptions Apple Arcade, Apple TV+, Apple News+, Apple Music, iCloud, Apple Pay and new services like Apple Card. From a services revenue perspective, customers with an old iPhone are just as valuable as customers with a new one.

The company last week boasted that App Store customers spent $1.42bn over the Christmas break, up 16% on last year during that period. 

It also noted that Apple Card holders had used it to purchase new iPhones with monthly installments over 24 months with zero interest. 

SEE: How to keep hackers, snoopers, and thieves out of your iPhone  

Apple has promoted its trade-in scheme as a good outcome for the environment. It’s certainly easier for consumers to just hand in an old iPhone when buying a new one, but consumers can typically get more by selling it to another person.  

Apple has also cut the top estimated trade-in values for some MacBooks and the Apple Watch Series 4, which dropped from $110 to $100. 

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How to use less data on your iPhone or iPad with a flick of a switch

Turn your iPhone or iPad into a fortress following these steps
Want to assorted ‘bad guys’ out of your iPhone? Here are the settings and features you need to check, tweak, and turn on.

If you are not on an unlimited cellular or broadband connection, using a slow connection, or just want to limit the amount of data that your device consumes, iOS has a hidden feature to help you do just that.

The feature, called Low Data Mode, and there’s a separate setting for both cellular data and your separate Wi-Fi connections.

Here’s how it works.

Must read: Upgrade your office with these tools and gadgets

According to Apple, the way Low Data Mode works is dependent on the apps in question, and that you should expect the following:

  • Apps might stop using network data when you’re not actively using them.
  • Background App Refresh is turned off.
  • The quality of streaming content might be reduced.
  • Automatic downloads and backups are turned off.
  • Services such as iCloud Photos pause updates.

It’s worth noting that third-party apps such as Google Chrome or the YouTube app will not change how much data it downloads as a result of this setting, expect that background refresh will be disabled.

Apple’s own apps also respond to being restricted to Low Data Mode as follows:

  • App Store: Video autoplay, automatic updates, and automatic downloads are turned off.
  • Music: Automatic downloads and high-quality streaming are turned off.
  • Podcasts: The frequency of feed updates is limited, and episodes are downloaded only on Wi-Fi.
  • News: Article prefetching is turned off.
  • iCloud: Updates are paused, and automatic backups and iCloud Photos updates are turned off.
  • FaceTime: Video bitrate is optimized for lower bandwidth.

If that feels like an OK compromise to you, here’s how you activate the feature.

Wi-Fi

Go to Settings > Wi-Fi and from the list find the relevant Wi-Fi connection, and then tap on the “i” to bring up the information screen about the connection. From there, flick the switch on Low Data Mode.

Remember that each Wi-Fi connection you use will have its own independent Low Data Mode setting, so setting it for one does not influence another.

Enabling Low Data Mode on Wi-Fi.

Enabling Low Data Mode on Wi-Fi.

Cellular

Go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options and flip the switch on Low Data Mode.

If you have a dual-SIM iPhone, you have independent control over each data plan.

Related stories:

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Why is your iPhone’s battery draining so fast?

iPhone battery issues are, by far, the most common iPhone issues I come across. While it’s true that batteries are consumable items, and as such will wear out over time, many times the problem with the iPhone is not the battery but an app, or maybe even the charger.

Must read: Upgrade your office with these tools and gadgets

Fortunately, iOS 13 gives you a number of tools to help you diagnose battery issues, and here we’ll take a tour of them and see how you can use them to find out whether you iPhone’s battery needs replacing, or whether the problem is down to an app, or whether your charger of cable is faulty.

#1: Battery health

First thing to check is battery health. To do this visit Settings > Battery > Battery Health.

Battery health

Battery health

Here you have access to two bits of important data. If this screen shows Maximum Capacity over 80% and Peak Performance Capability is showing “Your battery is currently supporting normal peak performance,” then you are OK. If this is not the case then you may have isolated your battery issue, and you may be looking at replacing the battery.

The Peak Performance Capability will also tell you if your iPhone has suffered a shutdown due to a battery issue. If it says “This iPhone has experienced an unexpected shutdown because the battery was unable to deliver the necessary peak power,” then this may indicate a worn battery. However, I say “may” because cold weather can also cause a similar problem, and if Maximum Capacity is shown to be over 80% and you’re not getting random shutdowns, then your battery might still be OK.

#2: Is your iPhone charging properly?

Your iPhone logs battery usage over time, and this can be a very useful diagnostic tool. Head over to Settings > Battery, and you’ll see a chart called Battery Level that looks as follows:

Battery level

Battery level

There’s a lot going on here, so let me break it down for you. Green shows when the iPhone was running normally off of its own battery power, while yellow shows when your iPhone was in Low Power Mode. The hatched green areas shows when your iPhone was on charge.

Last Charge Level shows how much charge was put into the battery during the last recharge, a good way to quickly see if the battery was fully charged or not.

You can use this to see what your battery drain is like, and whether the iPhone is actually charging when you think it is. If you’re not seeing those green hatched areas, then test your charger, and if you are using an older cable, check the Lightning connector for corrosion.

#3: Is an app draining your battery?

Underneath the Battery Level chart is another one called Activity.

Activity

Activity

This chart logs how much time apps were running on the screen (the dark blue bits of the bar) and when the screen is off (shown in light blue).

If you are seeing a lot of background activity then this could signify a problem with an app. The table below this chart beaks down battery usage by the app, and you can choose to view data buy battery usage, but by clicking on the blue Show Activity link you can get a breakdown of on-screen and background time.

App activity

App activity

App activity

App activity

While some apps legitimately need a lot of background time to function (such as the Tile app in the image above), this can also signify a problem, and could cause battery drain. A way to test this is to disable an app’s ability to run in the background by going to Settings General > Background App Refresh and turning that off for any apps that look to be heavy users.

Disable background activity

Disable background activity

#4: The nuclear option

This is the nuclear option, but it can help you ascertain if the issue is a hardware issue or software. I only recommend this as a last resort because it is very time-consuming.

To do this, go to Settings > General > Reset and choose Reset All Settings or, if you want to delete all the apps too, Reset All Content and Settings.

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