Is it worth buying a 4-year-old flagship or a brand-new midrange phone?

Our guide for users with limited budget and choosing between a fresh midrange smartphone and an old flagship unit.

There are two schools of thoughts for enthusiasts before buying a smartphone: aim for a new midrange model or take a leap to get an old flagship. I happen to be an achiever of both, owning a midrange Infinix and a previous LG flagship. So, I decided to share my experiences in using these two, almost treating both as my daily drivers.

Disclaimer: Personal opinions shared in this article are only meant to provide insights into the subject. This article is meant to educate users who want an informed decision.

My first is the Infinix Note 10 Pro, a former upper midranger. Now, it’s two years old and currently stuck on Android 11, yet it still scores over 400,000 points on AnTuTu.

My other phone is the veteran LG V50 ThinQ 5G, a former flagship released in 2019. It’s four years old now but still alive and kicking with over 600,000 points AnTuTu. This one loads apps and games better than my midranger, despite its smaller memory.

Buying a Brand-New Midrange Smartphone

The mobile market is dominated by affordable midrange smartphones. You can get a capable model between 5K and 10K and it’ll likely last for two to five years, depending on your usage. The battery may retain peak performance up to three years, especially with native battery features.

But what are the advantages of getting a new midranger than having an old flagship?

Fresh Software

Although future OS updates are not popular among midrange smartphones, most of them launched in the market are running Android 13, predecessor to the current Android 14. That’s big already because many old flagships are stuck on Android 12. Not to mention, you’re likely to get timely or trendy features, some of which are mentioned below.

My LG V50 Korean variant received an official Android 12. Sadly, the software upgrade didn’t add new features and it feels like I’m still on an older Android version.

Even though my Infinix Note 10 Pro is stuck on Android 11, its software includes a plethora of new stuff that I wish my LG V50 has.

One of my pet peeves is locking the screen without touching the power key. Double tap on the home screen exists on both phones, but Infinix Note 10 Pro has a Smart Panel that lets you lock the screen inside apps.

Newer Hardware

Midrange smartphones technically have newer hardware, though it doesn’t mean better. If you’re planning to buy a midranger with 5G, its 5G component may be better than an old flagship having the same price tag. It’s case to case really.

The selfie camera on a newer midranger may also capture better selfies than an old flagship, considering the age of the front-facing lens used. My Infinix Note 10 5G has better selfie captures than my LG V50. The former has sharper selfies when the AI beauty mode is disabled.

That means you need to define the main purpose of your next buy. Is it for games or photos? From there, you can prioritize performance versus camera and vice versa.

Latest Features

As I mentioned, my Infinix Note 10 Pro has new stuff that my LG V50 lacks. These features may be software- or hardware-based or both. I listed down some of them below:

FeatureDescriptionInfinix Note 10 ProLG V50 ThinQ 5G
Screen Keep BrightPrevents the screen from turning off automaticallyYesNo
Ultra TouchAdjusts the swipe and motion speed to make the phone look snappyYesNo; forced via Developer Options
Refresh RateHow many times the display refreshes content per second; often linked to smoothnessYes; up to 90HzNo; stuck at 60Hz
Status Bar Network SpeedDisplays network speedYesNo
Lightning Multi-windowMultitask by minimizing one app and have another app in full screenYesNo
FreezerNative feature that freezes apps to conserve battery and memoryYes; also available on itel and TECNO phonesNo

Packaging Exclusives

Since you’re buying a new phone, the packaging comes with exclusives like a charging brick, charging cable, and phone case. It may even include a free tempered glass for your phone.

You can get the same thing when buying old flagships if you don’t mind the downsides, which are mentioned later.

Drawbacks

  • Chances of getting stuck on the Android version that your phone has when you bought it
  • Some midrangers are just a few thousands away from their Pro counterparts
  • Rear cameras are often graded as decent
  • Displays are often LCDs
  • Midrange processors

Buying an Old Flagship Smartphone

Getting yourself an old flagship of four years old is easy but they are usually second-hand or refurbished units. My LG V50 ThinQ 5G is second-hand with some scratches and a very small dent at the bottom left corner, hardly noticeable with a phone case.

But if you want to risk it, what exactly will you get?

Flagship Performance

A flagship smartphone comes with a flagship processor during its release. My LG V50 is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, once deemed powerful. Although no longer an alpha chipset, it can still dish out a lot of performance than my Infinix Note 10 Pro.

Neither of my phones can run Genshin Impact at max settings, but my LG V50 can handle the heat better. Three of my other games, Ragnarok X: Next Generation, Black Clover Mobile, and Black Desert Mobile, can run on both devices.

However, my LG V50 doesn’t struggle on these three titles at max FPS and graphics. Whereas my Infinix Note 10 Pro suffers from UI stutters on Black Clover Mobile and heats up quickly when playing all three games at max settings.

The takeaway is that flagship smartphones do age but decline slower because their chipsets last longer than midrange and entry-level devices.

Better Camera

The main cameras on the back of the phone are the real deal in mobile photography. Between my two phones, the aging flagship topples the younger midranger. But first, check the camera details below:

Infinix Note 10 ProLG V50 ThinQ 5G
Main Camera64 MP, (wide), 1/1.72″, 0.8µm, PDAF12 MP, 27mm (wide), f/1.5, 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, 3-axis OIS
8 MP, 120˚ (ultrawide)12 MP, 52mm (telephoto), f/2.4, 1/3.4″, 1.0µm, 2x optical zoom, PDAF, OIS
2 MP, f/2.4, (depth)16 MP, 16mm (ultrawide), f/1.9, 1/3.1″, 1.0µm, no AF
2 MP, f/2.4, (monochrome)
Selfie Camera4K@30fps, 1080p@30fps4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 24-bit/192kHz stereo sound rec., HDR10 video, gyro-EIS

By megapixel, the main sensor of Infinix Note 10 Pro wins, yet it’s easily beaten by the image processing of LG V50. Accuracy, color reproduction, and details are very different between these two, but we’ll let you judge which one is better. The pics were taken using the stock AI camera on both phones.

Better Value

Buying a brand-new smartphone means full price, while buying a second-hand means discount price. You can even buy a hardly used smartphone for a cheap price if you only want the unit. The complete original package of an old flagship is like half of its market value, so buying the unit only may net you the other half.

You can get an aging model with faster processing speed and better camera in exchange for no exclusive items. If you’re lucky, you can actually buy two old flagships for the price of one brand-new midranger.

I bought my Infinix Note 10 Pro at the physical store of an official retailer for 10K. I bought my LG V50 for 6K at the marketplace on social media but only the unit, which is a second-hand.

Also, many old flagships up for sale are 5G-ready. You just need to ask the seller if the device supports the bandwidth of your mobile operator. My LG V50 has limited bandwidth so 5G isn’t easy to get.

Exclusive Features

No matter how old a flagship smartphone is, it will retain many of its exclusive features. If my Infinix Note 10 Pro can multitask using Lightning Multi-window, my LG V50 can do it with its Dual Screen accessory.

This flagship has a separate accessory that you can buy – a phone case with a 1080p screen. It is attached via pogo pins located at the lower back of LG V50. While it consumes power when in use, it lets you open two apps simultaneously, each having their own full screen.

Google Pixel phones also have their own exclusives. According to Google, Pixel 5 or earlier gets unlimited cloud storage, shared across Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos. 

Drawbacks

The biggest drawback is the warranty. Unlike fresh units that are covered by a one-year warranty, second-hand buys typically have one month or a few months warranty from the seller. Sellers of smartphones that have been pulled out from stores or discounted are not official retailers by brands, that’s why.

Other drawbacks include:

  • Scratches, dents, and other physical damages
  • Buggy software that requires a factory reset
  • Chances of getting an inherently defective unit
  • Chances of getting a refurbished model
  • Aging battery

You can ask the seller for known issues. They often include them in their postings. To check the battery’s age and authenticity of the device, you have to search online on how to do it per brand. 

All phones have exclusive codes usable on the Dialer app to access hidden settings. The IMEI is also the key to know if the device is legit.

So, will you take a risk to get a more powerful smartphone or will you settle for a fresh mid-ranger?

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