In the era of $1000 smartphones, it may seem like the newest, best stuff is only available to big spenders. But with a little research, it’s possible to find quality tech products that don’t break the bank.
Jacqui Cheng is the Editor in Chief of Wirecutter, the New York Times-owned tech review site that does just that sort of research. On the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, Cheng joined Kara Swisher and Lauren Goode to talk about her budget picks for a range of tech products, including smartphones.
“We will definitely not get to the point where we’re ever recommending things that are truly horrible to use and are gonna ruin your life,” Cheng said. “If that’s the case, we’d rather avoid recommending anything at all. It’s usually something that’s as cheap as you can go without tearing your hair out.”
Since most people would want to continue to use the apps and music they already own, she assumed that a current Android user would want to buy another Android phone. For that person, Cheng and Wirecutter recommend the Motorola Moto G5 Plus, which the Verge called “a new value champion” earlier this year. One of its virtues is that it’s an affordable $220 brand-new and unlocked for all carriers.
“If it were up to me and I had $200 to spend, that’s probably what I would do,” Cheng said. “If you are going to buy pre-owned, I try to go to the refurbs that are offered directly from the company first, whether that’s T-Mobile or Motorola or something. Those usually tend to be pretty decent.”
For iPhone loyalists, Cheng said Apple also has an official refurb program, which is a good way to ensure a certain level of quality, but it can sometimes run out what you’re looking for. So, she recommended buying a 64 GB iPhone 6S on the third-party refurb site Gazelle.
“Gazelle is a service where they buy used electronics like phones, laptops, things like that, off of people like you and me,” Cheng explained. “Instead of going to eBay to sell my phone to whoever bids on it, I might go to Gazelle and they’ll offer me some amount — usually, it’s a little bit less than you might get if you were really trying to maximize your dollars, but it’s pretty decent.”
“On the flip side, they’ll refurb it and resell to someone else,” she added. “As a buyer, you can go to Gazelle and look at all the used things that they have. So they have every single phone you can ever imagine, plus laptops and other things.”