All phones lose value over time. However, there's an enormous difference between the value lost from the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21. And the iPhone 12 has been on the market longer.
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Research by second-hand phone site SellCell (opens in new tab) has found that despite launching just three months ago, Samsung Galaxy S21 handsets are already worth as little as 43% of their original value, in the case of the 256GB model of the Galaxy S21. On the other hand, the worst depreciating model from Apple, the basic 64GB iPhone 12, sells for about 67.3% of its original price.
The base iPhone 12 Pro Max, with 128GB of storage, has held its value the best out of all the phones examined in this report. It's only lost 18.1% of its value since it launched in October 2020. Samsung's best performer was the Galaxy S21 Plus with 128GB of storage, but it has still lost 44.8% of its value.
It makes sense that iPhones retain value better, according to the later part of SellCell's report. It notes that iPhone users are much more likely to remain loyal to Apple than Samsung users are to Samsung. With fewer iPhones being sold off as people swap to new devices, it follows that they keep a higher price.
Why exactly that is will vary between customers. iPhones are consistently some of the best phones you can buy, but Apple is also very skilled at maintaining its walled garden ecosystem. Android users can swap brands and still get a roughly equivalent experience, whereas iPhone users get a unique experience that works very differently, and perhaps makes them unwilling to swap sides.
What these numbers show is that iPhone 12 users are in a better spot to get the majority of their money back should they sell them or get a good deal when trading them in. However, if you're trying to get a fairly new phone on the cheap, it seems like you can get a great deal by looking around for a cheap pre-owned Galaxy S21.