As Commerce Editor for Android Police, balancing the myriad array of price histories and deals for anything and everything tech-related you can buy isn’t just part of the job, it’s a skill I’ve spent a decade honing. And more important than being able to spot a good deal is being able to recognize an inadequate or disingenuous “deal” — promotions that masquerade as deals (while just being what a 2019 product should be sold at in 2023), jacking up the “list price” in order to make the normal cost look discounted, or trying to sell you something you should not be buying at all in 2023 (like basically anything that charges over micro USB). These are what I hunt because they not only waste my time, they waste your money if I can’t stop you.


Deals surrounding upcoming and freshly-launched devices add extra levels of uncertainty to the matrix, but Samsung’s first “deal” on the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S23 series immediately and strongly sent up red flags in my head. And while free money is free money when you’re dropping hundreds on a new phone, the $50 instant credit for reserving your phone feels like just the latest glaring indicator that Samsung is taking its market lead for granted (worldwide, but especially in North America) while forgetting the users who put and keep it there.

In fact, it appears that Samsung is going to lean on carriers to incentivize its newest phone rather than offering significant deals itself, based on the last year of Samsung’s sales and promotions.

Reservation and preorder bonuses are shrinking — and becoming increasingly deceptive

Unpacked 2023_Static_Invite_2560x1440 (1)

While enthusiasts might be willing to fork over $1,200 for the latest Galaxy, most of us can’t stomach those exorbitant price tags. Samsung uses bonuses, bundles, and trade-in enhancements to incentivize buyers, offsetting those costs, so we can pull the trigger on a new flagship Android phone.

Offers like those lower the barrier to entry for consumers and allow Samsung to sell more phones to a wider audience. But incentives also take away from profits, as you both pay less money for a device and Samsung eats the cost of whatever case, charger, or earbuds the phone comes with. During times of growth and economic stability, allocating money and resources towards incentives is easy to offset.

But we’re in a time of economic instability, and Samsung in particular faces numerous hardships. Between falling memory chip prices, Samsung Foundry’s difficulties in obtaining purchase orders, and the Galaxy S23 series using Exynos in fewer and fewer markets, Samsung Electronics is looking at a quarterly revenue drop of 50-70% compared to 2021 when it announces its earnings later this month. Now, most of these troubles belong to Samsung’s semiconductor business, but those impacts will still be felt in the S23’s pricing and promotions.

Galaxy Fold 4 review (9)

Samsung’s reservation bonus for the S23 is only $50, half of what it was compared to the last Unpacked. Samsung had a combo scale for its Galaxy Unpacked reservations back in August: $100 for the Z Fold/Flip 4 alone, and an extra $30-$100 if you preordered a watch and/or earbuds alongside the phone. This year, we get $50 if you reserve a phone and $100 if you reserve a Galaxy S23 and one of the new Galaxy Book laptops Samsung will be announcing.

Of course, the credit for many people will be a moot point, as you can’t actually apply that credit towards your Galaxy S23 purchase — you can only use it towards a selection of accessories and other device types, like watches and tablets. If you’re in the market for a new charger or earbuds, that’s useful, but if you’ve already got devices you like, finding something to spend the credit on can be almost harder than buying the phone itself.

The real test for the Galaxy S23 will be the instant rebates and enhanced trade-in values. Instant rebates have ranged from $100-$200 during preorders for Samsung’s flagship devices in 2022 (S22 series and Z Fold 4), and we’ll likely see them in that same range this go around, too. That leaves your upgrade cost hinging largely on trade-in values. And given how Samsung’s trade-in system is one of the most fickle and complicated on the market, that’s not great news.

Trade-in values are shriveling up way too fast, especially for older Galaxy phones

Commerce Editor

Remember being able to trade up from a Galaxy S20 to an S21 for $100 back in 2021, right before the world turned upside down? Yeah, we didn’t get anything like that last year, and we’re not seeing a repeat this year, either. Trade-in enhancements when the Galaxy S22 launched were about half of what they were the previous year, and even during the Galaxy Z Flip 4/Fold 4 launch back in August, they were not great outside the S22 Ultra and Z Fold 3.

I personally reserved a Galaxy S22, intending to trade in my Galaxy S20 for one (in Sky Blue, because SO pretty), but I stopped when I saw that it would only be worth $340 as a trade-in. Even the $100 preorder bonus + $50 instant credit couldn’t get it down to a price I was willing to tolerate for what was an iterative upgrade. AT&T would give me $800 bucks for my S20 towards the S22, but I held out hope until the Flip 4. Once again, AT&T would give me $1,000 towards the Flip 4 in bill credits, but Samsung wouldn’t even offer a third of that towards an unlocked model. Hell, AT&T would have given me $1,000 towards a Galaxy Z Flip 4 if I turned in a broken Galaxy S3 with the “Any Galaxy, Any condition” enhanced trade-in promotion it ran during both series launches.


While Samsung runs enhanced trade-in campaigns around its flagship phone launches, too, the trade-in values during the S22 series and latest foldable launches — and through Black Friday — have painted a bleak picture for users more than one generation behind. Based on the last two cycles, S21 and S21+ owners are likely looking at getting $350-$500 for their phone, and the S20 line is likely only going to net you $200-$300. So, if you own one of those series and can tolerate having carrier-installed apps on your phone, you’ll almost certainly get a better deal at any of the major wireless networks.

It doesn’t help that trade-in values differ based on the phone you’re buying; you’ll get more money for your Galaxy S21 trading it in for an S23 Ultra than you will for a normal S23. For a phone like the Galaxy Z Fold 4, drastically higher trade-in values made sense — Samsung needed to make a bigger dent in that $1,800 price tag — but between a Galaxy S22 and S22 Ultra, an often $200 trade-in difference makes little sense. Samsung is also prone to dropping trade-in values during preorder windows, so if the number isn’t to your liking on February 1, do not expect it to go anywhere but down.

If you’re trading a Galaxy S22 Ultra for an S23 Ultra, chances are good you’ll only be out $150-$250. If you’re trading up to the base-model S23, you’ll probably be looking at a $300 gap after trading in the S22 and a guestimated $75-100 preorder instant rebate for the base-model S23, while the S23 Ultra likely sees a $150-$250 rebate.

After all, that $50 reservation credit is only applicable to accessories or other devices, not the S23 itself.

Why, despite everything, you should still reserve a Galaxy S23 now


If the carriers are going to give you magnitudes better trade-in value for your phone, you might think you should skip reserving one at and just wait for carrier preorders to open — but don’t count out quite yet. Samsung’s store integrations with the carriers allow you to buy the phone through Samsung and initiate the trade-in with your carrier. This lets you take advantage of that $50 credit and whatever preorder bonuses Samsung offers: free cases (as we saw with the Fold 4 and Flip 4), discounted watches or earbuds, and possibly bundled chargers or wireless charging pads.

This method only has two drawbacks. You’ll miss out on any exclusive colors or Bespoke editions, as carrier versions only come in carrier colors. More importantly, since your carrier is handling your trade-in rather than Samsung, you pay full price upfront. You’ll send your phone to your carrier, not Samsung, so you cover that initial purchase cost. Then the carrier reimburses you by lowering your phone bill by the monthly cost of the phone over the next 2-3 years. Going to the carrier directly means it pays that initial cost and then attaches both the phone’s price and your offsetting trade-in credit, so either way, you’re still on the hook for three years of service.

Everything’s going to come down to whether Samsung proves me wrong or not once February 1 rolls around, but in the meantime, it’s best to cover your bases and reserve now. It’s free, so at worst, you’ll have to delete a few extra emails among the hundreds of promotions and spam emails we all get every day because Inbox Zero is a fantasy.


Source: Samsung

Samsung Galaxy S23 Series

After months of rumors, hints, leaks, and teases, Samsung’s flagship phones — the normal ones that don’t fold or cost a full mortgage payment — are within reach. Their official debut is February 1, but if you already know you’re buying one, you can save $50 if you reserve just a phone, and save $100 when you preorder it alongside a new Galaxy Book. Best of all, reserving the phone is free, so if for whatever reason you don’t like what you see, you’re not out any money if you decide not to buy.

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