Want an iPhone 6S? Shop around first

Apple's iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus in :90
Apple's iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus in :90

If you've felt like Apple's famous Reality Distortion Field is working harder than usual this year, you're not alone.

A guy in Sydney camped out in front of an Apple Store a few weeks ago -- before the company even announced anything. Chinese retailers are building unauthorized Apple stores to sell the new iPhone 6S, attempting to create almost exact store replicas -- down to the wooden tables, large signage and blue shirts and white tags on employees. Someone even wrote about how he proudly ditched his less-than-a-year-old iPhone 6 for an iPhone 6S -- just because the new one is available in rose gold (i.e. pink).

The gotta-have-it-at-any-cost attitude for the latest iPhones is nothing new. Samsung and Jimmy Kimmel have ridiculed Apple "fanboys" for their habit of waiting in line for the new gadgets. Four years ago, I interviewed a person at Apple's flagship store in New York who was waiting in line for the much-delayed white iPhone 4 -- after having already purchased a black iPhone 4 a couple months earlier.

A few years ago, the iPhone was truly revolutionary. But there's a big difference between then and now. In 2015, you can get an excellent smartphone that's just as good -- or better -- than the iPhone for way less than the $650 you'll spend for an Apple smartphone.

For example, the OnePlus 2 has the same 5.5-inch sreen size as the iPhone 6S Plus, with 50% more memory, a higher-megapixel camera and a battery that's almost twice as large. But it costs less than half as much as the iPhone 6S Plus -- $329 compared to $749.

The Moto X Pure Edition is also an iPhone 6S Plus competitor, with a giant 5.7-inch screen that doesn't feel enormous. It's a no-compromises phone, with genuinely useful software tricks and the best customization options on the market. It costs just $400.

The LG G4 has the best camera on the market. It gives you DSLR-like control of the camera, and the quality of the photos is stunning. You can have a G4 for $440.

And even the Samsung Galaxy S6, which is the highest of the high-end iPhone competitors, can be had for $540 -- more than $100 less than the iPhone 6S. The Galaxy S6 has a better screen, super-quick charging, more memory and storage starts at 32 GB (compared to the puny 16 GB Apple gives you for the base-model iPhone 6S).

Of course, there are tradeoffs in buying any smartphone, and you might decide that the iPhone 6S is worth spending the extra money. You're certainly not stupid for buying an iPhone 6S. It's a great smartphone, and there are plenty of reasons why it's the bestselling smartphone -- beyond the logo on the back.

IPhones retain their value far better than Android phones, giving you the ability to get more money for your old smartphone when you're ready to trade it in or sell it on the booming secondary market. And iPhones are easy to use -- Android is a wonderful operating system, but it takes a little more getting used to than iOS.

Apple (AAPL) also has built an "ecosystem" (buzzword alert!) of Macs, Apple TVs and iPads that work well together. If you already have a lot of iGizmos, getting an Android phone might not be your best option.

So if you've gotten in the habit of just handing Apple your $650 before shopping around first, that's just silly. Doing your homework could not only save you money, you might even walk away with a better phone because of it.

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